Fulfilled: Location of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”

Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!

What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7   40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3   9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5    2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.

Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.

But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.

Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2   1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.

Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.

God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?

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?

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 Fear-Defier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE FEAR-DEFIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Fear Defier

Introduction: I usually don’t use movies as illustrations but if there’s one that I’ll make an exception for, it is my all-time favorite, “Tombstone.” It’s based on the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona where Wyatt Earp and his two brothers along with Doc Holliday had the famous shootout with the cowboys Billy Claiborne and the Clanton and the McLaury Brothers. A few years back Nicole and I actually took a trip there. There’s a part in the movie where Wyatt Earp shoots his way out of a tough situation. The next scene shows the men cleaning their guns and Sherman McMasters (one of the good guys) asks, “Where is he (Wyatt Earp)?” and Doc Holliday replies, “Down by the creek, walking on water.” It implies that Wyatt Earp just pulled off a miracle like Jesus walking on the water. As great as that movie is, nothing is further from the truth. Sure, Wyatt Earp was bold and fearless but it takes much more than that to walk on water. There’s only one who did that. His name is Jesus. He alone is the great Fear-Defier.

Matthew 14   22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Question: All of us have some fear or another in our lives. Some are afraid of their past. Others are afraid of their future. Some are fearful of some person in their lives. Others are fearful of those they don’t know. For some it’s the fear of rejection. For others it’s the fear of failure. The list goes on. What is your fear? What are you afraid of? Have you ever met Jesus? He’s the great fear-defier. What’s amazing is that he will not only give you peace in the midst of the storm but he’s also lead you to walk on water.

Context: Let’s begin with verse 22 “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” In Greek it is “anagkazo,” which is literally “forced” or “urged” them to get away. Why did Jesus do that? Keep in mind that this was right after that great miracle of feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. If you remember from last week, we came up with the estimate of at least 15,000 people. Now think about it. 15,000 ÷12 = 1,250 people per disciple. Imagine if you were responsible to feed 1,250 individuals! How exhausting that would be! I can imagine some of them already asking for the breakfast menu! But I don’t think this was the main reason. The main reason was that Jesus did not want the disciples to start thinking like the unbelieving crowd. If you remember, some of them wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. What they wanted was a walking talking cafeteria. Jesus knew the danger of that thinking and he got them out of there.

Application: At Clearview there are disciples and then there’s the crowd. The disciples roll up their sleeves; the crowds fold up their arms. The disciples ask, “What can I do?” the crowds ask, “How long will it take?” The disciples offer their time and energy; the crowds offer their doubts and demands. The disciples bring their wallets to church; the crowds leave their wallets at home. Which one are you? If you were there back then, would Jesus send you away with the disciples or with the crowd?

Now Jesus goes up on the mountain by himself to pray. 24 “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” Confession Time: I’ve struggled with this passage. If Jesus truly cared about his disciples enough to rescue them from the crowd, then why in the world would he send them into a storm! It’s like – “Let me help you cross the street” but when you get to the other side, he turns around and pushes you into the oncoming traffic. Did Jesus not know that there would be a storm? Of course he did. He was and is God. But there’s something else. 25 “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them…” Fourth watch in the Roman time system was between 3am to 6am. The Gospel of Mark adds something here that has puzzled scholars for a long time. Mark 6:48 “…Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” Why would he do that! To get the answer to these questions, we have to turn to geography. Luke in his gospel tells us that Jesus fed the multitude somewhere near the city of Bethsaida (Luke 9:2). Bethsaida is located on the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, it was not directly next to the city since the gospels say that it was a deserted place but Bethsaida was the closest big town. But then Mark says that after the miracle Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and go to Bethsaida. What Jesus was doing was trying to get the disciples away from the crowd but sail close to the shoreline and get back to the town of Bethsaida. John in his gospel tells us that the disciples got into the boat and decided to go towards Capernaum, which is on the northwestern corner of the Sea.

Why did they do that? I’m going to give you my opinion but it will make sense to you when you look at the whole context. The clue is found in the Gospel of Luke. Even though Luke does not record the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, he tells us something very interesting that Matthew, Mark, and John do not tell us. After sending the disciples to the boat and the multitude on their way, Jesus went to pray by himself. We think that the disciples were probably on the boat by the time Jesus started praying. Not true. Listen to Luke 9 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. 18 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” 20   He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Now the disciples make their way to the boat. I believe that they were in stunned silence. After sailing for a few minutes someone must have spoken up – “What do you guys think? Do you really think he is who he says he is? I mean he’s talking about dying and coming back to life. He’s talking about picking up our cross and following him! He’s talking about coming in his glory and his father’s and the angels.” Then someone must have turned to Peter and asked,” Hey Peter, do you really believe that he’s the Christ of God?” Just my opinion but at that moment Peter must have said, “I don’t know what I believe. Forget Jesus. Let’s go to Capernaum.” They all decided to bail on Jesus.

What happened next? Storm came up and the boat was tossed by waves to somewhere in the middle of the sea. Now Jesus comes walking on the waves and Mark says that he “would have passed them by.” Do you blame him? I would too! In fact, I would’ve kicked up the waves a little! The disciples thought he was a ghost and began to scream out of fear. Jesus immediately called out – “It’s me. Have courage. Don’t fear.” Then Peter did something that he was known for, something impulsive. “Boys, it’s now or never.” “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” What’s the big deal about walking on the water? It’s God’s calling card:

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Psalm 77: 9 “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters…”
  • Habakkuk 3:15 “You walked through the sea with Your horses, Through the heap of great waters.”

Just like Jesus, Peter began to walk on the waves but then the old fear came back and he began to sink and cried out “Lord, save me!” and Jesus grabbed his hand and said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then he got into the boat and the disciples came and worshipped him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Listen to how Mark closes in 6   51 “…And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

Let me draw some applications:

  • If you are a disciple, God expects much more from you than from the crowd. The greatest need of the multitude was food but the greatest need of the disciples was faith. The end goal of the multitude was contentment but the end goal of the disciples was advancement.
  • Confession should be followed by Obedience.
  • Hardness of heart is the source of Fear.
  • When we’re faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
  • Keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the wind and the waves.

The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Joy Producer

Introduction: When you talk to some Christians, it seems that to be a good Christian you have to be miserable. In fact, the more miserable you are, the godlier you must be or so they think. It reminds me of a group of Christians who were gathered on a Friday evening prayer meeting when one lady prayed, “Dear God, please bless us your people. We’re in here trying to serve you while the world is out there having a wonderful time.” In other words, to be a good Christian you cannot have wonderful times, only miserable times. This is completely contrary to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus came to bring joy and in this message we will learn that he is the great JOY PRODUCER.

John 2   1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Question: We will look at this passage in detail in a few minutes but for now the question we need to answer is this – “Is your Christian life more resembling of a funeral service or a wedding service?” Are you full of misery or are you full of joy? The coming of Jesus in any life brings joy. Has Jesus come into your life? Are you saved?

Clarification: Before we begin this message, let me clarify one thing. Typically this passage is invoked either in support of or against drinking alcohol. For example, some people say, “Jesus turned water into wine so it’s okay to drink, as long as you don’t get drunk.” Then people on the other side say, “Jesus would never endorse alcohol. He only turned water into unfermented grape juice (which is not true).” Listen carefully: No matter where you stand on this topic, this passage is neither for nor against drinking alcohol. It has a much deeper meaning, which we will learn in this message.

Let’s Begin: Instead of starting in verse 1, we need to drop down to verse 11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The key word there is “signs.” It comes from the Greek word “semeion.” John the apostle/writer of the gospel used this word for Jesus’ miracles. Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also used that word but not for Jesus’ miracles. They used it in a negative tone when the scribes and the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and he refused. To the contrary, John the apostle concluded his gospel in these words – 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.” When John used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He used the word “signs” the way the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), used that word to prove the power of God and his work on behalf of his people. For example: After the flood, God said in Genesis 9:13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” After God brought his people out of slavery, they sang in Deuteronomy 26:8 “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.” In Isaiah 7:14, it was prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” When John used the word “signs,” he meant 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 proof of who he was/is and why he came.

So what was the sign behind the miracle of the wedding at Cana? As we just read, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Back in those days, Jewish weddings were a time of great joy and celebration! Unlike the Roman weddings, which were not ostentatious and extravagant, Jewish weddings symbolized the greatest joy! They normally lasted a whole week! By the way, by the end of this year, I will do 7 weddings in total! They are a lot of fun and excitement but they’re also a lot of work, as some of you know very well. Imagine a whole week of celebrations! If you were wealthy back then, you’d invite the whole village. Think about all the food and drinks you had to prepare! According to one ancient Jewish source, if you invited someone to a wedding and didn’t show proper hospitality, you are no better than a thief! Guess what! At this wedding, the drinks ran out! How embarrassing! So Jesus’ mother mentioned it to him and listen to his reply – 4 “…Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” What Jesus was saying is – “Do you really think that I left my heavenly throne and came down to fix drinks? I’ve come for something much greater.” What was Mary’s response? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” It seems like she didn’t get it but that’s not true. Remember, after his birth and the visit to the temple at the age of 12, twice it says in Luke 2 that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She knew that Jesus was much more than her son. Somehow Mary knew that Jesus would use this as a sign. By the way, this was not his first miracle but the first sign that he performed. That’s why I didn’t begin this series with it.

Listen to verse 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That’s about 150 gallons of water! To get an idea of how much that is, imagine a fish tank, 6 feet long, two feet tall, and two feet wide. That’s a lot of water! What is it for? For ceremonial hand washing and ritual cleansing of the vessels. During the time of Jesus, these rituals were at an all time high. Even John the Baptist’s disciples got into arguments with the Jewish people over purification (John 3:25). Listen to what Jesus did7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Think about it, Jesus could have easily told them to fill the wine jars with water but he specifically commanded them to fill up the purification pots. Remember, this is a sign. Jesus is telling them that he has come to replace all those purification laws and rituals with something much better. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Listen carefully: Nothing wrong with traditions but don’t let rituals and traditions get in the way of true substance. Go to Jesus.

What happened next? He told them to get some out and take it to the Master of the feast. When he tasted it, he was amazed and said to the bridegroom, 10 “…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” Apparently, they would serve the best quality wine first and when people were drunk and didn’t know or care what they were drinking, then they would serve the inferior quality. What he was saying is “I thought the party was on but I was wrong. The real party is about to begin!” What’s the point? Remember, this is a sign. Jesus was asking them “Didn’t my boy John the Baptist tell you that the better wine was coming?” Oh Yeah…just a chapter earlier. John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1   26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” 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! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ Don’t miss this: This passage is not about to drink or not to drink. This passage is about Jesus being the good wine who brings true joy and celebration! Everything prior to him was inferior. When he comes into your life, then the real wedding feast can begin!

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What does this glory look like? It’s not some bright light or some halo around the head, some nimbus or aureole. It is a combination of grace and truth. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

  • Truth is you are lost in your sins but grace brings you forgiveness.
  • Truth is you are an enemy of God but grace makes you a child of God.
  • Truth is that you are born to die but grace gives you eternal life.
  • Truth is that you are nothing but grace invites you to join God in his work.

Some people are reluctant to believe in Jesus. They think that coming to Jesus would mess up their party. They think that coming to Jesus will kill all their fun. It’s just the opposite. When you come to Jesus, you see his true glory and that’s when the party really begins. Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Do you have this joy in your life? By receiving Jesus as your Savior you can. Beware of Joy Killers? Sometimes they are people, places, or passions. Be intoxicated on Jesus. Be addicted to him. It never gets old.

The Sin-Forgiver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SIN-FORGIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

The Sin Forgiver

Introduction: A man and his wife pulled into a gas station back in the days of full service stations. The young attendant got the pump going and then washed the windshield. When he finished, the man leaned out and yelled, “It’s still dirty. Wash it again.” “Yes Sir” said the attendant and washed it a second time, looking closely for any bugs and dirt he might have missed. When he finished, the man leaned out again and yelled loudly, “Don’t you know how to wash a windshield! Do it again!” So he did it again a third time but he couldn’t find anything. Now the man was furious – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m talking to your boss. You’re the lousiest windshield washer I’ve ever seen!” As he was about to get out, his wife reached over, removed his glasses, wiped them down with a tissue, and put them back on his face. Needless to say, the windshield was spotless. Many times people view others through their own dirty glasses. They did that to Jesus but he saw through their sinfulness. After all, he was and is the great SIN-FORGIVER.

Mark 2   1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Question: Can you see God working or are the smudges of your sinful hearts keeping you from seeing Jesus? Are you like the men who were willing to tear down the roof to bring their friend to Jesus or are you like the scribes who could only sit back and cast doubts at Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe that he was and is God who has the power to forgive sins? Are you saved?

Context: Let’s go back to verse 1 “And again He entered Capernaum after some days and it was heard that He was in the house. Nicole and I have been to Capernaum. Let me say a word about the houses back then. The front door would actually lead into a courtyard first, which then led to several rooms around the courtyard. The rooms were single-storey with walls made out of basalt, a black volcanic rock. Verse 2 “Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door.” More than likely Jesus went into one of the larger rooms of the house and it not only filled up that room but also the courtyard and out the door. You could say that it was a full house! Who were these people? Remember, Capernaum was a port town on the Northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee from where boats would go in and out with cargo. It also sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria inthe North and Mesopotamia in the East. People from all over came there – business owners, Roman soldiers,

politicians, religious teachers, tax collectors, and, even prostitutes. Remember, this is where Jesus called Matthew the tax collector and Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their fishing business and follow him. Why were these people crowded around Jesus? 2 “…And He preached the word to them. They were hungry for the truth of God. Are you?

3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was…” Apparently, four guys were trying to get their friend, father, or brother to Jesus but couldn’t get through the crowd. So they climbed up the stairway in the courtyard to the rooftop, somehow without dropping that man! 4 “…So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” The roofs were usually flat and made out of wooden beams and thatched with reeds, sticks, and smaller branches, followed by a matted layer of thorns, and then a layer of a few inches thick of clay. The roof had to be pretty sturdy because it was used for working, drying fruits, and even sleeping during the hot summer nights. When it says that these men “broke through the roof,” it was much more than removing a few sticks and pulling aside a few pieces of hay. They did some damage to this roof! You can see the mud and branches falling through the rafters. I can imagine the people of the house trying to get to these four through the crowd to stop them but these fellows were determined. They probably tore a good bit before anybody could get to them. I can imagine these guys telling the owner – “We promise we’ll fix it.” You can almost see the owner shaking his head, “I made a mistake inviting Jesus to my house.”

Let me say a quick word – “Ministry can be messy. Ministry can be costly.” Some churches get so bent out of shape over the scratches on the door, chair marks on the walls, and stains on the carpet. Get over it. I’ve seen many pristine, neat, clean, and empty churches. This gets worse when it comes to spiritual and emotional scratches, dents, and stains but it’s part of a growing work!

Listen to verse 5 “When Jesus saw their faith…” In other words, Jesus was impressed by the faith of these guys. Jesus was amazed that these men were willing to carry their friend all the way to the rooftop, tear it up, and face the consequences. Why? Because they believed it would be worth it if their friend could just get to Jesus. He could’ve stopped them at any time but what a perfect object lesson to the business owners, soldiers, sailors, tax collectors, and prostitutes – “Are you this desperate to come to me?

Application: How much do you trust Jesus? Would Jesus be impressed by your faith? Let’s go a step further – What would happen if we would be this passionate and full of faith when it came to our friends? One reason we don’t do much when it comes to leading our friends to Christ is because we don’t have the faith that Jesus can change their lives. Faith is essential to bringing people to Christ. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

There is something more important here. Verse 5 “…He (Jesus) said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” This is a really odd statement by Jesus. Why did Jesus say that? Was it because this man had been paralyzed because of some sin? Was it because Jesus knew the doubt in the minds and hearts of the scribes? It could be but I think there is a third option. Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven is because he knew that the man needed something more than just physical healing. He needed spiritual healing.

Application: All week long I get calls, texts, and Facebook messages from people, asking me to pray for someone going through some pain, suffering, or need and add them to our prayer list. I do pray for them and we do add them to our prayer list. Having said that, the first thing I pray for is their spiritual need. Does that person know Christ? If they do, then are they walking with Christ? If they don’t know Christ or they do know Christ but are not walking with him, I pray that God will not alleviate their pain, suffering, and need until they are where they need to be with him. C.S. Lewis in his classic book “The Problem of Pain” said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you’re going through some suffering right now, ask God what is he trying to say to you. Don’t misunderstand. He is not the author of evil but he will use it to bring about something good.

But there’s a greater issue here. Listen to verse 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? Jesus did not ask, “Which is easier to do?” but “Which is easier to say?” It is easy to say “Your sins are forgiven” but its hard to say “Arise and walk” because it can be verified. They were reasoning against the “Reason of the Universe,” the One who created all Logic! 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Let me remind you – the greater miracle is not the one that can be proved but the one that cannot be proved. Forgiveness of Sins has to be taken by faith. You have to believe that Jesus is God who has the power to forgive sins.

What do you believe about Jesus? Is he God who has the power to forgive sins?

Which one are you? The four men of faith on the roof or the scribes without faith under the roof.

Just like the man with the smudged glasses, is the sin of disbelief clouding your view of Jesus?

Sin is the paralysis of the soul. Only Jesus can set you free.

The Life-Giver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE LIFE-GIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Lifegiver

Introduction: Nature has a way of reviving you. As many of you know or saw on social media last week, I was at Camp Living Water in Bryson City. It’s a Christian camp our kids have been going for over 15 years. Many Clearview kids were there this summer. Just last week 8 campers got baptized; more got saved and will be baptized at their churches. It’s amazing! I love going there because I always feel revived! If you’ve been to Bryson City, the scenery is breath taking, surrounded by mountains on all sides, especially the Great Smoky Mountains to the North. Directly behind the camp is Deep Creek. I usually walk back there and sit on one of those big rocks in the middle of the creek and I feel so revived! It is so refreshing! Having said that, I’ve never seen a physically dead person come to life there. Nature can revive you and refresh you but it cannot resurrect you. In fact, nothing and no one can bring you to life, except God. Only God is the true Life-Giver. I’m talking about more than physical life. I’m talking about spiritual life.

Luke 7   11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”

Question: What do you believe about Jesus? When he raised the dead, some called him a prophet but others called him God. What do you call him? He raised the physically dead to life, which is amazing, but the greater miracle is when he raised the spiritually dead to life. He is doing that even today. Have you been spiritually raised to life?

Background: When we think about dead people coming to life, we expect the Bible to be chockfull of them. Not true! Believe it or not, there are only 10 actual cases recorded in the entire Bible – 3 in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, 1 is by the Prophet Elijah and 2 are by the Prophet Elisha. Out of the 7 in the New Testament, only 3 were done by Jesus, 2 by Peter and Paul each, one of Jesus himself rising from the dead and the last one is of the many saints coming to life when Jesus rose from the dead. Although Jesus himself claimed that he raised many dead to life, the gospel writers give only 3 actual cases – the first is the son of the widow from Nain (we’re going to look at it today), the second is the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, and the third is Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. That’s it! But there’s something else. All three took place in insignificant places not Jerusalem. The first took place in Nain, a small village in Galilee. The second took place at some unnamed place on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, probably Capernaum. The third of Lazarus was in Bethany. One more thing, in the first two miracles Jesus did not want to make a whole lot of fuss about them. In fact, in the second one, he actually instructed Jairus and his wife not to mention the miracle to anyone. Why didn’t Jesus make raising dead people to life a major part of his ministry? Because bringing people back to life physically was not Jesus’ main agenda. As awe-inspiring as it was, Jesus didn’t want to be known as the man who brings the dead to life. Can you imagine what people would’ve done if this had become the main focus of his ministry? People would be digging up their dead loved ones and bringing them to Jesus so he could resurrect them! They would be trying to touch him with the bones of their loved ones. Imagine that! Not only would this quickly get out of hand but also it would detract from the main reason why Jesus came. He did not come to bring the physically dead to life. He came to bring the spiritually dead to life. Don’t forget, each of them died again. Jesus came for more than holding back the inevitable. He came to bring eternal life.

So why did Jesus do this particular miracle of raising the dead to life? Listen again to verse 12 “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out.” Let me quickly point out that the reason he saw them at the gate of the city is because they used to bury the dead outside the city in those days. Cemeteries were considered to be unclean. But there is something very important to understand. This man probably died that day, maybe even a couple of hours earlier. Unlike our funerals that take 2-3 days to happen, their funerals were immediate because it was too expensive for common people to try to preserve the body. Can you imagine how difficult this must be for the loved ones? In this particular case there was something more – “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…” Luke mentions 2 things here: first, the loved one was a woman; second, this was her only child; third, she was a widow. Think about that for a moment. Losing a child is hard as it is, probably the hardest thing anyone can ever face. Then, it was her only child. That just makes it even worse. But, there’s more. She was a woman and a widow. In those days, it was so hard for a woman to survive on her own. Her son was probably her only source of help and now he was gone. Luke adds, “And a large crowd from the city was with her.” It may appear that all those people would help her out now but it’s my opinion that they probably didn’t come for her. Maybe the son was a prominent person. As it happens all too often, people say, “Don’t worry, we’re here for you” but then everyone moves on with their lives.

Jesus being God could see all this. Listen to verse 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Let me pause here and draw your attention to something that is easily missed. The word “Lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” This is the first mention of that title for Jesus in Luke’s gospel. This is very important. Now, what does that word “kurios” really mean? It’s an old Greek word that comes from word “kuros” which means “authority.” So “kurios” meant someone in authority and control, someone who was a master or owner, someone superior. Sometimes it was even applied to gods. But there’s more. When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, over 6120 times they translated “Yahweh,” the name for God as “kurios” and over 530 times they translated “Adon,” another name for God, as “kurios.” It means that “kurios” was more than just someone in authority to the Jewish people. It meant God! If I may add, Luke wrote his gospel to the gentile world. He is in every telling them that Jesus is God. Not only that, Luke is also telling them that Jesus is a compassionate God unlike their gods who were more concerned about their pleasures and powers.

Application: What do you believe about God? What do you believe Jesus as God? Does he care about your suffering and pain? Is he too concerned with his agenda and plans for his world? Or, does he hurt when he sees you hurt?

What happened next? 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. Something very important here – Jesus touched the open coffin. He was not afraid of being unclean. Paul says it best in Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Now listen to the authority in his words – “And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” Can you feel the authority and power of Jesus in this miracle? The young man not only sat up but also began to speak. Meaning: This was no illusion or some evil magic or some séance. This was the real deal.

What was the response? 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” Don’t misunderstand. They were not proclaiming that Jesus was God. They were comparing him to the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. Have you ever heard “little knowledge is dangerous”? What they failed to consider is that unlike Elijah and Elisha who both had to stretch their body over the corpse to bring it to life, Jesus commanded the dead to rise. In other words, they missed the fact that Jesus was God. 17 “And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” Why doesn’t God go around raising the dead today? Why should he? Just like then, people will miss the point!

The real miracle that God wants to do in your life is to raise you spiritually. Listen to what Jesus said in John 5   24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” Paul confirms this in Ephesians 2   4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

You can have this spiritual resurrection today by asking Jesus to save you. Are you disappointed with God because he didn’t do some miracle in your life? How about taking by faith that he has a better plan for you.

Miracles Happen by Pastor Abidan Shah

MIRACLES HAPPEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Miracles Happen

Introduction: People use the word miracle all the time. If their ball team stinks, they say – “We need a miracle!” If they’re caught in a traffic jam, they say they need a miracle to get out. Companies use the word “miracle” to market their products – miracle whip, miracle gro, and miracle weight loss pill. By the way, I’ve heard that the only thing you lose with the last one is money out of your pocket! As a pastor I’ve even heard couples say, “It’ll take a miracle for our marriage to work.” The point is that people use the word “miracle” a lot but they seem to believe less and less in them. Today’s message is titled “Miracles Happen.” It is the first in our series on miracles and here’s the gist: “If you can believe in God, you can believe in miracles.” The real question is not “Do you believe that miracles happen?” but “What kind of God do you believe in?”

Luke 7   20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Question: Do you believe that miracles happen? People doubted Jesus, even John the Baptist. I believe that some of the biggest agnostics and unbelievers are not out there but in here. Tough times of life and unanswered prayers have made some of us “believing skeptics.” Do you truly believe in miracles? Are you saved? The greatest miracle is a changed life.

Background: When I was in college, my philosophy professor wrote three words on the board on the first day of class – “Ideas have consequences.” It comes from the title of a 1948 book by an American intellectual Richard Weaver. I understood what he meant but I didn’t grasp the seriousness of those words until later. Ideas do have consequences. They do shape how people think, feel, believe, and behave. This is especially true when it comes to young people. They are easily influenced by ideas. In my 18 years as pastor, many parents and grandparents have shared with me with great sadness how they raised their children and grandchildren in church but when they left home and came under the influence of some college professor or some show or some friend that they stopped believing in God, the Bible, and miracles. They often add – “But we raised them in church! They know better!” I want to tell them – “It’s wonderful that you raised them in church but that’s not enough. You failed to teach them how to face ideas.” Don’t misunderstand what I mean by “ideas.” By “ideas,” I’m not referring to “Oh, I’ve got an idea.” By “ideas,” I’m referring to formulated thoughts and opinions over different matters like life, creation, morality, and values. What happened to them is that they went away from the shelter of their home and church and got bombarded by ideas that were contrary to the Word of God. In the absence of clear and coherent answers from the Bible, they gave into skepticism and unbelief. The problem is not with the kids or the school. The problem is with us and our failure to teach our kids how to handle ideas.

This is why in the couple of the opening messages in this series on the miracles of Jesus, I want to answer the question – “Do miracles happen?” and “Why do some people don’t believe in miracles?” These are not typical messages but they are ones we desperately need to hear.

Throughout the history of the world there have been people who have opposed anything miraculous. We don’t have the time to go through all of them. I just want to focus on there major ones from three different angles:

  1. Philosophy – Scottish skeptic, philosopher, and historian David Hume: He came out of the Enlightenment movement that began modern thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. He pushed reason to the limits just to prove that reason has limits. He made argument upon argument just to prove that arguments don’t prove anything. Among many other things that he wrote against God and Christianity, he was also skeptical about miracles. His argument was as follows:
  • Miracle goes against the laws of natures.
  • Laws of nature have been established by experiences that do not change.
  • A wise person bases his/her belief on evidence.
  • Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

For e.g. Jesus walking on water violates the law of nature. Experience has proven time and time again that you cannot walk on water. If you are wise, you will base your belief on evidence. Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

  1. Theology – German New Testament Scholar and Theologian Rudolf Bultmann: His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather was a missionary. He was influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Under this view, he considered the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the future resurrection to come, the blood atonement for our sins, eternal life, and the rest as misleading. He called them mythological ideas that need to be reinterpreted. So began his program of demythologizing the New Testament. He was also influenced by another scholar by the name of Johannes Weiss who belonged to the history of religion school. Under his influence he looked at non-Christian and rabbinic stories as sources of the miracles. He used what is known as form criticism to get to the source behind the stories in the NT.

For e.g. The miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine is no miracle according to Bultmann. It was adapted from the Dionysian cult of the time and was used by the church to prove that Jesus is the great Revealer.

  1. Science – No one person comes to mind but if I had to pick one, it would be Theoretical Physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics Steven Weinberg: Listen to what he had to say in his 1999 talk at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.:

“It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful abilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don’t yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can’t work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can’t predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can’t always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years. There do not seem to be any exceptions to this natural order, any miracles. I have the impression that these days most theologians are embarrassed by talk of miracles…The evidence for all these miracles seems to me to be considerably weaker than the evidence for cold fusion, and I don’t believe in cold fusion. Above all, today we understand that even human beings are the result of natural selection acting over millions of years of breeding and eating.”

For e.g. The man being healed of dumbness was based on the power of suggestion and maybe some form of ancient medicine but nothing miraculous.

How do we answer such attacks from Philosophy, Theology, and Science? If you came face to face with Hume, Bultmann, or Weinberg, what would you say to them? Let me give you the basic principles behind this series:

  1. God exists.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. God created the world and continues to rule over it.
  4. Since this is God’s world, the natural law is his law and he can do miracles if he chooses.
  5. God does miracles when he wants to further his purposes.
  6. Jesus, the Son of God did miracles and they are truthfully recorded in the gospels
  7. God may do miracles in response to the prayers of people.
  8. We are called to believe in miracles but trust in Jesus.

Invitation: Have you ever trusted in Jesus as your Savior? That’s the greatest and most important miracle you need in your life.

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