Discipleship: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTRODUCTION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction: How many of ya’ll remember playing “Simon Says”? “Simon Says, ‘Clap your hands.’” “Simon Says, ‘Hop on left leg.’” “Simon Says, ‘Waddle like a Penguin.’” You had to do everything that the leader told you to do. In the Christian life, Jesus is our leader. We are to do everything that he tells us to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to the commands of Jesus, Christians have a very different response. Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” We respond with “I know that’s the Golden Rule.” Jesus says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” We respond with “I heard a great message on that the other day.” Jesus says, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We respond with “Oh, I memorized that back in Sunday School.” The goal of this series is to learn what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus and it’s much more than coming to church once a week and memorizing a few verses.

 

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: A disciple by definition is a follower, a learner, and a doer of everything the master says and does. Are you truly following, learning, and doing what Jesus tells you to do? Before you can be a disciple, you have to receive him as your Savior. Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read is known as the Great Commission. If you grew up in church, you may have heard it before. The Great Commission is important for 3 reasons:First, they are the final words that Jesus spoke to his followers before he ascended to his Father. Final words are critical. Second, they are Jesus’ instructions for us until he comes again. It’s his list of to-dos for us. Third, they apply to all Christians at every place, in every time and situation. They are non-negotiable. They begin with a Claim and end with a Promise and in between the Claim and the Promise are the Instructions.

What is the Claim?18“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This was not some random statement. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy made in Daniel 7   13“I was watching in the night visions,and behold, Onelike the Son of Man,Coming with the clouds of heaven!He came to the Ancient of Days (Here God the Father),and they brought Him near before Him.14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.His dominionisan everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away,And His kingdomthe oneWhich shall not be destroyed.” Because Jesus rejected the offer of Satan and obeyed his Father even to the cross, he was given universal sovereignty. Paul says in Philippians 2    9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”

What is the Promise?lo (Old and Middle English shortened form of look), I am with you always, evento the end of the age.”It was the assurance that his spiritual presence would be with his disciples as they carried out his instructions.You need both the Claim and the Promise to give the Instructions. A Promise without a Claim is Powerless. It’s like if I were to walk up to you and demand the keys to your vehicle. “By what authority?” A Claim without a Promise is Intimidation. It’s like if I were to demand you to do something you didn’t want to do with no promise of help and support. Keep in mind that we already have the Holy Spirit.John 14   16“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Promise here is that, along with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be with us in his spiritual presence, guiding, guarding, and giving us what we need to keep his instructions.

What is the Instruction? 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” In that entire statement, there is only one main verb – Make Disciples. The rest may sound like verbs but they are participles. To start with, “Go” is not a verb. It is a participle. It assumes that you are already going, moving out. It may be across the street or across the seas. The other two participles are “baptizing” and “teaching.” They tell us the process of making disciples. This is where many Christians bring in their ideas and opinions rather than what Jesus told us and what the early church did for many centuries. I believe that we need to let the Word of God speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. What some Christians have done is that they have turned baptism which was enrollment into graduation. They come with a personal list of what they feel is necessary to learn and understand before they will consider graduation/baptism. Here are 2 problems with that way of thinking – First, that’s not what the text is saying; second, you never graduate in the Christian life. I know what some people will say – “I don’t want the person to get the false impression that they are saved because they got baptized. Getting into the baptistry doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” That sounds like a great analogy but actually it’s mismatched. Here’s a better one – “You can self-educate yourself as much as you want but that’s not going to earn you a degree unless you enroll in a college.” That’s a much better analogy. Baptism is enrollment in God’s academy from which you will never graduate.

Question: Have you been baptized? What is holding you back?

Another Objection: I know people who got baptized but they only got wet. My answer – I know some of those too. 2 things here: First, they never truly understood the gospel. What is the gospel?“God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins according to Scripture. He died and rose again according to Scripture. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven and God’s wrath lifted but we also have eternal life and become part of God’s family!” Second, the problem is not with baptism but with what comes after baptism.

This is the heart of our series – 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Unfortunately, most churches, including Clearview drop the ball here. We do a very poor job in teaching new believers how to follow Jesus and obey his words. Our kids and youth ministries are the strongest anywhere I know but our adult teaching ministry is not where it needs to be. That’s why many churches seem to have a revolving door where people leave just as fast as they enter. We have to find ways to keep people from slipping away. Some have called this closing the backdoor of the church.

How does it all work?We have come up with an acronym WATER. I guess to represent baptism as the starting point. W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING.My goal today was to cover the first one – WITNESSES – but as I began to prepare my sermon I realized that unless the foundation of the Great Commission is properly laid, this will not be effective. How does it really work? When we do ministry the way Jesus did ministry. How did he do ministry? He moved people through 3 concentric circles.To start with was the CROWD.This is the vast majority of people that were not necessarily following Jesus but he encountered them. They were outside the first circle. For us, they are people in our neighborhood, workplaces, grocery stores, restaurants who we come in contact with. Then comes the first circle – The CONGREGATION.These are the vast multitudes that followed him, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Matthew 15    30“Then greatmultitudescame to Him, having with themthelame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31So the multitudemarveled when they sawthemute speaking, themaimed made whole, thelame walking, andtheblind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” Sunday morning is the Multitude, the Congregation, who hear the truth and walk away amazed. Then comes the second circle – The COMMUNITY. These are the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 here if you would like. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Matthew 13:36“Then Jesus sent the multitudeaway and went into the house. And His disciplescame to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” This is the weekly Sunday Sunday School and Wednesday Evening Bible Study. Finally comes the third circle – The CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. Mark 9:2 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.” Mark 5:37“And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.” Mark 14   33“And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, evento death. Stay here and watch.’” Some of ya’ll are thinking, “I cannot add one more thing to my schedule.” Here’s answer, “Circle is about getting into a smaller setting right where you are. It has set times after which it has to replicate. We’ll talk about that later.

The goal of discipleship is help people, once they have entered from the Crowd to the Congregation, move from the Congregation to Community to Circle. Where do you fall?

Are you truly a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Have you been baptized?

Doubtful Faith by Pastor Abidan Shah

DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

doubtful

Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”

John 20   26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”

Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.

Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?

I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT

Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.

Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”

II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST

John 20    26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.

 

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH

Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”

Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14    1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.

Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.

Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9  23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

Introduction:  How do little kids react when they see their parents? They come running when they see you. They jump into your arms and hug you. They’re not afraid to show you and the world that they love you. What happens when they get a little older. They may still be glad to see you but there’s no more running and jumping. Then they become teenagers. There’s definitely no more running and jumping. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you in public. They’re too cool for that. In this message we will see how the disciples of Jesus ran towards him when they found out that his body was missing. They were FEARLESS in their LOVE for him.

John 20   1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

Question: Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. The other disciple ran. Just like little kids, they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. They ran because their loved one was missing. Would you have done that? Have you received his love in your life? Are you saved?

Context: John’s description of the resurrection is a little unique compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s description. In fact, if you try to set the resurrection account of all 4 gospels side-by-side there seem to be several contradictions. They don’t always appear to synch very well. You can go home and try it out – how many women went to the grave, who were the women who went to the grave, what time did they go to the grave, how many angels were at the grave, were they inside the grave or outside the grave, were they standing or sitting, what exactly did they say to the women, where did Mary Magdalene see Jesus, what exactly did he say to her, and there’s more. Some people have taken these contradictions as proofs that the Bible has errors. Others have taken these contradictions and tried to fit them in a timeline to prove that the Bible has no errors. Although I believe that the Bible has no errors, I also believe that it is not helpful to force a timeline. The question we need to ask is “What is the purpose for which John recorded the resurrection?” John’s purpose in recording the resurrection was to put a literary spotlight on 3 individuals who followed Jesus and their reactions on resurrection morning. All of us who follow Jesus fall in one of these 3 reactions.

Spotlight #1 – Mary Magdalene: Popular culture has created an image of her that is nothing like how the Bible describes her. Both Mark and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her. Growing up in India I have seen people who were demon possessed and it’s a very scary and a sad sight. If they are poor, they are left to wander the streets. They are treated like animals. People even throw rocks at them to keep them from coming into their neighborhood. They are abused by other people on the streets. Sometimes they are even abused for religious reasons. I personally believe that she came from a well-to-do situation because Luke tells us in 8:3 that she belonged to a group of women who followed behind Jesus and his disciples and “provided for Him from their substance.” Somehow, she got caught up in demonic activity. Maybe they had to lock her away. But, Jesus came and set her free. All she wanted to do now was follow Jesus. When he hung on the cross, listen to John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” What happened after they put Jesus in the tomb? Matthew 27   60 “…he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” What if you were to tell her, “Mary, it’s over. Jesus was all wonderful but they killed him.” She would say, “I don’t care. I still love him. I know what he did for me. I’m not leaving.” She had an adoring love for Jesus. This may be hard for our culture to understand where everything is seen as creepy and lustful.

Now listen again to what happens on the day Jesus rose from the grave – 1 “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark.” How many of y’all would like to go to a graveyard early in the morning while it is still dark? Creepy. It’s not just Mary Magdalene but a few other women as well. But that’s not the only thing to be scared about. Just 2 days earlier, their Master had been false accused, brutally beaten, and unjustly crucified by the Romans. They had even put a guard outside the tomb. Matthew tells us that there was a great earthquake. But, none of this mattered to Mary Magdalene. Mark even tells us in his gospel 16:3 they (the women) said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” Meaning: They didn’t even try to consider who would roll away the stone. What happened when she and the other women saw the stone rolled away 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Do you have this kind of adoring love for Jesus that defies reason and logic?

Spotlight #2 – Peter: He doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s always the first one to jump up and follow Jesus. He’s also the one who says things without thinking. In fact, leading up to the cross, he has made a lot of poor choices – He didn’t understand the purpose for the foot washing. He had chopped off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also promised to lay down his life for Jesus but then just as Jesus forewarned, he denied him 3 times with cursing before the rooster crowed. It had gone from bad to worse for Peter. He was guilt ridden. But what happened when Mary Magdalene told him about Jesus? 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” What slowed Peter down? Maybe the guilt. Do you have this kind of love that runs but is slowed down by guilt and shame?

Spotlight #3 – Beloved Disciple: he is usually referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved.” He was the one leaning on Jesus at the Supper Table and who asked Jesus who would betray him. Jesus clearly explained but he didn’t get it. Then he was in the courtyard of the High Priest watching what was happening to their Master but he failed to do anything. Then he was at the cross with the Mother of Jesus when Jesus turned her over to him. You can only imagine how helpless he might have felt. He was helpless but when he heard the news, he ran too.  4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. What kept him from going in? Was it fear? Was it doubt? Do you have this kind of love that stops at critical moments?

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

#1 Peter – 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

#2 Beloved Disciple – 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

#3 Mary Magdalene – 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Which one are you? Are you the love that runs in the face of reason and logic? Are you love that slows down by guilt and shame but goes all out? Are you love that stops at critical moments but is the first to believe? Each is fearless.

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

Fulfilled: Manner of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: MANNER OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 3Introduction:  Every Christmas time the major news magazines carry some article or cover story about Christianity. It’s all about selling copies. This year, the December edition of the National Geographic has on its cover page “The Real Jesus: What Archaeology Reveals About His Life.” Listen to what it asks, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is invention?” This is nothing new. People have forever tried to deny the existence or the deity of Christ. Our series titled “Fulfilled” will hopefully strengthen our faith in Christ that he did come and he is the one who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God.

Matthew 1    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Question: People have asked me “Does a person have to believe in the virgin birth in order to be saved?” I answer them, “No. The thief on the cross didn’t know a thing about the virgin birth when he got saved.” But, let’s suppose that thief on the cross were given a second chance, taken off that cross, and then someone told him about the virgin birth. What should he do? He better believe. Do you believe? I’m not just asking just about the virgin birth. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s only hope for you?

Context: In the passage we just read Matthew gives us the very unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. He tells us that Mary became pregnant without having any physical interaction with Joseph. He attributes Jesus’ birth to the Holy Spirit. Of course, Joseph does not believe her and wants to divorce her but the angel of the Lord warns him in a dream that the child is indeed of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is pregnant but she’s still a virgin. By the way, we need to clarify something here – “Virgin birth” is actually a misnomer. It implies that Mary was still a virgin when she had Jesus. Although this could be true and, I believe, is true, the real implication here is that Jesus was conceived without Joseph and Mary coming together. In the early church, some actually believed that Mary had a painless birth in which her hymen was not ruptured. So, the actual title should be “virginal conception.” While I’m on the subject, let me also clarify that the “Virginal Conception” is not the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

Let’s return to verse where Matthew writes 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” In verse 23 Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is one of the most debated Messianic prophecies in the Bible. One scholar remarked, “Probably no single passage of the Old Testament has been so variously interpreted or has given rise to so much controversy as the prophecy contained in these verses.” (Walter Kaiser) Why is there so much debate?

  1. Historical context of the prophecy is complicated: This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. They were facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. Keep in mind it was already determined and prophesied that Jesus would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, he sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We also look here and there instead of the Lord. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acts condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: This prophecy is not going to be limited to just the immediate context but has far important significance. First, what is the immediate significance? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Meaning: Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Second, what is the far important significance? One day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. There’s a difference between the first woman and the second. The first was virgin until conception and the second was a virgin even in conception. And what would be his name? Immanuel. In Isaiah 8:10 it gives us the meaning, “For God is with us.”

Either way, whether to Ahaz (the faithless king) or to sinful us, God’s promise is that God is with us. He is here to save us. Jesus has come to save us.

  1. Liberal scholarship has claimed that the virginal conception is nothing more than a pagan myth and the word for “virgin” could be variously interpreted. First one about the pagan myth, it is claimed that it is only another example of a “hieros gamos” like Zeus and Semele or Isis and Osiris. In all these instances, there are gods and goddesses mating with each other or somehow impregnating human beings. There is no such thing when it comes to the “Virginal Conception” of Mary.

Second, some claim that the word for virgin in the Hebrew text at Isaiah is “almah” which doesn’t have to mean a virgin and that the true word for virgin is “betullah.” Again, this is not true. To start with, there are 5 different words in this debate: 3 Hebrew and 2 Greek. The first Hebrew word is “issha.” It simply means woman or wife. Then the word, “almah.” When you examine every use of the word “almah” in the Old Testament, it actually means “virgin.” Then there is the word “betullah” which does mean “virgin.” But when you compare their uses, “almah” is found in those passages where there is “something other than a normal child birth” (R.T. France) is involved. In fact, when the LXX translators came to this verse, they could have easily translated this “neanis” if it was just a young woman. But, they knew that there was more involved and hence they made it “Parthenos,” which is explicitly virgin. Words change meanings over time. For example: Bachelor – young knight, then lowest rank in university, and unmarried men. Bachelors are not “College educated Knights.” Or Hussy – housewife, then mistress of a household, then disreputable woman today. Don’t call your wife that!

I wish I could say “this is how people outside the spectrum of Christianity believe” but unfortunately, there are people in the ranks who don’t believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They practice what is known as “double-speak” where they use the common terminology but when pressed, they reveal a very different understanding.

Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah.

Are you saved? Only through Christ you can be.

Why didn’t God make it clear, why all these other stories other meanings and fulfillments? Why did God allow such discrepancies and tough issues? Why do we do Easter Egg Hunts? God gets joy out of seeing us discover. All of life is like a drama just like what Shakespeare said. What part of the story are you in?

Fulfilled: Time of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: TIME OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  Sometimes pastors get some funny letters! Here are just a couple written by kids – “Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there,” “Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister,” “Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.” I get some funny letters too but sometimes I get some really thought-provoking ones, like the one I’m about to read from a young man in our church. I’ve asked for his permission. He wrote — “Hi Pastor Shah! …I greatly appreciated your message today. I’ve been working on several questions lately that I can’t seem to find an easy way to answer. Questions of faith, I have found, can’t necessarily be resolved by scientific journal databases! Your sermon today, on the other hand, helped me in getting one of those questions to an articulate state. Would you mind either helping me with one of these, or pointing me towards some reputable resources where I can research the topic? Thank you.” I answered, “Of course. I’ll do my best.” “Awesome, thank you! Alright, here’s my main question at the moment: What evidence is there for the supernatural?” Meaning: How do we know that there is a world beyond what we can see and touch? Tough question but a great reminder that our young people have not given up on Christianity. It’s just that they have questions that we need to answer. It’s not enough to say “We believe it and that settles it.” We also have to explain “why we believe it.” I’m preaching our Christmas series “FULFILLED” in the hopes that it will answer some of those questions about the supernatural birth of Christ. Our ultimate goal is to capture our young generation.

Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”

Question: That’s probably the oddest opening scripture I’ve ever read. Now, you may not know it but that verse is considered the John 3:16 of the Gospel of Matthew. One scholar called it “the gospel in miniature.” We’ll look at it in detail in just a minute but it gives us the timing of the gospel. If you notice, it begins with Abraham with whom God made his covenant promise to bless all the families of the earth. Then, it proceeds to David through whom God blessed the people of Israel. Then, it falls into the Babylonian exile because the people rejected God. Finally, in God’s timing, Christ came to save his people from their sins. Promise – Blessing – Rejection – Salvation. This is the story of God’s people in a nutshell. Is that your story? Is Christ your Savior?

Context: The passage we just read has been a thorn in the side for many evangelical scholars. In fact, many who are against Christianity have pointed to this verse to prove that the Bible has errors. Some of ya’ll are wondering what exactly is the problem in that verse. Listen to it again – Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” There are several issues here:

  1. To start with, the time between the three sections is not equal. Between Abraham and David, there was at least 1000 years. Now, from David to the Babylonian exile, the there was only 400 years, less than half the time between Abraham and David. Then, from the Babylonian exile to Christ, there was 600 years. So, the sections are 1000 – 400 – 600. If there were 14 generations in between each section, that would make the average generation in the first section about 70 years, the average generation in the second section 28 years, and the average generation in the third section 42 years. It’s all over the place. By the way, the average generation is typically only 25 years.
  2. In the first two sections (from Abraham to David and from David to the Babylonian Exile) there are 14 names but in the last section (from Exile to Christ) only 13 names. One seems to be missing unless you count the last one from the second list again in the third list, then it’s 14 again. It appears so subjective and contrived.
  3. When you compare Matthew’s genealogy with the genealogies in I Chronicles 1:28, 34; 2:1-15, and Ruth 4:18-22 and the list of the kings in I and II Kings, Matthew skips over certain names in his genealogy. In fact, he omits as many as 5 kings between David and the Exile. Plus, you can also compare with the genealogy in Luke 3 and notice several more names there than in Matthew.

What exactly is going on? Does Matthew not know how to count? Did he not have an accurate list from which to copy? Is he manipulating the list to fit his purpose? Does the Bible have errors? Of course not. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is God-breathed. If God is perfect, then whatever he breathes out is also perfect. Plus, we have plenty of other places that stand true so we can say “Let’s look for reasons that prove that this one will stand true as well.” For e.g. What happens when a traffic light goes out? Do you reject the entire signal system everywhere? Of course not. They send someone to figure out what’s wrong and repair.

There are 2 possible solutions:

  1. The number 7 is a very important number in the Bible. Many many times it is mentioned: Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 8:4 “Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.” Exodus 13:6Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Passover) Leviticus 4:6 “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary.” Numbers 28:19 “And you shall present an offering made by fire as a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish.” I don’t have time to look at every mention of 7, here’s just a couple more. Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.” Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”

Seven is the number of completion. So, 7 + 7 = 14 means double completion. In the first section, there are 1st 7 and 2nd 7. In the second section, there are 3rd 7 and 4th 7. In the third section 5th 7 and 6th 7. With the coming of Jesus we now have 7th 7 which is total completion. He is it! There’s no one else.

  1. The number 14 is also a very important number in the Bible. Many time it is also mentioned: Numbers 28:16 “On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord.” Numbers 29:13 “You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the Lord: thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year. They shall be without blemish.” 1Kings 8:65 “At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven more days—fourteen days.” There is a reason why I focus so much on the Old Testament. Because, the New Testament is grounded in the soil of the Old Testament. Without a proper understanding of the OT, we will misunderstand the NT.

Something else under 14, David’s name, according to a system called Gematria (where each Hebrew letter has a numeric value – A = 1, B = 2, G = 3, D = 4, H = 5, V = 6; An example is 666 in Revelation 13:18 – “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Probably, Nero Caesar) had the numeric value of 14 where D = 4, V = 6, and D = 4. If you remember from last week, David is very important in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew begins his gospel by saying Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Even though Abraham was chronologically first, David was as Jewish as they get. Remember the illustration of John Smith and George Washington. The second is far more American. Also, in the list of the genealogies, David is number 14. Bottom line: Matthew is not trying to give us the biological genealogy of Jesus. You can go and find that out like Joseph did when he went to register in Bethlehem. He is far more interested in giving us the dynastic genealogy of Jesus. Matthew wants us to understand that Jesus came from the line of David to claim his rightful throne. He is the true fulfillment of the promise that God had made to David. Jesus is the true king of Israel, the true king of the Jews. Where David messed up, Jesus won’t and didn’t. By the way, we need to remember that those kings who were omitted were all cursed. Read the rest of Matthew and you will realize how much emphasis there is on the title “Son of David” for Jesus!

Ultimately, what Matthew is trying to tell us is that Jesus is the completion of God’s plan of redemption. The true king has come in God’s appointed time. Is he your king or are you still living as if you are your own king? Is he your Savior?

Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: FAMILY OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  We are a Christmas loving family! We look forward to Christmas all year long! In our home, Nicole starts playing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! One year she actually started in October and by the time December rolled around, we were all sick of Christmas. We put our collective foot down and told her that she can’t do that anymore. She tries but we keep an eye on her. Christmas should be the most exciting time of the year! It was on God’s calendar ever since the beginning of time. Throughout the Old Testament God promised to his people that His Son was coming. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” to announce that he has come and that’s the title of our new series for Christmas: FULFILLED.

Matthew 1    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 2   14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Matthew 2   17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Question: The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. Ever since the beginning of time it was on God’s calendar and repeatedly he sent word through his prophets that “he was coming, he was coming, he was coming.” That’s why when Matthew wrote his gospel, he began with “it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.” What does that mean for you and me? Jesus is God’s only promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Has he fulfilled those promises in your life? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the other gospels, Matthew began his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy. In ancient times, it was not unusual to begin the biography of a famous person with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to be able to list one’s pedigree. But Matthew’s purpose was much deeper. He was not giving us just a pedigree of Jesus. Neither was he just trying to impress us with big names. In fact, listen carefully to how he began his gospel Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Both David and Abraham had been promised a son from God and Jesus was that Son.

How was Jesus the Son of David? 2 Samuel 7   12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, (We think Solomon. Yes and no.) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (Solomon only ruled for 40 years.) 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Unfortunately, Solomon also messed up and God had to take it from him as well.) 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This promise was made to David 1000 years before the coming of Jesus. Here’s another promise made to David after he was dead for 400 years. Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” This promised was made posthumously to David 600 years before the coming of Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of David.

How was Jesus the Son of Abraham? Genesis 12   1 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: (When God called him, his name was just Abram, “Exalted Father,” but he and his wife Sarai couldn’t have any children.) Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As you know, Abram obeyed God and in time God changed his name to Abraham, “Father of many,” and at the age of 100 he and Sarah finally had Isaac. Did Isaac become a blessing to all the families of the earth? Unfortunately, he was more interested in eating wild game than being a blessing. This 2000-year-old promise to Abraham was actually about Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of Abraham.

By the way, why did Matthew say “Son of David” before “Son of Abraham”? Because Salvation is of the Jews. You cannot get anymore Jewish than David. For e.g. Who is more American? John Smith or George Washington. But then, he went back to Abraham who would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Never forget: Salvation was always for the whole world. Listen to Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.” In this verse 2 names are mentioned that also received the promise that Jesus would be coming.

  1. Jacob: His older brother Esau despised his birthright but Jacob wanted it badly. So, he deceived his brother because he knew the significance of the promise. He even wrestled with God and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel. Listen to the promise God made to him in Numbers 24:17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” This promise was made about 1900 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is that Star in Jacob’s line and that Scepter (Rod or wand that signified royalty) in Israel’s (Jacob’s name given by God) line.
  2. Judah: He was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Listen to the promise God made to him through his father Jacob in Genesis 49 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp (cub); From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet…” Jesus is that Scepter and the lawgiver. “…until Shiloh comes; (Lit. Until he possesses that which belongs to him.) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” This promise was made 1800 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the scepter and the lawgiver, and his final words to his disciples were “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

What does all this mean? The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. It was all according to God’s Providence. He supernaturally engineered the coming of his Son into this world. Thank God for his providence!

Application: Do you understand what God has done for you in Jesus? He has been preparing the plan of salvation for you since the beginning of time. It’s his Providence. In our own life, we can also see the Providence of God guiding us and giving us good parents, education, and a great nation to live in!

But, unlike typical genealogies, Matthew does something very odd. He lists 4 women in the genealogy and, may I add, women with a questionable past. All of us want to claim some royalty in our past but none of us want to admit that we also have some nuts hanging on our family tree. Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” Who were these 4 undesirables? I’ve preached a whole series on them. Besides being women of questionable past, they each had a gentile connection.

Matthew 1:3 “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”

  1. Tamar – She was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her because he had refused to let her marry his third son.

Matthew 1:5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…”

  1. Rahab – She was an Amorite/Canaanite, a citizen of Jericho and a madam (rich prostitute) by trade. She had helped the spies and in exchange she asked for her family to be saved.

Matthew 1:5 “…Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.”

  1. Ruth – She was a Moabite (enemies of God’s people) whose husband was an Israelite. They lived in Moab until he died and then she followed her mother-in-law Naomi back into the land of Israel.

Matthew 1:6 “and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Actual wording: “David the king begot the Solomon by the of the Uriah.” “Wife” has to be added and “the” has to be omitted twice.

  1. Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David forced her into committing adultery, had her husband killed, and got her pregnant. The punishment the child died.

Why did Matthew include the illustrious and the not so illustrious in the genealogy of Jesus? To show us that in the birth of Jesus we find both God’s Providence and God’s Grace working together. Jesus truly came to bring God’s salvation to the least of the least. No one can ever say that Jesus is just for the elite few. He’s for all.

Invitation: Has Jesus fulfilled the promises of God in your life? Are you saved? You feel undeserving. Jesus is for you as well.

The Soul-Multiplier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL-MULTIPLIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Multiplier

Introduction: I enjoy fishing but I really enjoy fishing with my boys. It’s more fun for me to watch them fish than to fish myself. It’s funny to me how they start out at the opposite sides of the pond until one of them starts catching fish. Then, before you know it, the other one starts sliding in the direction where the fish are biting because he wants to catch fish too. So also in today’s miracle, the disciples had cast their nets all night and had caught nothing until Jesus came to them and help them and when he did, they could not pull in the net because of the catch was so big. In this final message in our series on the miracles of Jesus, we’re going to learn that God wants us to fish, fish for souls. He’s willing to help us catch, not just one or two souls but a net full if only we would listen to him. After all, Jesus is the great SOUL-MULTIPLIER.

John 21   1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Question: Have you caught any fish lately? When was the last time that you won a soul to Jesus? Did you know that God wants you to catch a net full of souls in your lifetime? By the way, before you can catch, you have to be caught. Have you ever been caught in the net of God’s amazing grace? Are you saved?

Background: This final miracle in our series comes from the Gospel of John again. You’ve heard me repeat throughout this series that John the apostle (writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. As you know, signs were more than just miracles. They also proved that Jesus was/is God. Having said that, this sign was different. All the previous signs were done before Jesus went to the cross. They were done to prove that he was the Promised One. But then, Jesus did the ultimate sign by rising from the grave on the third day. No more signs were needed to prove that he was the Promised One. Now it was time for a decision. Listen to the verse prior to this miracle – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.” In other words, the time for signs was over. Now it was time to believe him or reject him.

Application: Many of you have heard message after message. You’ve been given proof after proof but you have yet to receive Jesus as your Savior. What are you waiting for?

Now back to our miracle: If the time for signs was over, then why did Jesus do this one more sign? Listen carefully: This sign was not done by Jesus to manifest the glory of God. This sign was done by Jesus to motivate his disciples to carry out the mission of God. In other words, this sign was not about the person of Jesus. This sign was about the mission of Jesus. First, let’s clarify what was the Mission of Jesus. He had given it to them just a few verses earlier in John 20   21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Meaning: The disciples were to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and tell the whole world about Jesus and how he had come to forgive their sins. The message of salvation was now in the hands of the disciples and they had a part to play in the eternal destiny of people.

Application: By the way, this is also our mission when we get saved and join the family of God. We have the same mission as the disciples to seek and to save the lost. How is the mission coming? Are you seeking and saving the lost? This is the mission of Clearview.

Now that we know the mission, let’s return to the miracle in John 21. What is the sign behind this miracle? Listen again – 1 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat…” Why in the world did Simon Peter say, “I am going fishing”? Why did he go back to his old life? To understand this, we need to keep in mind that the disciples had just been through the worst mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical rollercoaster of life. They had been through a very traumatic time, to say the least. Think about: Their Master had been killed right before their eyes and just when they thought it was all over, he had reappeared! How do you think they were feeling?

  • They were in shock. I doubt if any of us here have ever seen someone being killed. These disciples had seen a person they loved and respected very much killed in the worst possible way on a cruel shameful Roman cross.
  • They were disheartened. Imagine if you knew someone as amazing as Jesus for 3 ½ years. Imagine if you had seen and heard things that were mind blowing and life-changing as the disciples had seen and heard from Jesus and just when you thought that this Jesus would become your King Messiah and change the world forever, he was ripped away from you and killed. All that for nothing…
  • They were confused. Again, think about it – your Master died a cruel unjust death. How sad! How wrong! But just when you were beginning to process all of that, he comes back! “What! Are we hallucinating? Are we losing our minds?” Plus, he’s not exactly like he used to be. Something has changed about him.
  • They were feeling inadequate. Jesus was back and saying things like, John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” All they could recollect was how they had abandoned Jesus on the night he was betrayed. They were probably thinking, “Why do you even care about us? We turned our backs on you.”
  • They were feeling embarrassed, especially Peter. Think about the last encounter that Peter had with Jesus before he was crucified. Just as Jesus had warned him, he had denied him three times before the rooster crowed.
  • They probably felt that the cost to follow was too much. They must have given thought to what it would take to follow Jesus and the road seemed too hard. It was so much easier to go back to the familiar, the easy, and the inconsequential.

Application: Which one are you? Maybe you don’t feel shock since Jesus died 2000 years ago but do you at times feel disheartened, confused, inadequate, or embarrassed? Do you feel that the cost is too much? Are you tempted to go back to your old life?

What happened next? 3 “…They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” It never works out when you run from the call God has on your life. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. What’s amazing is that the Master doesn’t abandon us even when we abandon him. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. This was not about the fish. This was about their true calling. Don’t forget that each of us has been called by God to his mission. You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary but you have to be a soul multiplier.

Now watch how Peter responded – 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. Why? He was done running from God. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How beautiful is that sight! When we mess up, Jesus doesn’t wait with a whip but with breakfast! Plus he wants us to join him in catching souls. 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Why is the number significant? People have tried to come up with all kinds of ideas about it. Here’s my answer: Every soul counts in the kingdom of God. Let me draw some applications:

  • No matter our occupation, fishing for souls is our calling.
  • It never works out when you run from our calling.
  • Jesus expects from us on a large scale what he did on a small scale. John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
  • Our job is to cast. His job is to fill the net.
  • When we mess up, he waits for us with breakfast.
  • You have to be caught before you can catch others.

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

The Eye-Opener by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EYE-OPENER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Eye Opener

Introduction: The closest I’ve ever come to being totally blind was several years ago when our family went to the Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri. It’s the only ride through cavern in the USA. The scenery was beautiful with all the stalactites and stalagmites! Once we got deep into the cavern the guide told us that he would turn all the lights out for a “moment of total darkness.” He did and I don’t think I’ve ever been in such thick darkness in my life. You could cut it with a knife! I remember the kids clutching tightly to us. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn the lights back on. We were totally helpless. Then lights came back on and everything was fine. It was a great illustration of how each of us is born spiritually blind in this world. We are totally helpless until God turns on the light. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the great eye-opener.

John 9   1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” 9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” 10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” 12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

Question: To be spiritually blind means others around you can see the work of God but you can’t. Others can describe it to you but you can’t see it for yourself. Do you have your spiritual eyes or are you still spiritually blind? When you come to Jesus he opens your spiritually eyes and you begin to see the work of God for yourself. Have you ever been to Jesus yet? Has he opened your spiritual eyes? Are you saved?

Background: In our series on the miracles of Jesus from all four gospels we’ve learned that John the apostle (the writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. There’s a difference between signs and miracles. Although signs were miracles, they were also proofs that Jesus was/is God and he was the one to come. So, what was the deeper sign in this miracle? To answer that, we have to jump ahead to John 9:14 “Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” If you ignore the time of the miracle being Sabbath, you will misunderstand this miracle.

What is the Sabbath? It was the 7th day of the Jewish week on which no work could be done. It went back to Genesis 2:3 when “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” In the Decalog (10 Commandments), God even commanded His people Israel to follow his pattern. Exodus 20   8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” It keeps going. In fact, it is the longest of all the 10 commandments! Breaking the Sabbath was considered a capital offense. The goal was not to find people working and kill them. It was to set aside a day to slow down, worship God, spend time with your loved ones, and get your priorities in order. Interestingly, God did not specify the details about work. He left it up to the people to flesh it out. Unfortunately, by Jesus’ day, the Jewish people had come up with a long lists of dos and don’ts as to what constituted work. Can you light a fire? How far can you walk? Can you help someone in need? How much can you help them? In short, the Sabbath was a major source of dispute among the various Jewish groups. They had lost sight of the real reason for the Sabbath. It was so bad that the Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. Previously, in John 5, Jesus had healed a man who was paralyzed for 38 years on the Sabbath. What was the reaction of the Jewish leaders? John 5:16 “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” Listen to how Jesus responded to them – 17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ In other words, “My Father and I made the Sabbath. Yes, it’s a day that you cease working but not cease from doing good, helping those in need, and bringing salvation.” Those are to be done round the clock. Keep this in mind because it’s the key to this miracle.

Context: Let’s return to the miracle in John 9:1 “Now as Jesus passed by…” Where was Jesus coming from? For e.g. If I were to say, “I passed by your house this morning.” You may ask, “Oh really, where were you going?” I may answer, “I was coming from the grocery store and going home.” To find out where Jesus was “passing by” from, back up to the previous verse which is John 8:59 “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” This miracle did not happen when Jesus was taking a nice stroll down the boardwalk or the beach. This miracle was done as Jesus was trying to flee a mob of people with stones in their hands. Why did they want to do that? Because Jesus had told them things like – John 8  19 “…You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” 24 “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 29 “…The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do…” 47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 58 “…Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” All this made them so angry that they picked up stones and began to chase him. By the way, what day was this? Can you pick up stones and chase after someone? They were breaking the Sabbath. They were utterly spiritually blind and they didn’t want to see.

Application: All of us come into this world spiritually blind. We can’t see the things of God. But we have a choice. Either we can admit our blindness or deny it. These people denied it and wanted to kill the light of the world! There are people like that even today. Instead of submitting to the eye-opener, they fight him! Which one are you?

What did Jesus do as he was trying to duck away from this angry mob? He noticed a man who was born blind as his enemies were breaking the Sabbath in their zeal for keeping the Sabbath! His disciples decided to launch into a theological discussion over whose fault it was that he was born blind. Listen to Jesus’ answer in verse 3 “…Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” There’s a sense of urgency in the words of Jesus. He doesn’t have time to waste. Work has to be done as long as he is in the world because the night is coming soon. By the way, what day was this? Sabbath.

Application: Don’t let your traditions get in the way of reaching the lost. Traditions are fine but salvation trumps tradition any day.

Now listen to how he does the miracle: 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground (which is work) and made clay with the saliva (which is work); and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay (which is work). Was Jesus just trying to antagonize the Jewish leaders over the Sabbath? Of course not. Look back again to what Jesus did. Just like God made Adam out of the dust of the earth, he used clay to heal the blind man’s eyes. Just like God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he used his spit to make the clay. The blind man already had the breath of life in him. The spit was simply to put a patch on a broken creation. What Jesus is declaring through his actions is that he is the same God who made the heavens, the earth, and everything in it, including man in his image. He is also declaring that he is the God who gave them the Sabbath and it was never intended to be what they had done to it. Listen to verse 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). (Which is work) So he went and washed, and came back seeing. (Which is work). Then he told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why? In those days they used the water from the pool of Siloam for the daily processions to the temple. It was considered sacred. But John tells us that the name meant, “Sent.” What Jesus is saying to the blind man and to all who were listening is “Go wash in my pool.” In essence he was saying that he was the God who gave sight to the blind. Psalm 146:8 “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind…” Isaiah 29:18 “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.”

What was the result? His neighbors couldn’t recognize him. The Pharisees began interrogating him. His parents distanced themselves from him. But Jesus came looking for him and asked in John 9 35 “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

Let me draw some applications:

  • All of are born spiritually blind. Our blindness is due to sin.
  • Only Jesus is the Light of the World. He is restoring sight round the clock.
  • Persecution may follow after receiving sight.
  • Spiritual blindness will make you ignore the hurting
  • It’ll make you major on the minors.
  • It’ll make you lose your sense of urgency.

The Soul-Sustainer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL SUSTAINER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Sustainer

Introduction: Nicole and I look forward to summer when kids get out of school and we don’t have to get up as early or stay on a rigid schedule. But, somewhere around mid-summer we actually look forward for school to start. The reason: Our Grocery Bill! Nicole buys the groceries on Monday and by Wednesday the fridge and the pantry are empty! That’s just trying to feed 6 people! Now imagine trying to feed 5000 men plus women and children. Do the math – if half those men were married, that’s 2500 women and if each of those couples had 3 kids (By the way, that’s a conservative number for families back then), that’s 7500 kids. Altogether that’s 5000 + 2500 + 7500 = 15000 people. Jesus not only fed them but had 12 baskets left over! As great as that miracle was, Jesus did not come just to provide physical sustenance for the body. He came to provide spiritual sustenance for the soul, which is far more important. He is the great SOUL SUSTAINER.

John 6    2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Question: Your physical life comes from your physical appetite. Your spiritual life comes from your spiritual appetite. If your physical appetite is poor, your physical life will suffer. If your spiritual appetite is poor, your spiritual life will suffer. How is your spiritual life? What are you feeding your soul? Are you feeding upon Christ and his words? Are you saved? Have you ever been made spiritually alive?

Context: Let’s read again verse 2 “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” If you remember, few sermons back I explained to you that when John the apostle used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He was referring to those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proofs of who he was/is and why he came. The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 men plus women and children was more than just about physical hunger and physical appetite. It was about spiritual hunger and spiritual appetite.

Listen to verse 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. If you read those verses too quickly, you’ll miss the sign behind the feeding miracle – the feast of the Passover. The Feast of the Passover (Pesach) along with the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Masot) were joint festivals that commemorated the freedom of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. Exodus 12 tells us that God commanded them that on the night of their escape the head of each Israelite home had to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood around the doorpost and the lintel of the house. This was to keep the destroyer from taking the life of the firstborn. Also, each family was to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Something more – Exodus 12:11 “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste…” In other words, this was no leisurely meal. They had to stand and eat as if they were late for a journey. For e.g. Ever been late for somewhere important and you had to eat before you left? No time for salt and ketchup. By the way, God also told them that this was not a one-time deal. They had to keep this feast for generations to come.

With that in mind, let’s return to John 6  5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” At first glance it appears that Jesus was just messing with Philip but that’s not true. Go back to John 1   43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” If Philip really understood Moses and the prophets, he would not have replied as he did. He would’ve fallen on his face before Jesus and said, “You are God. Nothing is impossible for you.”

Principle: When God tests us, he gives us the review sheet first.

What happened next? Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother finds a young kid with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish and brings him to Jesus. What was the main course of the Passover Meal? Roasted Lamb. No lamb at this meal, just fish. Or is the lamb there already? Twice in the first chapter of John the lamb of God is identified for us. John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Now, listen carefully to Jesus instructions – 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” The Greek word there is “anapesin” which actually translates “recline.” How were they supposed to eat the Passover meal? Standing up as if they were running for their lives. Not any longer. Why? Jesus is the Lamb of God. Life was in the lamb. You don’t run from your food. What is really happening here? Keep in mind that this is a sign. Just like the water into wine miracle where the new wine was better than the old proved that Jesus was superior to all the previous purifications rules and rituals. Now, Jesus is also superior to the Passover.

John adds a very interesting detail in verse 10 “Now there was much grass in the place.” Picture a vast multitude of people reclining on green grass. What does that remind you of? Psalm 23 1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” The Lamb is also the Shepherd. Now listen to how the miracle happens. 11 “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” No bright light. No great sound. The food just keeps on coming. When they were full, Jesus told his disciples to gather up the fragments and 12 baskets were left over. Why was it so important to gather the fragments? Keep in mind that this was a multilayered sign. On one hand, it was proof that Jesus had superseded the Passover but, on the other hand, it was proof that Jesus had also superseded Moses. To understand this, drop down to John 6   32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. Remember, they were not supposed to gather any more manna than they needed for the day. What would happen if they did? It bred worms and stank. Listen again to Jesus in verse 51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” You can never have too much of Jesus! Gather as much as you want of him. There’ll always be more!

What was there response? 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. They missed the sign just like people still do. Few truths from this miracle:

  • All of us have been created with a spiritual appetite. Blaise Pascal (physicist, philosopher and a born again believer from the seventeenth century who got saved reading John 17) in his book Pensées called it the “infinite abyss.”
  • Only Jesus and his Word can satisfy this spiritual appetite.
  • Don’t revert to spiritual junk food. You become what you eat.
  • The longer you go without spiritual nourishment, the less hungry you become.
  • The more you feed upon Jesus and his Word, the hungrier you become.
  • People are dying of hunger. If you are a disciple, you have to pass the bread.
  • Don’t forget that Christ is also the Lamb of God. What’s the difference? Bread was a peasant’s food. But, don’t ever think that Christ is cheap. He’s also the priceless lamb!
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