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 Hope-Bringer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE HOPE-BRINGER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Hope Producer

Introduction: What does the word hope mean to you? If you talk to a little kid at Christmas, it is “I hope Santa brings me a new pair of shoes.” If you talk to someone looking for a relationship, it is “I hope I find someone one day.” Both express a desire for a positive outcome in the future but there’s also a negative use of this word. If you are really late, you say “I hope we make it on time.” If you talk to someone at the end of his or her rope, it is “I’ve lost all hope.” Both are expecting a negative outcome in the future. The biblical idea of hope is much different. It is much more than a desire for a positive or the possibility of a negative outcome. Hope is the solid assurance of something good in the future. Everywhere Jesus went he aroused this hope in people. He was and is the Great Hope-Bringer.

Mark 5   22 And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” 24 So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” 31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing…34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” 35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” 40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

Question: On the surface these 2 miracles seem unrelated but if you noticed carefully, there’s a connection. The first one is a 12-year-old girl dying and then dies and the other is a woman suffering for 12 years with the loss of blood. 12 years is a long time! The length of time is given to tell us that both were facing hopelessness in their lives until they met Jesus. He brought hope, the solid assurance of something good in their future. Are you facing hopelessness today? Does it feel like its not going to get any better? Have you met Jesus? Are you saved? Have you truly committed your problem to him?

Context: Listen again to verse 22 “And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name.” Jairus was an “archisynagogos” meaning head of the Jewish synagogue. Synagogues were the local assemblies of the Jewish people, which began during the Babylonian exile. They were no longer in their homeland and the temple was destroyed, so wherever they lived, they would build these synagogues for worship, prayer, education, and social activities. Not only that, the synagogues also served as the courthouse and in some cases as a city administration building. In other words, the synagogues became a symbol of Jewish identity. One more thing, unlike the temple were only the priests and the Levites could officiate, the leadership of the synagogue was open to all Jewish people provided they were upstanding and Torah abiding individuals. Jairus was the head of the synagogue in Capernaum. We’ve been there. His role was to keep the congregation faithful to the Torah. This was a high position! According to the Talmud (the Oral law of the Jewish people), “Let a man sell all he has and marry the daughter of a scholar. If he does not find the daughter of a scholar, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of the generation. If he does not find…let him marry the daughter of a head of the synagogue.” You can imagine how people looked up to him and how he had to maintain his image.

But listen to what he did – 22 And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet…” What would cause a person of such high position to fall on his face in public before some travelling preacher from Galilee? 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” Maybe his wife begged him to do that. Maybe his friends advised him to do that. I tend to think that he was a good family man who truly loved his little girl. There was no answer in his position. There was no answer in his knowledge. There was no answer in his religious and ethnic identity. He was desperate and Jesus was his only hope.

Important Principle: Desperation is the first step towards hope. As long as the present is comfortable, there’s no reason to look for hope. Sometimes God has to bring us to the point of desperation where it’s him and no one else who can meet our need. Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

Application: Are you in the day of trouble? Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to submit all to him?

So Jesus agreed to go with him but there’s an interruption. Let me make a quick point here – On the road to hope there are pit stops. Don’t let that discourage you. Don’t give up. God has a plan and a purpose. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. According to Leviticus 15, if a woman has such a condition, she is unclean. Anything she sits on or lies upon is unclean. Anyone who touches such an unclean woman is also unclean. Leviticus 15:27 “Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” You can imagine that this woman hasn’t been to the synagogue in years. Maybe she was taken to court by someone for polluting them and had to stand before Jairus. Who knows! What does she do? 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” What a risk! If caught she would be in so much trouble but she didn’t care. The reason she did this is because just like Jairus she was also desperate. Religion or no religion, both were desperate and willing to pay the price!

Application: Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to touch him no matter the cost?

What was the result? Not only was she healed but also Jesus made a point to stop and recognize her. Why? Because he wanted people to know that he cared for those in the synagogue and for those who were barred from the synagogue. Hope has no boundaries.

While he is talking to this woman, he overhears people telling Jairus that his daughter is gone. Listen to Jesus’ response – 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Now he does something very strange – 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Why? Desperation may lead you to seek hope but only faith can make hope a reality. Unbelief or lack of faith destroys hope. Faith is the prerequisite to hope. 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.”

Do you need hope/rock solid assurance of something good? Are you desperate enough for it? What’s keeping you from placing your faith in Christ? Are you a hope giver or a hope taker?

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.

%d bloggers like this: