Tag Archives: Galilee

10 Reasons to Visit Israel with Us in 2015

SEE THE NEW VIDEO BELOW – NO DANGER IN ISRAEL!

Every Christian should visit Israel at least once, if possible. Israel is a country of unbeatable history, immense natural beauty, world-class culture,  and amazing people. The reasons for visiting are countless, but here are 10 Reasons you can and should join us on our upcoming trip to the Holy Land in April 2015:

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10. It Is A Religious Experience—Literally!

Israel is the holiest place on earth—holy to Jews, holy to Christians, and holy to Muslims. Each year millions of pilgrims from thousands of religious persuasions visit Israel and its Holy City Jerusalem, which is the site of soul-stirring sights like the Temple Mount, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Upper Room, the Garden Tomb, and the Dome of the Rock. That is where Abraham first offered his son in faith to God. Together we will not only tour the miraculous Land of the Bible, we will also worship and experience the presence of the God of the Bible.

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9. It Is Safe, and Israel Wants You and Needs You to Visit!

Many people, based on what they hear in the media, think it’s dangerous to visit Israel. But almost everyone after visiting is amazed how wrong they were. Even during the recent bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, 75,000 tourists still safely made their way to all the major sites without even one of them being injured. In fact, more than 8 million tourists visited the Holy Land over the past two years, and every one of them returned home safe and sound. The Christian travel agency, Imagine Tours and Travel, which is customizing our trip, has led over 50,000 tourists to Israel over the past 30 years without one serious incident. You see statistically speaking, it is safer to visit Israel than any other Western country, including the United States. Furthermore, the government of Israel is confident (We are too!) that the present fighting will have ceased long before we visit and assure us that they will not let us come if it will put us in harm’s way. So join us! Israel needs us to support them with our tourism right now!

SEE THIS NEW VIDEO! Pastor Tipton’s group visits Israel and says, “We haven’t felt an ounce of danger!” Click NO DANGER IN ISRAEL! This is also worth seeing! Click NURSE VISITING ISRAEL SAYS, “VISIT NOW!”

(To read about a modern-day miracle that just occurred in Israel and by which God supernaturally protected the nation, click this link – MIRACLE!)

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8. The Bible Will Become More Alive And Real To You!

This is the land where Abraham trekked, where Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, where David and Solomon ruled the most glorious kingdom in history, and where Jesus the Son of God lived, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. After seeing these and dozens of other places where the events of the Bible took place, you will have new faith in the historicity, accuracy, and reliability of the Bible. You’ll also be able to share your faith with greater accuracy, excitement, and confidence, especially when you show them pictures of where it all took place. That’s right! Lots and lots of pictures! So don’t forget your camera!

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7. Sun, Sun, And Yes, More Sun!

That may worry you. “After all,” you say. “I don’t do well in the heat!” That’s why April is an ideal time of year for anyone who wants to visit Israel. Average high temperature in Jerusalem in April is 70 degrees with an average low of 50 degrees, and an average of only 4 days of rain the entire month. Desert places like Masada, En Gedi, Qumran, and the Dead Sea will naturally be warmer, but not unbearable. So yes, you can get a tan, but you don’t have to worry about heat stroke. It is sounding better by the moment, isn’t it?

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6. Israel’s Natural Wonders!

Many consider Israel’s Mediterranean coast with its unspoiled beaches (despite their proximity to the cities) a wonder! The beach at Tel Aviv, less than an hour walk to Joppa where Jonah fled from the Lord and Peter raised Dorcas from the dead, is spectacular! To the east the Dead Sea beckons with the saltiest water on earth, perfect to float in (You can’t sink if you try!), and the lowest spot on earth (1,388 feet below sea level) where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and the Qumran community lived. To the north is the Sea of Galilee where we’ll take a boat ride and imagine we’re fishing with Peter, Andrew, James, and John! By the way, did I mention that Israel is small? Only 70 minutes from the Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and only 98 minutes from Jerusalem to Nazareth! This means we will see all the sights in 14 days, traveling in our own safe, secure, comfortable, and air-conditioned travel coach! And there’s more—so much more!

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Wow! I can’t wait to go! What about you? And those are only the first 5 Reasons you should join us! Wait till you read the Top 5 Reasons in my next post! By the way, if you can’t wait till then to learn more, why not take a few minutes to click on this link and check out our itinerary IMAGINE TOURS AND TRAVEL BROCHURE describing the trip that’s been specially tailored for our group!

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God the Son Cleans House!

6a00d8341d171f53ef01156f3ca329970bHave you ever done any spring housecleaning? What about weeding your garden or doing some of those summer projects that you can only do when the sun is shining and before the rain begins again in the fall, like painting your house or fixing the roof? Why do we take time to do these things?

So Proverbs 24 doesn’t happen to us! Solomon warned, “I passed by the field of the sluggard and the vineyard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it…I received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.”

An older Christian sister warned me years ago, “You can tell what a woman is like by the way she takes care of her home and her hands, and you can tell what a man is like by how he takes care of his car and his shoes.” So I washed my truck this week, bought new shoes, and started painting the trim around our house not just because they needed it, but to please the Lord who gave us these things to manage for Him, which brings me to tonight’s topic—“God’s Housekeeping Project” found in John 2:12-25.

1By way of review, we’ve been following Jesus along with His disciples, for a week and about 35 miles now—from the Jordan River where John was baptizing to Bethsaida, 25 miles north where He met Philip and Nathanael. Then we hiked 9 miles west to Cana where Jesus He performed the first sign of His Deity by turning water to wine. For those of you who are visual learners, you can see how it was laid out with Bethsaida to the east at the right of the screen, Capernaum in the center, and Cana of Galilee off the screen to the west in the foothills above the Sea of Galilee.

2But now John says in verse 12, “After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.” The Hebrew name is Kafer Nahum, meaning “the village of Nahum.” That’s where the minor prophet Nahum was from. Why stop there? Because from this point on, that’ll be the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry when He’s in Galilee! Because though it was small, Capernaum was located on the trade route connecting Africa and Europe and with all the traffic between the two passing through that village.

4Capernaum was also the village where Peter’s home was located and out of which Jesus conducted His ministry. That’s also where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever early in His ministry. Cheryl and I visited there on our trip to the Holy Land several years ago, not only seeing the stone house that belonged to Peter and was later the meeting place of the church in Capernaum; we also visited the first century synagogue there and stood on the very spot where Jesus preached on the Sabbath!

5But as verse 13 says, they only stayed there a few days at that time because “the Passover of the Jews was at hand.” So Jesus made Aliyah—He “went up to Jerusalem,” as the Law commanded every adult male to do at Passover. John records four times He did that with His disciples, which is how we know His ministry lasted just over 3 years.

78366017But there was also a second reason He went up to Jerusalem. For the first 30 years of His life, Jesus was always busy about His mother’s business, working in the carpentry shop to provide for her and His younger siblings after Joseph, His stepfather, died. But now that they’re old enough to provide for themselves, it’s time to be about His Father’s business, presenting Himself as Messiah to the religious rulers in Judea and cleaning up the mess they’ve made of His Father’s House. In fact, He’ll spend the entire first year of ministry in or about Jerusalem proving His Deity by the miracles He performs.

But the first task at hand is spring cleaning in the House of God. In doing so, we’ll witness 3 things about Him we haven’t yet seen—His anger, His authority, and His omniscience—each one a clear sign of His Deity. But as John warned us in chapter 1, verse 11: “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.” So He knows He won’t receive a warm welcome. And yet, He’s absolutely fearless about it, letting the chips fall where they may, His Deity evidenced in His anger towards sin.6

  1. The Anger of Jesus

Did you know that Jesus gets angry? That may be difficult to believe in this day and age when we’re told we have to tolerate every kind of sin and abomination, or we are guilty of hate speech. You know what a crock of baloney that is! We take our lead from Jesus who gets very angry and uncompromising when it comes to sin! Oh, He’s good and kind and forgiving towards those who repent. But even then, what does He always add? “Your sins are forgiven you. Now go and sin no more!”

That’s the tough love we see in verses 14 to 16. It says, “He found in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers seated, and made a scourge of cords and drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” Why did Jesus become so angry about this? 3 reasons:

jesusclearstemple31) Their defilement of the Temple with their buying and selling. You see that phrase “house of merchandise” in verse 16? That’s the Greek word emporium!” They had turned God’s House into a livestock exhibit like you’d see at the State Fair. It was noisy; it was dirty; it was smelly! Not that it was wrong to sell animals or exchange money for use in the Temple. But that was to be done outside in the streets leading up to the Temple. For what was the Temple’s purpose? Jesus said in Mark 11:17: “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves!” The Temple was to be a quiet retreat away from the world where a person could get alone with God and pray. Can you think of anyone who did that? What about Anna the prophetess who met Mary and Joseph when they dedicated Jesus in the Temple? Luke says, “She never left the Temple serving night and day with fasting and prayer.” But how do you do that with a carnival going on around you?

2) It wasn’t the Jews only who were hindered by it. Jesus said His house was to be house of prayer for all “nations.” The word “nations” means “Gentiles,” and there was only one place in the Temple where a Gentile was allowed to worship, and that was right here in the Court of the Gentiles where all this hawking of wares was going on, making it impossible for a repentant Gentile to meet God. Is it any wonder then the Lord Jesus was angry about it!

73) The third reason for His anger was the way the poor were being cheated when they came to worship. First, there was a cover charge to worship in the Temple. So the pilgrim would save up his pennies for the trip only to be told when he got there that his money was no good. “That’s Caesar’s image on your coins! You can’t use those in the Temple! That’s idolatrous!” But to buy the special coins used in the Temple, He had to pay an exorbitant exchange rate. And that lamb he raised and brought to the Temple to sacrifice? “That’s no good either! Just look at those scars and blemishes!” Forcing him to sell his perfectly good lamb at a discount, buy a more expensive one, and then watch as the buyer turned right around and sold it to another worshiper for a big fat profit.

But did Jesus have the right to get angry? Let me say two things about that before we move on. First, it was a holy anger. No one was hurt with His whip, nor did He spark a riot that endangered anyone. For if He had, the Roman cohort stationed at the Antonio Fortress overlooking the Temple would have taken action right away. But they didn’t need to, for Jesus was in perfect control of every aspect of the situation. He was simply driving trespassers off His property and claiming what was rightfully His! I know you’d do the same thing yourself if you could. Imagine, for example, going on vacation and returning home two weeks later to find someone holding a garage sale in your yard. How polite would you be in asking them to leave? Not at all! You’d order them to get off your property immediately, and if they didn’t, you’d call the sheriff to remove them. But Jesus couldn’t do that because the authorities were in on it.

8Nor did He need any help removing them. Why not? Because His anger is also infinitely powerful! It’s amazing when you think about it. Josephus the Roman historian says the attendance at Passover exceeded two million pilgrims at this time, which means there would have been tens of thousands crowded into Temple square. Think Safeco Field when Felix is pitching and one person trying to clear the stands and concourse with a homemade whip! You think you could you do it? No way! Someone would wrestle you to the ground before you got started! That’s the herculean feat Jesus took on, faced, and yet, He had no problem doing it. Why not? Because He is God!

safeco-fieldWe’ll see the same thing again in chapter 7 when guards are sent to arrest Him. They return empty-handed saying, “No man ever spoke like this man?” Then again in the Garden when they come to arrest Him, He asks, “Whom do you seek?” And when they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He says, “I AM!” and it says they all drew back and “fell to the ground.” No one could arrest Him if He hadn’t wanted to be arrested.

Of course, that’s only a tiny foretaste of the unrelenting anger He’s going to pour out on His enemies at His return. His anger is so powerful that those on earth in the time of Tribulation will hide themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains begging them, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” For though He’s forgiving toward those who repent, His anger is unrelenting toward those who persist in their rebellion! So Psalm 2 warns, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way. For His wrath is quickly kindled.” But then it graciously adds, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

13But you pay a price when you stand up for what’s right in this world, even if you do it with the right type of anger. Our Lord knew that and refused to be cowed by His enemies. We see that more clearly as we look at the second sign of His Deity. We’ve witnessed the anger of Jesus. Now let”s consider the authority of Jesus.

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  1. The Authority of Jesus

Notice what comes to His disciples’ minds when they see His anger. They may not have been book smart, but they knew their Bibles. That’s how they spent almost all their time in synagogue school—memorizing the Old Testament Scriptures. And what immediately comes to mind as they watch Jesus, the Son of David, cleanse the Temple are David’s words in Psalm 69:9—“Zeal for Thy house will consume me.” In other words, they thought, “This could destroy our Master if He’s not careful.” And they were right to think that, because notice what John adds in verse 18! He says, “The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”

farisei-caifaThere was no question in their minds. This was a direct challenge to their authority as the religious rulers of Israel. By the way, critics of the Bible have a heyday with this passage because Matthew, Mark, and Luke put His cleansing of the Temple at the end of Jesus’ ministry, whereas John has it at the beginning. “So try to explain that if you can! See! This is just one more example of all the contradictions in the Bible!” OK. Here’s the explanation, and it’s very simple. Jesus cleansed the Temple two times—once at the outset of His ministry and again just days before His death. In fact, His second cleansing of the Temple is what confirmed His rejection by the high priest and his cronies and brought on Jesus’ promised death for our sins. For they weren’t about to tolerate any more disrespect for their authority by this young preacher from Galilee. Why such a sudden dismissal of His claims as Messiah? They had four reasons for doing so:

Questioned1) He was a “nobody” who lived in humble obscurity the first 30 years of His life, and He had no credentials to speak of. He wasn’t a priest, He never tried to join in any of their “reindeer games,” and He didn’t look special. No Superman cape or logo under His shirt. Of course, they could have asked John the Baptist about Him or checked their Temple records to see where He was born and what His lineage was. Born in Bethlehem of the House of David and the Tribe of Judah, just as the prophets predicted! “But don’t confuse me with the facts! I already know what I believe!” Besides, credentials didn’t matter to them. John the Baptist was the son of a priest, and they never listened to him!

3-elders-judging-church-discipline2) They were sure when Messiah came that He’d attack their enemies. But He attacked them instead! Of course, if they’d read their Bibles, they would have known to expect that. For Malachi 3:1 warned them, “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple…and who can stand when He appears!”

3) He hit them where it hurts. I heard another preacher say that there’s a major nerve running from the pocketbook to the pain center in the brain, which is why people start to squirm when you talk about money in church. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to do so. He talked more about money than any other topic, for what we do with money is the #1 indicator of what’s important to us. And money was of utmost importance to the high priest and his cronies. For they didn’t just tolerate what went on in the Temple; they were the ones behind it—rich Jewish thugs who got a kickback from everything that bought or sold in the Temple, and ready to break legs if they didn’t get their cut.

jesus-christ-with-pharisees-1138108-print4) But the most infuriating thing Jesus did was call the Temple “My Father’s house.” Don’t be confused about this! Jesus didn’t come to set an example or teach us a new way of relating to God. He came to assert the truth about Himself, and He did so from the outset of His ministry. What truth was that? “I am God manifest in human flesh!” And they knew that’s what He was claiming. That’s why they wanted to kill Him, because He a mere man (they thought) claimed to be God. That will become even clearer in John 10:33 where Jesus says to these same religious thugs, “I and My Father are One.” To which they’ll respond by picking up stones to stone Him. Jesus will say to them, “I showed you many good works from My Father, for which of them are you stoning Me?” And they will answer Him (John 10:33), “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy because You, a mere man, make Yourself out to be God.” They knew what He was claiming, and they were right! He was claiming to be God.

35_jesus-cleanses-the-temple_900x600_72dpi_1So they ask for a sign. John 2:19—The Jews said to Him, “What sign do You give us, seeing that You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Herod’s Temple had taken 46 years to build at this point and, in fact, when it was finally destroyed by the Romans 40 years later, it still wasn’t finished. But as John explains, that isn’t what He was talking about. What Jesus was referring to was the Temple of His body. The Jews misunderstood that and misquoted Him and the gossip, as it usually does, went viral, so that three years later at His kangaroo trial, false witnesses were still accusing of saying, “I will destroy this Temple and raise it up in three days.” But that isn’t what He said or meant. He was referring to His body, and He never said He would destroy it. He said they would destroy it—another evidence of His Deity in that He knows they’re going to kill Him even before they know they want to kill Him.

At the same time, He also claimed to be omnipotent. For He adds, “Destroy this Body, and I” (Not the Father, though you can never separate Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) But “I will raise it up!” How does a dead man raise himself from the dead? Not a problem if you’re God, and that’s who He is! Jesus is God! That’s even more obvious to His disciples, and I hope to you too, as they witness the third mark of His Deity. We’ve seen His anger and His authority. Now let’s take a closer look at His omniscience!11

  1. The Omniscience of Jesus

When we come to the final chapter of John’s Gospel, John will say: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” For he adds that if all the miracles of Jesus were written down, “I suppose even the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.” I mention that because many of those unwritten miracles take place here in verse 23 where John closes the chapter like this. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

43_i-am-the-bread-of-life_1800x1200_300dpi_1Jesus performed countless miracles in Jerusalem before, during, and after the Passover with countless people coming up to Him and saying, “I believe in you, Jesus. I believe that you are the Messiah.” Do you know what today’s preachers would do if they got a response like that? “Quick! Count how many hands were raised, take an offering, and add their names to my email list!” But Jesus didn’t do that.

Instead notice John’s play on words in verse 23. I’ve underlined the key words: “believed” and “entrusting”—because they’re the same word in the Greek—pisteuo meaning to believe or trust in someone. In other words, what John is saying is that the people were believing in Jesus, but He wasn’t believing in them! Why not? Because He knows what’s in each one of us, and what’s in us is not good. As Paul admitted in Romans 7:18, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Have you recognized that about yourself, that apart from Jesus, there isn’t one good thing in you, for within in your flesh are the seeds of every evil thing under the sun!

12In fact, John says even your faith in Jesus may not be a faith of the right kind. Over and over again he’ll warn us of that in this book—that there is a belief which is not a belief, a belief that is superficial, self-serving, and certain to sell out our Savior just as Judas the traitor did. And Jesus knows the difference between the two. That’s why Peter, who denied Him 3 times and was later asked by Him 3 times, “Do you love Me?” finally blurted out, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you!” We need Him to test our faith as well, because the sad fact is there are millions of souls in hell today who thought they were believers and weren’t and will say to Him, “Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out devils in Your name, and do good works in Your name?” And He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evildoers!” How do we make sure that doesn’t happen to us? By cleaning out our temples now before His anger flares up and He does it Himself!

Most of you have heard the story of my little sister’s party when I was in college and she was still in high school living at home. My parents were gone for the weekend, but I stopped by on Friday night to pick something up on to find 50 to 100 teenagers in their house drinking beer, smoking dope, and doing others things they shouldn’t have. So what did I immediately do? I drove them out and then helped my sister clean up the mess before the neighbors called the cops and my parents found out about it.

9Jesus is also coming back very soon! When He does, will He find your heart ready to be His home? As you may know, John the Apostle also wrote a letter with this warning. Let me finish with that. In it he begged use, “Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. For if you know that He is righteous, you know it’s only those who practice righteousness who are born of Him.” So let’s stay close to Him and keep ourselves righteous, for He is coming soon—much sooner than any of us think.

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His First Sign: Water to Wine!

Do you believe that God exists and that Jesus is Lord? If so, what reason would you give to someone who asked you why you believe? Here is a list of the most common reasons Christians give for believing. See which one comes closest to your own: 1) Answers to prayer; 2) Reading the Bible; 3) Marveling at what He has created; 4) Seeing changes in the lives of believers; 5) Sensing His presence in the worship services I have attended.

Picture1I ask you that question because that’s our topic for this study. In John chapter 2, we come to a turning point in John’s Gospel. The purpose for everything John wrote, I’d remind you, was to prove that Jesus is God. He states it clearly in John 20:31—“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.”

You see, according to John, it is only by believing in the Deity of Christ that you gain the eternal life He offers. For that reason, he have seen him call eyewitness after eyewitness in chapter 1, each one testifying to the Lordship of Christ. First, it was John the Baptist, then Andrew and John, then Peter, James, Philip, and Nathanael in that order. Six ordinary guys who became the greatest men who ever lived because they were willing to believe! Don’t get confused about that. The reason people go to hell is not a lack of evidence. There’s always more than enough evidence to believe if you’re willing to believe. The reason is a hardness of heart and unwillingness to believe the evidence God has given us.

Oxygen Volume 17But now in chapter 2, John moves on from the testimony of eyewitnesses to a second, even more convincing argument. He presents the first of eight great signs Jesus performed—each one something only God could do. He walks on water, creates new eyes for a blind man, creates food to feed 20,000 peoples, raises a friend from the dead whose body has been decaying for four days, and in the passage before us—John 2:1-12, if you’ll open your Bible with me—He turns water into wine.

I know it also helps sometimes to have a map of where you’re going, so let me do that briefly as we get started. Let me give you a short overview of John’s Gospel. It can be broken into four parts—chapter 1 which we’ve studied where John calls several eyewitnesses to testify to the Deity of Christ, chapters 2 to 11 where John describes the public ministry and miracles of Jesus, chapters 12 to 17 where he describes the private ministry of Jesus to His disciples on the last night before His death, and chapters 18 to 21 which describe His death for our sins and His bodily resurrection from the dead.

Picture2But here we are looking at Jesus’ first great sign described in John chapter 2:1-12 – water turned to wine. To guide our study, I’ve divided it into 4 parts—the feast, the faux pas, the feat, and the faith it gave His disciples as a result.

  1. The Feast

Have you attended any weddings this summer? I attended the reception of my niece and goddaughter a week ago Saturday, and it was beautiful! Beautiful bride! Beautiful decorations! Beautiful setting! It was held at her father-in-law’s 3-acre country with beautifully manicured lawn and garden, just outside of Monroe, Washington. And the food was delicious! The affair lasted all night for those who wished to stay. That was a little too long for some of us older folks. But nothing compared to weddings at the time of Christ.

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_WCA0116-1800Read verses 1 and 2 with me. Here John recalls where the wedding took place: “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” The third day means it was the third day since He met Philip and Nathanael in Bethsaida. So if it was a Sunday they met, it’s now Tuesday—Sunday, Monday, Tuesday—which means everything we’ve read so far has happened in a week. They heard John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God, they stayed with Him all night, they walked with Him from the Jordan to Bethsaida where He met Philip and Nathanael, and now they’re at a wedding with Him in Cana of Galilee. So if you think your schedule is crazy, don’t imagine for a moment that you’re busier than Jesus. He was always about His Father’s business.

Cana was also the hometown of Nathanael according to John 21:2 and about 9 miles from Bethsaida with a population of maybe 100 at the time. So it’s no surprise to find Nathanael there, as well as Mary. Having lived in Romania for 5 years, I can tell you that in old-world rural areas, you not only know the folks in your own village; you have friends and family in the next village too. Joseph isn’t because he’s died by this time. He died during the silent years when Jesus was working in the carpenter’s shop to support His family as the Firstborn Son. We know that because later, when Jesus is dying on the cross, He commits His mother into the care of John the Apostle, who was her nephew, something that wouldn’t have been necessary if Mary hadn’t have been a widow and Joseph was still alive. And as you’d expect of the mother of Jesus, she was busy serving at the wedding, maybe as the wedding coordinator, because you’ll notice in a moment, she feels very free to tell the servants at the reception what to do.

Picture3But the most important fact is that Jesus was there and performed His first public miracle there to emphasize the sanctity and importance of marriage in His eyes. So pay no attention to those who say that marriage is just a piece of paper! They don’t know what they’re talking about! Weddings matter and marriage matters. Marriage is a holy covenant made between one man and one woman in the presence of God and their family and friends, vowing they’ll be faithful to love one another as long as life itself. For that reason no other relationship on earth is as important or wonderful as marriage. Peter calls it “the grace of life,” meaning that of all God’s common graces—the graces He showers upon all people whether they love Him or not—of all His common graces, marriage is the greatest, which means any society that honors marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman will be blessed, whereas any society that fails to honor marriage is headed for chaos, judgment, disaster, and destruction. So watch out, America, how far you go! God is watching and will not bless what you’re doing!

For that reason, weddings have always been the most important celebrations on earth. I wish I’d understood that better as a young pastor. I would have preached it with even more conviction. The ancient world, especially the Hebrew culture, recognized that fact and considered a wedding the most important event of the year. Romania, where we served as missionaries, was also an old-world country in many ways, and they believed the same thing. Weddings would start in the late afternoon with a two to three hour ceremony at church, followed by a reception that lasted all night long, for anyone who could stay awake.

Picture4So it was in Cana of Galilee! Weddings often began on a Tuesday or Wednesday and lasted until the weekend. Or if you were well-to-do, they could last all week. And everybody came! Everyone was aware of the couple’s engagement that took place the year before, because an engagement was a legal contract that officially bound the partners to each other and could only be broken by divorce, even though the marriage itself wasn’t consummated until after the feast. What went on during that year prior to the wedding? That takes us to point #2—

  1. The Faux Pas

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0530-1800All year long the bridegroom worked to prepare a place for his bride to live, often a room added onto his father’s home. And he was also responsible to pay the full cost of the wedding. All of this to prove to her father that he had what it takes, that he was could provide for her once she became his wife! You see where the story is headed. The feast is in full swing and everyone is enjoying himself when the wine runs out. And that presents a problem.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Maybe he can’t plan! That’s what all of us fathers who marry off our daughters fear. Maybe he’s all smoke and mirrors and doesn’t know how to earn a living? I hope my daughter isn’t going to have to bring home the bacon!” They ran out of wine in the middle of the greatest celebration this couple would ever have—a huge embarrassment and a big question mark hanging over the head of this groom and his family. So verse 3 says: “When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’”

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Now why do you suppose she would she say that to Him? Most preachers assume that she wanted Him to do a miracle. But why would she expect that? Had He ever done a miracle? No! Not that He couldn’t, but verse 11 says this was “the first of the signs” Jesus did. So there’s no reason for her to expect Him to do something He’s never done before. Again I think MacArthur gives the best explanation for this. When Mary had a problem, who did she always turn to, especially after Joseph died? Jesus, of course! Think about it. He never had a bad idea or made a bad decision in His life! He always led her in the right direction and had the perfect solution to every problem. If anything ever went wrong in their home, He always knew why it went wrong and exactly how to fix it. He was the smartest, wisest, and most resourceful person who ever lived. And He grew up in her home. By the way, He was also the compassionate person who ever lived! So who else would she turn to with this problem?

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0694-1800But wait a minute, is that the way a son ought to talk to his mother! Listen to what He says to Mary in verse 4. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’” Why such harsh words to the mother He loved? First, they didn’t sound nearly as harsh to Mary as when we read them out of context. For one thing, this is something He said to her in private, not publicly so as to embarrass. Remember that the next time you have something hard to say to someone you love, especially to your husband or wife. Wait until you’re alone with them instead of saying it out loud for the whole world to hear. That’s Matthew 18:15. Go to them in private and try to resolve things between the two of you before you let anyone else know about it. Tone of voice also makes a difference, and I know Jesus said it as gently as He could. And He was polite! The word “woman” is the same word He used at the cross when He entrusted His widowed mother into John’s care. Pointing to John, He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” We have no equivalent in English, but He was saying in effect, “Dear Lady, what does your concern have to do with Me?”

8Why didn’t He call her “Mother?” Because the relationship between them had changed! For 30 years Jesus had been about His mother’s business, doing whatever she asked of Him. But now, with the cross looming before Him, He has just 3 years to be about His Father’s business. His mother, like His disciples, didn’t really get that until after His resurrection. But it’s imperative to let her know that from this point on, His only concern is the mission for which His Father sent Him into this world and nothing, not even familial relationships—can stand in His way. He gave her a warning of this early on in Luke chapter 2, when He was 12 years old and they found Him asking and answering questions of the scholars in the Temple. She scolded Him for worrying her. So He reminded her, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

BoyJesusLater He had to remind her again when she and his brothers stood outside a home where He was teaching, waiting to speak with Him. “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” He said. Then stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He explained, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” That’s true, isn’t it? We who love the Lord Jesus and do the will of His Father in Heaven are His brothers and sisters and mother. You see He wasn’t being unkind. But it had to be said. “I am the Son of God and I’m on a mission of infinite importance, and I can’t allow anything—not even family relationships—stand in My way. And thank God He didn’t let them get in the way. For if He had, you and I wouldn’t be saved today!

Nor is Mary offended. She may not understand the implications of what He’s said. But she knows who her Son is, and she trusts Him. So what does she immediately do? Verse 5: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” Wise counsel! Wouldn’t you say? Whatever Jesus tells you to do, do it! That would save us a lifetime of grief, wouldn’t it? So what does Jesus tell them to do? That’s the third chapter in this thriller. We’ve been to the feast. We’ve witnessed the social faux pas. Now let’s watch Him as He performs His first miraculous feat.

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  1. The Feat

Do you know what the truly marvelous thing about this miracle is? Even though it wasn’t his mother’s place to give Him ministry advice…By the way, we’re going to find that Jesus never took the advice of anybody when it came to ministry. Why not? I thought a humble man always seeks the counsel of others? Not in Jesus’ case! He was humble. No question about that! More humble than you and I have ever dreamed. Try hanging on a cross for a crime you didn’t commit without defending yourself or trying to get even with your enemies! The reason He didn’t seek the counsel of sinful human beings is because He couldn’t trust us and didn’t need it. For this is no mere man we’re talking about. This is the Holy God become Man whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. So though it wasn’t Mary’s place to give Him advice (nor do I think she was asking for a miracle), women’s intuition may have told her something wonderful was afoot. And it was! By God’s grace her concern, the need of that young couple, and God’s will all came together in one miraculous moment of time, leading to one of the greatest feats He ever performed.

Picture5You see contrary to popular belief, this miracle was not an unexpected and premature event, interrupting God’s plan for His Son, due to a well-meaning but interfering Jewish mother. This was Plan A from before time began—for the first sign of Jesus’ Deity to be a miracle performed at a wedding in Cana of Galilee for His mother, His family, and His friends. Wasn’t that gracious of Him? And here’s how it happened. Verse 6 says: “Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.”

This wasn’t water for washing their hands or taking a bath. It was for ceremonial purposes. Before a Jewish family would eat a meal, they’d pour water over their pots, their pans, their plates, and their hands, not to get them clean, but to be ritually pure. So for a feast of several days, you had to have a lot of water. But why did He have them fill the jars to the brim? So there would be no question about something being added to the water. Skeptics always try to explain away a miracle. Remember Pharaoh’s magicians and how they tried to copy Moses’ miracles? So they filled the jars to the brim. Ought to last till the weekend, don’t you think? But why so much wine? To picture the super abundance of God’s grace—“Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will be poured into your lap.”

Picture6“And,” verse 8 continues, “He said to them, ‘Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.’ So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine…” Wait a minute, you say! I think I missed it. When did He do the miracle? In between the lines, there between verses 8 and 9! But then that’s how the Bible always describes the miraculous—very matter of fact. You really didn’t expect Jesus to make a big deal out of it, did you? Drum roll, please! “Tuh-dum!”

But what a miracle it was! Verse 9 says: “When the master of the feast (the headwaiter) tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew, (he) called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’” That’s true, isn’t it? When we invite guests for dinner, we get out our best china, put flowers on the table, pull out our best recipe, cook our best meal, and serve them in style. But if they stay a second or third or fourth day, it’s: “There’s the fridge. Try your luck! I think there are leftovers in the back if you look hard.” But in this case, it’s far different! The maître d says, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk too much, he serves the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Good wine! This was the best wine anyone ever tasted—like new wine freshly squeezed from the grapes of Eden!

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  1. The Faith

But we can’t leave it at that. We need to take a step back before we finish and ask the big question: Why did John tell us this story in the first place? Answer: To help us relive it with him and discover with His disciples who Jesus really is. Remember they’re only a week into following Him and this walking by faith thing is new to them. So Jesus performs a miracle, and John tells us about it, so that both they and we will believe. We have been to the feast. We have witnessed the faux pas. We have seen the miraculous feat He performed.  Now it’s time to solidify our faith in Him. That’s what this miracle did for them and should do for us. Verse 11 says: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0586-1800 Remember there are only 6 of them at this time: Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip, and Nathanael—all of them good friends, fishing partners, and strong believers in the God of the Bible—but not one has ever seen a miracle. Nathanael got a taste of His omniscience when Jesus said to him, “Before Philip found you under the fig tree, I saw you!” But not one of them (or you either, for that matter) ever saw a miracle like this. We’ve seen some amazing answers to prayer, but nothing like the magnitude of this miracle! 150 gallons of water instantly turned to wine!

The impact was so great two things happened right away. First, all six of His disciples put their faith in Jesus. I know. I know. They already believed in Him. Or they wouldn’t have followed Him all the way to Galilee. They called Him “Rabbi.” They called Him “Messiah.” Then Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.” But Jesus said they would see even greater things than these. And the first and one of the greatest was this—seeing their Creator make something out of nothing just as He had in the beginning. And for what purpose! So that both they and we would never doubt.

People-surround-Jesus-1024x744But even more important is the second thing that happened. John says they saw His glory! Isn’t that the purpose of our lives and what we’ve been longing for since we first met Him? I want to see His glory. And they did, at least in part! What glory? The eternal glory He shared with the Father before time began! You know the verse. So say it with me. John 1:14, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And the best thing about is you didn’t have to be there to experience it. You can experience it this moment if you have faith to believe. As He said to Thomas, who finally believed and fell at His feet in worship saying, “My Lord and my God,” “Because you’ve seen, you’ve believed. But blessed (That means happy, elated, and overcome with joy!) “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed!” And so we believe without seeing, and we behold “His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus-Face-Paintings-01But someone will say, “I’d believe too if I saw a miracle like that!” Don’t be so sure. The Israelites witnessed 10 miraculous plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea splitting in half before them, and they still didn’t believe and died in the wilderness as a result! And the people of Jesus’ day saw even greater miracles than that. In fact, nowhere in the Gospels does anyone ever question Jesus’ power to do miracles. What His enemies claimed was that He performed miracles by the power of Satan, earning a place in hell as a result of it. The truth is Jesus performed miracle after miracle after miracle, day after day, for three years until virtually all disease was eradicated from Israel. But they still didn’t believe, because faith isn’t about evidence. It’s about a willing heart.

Jesus PleaThat means, if your heart is willing, you can know Jesus this very moment through simple childlike faith. So if you’ve never believed before, open up your heart to Him now as I lead us in a closing prayer. Say these words or words like them with me in the quietness of your heart and, if you truly mean them, Jesus promises that He will come into your life this very moment and live with you forever.

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