The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

A Theological Approach to Relating to People with Disabilities

This paper was presented at the “Men Meeting the Challenge Conference 2011” 3rd September, organised by “Men for Christ Ministries”.

 

The Bible does not have a simple category for people with disabilities. It does not address the issue of disabilities directly. However the Bible does recognize disadvantaged people groups. These included the poor, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widowed. These were people that were at a social and economic disadvantage in the community of Israel. So it seems appropriate to also include disability among these disadvantaged groups; and by looking at how God approached the issue of disadvantaged people we can also see how He approaches the issue of disability.

 

In Leviticus 19:9-10 (23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21) the Bible speaks of these disadvantaged people and the provision that they were to enjoy. Scripture stipulated that food crops on the edge of fields, and any crops that were dropped or left behind in the process of harvesting, were to be left for disadvantaged groups. In this we recognize that being disadvantaged was not punishment from God. Nor were people who were disadvantaged to be treated like second classes citizens. They were recognized as members of the community. Note also, this provision was not a hand out. This provision did not allow these disadvantaged groups to sit around all day and do nothing. In order to eat, and provide for their family, they were to be involved with the on-goings of the surrounding community and they were to be responsible for their actions.

For our purposes of relating to people with disabilities, it is more then simply providing for immediate needs. There is a social dynamic that needs to be considered. That is, enabling the person to exercise their God-given abilities, as small as they may be, to become an active member within their community.

 

We see a similar approach in the ministry of Jesus. Through the gospels people are reconciled not only with God, but with other people. And how people are reconciled to other people reflects how they are reconciled to God. We see this in the way Jesus engages with people. In Matthew 20:29-34 we read how Jesus was going to Jericho when he met two blind men. And in this encounter we find Jesus asking the question ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ Now us modern, task orientated people, we read that and we might think, “Get with the program, Jesus!” It’s pretty obvious what these blind men want. They want their sights restored. So why doesn’t Jesus just heal them? Why does Jesus put the question when the answer is so obvious?

The answer to this is quite simple. This is possibly the first time in their lives that these two men have been treated like human beings. The culture tells a lot about the attitudes towards people with disabilities at the time. We know that from a well of information that such people were considered to be a blemish on the fabric of the holy society and it’s little wonder that the crowd told them to “shut up”. It was an embarrassing thing for a great teacher to be pestered by two blind men. Being pestered by two men who obviously been rejected by God because of their blindness!

So I want you to notice the gravity of what is happening here. It could be the first time that someone is placing themselves at the disposal of these two blind men. And it’s not just anyone who involves themselves to these two men. Matthew describes Jesus as the One who is faithful to God. So the one who is faithful to God is making himself available to people who are perceived as not faithful to God. For Jesus, it wasn’t simply a matter of enabling these two blind men to see, but to engage with them personally. And this was a restoration of their humanity as well.

 

Again we find the same thing happening in Luke 8:40-48 where we have a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. Now this is a woman of no status in the community. And she had no right to be in a place where she could access Jesus and touch him. All this woman wanted to do was get in, get healed, and get back out undetected. But Jesus concern goes beyond this woman’s physical needs. We find Jesus asking what seems like another ridiculous question, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ Now, if I was in the crowd and I heard that, I would have been rolling on the ground laughing! It is just a ridiculous thing to ask. There were people pushing and shoving Jesus in every direction. The scene of one of chaos, and out of all this chaos Jesus wants to know who touched him? It’s a ridiculous question. So why does Jesus ask the question? Again it’s about this personal interaction. It wasn’t enough for this woman to be healed of her bleeding. She needed her humanity restored. Someone unfit to be called a daughter of Israel, Jesus calls His daughter. She is restored into a relationship with Jesus. She becomes a daughter of The King! It’s more than having needs met.

 

Again in John 5 we find Jesus encountering yet another person with a disability. And again Jesus asked the man a pretty obvious question, “Do you want to be healed?’. But the question asked brings something out of the man’s character. That he doesn’t only need healing on the outside. He actually needs healing on the inside, and this is Jesus’ real concern.  Jesus heals the man and he is well. But what he says towards the end of this account is interesting. Jesus says to him, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happened to you.” What’s he  talking about? Is he talking about sinless perfection on earth? No he is talking about entering a right relationship with Him. You see, right through the account this man has been denying Jesus. His body might be healed. His physical needs may be met, and he is walking. But he is not right with God. Jesus is concerned with seeing him right with God. And when he says ‘so nothing worse may happen to you’ Jesus is not talking about a disability. He is talking about Hell. Jesus ultimate concern for this man is that he becomes right with God. It’s more than physical. It is more than having immediate needs met. It’s relational.

 

I’ve only picked out a few examples of how Jesus interacts with disadvantage people. If we read the gospels, we find again and again, it’s more than physical, and it’s more than immediate needs. It’s personal, and it’s eternal. If we are going to minister the gospel to people with disabilities, it needs not only to be physical. It also needs to be personal, and it needs to be eternal.

 

Well, how does this work in the church? In 1 Corinthians 12:22 Paul writes this, ‘On the contrary the parts from the body that seem weaker are indispensable and those parts of the body that we think are less honorable we bestowed greater honour. Our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty”. What does that mean? It is difficult to understand this verse in English mainly because it is difficult to understand this verse in the original Greek. And different commentators have different ideas of what Paul is on about, and I’m not entirely convinced. What I am convinced of is Paul’s vision for the church at Corinth was for each of the member of the church to serve other members so they can serve. The background that Paul was writing to was one where people were showing off so they can better themselves against other people. To this Paul says ‘no!’ Instead of showing off, use your abilities to help someone else use their abilities.

So I take it in the modern context, if someone is unable to contribute to the church, I do what it takes so they can contribute to the church. This may take more time, more effort, and even more resource. This can go against our task orientated culture but we need to stop and ask what are we trying to do? Are we trying to run programs? Or are we trying to build relationships? It may not be the quickest way of doing something. It might not be the most expedient way. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are building those relationships and we are building people up, presenting them mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).

 

By way of conclusion, I hope we can see that: firstly the relationships that we have with people with disabilities needs to be based on the relationship that God has with us – a relationship of reconciliation. And secondly I hope we can see that relating to people with disabilities is much, much more than just providing a service. It is about building relationships, serving people in the context of a relationship. Not a relationship in the context of their needs.

 

© The Student’s Desk, September 2011

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Bible, Biblical Theology, Essays, Religious, Talks | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December, 2010

Each time I’ve sat down to write one of these, there’s been something significantly different about the previous semester. The later half of 2010 has been in keeping with that trend. This time, my training for the ministry landed me in Melbourne. Which is why this edition of The Student’s Desk is a little late. But more of that in a minute.

            I only did one subject this semester – Other New Testament Writings in Greek. It was the only subject available to me. While that may seem like a light workload, it wasn’t. I still had to only learn 8 chapters of Greek like last semester. But unlike like last semester, the 8 chapters were spread over two books. So that was two lots of themes, two lots of literary styles, and two lots of arguments. And when one of those books is Hebrews – yah. You should be getting the picture by now. Understanding Hebrews in English is hard. Understanding Hebrews in Greek is fine – so long as you have nothing else to do! I once joked by saying I looked at the first verse in Hebrews in Greek and about the only word I could recognise was kai. Basically, kai is one of the most frequently used words in the New Testament, and means ‘and’. If you can’t recognise kai by this stage of Greek, you shouldn’t be doing Greek! The other book was 1 Corinthians which was a piece of cake compared to Hebrews. I only had to learn half the vocab as I did for Hebrews, and the sentences actually made sense – which is always a bonus! At least I was able to get on top of my vocab by streamlining the production of my vocab cards, which meant drawing on some computer skills from last century – seriously! I made a list of the words that I didn’t know in a spreadsheet along with a definition, the occurrence, and parse. I then imported that information into a word processor to produce vocab cards, which I could then view on my computer or mobile phone. Every time I came across a word I didn’t know while translating, it went into the spreadsheet. It was quite quick to do, and got the vocab into my head – at least long enough to get through the exam! I still make a practice of it when I translate the Greek for my own preaching and teaching.

I’m continuing on with church services at Allambie Heights Spastic Centre, which really has been a privilege. I took them through Jonah this semester before returning to the miracles of Jesus. I struggle with providing teaching from a variety places within Scripture as the people there find it much easier to understand the gospels. But I consider it important to teach from all areas of the Bible. Next year, I intend to go through book of Judges, emphasising the theme of ‘God’s unlikely servants’, drawing out the idea that God can also use people who are different from most to bring about his purposes.

Well, just how does a candidate for the Presbyterian Church of NSW end up doing a training placement in Melbourne? It starts with prayer. Several times over a number of years a suitable training placement has been sought for me, all to no avail. Last time I wrote, I mentioned I had an opportunity, and I asked for prayer that it would lead to other opportunities. It did! The opportunity I had was to be involved in a 1 week intensive subject in July raising the awareness of disability in churches. Here, I met Lindsey Gale who heads CBM’s (Christian Blind Mission) Luke14 disability inclusion program, and asked about the possibility of doing a training block placement with CBM. Lindsey also attends Donvale Presbyterian Church, and discussions began about the possibility of a combined placement. By September, I was on a plane to Melbourne to finalise those discussions, and by the end of November, I was packing the Hotel Royal (my truck) to drive to Melbourne for the training placement.

            And what an opportunity it has been! Donvale was keen to have me teach their people all I could about disability, and I was greatly support in this. I learned so much about pastoral care, and the work of CBM, and am keen to learn more about CBM. I was also given the opportunity to preach at their night service, and my sermon was very will received. I now have a very clear vision of what my future ministry will look like. I still have no idea what I’ll be doing, or for that matter where. But I know how which is helpful for me, and those who’ll be working with me.

            Normally, the placement is done as a 4 week block, but I’ve been allowed to divide it into two 2 week blocks. So mid-January I’ll be doing the run to Melbourne again. I’m looking forward to much of the same as last time, and will also be discussing future possibilities of ministry. All these opportunities couldn’t be more timely – praise God!

Why are these opportunities timely? Perhaps it’s because of the highlight of the year – finishing my degree! On the 9th of March next year I graduate with my Bachelor of Theology. But don’t get too excited, this is not the end of my studies. To fulfil the requirements of my candidature, I need a second award. This is an Advanced Diploma of Theology. I can now say with unswerving confidence that this will take no more than two years to complete.

So what does one do after two years of Greek? Well, they do another year of Greek, of course! Next semester I’ll be doing John’s gospel, and being “fisherman’s Greek” I’m expecting a much easier time of it than Hebrews with it’s “scholar’s Greek”. Although, who knows what the examiners will pull from their bag of tricks just to make it more interesting. I’ll also be doing Grace and Eschatology and I’m looking forward to deepening my knowledge of grace.

 

We’re nearly there folks, we’re nearly there! One challenge almost done, another one rapidly coming – a ministry placement. Thanks for your prayers and support.

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Newsletters | Leave a comment

God’s pick for a nation’s leader

1 Samuel 16:1–13

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

The heart of the matter

If you were to pick a leader of a nation, who would you pick? It’s a timely question to ask since we’re about to have a Federal election. But I’m not about to tell you who to vote for, mainly because I’d like to see a friend’s cat become Prime Minister. I figure a cat couldn’t possibly do any worse! But it’s an interesting question to ask and think about from the Bible. What kind of characteristics would you want in a leader? Would you ever consider yourself representing someone else? What kind of a person would God want to represent him?

Well, long ago, around 1,000 years before Jesus was born, God’s people wanted a king who would fight battles and keep there country safe from their enemies. This created some problems, because God was their king, and he had kept them safe from enemies. But this wasn’t good enough for the people. They wanted a human king they could see and touch. God thought, “Fair enough! A king they want, then a king they’ll get.” So they got their first human king – Saul.

Things went well to start with. Saul was popular, tall, strong and handsome. The kind of person that would drive women crazy. He knew how to win battles as well, which was just as well. He bailed a few people out of trouble – even the ones who least deserved it.

But Saul turned out to be a bit of a basket case. It wasn’t long before all that kingly power rushed to his head, and he became too big for his own boots. Saul thought that he knew better then God, and no longer obeyed God like he use to. Samuel, who was God’s prophet, or spokesmen, caught Saul disobeying God red-handed. God didn’t want someone like that representing him! So Samuel told him, “On ya horse! God doesn’t want you to be king any more!”

Now this may seem a bit weird, but Samuel was very upset that God had rejected Saul. People had big hopes for Saul. They had hoped that through Saul they would become the nation that God intended them to be. Now their hopes were dashed, and Samuel was mourning over Saul and the great disappointment that he was.

God told Samuel to get over Saul, and go to a town called Bethlehem. Now this was a long time before Jesus was born, so Samuel wasn’t going to see Jesus, but he was looking for another King who was in fact Jesus’ great ancestor. Samuel didn’t know who he was looking for. All he knew was he was looking for a man named Jesse, because it was one of Jesse’s sons that God had chosen to be king. The question was, which one? There was 8 of them!

Samuel saw Jesse’s first son and thought, “That’s gotta be him!” He was the firstborn and so he was first to everything, and he certainly looked to fit the bill. Perhaps very similar to the first king. A leading candidate for the new king. It just made sense! But God said, “Nah, forget it! I’m not worried about what he looks like, or how popular he is, or what he can do. I’m only interested in what’s going on in his heart!” So Samuel looked at the second son. God wasn’t interested. Samuel looked at the third son. But no, God wasn’t interested. It would’ve made sense that any of these sons would be chosen as they were militant men (17:13). They knew how to lead an army, and protect their country. But none of them were chosen. And the same was said for the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh son. God wasn’t interested.

Samuel was left scratching his head. He was sure God told him the new king was one of Jesse’s sons, but none of the sons Samuel saw was chosen. So Samuel turns to Jesse and says, “Are these all your sons? Is everyone here?” Jesse replies, “Well, there is one more, David. He’s down the back paddock minding the sheep. But you don’t mean him, do you?” See, David was the youngest son, which meant he was last in line for everything. He was such an unlikely candidate. He was young and inexperienced. He was a leader of sheep for goodness sake! How could he be the leader of an army?? What would he know about politics? or running a country? Now Samuel was making a sacrifice, which is kind of like a BBQ with God. People would get together, invite others, and a good hearty meal. At this sacrifice, Samuel was to pick out the new king. Jesse was so sure that David wasn’t in the running for the Kingship, David wasn’t even invited. Samuel tells Jesse to go get David. And the sacrifice is now put on hold for the one who wasn’t invited. And guess who the new king was to be? David! He looked nothing like king material, but God said to Samuel, “That’s him. Make David king”. And it didn’t matter what David looked like, or what he could or couldn’t do, because he was empowered by God’s spirit. David was God’s choice to represent him despite what he could or couldn’t do, or what he looked like.

You know, in many ways, David’s great descendant was the same. Of course, I’m talking about Jesus. Jesus was born in a shed, not a fancy palace. He grew up in a rough neighbourhood. He wasn’t recognised by authorities as a teacher. Jesus wasn’t a political leader. And according to one prophet, Jesus wasn’t much to look at either (Isaiah 53:2). Yet, it was Jesus that God sent to represent himself, and to be king over his people. Jesus didn’t do this on his own. Jesus was also empowered by God’s spirit. Not to guard God’s people from their enemies, but to guard them from God’s wrath at the final judgement. Jesus can do this because he is one with God. Jesus is God! So Jesus represents God perfectly.

But did you know God still has representatives today? God has hundreds of them. Thousands of them! Do you know who some of them are? It’s us! God has chosen us to represent him, to show other people what he is like, and to tell others who God is. WHOA! But you might think, “Now hang on a minute. I can’t do a whole lot. I can’t even get out of bed without someone helping me!” You know what? That doesn’t matter. Because God is the one in control, and he empowers us by his Holy Spirit to show others who he is in ways we may never know.

When it comes to people representing God, God isn’t worried about what people can or can’t do, or what they look like. What God is worried about is whether they have a heart for him. Do you have a heart for God?  Do you treasure what God treasures? Do you want others to know what God is like? This is what it means to represent God.

(C) The Student’s Desk, 2010

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Devotionals, King David | , , | 1 Comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – June 2010

Last semester was yet another intensive time, in more ways than one. Although I was only doing 1½ subjects, which left people with a confused look when I told them. I guess it was like telling them I boarded the train from platform 9¾. The 2 subjects I was doing were Romans (in Greek) and Intermediate Greek. Intermediate Greek taught us how to use our editions of the Greek New Testament, and, well, basically to remind us of everything we learned last year and had since forgotten. As well as looking at how the Greek works after having been reminded of the basics. But the only assessment required was turning up.

This allowed much more time and effort to be given to Romans. Now, if you’ve ever studied Romans as part of a Church Bible study group, or simply read through it, you know something of the juggernaut that the letter is. So imagine studying it from the original language it was written in – Greek. Are you starting to feel the intensity? I sure did! We were given a choice of questions for the main assessment, and I picked the place of [Old Testament] law in the life of a Christian being answered from Romans 7. I picked this question because the issue was brought to my attention last year, and I wanted to be much more clued up to form my position. So for me, this wasn’t simply an academic exercise in ticking a box. I worked very hard at understanding not just the issues in Romans, but the issues more broadly. By the time I had done all my research, my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton-wool, and I really struggled to write the essay. But, I managed to squeeze it out, and my essay was well received. Unfortunately, I’m reluctant to share it around. The essay looks like it was written by someone who swallowed a Greek New Testament, along with a few Greek dictionaries – and I’m not sure that I didn’t! I’d have to write a much more pastoral work before I distribute any of my conclusions.

Occasionally, I’m reminded by friends what a privilege it is to study God’s word at Bible College. Such reminders seem to come when I’m stressed, or recovering from being stressed. So I tend to respond with a silent grumble. But I can honestly say, even at the heights of the stress, it was an absolute privilege. I rarely give unqualified statements, but anyone who says studying Greek is a waste of time is WRONG! I really thank God for my stubbornness in not heeding the advice not to do Greek, and the determination to keep going with it. I was able to draw our so much more from Romans. I don’t want to discourage people from reading their English translations. Everything you need for salvation is made clear in English. There is no secret knowledge to be had in reading Greek. But being able to read Greek helps me understand even more what I’ve come to know from the English translations.

Sailing at Jervis Bay

Enjoying a rare puff of wind sailing on Jervis Bay

It wasn’t only studies that made the semester intense, but physical activity as well. I was invited to go sailing for the beginning of May at Jervis Bay. I jumped at the chance, but quickly thought, “I know what an afternoon of sailing does to me. What’s a whole weekend of sailing going to do to me???” So I was quickly back on my bike in the weeks leading up to the trip to get my fitness back up. This was just as well! There wasn’t much wind the whole weekend, so lots of peddling was done (remembering these boats can be sailed, peddled, or paddled). While returning to camping on the Saturday I was treated by a pod of dolphins, porpoising right next to my boat. I hadn’t seen wild dolphins before. I could have just about reached out and touched them. It was and amazing experience. Happily I got through the weekend without any sign of exhaustion.

The services at the Spastic Centre are continuing. Though it’s becoming increasingly evident that this is an aged ministry, and not just a disabled ministry. Often we have had to pray for members who are quite sick, or dying. Even still, glimpses of extraordinary faith can be seen at these times, and these are such a powerful testimony to the grace and work of God in their life. I attended the funeral of one such man. Although Paul was not a full-time resident of Venee Burges house, he was there when recovering from operations, and was determined not to miss out on a church service – even in his last week. His funeral was none I had experience before. It was more a time of celebration than one of mourning. Paul was confined to a wheelchair, and had no speech, and very little use of his body. Yet, this man was able to have such an impact on people’s lives for the gospel, and had a great influence on his church, simply because he exercised his faith, and refused to let his disability to get in the way of anything! This was a great encouragement to me to keep persevering, and to see my disability as an opportunity, not as an obstacle, to minister. Unfortunately, many have considered my disability as the latter, much to my discouragement. So hearing of Paul’s life and faith was a great blessing. It is also a reminder what a privilege it is to be able to teach the Bible in this place, that people may hear and respond to the grace of God.

I was also given the opportunity to speak on college mission. This time at Forster. I was to speak at a youth discipleship group, and to give my testimony (that is, how and why I became a Christian) at a men’s breakfast. I don’t pretend for a second that I’m easy to listen to. Even still, both talks were well received. Especially at the men’s breakfast where my message had a big impact as I found out later.

The worst part about mission was not being able to go sailing. Anyone who’s been to Forster knows the water is a clear, light blue colour. I considered it a great injustice to be forced to drive past the water each day, beckoning me to sail it when I couldn’t. It left me exclaiming, “I WANT MY BOAT!!!” Which of course really isn’t my boat. I did get out on the water thanks to Jason Summers, which was an interesting experience doing a precarious balancing act with 3 other grown men in a tiny dingy. But it was fun!

Well, looking at the college timetable to choose my subjects these days is like arriving late for a party only to pick at the scraps of food left over. That can only mean I’m getting closer to the end of course. Next semester I’ll be studying more Greek looking at the letters of Hebrews and 1 & 2 Corinthians – a man can never have too much Greek! But when I’ll actually finish is still uncertain. Somehow, I’m still intent on studying Hebrew! It also means my anxiety is increasing concerning future ministry. I keep praying for opportunity, and I have such an opportunity at present. So I am also praying that this will lead to other opportunities. I ask you would do the same.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

Times of Change (Christmas Message)

Isaiah 40:1-5

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the
Lord has spoken.”

Times of Change

We’ve all had one of those times when nothing is going right. It’s just one piece of bad news after another. After a while it just gets so depressing, and you wonder if things will ever change. I have times like this. I have them frequently. In fact, they’re almost the norm. But then something good happens, or you get some encouraging news, and it changes your whole perspective. You begin to think that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

This is what we have in Isaiah 40. It’s a silver lining in a cloud of bad news.

Let me tell you about Isaiah. Isaiah was one fellow that you would not want at your Christmas party, or anywhere else for that matter. Isaiah was full of doom and gloom, and was utterly depressing to listen to. He reckoned that God’s people had been unfaithful to God, and because of it, they were about to get it in the neck. What made it worse was, he was right! But every so often he’d come out with some good news, some encouraging news.

Another thing that’s remarkable about Isaiah is, he was around long before Jesus was even born. In fact, around 700 years before Jesus. So he wouldn’t have been going to any Christmas parties anyway! But what’s remarkable was the things that Isaiah said and looked forward to was fulfilled by Jesus. Isaiah was talking about Jesus! So it’s helpful for us to see what he said.

As I said before, Isaiah saw that God’s people were going to get it in the neck for being unfaithful. But this judgment, this punishment would not last forever. Isaiah also saw the time coming when the end of the judgment and punishment would come. A time when God will forgive his people, and they will no longer fear God’s judgment. Not because they have done their time as it were for being unfaithful. Not because they’ve managed to get their act together, and keep God’s law perfectly. But because Isaiah saw a time when God would be made known to everyone. God will actually be amongst his people.

Now, as you might imagine, this has consequences. Isaiah saw this too, as he said, “… make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:3-4) Isaiah isn’t talking about building a freeway so people can drive their cars at high speed. Isaiah is talking about change. A monumental upheaval. God is coming, and life as we know it must change. This will be a new period in history. The old order has gone, and the new order has come.

All this can be said about Jesus.  When we read through the life of Jesus and what he did, one of the things to pick up on is how incredibly disruptive Jesus is. He just doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t do what people expect him to do. This is because Jesus brings about this change that Isaiah talks about. Jesus changes the way we relate to God. Because of Jesus’ work, namely in his death and resurrection, we can relate to God as forgiven people, no longer fearing God’s punishment. That’s why Jesus was born in the first place! And in turn that should effect the way we relate to each other as we look to serve one another, and not take advantage of each other.

Jesus birth and work truly has brought about change. Yet more of the same sorts of changes will take place as God finally comes to be with his people forever.

In 1999, people looked to the new century with great hope, expecting that the new century will be better that the old century. Well, we’re 10 years into the new century, and it’s starting to look a whole lot like the old century.

And being December, part of out excitement comes from the prospect of a new year with new opportunity. But I suspect we’ll get to February, and start thinking the new year isn’t all that different from the old year. It can seem that things will never change for the better.

But they have. The changes we want, the changes we need are found in Jesus, and only Jesus. And it begins with our relationship with God. This is the silver lining in a cloud of bad news that Isaiah was talking about. Jesus is the silver lining in the cloud of our struggles today. And it is this silver lining that ought to change our perspective of our struggles, when we’re having one of those times. It wont be easy. But it wont be impossible either. Let us thank God this Christmas for the silver lining we have in Jesus, going into the new year with the perspective of being forgiven people.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Religious | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December 2009

I am very glad to get to the end of another year, and for once my final exams could not come quick enough. And I truly am amazed and what I’ve managed to cram into my head! I just hope it all doesn’t fall back out over summer. I’ll need it for next year.

This past semester I studied Homiletics (or preaching), and the second half of the Greek course. Greek was particularly challenging as the pace was really ramped up. It seemed we had to learn three times as much material compared to the first semester. Most of it was variants of what we had already learned (supposedly!). At least I had my study methods worked out, and I was able to get to work on it straight away.

Homiletics was a very interesting and exciting subject to study. Though I must admit, I was expecting a semester of being told how to suck eggs! I thought, “I know how to preach. I’ve been preaching for years!” About the third week into the semester I realised, I didn’t have a clue when it came to preaching! I had always struggled to make my talks relevant to the people listening. But the method we learned of witting a talk helped me a great deal to make my talks relevant, and I put it into practice straight away with my talks at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre. Part of the assessment involved preaching three sermons. I was very interested to see where this would end up given my communication difficulties. Nonetheless, my sermons were very well received, encouraging comments were made, and my results were much better then expected.

Another important discovery was mind mapping software. This allows me to jot down ideas and link them to other ideas. This way I can quickly put all my thoughts down on a given subject and the write the essay or talk once all my thoughts are clearly laid out. I have found it very helpful for writing talks, and should be even more helpful in writing lengthy essays.

Life Beyond the Theology Books

Church services at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre are still going on strong. Some people have left, others have come, and I still get around 10 people coming along. We have continued looking at the miracles of Jesus, and I, personally, have been enthralled by the biblical presentation of Jesus in contrast to the popular sensationalist ideas that tend to float about our modern society. Jesus just did not fit in to his own time and culture, and was really quite controversial. The reason for this was he was bringing in the Kingdom of God with values that were very different to the culture of his day, and even our culture. I hope some of my excitement has rubbed off on the people there as we’ve talked about the miracles of Jesus.

One thing I am growing more aware of is I’m not only ministering to people with disabilities, I’m also ministering to people who are aging. So it is sad to see people who I once communicated with fluently, now struggling to hear or comprehend anything that is said. Still, it’s always encouraging to see the come along. We recently had our Christmas service, which was again enjoyed by all who came. I also am very grateful to those who help me put the service together. The job seems to get bigger each year, and having the right people on the day makes a big difference.

Well, now that I’ve done 1 year of Greek, what else does one do other than another year of Greek? Seriously! Next year I’ll be doing Intermediate Greek which looks at how the language is actually used, along with canonical issues (that is, why we have the books in the Bible that we have); and Romans which will be looking at what the book is all about, except I’ll be doing it, you guest it, in Greek! I’ve already been introduced to one of the debates that goes on which has left me confused, so I should be in for a fun year! So to prevent all my Greek from falling out of my head before then, I’ve decided to start translation Romans over the Christmas break.

The really good part is I’m getting closer to the end of my degree. From what I can work out, I’ve only got a few years to go, which in my time frame isn’t that long. That’s if I study the Hebrew language as well, which I’m still very keen to do.

There is still no clear direction on what I’ll be doing after my studies, so now is the time to start thinking seriously about this, and praying for opportunities so I can get the right training now when it’s available.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

Remaining Faithful in Times of Trouble

The Student’s Desk Devotion

Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man

who makes the Lord his trust,

who does not look to the proud,

to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O Lord my God,

are the wonders you have done.

The things you planned for us

no one can recount to you;

were I to speak and tell of them,

they would be too many to declare.

Prayer

Lord, what are mercy to know in the mist of hard times, stressful times, that all we need do is wait patiently on you, to lift us from out struggles, and provide a firm place for us to stand. Not for our sake, but for your sake. Lord, since it is for your sake, help us to turn away from the ways who do not know you. Instead, may we have every confidence in Jesus, and remain faithful in the midst of our hard times.

In his name we pray, amen.


Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Remaining Faithful in Times of Trouble…

As Christians, we all get the idea that we shouldn’t be selfish. We should be on the look out for others and putting them first. And it’s easy to be charitable when things are going well and our needs and desires are being met.

But what happens when things aren’t going so well. What happens when there are things going on in our lives that are completely out of control? When even our very lives are under threat, either from sickness, or someone else’s stupidity? All of a sudden, it becomes very hard to be charitable, to be giving.

The disciples found themselves in such a situation. A situation that I can kind of relate too. Last summer, I took up sailing. I loved it. There’s something special about being pushed along by the wind, gliding along the water’s surface.

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing. One time, the wind was getting up to gale force, the waves were crashing over my boat, and I don’t mind saying I was really scared! I don’t know much about boats, and I know even less about the water. But I knew that if I kept a level head, and kept doing what I had been taught, I’d be OK. The situation was still in my control – if only just!

Not so with the disciples in this story. Not all, but a number of them were fishermen. They knew boats. They knew the water. They were expects in their field. They were the best kind of people to have on a boat. But the wind they encountered that night caused these experienced fishermen to loose the plot. The situation was completely out of control, and they panicked! This was a big wind, beyond the experience of these men.

Now, the disciples heard Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God that day. But this wind was so big, all that teaching was blown straight out the disciple’s heads! All they could think about was saving their own sorry little butts! Never mind the other boats that were with them. They could all drown for what they cared!

In the midst of this storm, the disciples failed to notice who Jesus is. Did they really think they were going down in a boating accident with the world’s saviour? I mean, get with the program, boys! Then they tried making demands on Jesus by saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” The Bible doesn’t say what the disciples expect Jesus to do, but perhaps they were thinking that the least Jesus could do was grab a bucket and bail water! He most certainly shouldn’t be sleeping!

The thing is, we can laugh at the disciples, but don’t do the same. When we get into strife, don’t we start making demands on Jesus, and forget the demands Jesus makes on us? Don’t we start thinking more about our own kingdom, and less about God’s kingdom? Don’t we expect Jesus to grab a bucket and start bailing, and loose sight of who we are in relationship with?

Well Jesus gave his disciples a very vivid reminder of who they were dealing with.

As I said before, when I was out on the water in that wind, I was scared. But do you know what would’ve scared me even more? If the wind and the waves suddenly stopped. And it was dead calm. And I just heard someone on my boat say, “Stop. Be still.” Who or what do I have on my boat!?

Clearly, this person the disciples had with them in the boat is God himself. Isn’t interesting that the disciples took no notice of who Jesus is. But the wind did. Whoa! Who else can control the wind like that? No-one!

And Jesus’ actions don’t merely meet the immediate needs of his disciples. Remember the other boats the disciples couldn’t care about? They would’ve been impact by Jesus’ actions too, as the water became calm.

See, when Jesus works in our lives, it’s not just us who are impacted, but it’s the people around us as well. Especially in the midst of a crisis.

Is it any wonder Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”. How dare they accuse him of not caring? How dare they make demands on him? How dare they not take any notice of who he is? These are all the hallmarks of having no faith.

Faith is recognizing who Jesus is. Doing what Jesus commands. And trusting in Jesus’ love and care. And this is no more evident to others than when we have to deal with issue beyond our control.

In life, we will experience times of great stress, and things will be beyond out control. During such times, we’ll be tempted to be selfish. To only see things from our perspective, and get our demands met.

But times of stress are also a call to faith. A call to remember the promises of God. That God has promised us redemption, to take us out of this world of struggle back to himself. And we know God will come good on his promise, because the way he has done this is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since we’ve been redeemed, we should not give in to the temptation of becoming selfish, but to continue to seek after God’s kingdom, to seek to keep God’s standards. Not just because we should, but because such times present an opportunity for us to grow ever more deeply in our relationship with God.

These times also present an opportunity for others to see our faith, both for the believer and unbeliever. For the believer, it will be a time to be encouraged in their faith. For the unbeliever, it will be a time to be convicted of their sin, and be encouraged to turn to God.

Jesus has redeemed us from being selfish. So in times of stress, let’s not give in to the temptation to become selfish, but to answer the call of faith, trusting Jesus, and seeking his kingdom.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

December 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jesus’ miracle for the Lonely…

The Student’s Desk Devotion

Psalm 103:1-5

Praise the Lord, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for your holiness. That you stand above all things, and as such, you have authority over what happens. So we praise you that you forgive our sins. You heal our diseases, and you do not abandon us in our struggles, but you restore us. Lord as we continue to look at Jesus’ miracles, may we learn something more of Jesus. Help us understand how Jesus helps us in our struggles, especially with loneliness, and may we yearn to be in relationship with you.

In his name we pray, amen.


Mark 5:24-34

A large crowd followed [Jesus] and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Jesus: the end of loneliness

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt like you’ve been pushed to one side? Have you ever felt exclude, or not welcomed?

Perhaps it has been as a result of the way we’ve been treated by family, or friends, or work mates. Perhaps it’s come from the people who care for us. Wherever our loneliness has come from, it is real.

We feel loneliness because we are social creatures. We want to feel and know that we matter to someone. And so often the relationships we crave are just beyond our grasp. And it’s not just because we have a severe disability or a speech impairment that we can’t access a fulfilling relationship. All of us crave more than what another person can give.

We feel loneliness because we are designed for relationships that we either can’t access, or are not fulfilling, or both.

So let me tell you about the ultimate relationship. A relationship that is accessible, and is fulfilling. What relationship would that be? A relationship with a Jesus. In this particular instance we’ve just read, it starts with a woman. Let me tell you about this woman.

This woman is on the outside of outsiders. Mainly because she has a severe medical condition. Because of her medical condition, she is not to come in contact with anyone. In fact she is not to be anywhere near anyone. She is not permitted even to talk to anyone! She can’t go shopping. She can’t worship God with other people. She can’t even see her own family! Would you agree that this is one of the most lonely people ever to have existed?

Yet, she has heard something about Jesus. She has concluded that Jesus can heal her. She’s got it in her mind that if Jesus can heal her, then, she will not be lonely anymore. She wont need to live on the outskirts of town anymore. She’ll be able to live like anyone else. Yet Jesus is about to give her something much better than what she has conceived of. Yet before Jesus takes her there, she is about to go on an extraordinary journey of faith.

Faith begins by recognising who Jesus is. This woman recognized that Jesus possessed a God-like character, and all she needed to do was touch his clothes. And this belief leads her to do extraordinary things.

In the story, we read there was a crowd around Jesus. And remember I said before that because of her medical condition, she wasn’t to be anywhere near anyone? Yet we find this woman in the middle of the crowd. Whoa! How did she get there? Her faith got her there.

But then she does another extraordinary thing. She touched Jesus. Remember I said before because of her medical condition, she was not to come in contact with anyone? Now Jesus was known to be a teacher, a healer, someone doing the work of God. Jesus was the last person she should have been touching. How DARE she deliberately touch Jesus??? She dared to touch Jesus by faith, and she was healed.

Faith is audacious. Faith is daring. Faith goes against convention. Faith is belief put into action. And this is the kind of faith that this woman had.

It is this faith that Jesus builds on to bring this woman to a greater understanding of who he is.

While the basis of the woman’s solution to her loneliness was being healed of her medical condition, Jesus solution was to bring her into a relationship with himself.

Jesus knew power had gone out from him, and he stops and asks the impossible. “Who touched my garments?” Jesus asked this because he wanted this woman to know that what just happened matters. That she matters. That her faith matters. And Jesus does this in the most incredible but simple way. By speaking with her.

Do you realise that this is probably the first time in 12 years that someone spoke with her? It’s an extraordinary moment for this woman. For once this woman was being treated like a person, not like a medical condition. The relationship that she had craved was fulfilled by Jesus. Notice that Jesus called this woman his daughter! To call someone ‘daughter’ is very intimate. And it’s entirely appropriate because she has entered into the ultimate relationship. This is why Jesus says to her “…your faith has healed you.” Being physically healed to resolve her loneliness was not going to work. She needed to enter a personal relationship with Jesus founded on faith. The kind of faith this woman had. And now she had the ultimate relationship – friendship with God.

Loneliness is a problem we all face. Even we who know Jesus will struggle with loneliness from time to time. Maybe allot. It’s not because we are faithless. But because as Christians we still crave relationships with each other we can’t access or are unfulfilling. The difference Jesus makes is he brings an end to our loneliness by drawing us into a relationship, into friendship, with God. This relationship is founded on faith. Faith that recognises Jesus for who he really is. Faith that is radical. Faith that allows us to be daring even in the face of adversity.

The Bible makes it very plain that we matter to Jesus. We matter so much to Jesus that he died for us and paved the way for a new life, and in that new life, loneliness will be a thing of the past. So as Christians, when we feel lonely, our loneliness should not end in despair, because we know we matter to Jesus. We know we matter to God. We know the things that are happening in our lives matter. We also know we have new life with God where loneliness will be no more. So when we feel lonely, what a gift, what a mercy, we have in being able to reflect upon the relationship we have with God. Not only that, but we can also help others who struggle with loneliness. We can say to the person we understand their struggle, and we can tell them about the friendship with God made available to them by Jesus and bring an end to their loneliness.

Loneliness has its end in Jesus. What a mercy that we matter to Jesus!

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When God Comes to Town

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 71:14-18

But as for me, I will always have hope;

I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness,

of your salvation all day long,

though I know not its measure.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD;

I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,

and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray,

do not forsake me, O God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,

your might to all who are to come.

Prayer

Lord, we thank and praise you that you are concerned for all who call on your name. As we look at Jesus’ miracle with the catch of fish, may we yet again see the greatness of your Son. May we understand that your desire is for us to be in relationship with you, and to be involved in your activity. May we also be enabled to respond by faith.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

When God comes to town…

How do you know God? And, who are the people that really know God? Perhaps we can have the idea that the people who really know God are church leaders, and people who go to Bible college and study the Bible. And so first hand knowledge of God isn’t really for us. It’s only those special people who really know God and get involved in his work.

People in Jesus day people had the same kind of idea. The people that really knew God were in Jerusalem, the capital city, where the temple was. These people certainly weren’t to be found in backward areas like Galilee which was like Campbelltown or Redfern today in Sydney. You just don’t go there.

Yet this is where we find Jesus, in the backwaters of Israel teaching people God’s word. Or in other words, he was telling people about himself and God’s kingdom. And he did anything he could to get God’s word to everyone who would listen – even teaching from a boat while everyone else remained on shore so they could all hear.

Jesus takes this elitist idea, and throws it out the window. Knowing God and hearing God’s word is for all people. But, by what authority is Jesus teaching the common people about God? How do we know that Jesus isn’t some idealist that’s out of control? This is where the miracle of the fishes comes in.

First, let me tell you about Simon Peter, or just Peter. Peter is a commercial fisherman. He knows all there is about fishing, boats, and the sea. He’s an expert, and his livelihood depends upon his skills. Peter has been up all night, on the boat, trying to catch fish. He’s caught nothing, and he’s back on shore packing up his gear. Peter had already met Jesus before when Jesus healed his mother-in law. Peter knows Jesus is a great man, but he’s yet to learn who Jesus really is. So to Peter, it was a bit rich for this carpenter, Jesus, to tell him how to fish! Especially when he’s been up all night, and has just packed up everything!! On top of that, Jesus wants Peter to fish in an unlikely spot, at an unlikely time. So Peter is slightly confused. On one hand, Peter wants to tell Jesus where to go! What would a carpenter know about fishing? On the other hand, if Jesus is half the man Peter thinks Jesus is, maybe he better listen to him.

So Peter sets up his boats again, and heads out under Jesus’ direction. Despite being in the most unlike spot, at the most unlikely time, they net the biggest catch of fish they ever have. They could hardly handle the amount of fish. Then the cogs in Peter’s head begin to click over. How was it possible for Jesus’ to know that those fish would be there at that time? Further, could it be possible for Jesus to command the fish to be there? Where Peter is an expert, Jesus is sovereign. Then the penny drops. Peter realises that Jesus is God. Jesus is telling common people about the word of God by God’s authority.

Peter becomes sharply aware of his own inadequacies and pleads for Jesus to leave him. Peter doesn’t fit the bill with religious society. He’s a sinner, and he knows it. True this may be, Jesus is not deterred. Instead, Jesus involves Peter, someone who was not regarded as a religious person, in the very activity of God.

I began by asking how do you know God? We know God because God has revealed himself and told us about himself in the person of Jesus. And it’s not just Church leaders who God involves in his activity, it’s all kinds of people. While Jesus had a specific job for Peter, it is still true that God involves common people, even us here this morning, into his activity. Hence we to ought to be encouraged to follow Jesus, despite our own inadequacies.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting the Full Story

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,

O my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Prayer

Lord, we can often find ourselves in circumstances that are hard to overcome. Particular when we endure insult upon insult, injury upon injury, pain upon pain. So we ask you, gracious Lord, to show us your goodness. May our hearts abound with the joy of knowing you, and may we have pecae and refuge in what you have surely promised. As we come to look at Jesus miracle at the wedding, may you bless us with a fresh understanding of who your Son Jesus is.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!


John 4:46-54

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

Getting the full story…

Getting the full story is important, wouldn’t you agree? It’s important to get all the facts otherwise we can end up with false assumptions, and making bad decisions.

The official we meet in this passage has already heard of Jesus, and it’s likely that he has also heard of the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding by turning water into wine. But he’s missed the point of that miracle. He’s figured out that Jesus is some kind of miracle worker, or healer, not uncommon in those days. He’s worked out whoever this Jesus is, he can help his terminally ill son. So he approaches Jesus and pleads for Jesus to come with him. But he doesn’t have all the facts about Jesus, and he hasn’t understood who Jesus is.

Jesus knows what’s going on. He knows the thoughts of a man’s heart. What Jesus says to this official amounts to a right royal slap in the face. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” What is Jesus on about? He’s already believed about the water and the wine! Isn’t that enough? Well, no. That’s faith in what Jesus can do. The faith and belief Jesus is talking about is faith and belief in who he is, and Jesus is about to give this official a tailored education program to get him there.

It is at this point Jesus distances himself from the miracle worker or healer stereotype and does something extraordinary. Jesus doesn’t go with the official. There’s no laying on of hands, or anointing of oil, or special prayers. Just a word from Jesus, “You may go. Your son will live.” Now, we need to stop and think here. Who is in the Bible can make things happen just by speaking? God! Hang on to that thought.

The official nears home and here’s that his son is recovering. He realises that the time when he was talking to Jesus was the same time his son began to recover. Who does he think Jesus is now? God! This official and his family began thinking of Jesus as a miracle working. Now with all the facts of who Jesus is, they now have a much deeper understanding of who Jesus is as the saving God.

The same is true for us today. It’s so easy to hear something about Jesus and not get the full story, or to reduce Jesus down to something he’s not. We need to be moving in an ever deeper understanding of who Jesus is as our Saviour.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment