LIVE OPEN HANDEDLY (continued from “6 Lessons from the last 6 Years”)

In my last post, I shared how I have learned to never stop learning. Here is the second lesson that I have learned over the last 6 years:

Live Open Handedly

Good stewardship of our stuff, our time, our energy, and our talents starts with recognizing that everything we have actually belongs to God (and not to us). Not only that, but my very life does not even belong to me! However, all that I have has been given to me to manage (or steward).

God has been teaching me this lesson for a long time now, but then we planted a church, and I had a subtle mentality that it was “my church” and they were “my people.” But when God showed me that Village Church was his and not mine, that the families in the congregation or in the community belonged to him and not to me, and that the very “success” of the church was his work, not mine – it was so freeing. Nothing got easier, but I was able to serve and lead with peace because I had “cast my cares” on Him.

On the other hand, the realization that it all belonged to God was even more motivational. I don’t know about you, but one day when I stand before God, what matters most to me now is my Father saying, “well done, my good and faithful servant” because I have been faithful with what he gave me (Matthew 25:21, ESV). 

I want to live open-handedly with my marriage and love my wife more than myself. I want to be open-handed with my kids and give them more than just my leftovers. I want to be open-handed with my gifts to not live self-servingly but serve others. I saw this in my last pastor (Randy Spencer) who held his ministry, his job, his time, and his resources out with an open hand when he said, “here – take this – and go plant a church.” 

I want to live in such a way that I make others the hero and let my life be a platform for others to stand on and succeed. I want to be like Jesus, who, “gave [himself away] as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, ESV). Because as Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  

To hold on to everything with a tight-fist and call out like the birds in Finding Nemo (“mine, mine, mine!”) will not only result in little harvest, but it is unfulfilling and unsatisfying. Instead, I absolutely believe God’s Word that says when we live open-handedly and “sow generously,” then God will bless us with a generous harvest so we can keep sowing even more generously (2 Corinthains 9:6)!

(These notes are part of my final sermon as pastor of Village Church on June 21, 2020. The sermon was titled, “6 LESSONS THAT I LEARNED IN 6 YEARS.” You can watch the whole sermon on my YouTube page.)

6 Lessons… (part 2)

(These notes are the extended version of the final sermon that I peached as pastor of Village Church in Churchville, VA on June 21, 2020. The sermon was titled, “6 LESSONS THAT I LEARNED IN 6 YEARS.” You can watch the whole sermon on my YOUTUBE PAGE.)

In my last post, we talked about how Paul was looking back over his life and ministry in Philippians 4 and shared some lessons that he learned. That is because “the end of a journey gives you a different, more sober perspective than before.”

Most importantly, Paul writes that the “secret” to thriving in the good and bad times of life is to know that we can “do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13, ESV).

With Paul’s lessons in mind, I want share from my heart 6 lessons that I have learned in the last 6 years. I’m saying six because I began as the pastor of Village Church six years ago this month in the “incubator” that was Calvary Baptist Church. And also, I had a hard time narrowing these down to just five!

These are not going to be profound – only the Gospel is profound. They may not all mean much to you, but each of these lessons has changed my life in one way or another. So here they are:  

1. Never stop learning.

There is no class in school, no book, and no seminar that can ever fully prepare you for the most important tasks in life: such as marriage, fatherhood or motherhood, or (in my world) pastoring. The moment that we think “I got this down,” God has a way of putting us in situations that remind us that we don’t!  

When I first started into pastoral ministry 15 or so years ago, I thought I had a lot figured out. I was young, still in college, and developing some doctrines and philosophies mostly in response to some unhealthy church experiences that I had earlier in life. On top of that, I was surrounded by other people my age that ALSO thought they had it all figured out!

But after God, in his grace, allowed me to fall flat on my face enough times by bombing sermons, messing up songs, saying the wrong things in the wrong ways, making bad choices, ignoring my family, not listening to my wife, avoiding confrontation, not resting, and being generally undisciplined; I began to realize that I actually know and can do very little. As Chuck Lawless wrote in something I read this week, I realized that “Apart from God’s grace, I’m fairly stupid.” I’m sorry if that’s offensive – but it’s accurate!

So when we first started Village Church, my eyes and ears were focused on learning as much I could. I was reading Scripture and praying for direction, checking out books for examples, watching other churches for examples, listening to other pastors for inspiration, and attending seminars and trainings like a sponge – trying to soak up as much as I could. Maybe I went overboard a little, but the last thing I wanted to do was to follow my own intuition or experience. I had never been in that place before and wanted to learn from others who have.

And after a handful of years as a lead pastor and planter, God has taught me over that I STILL have so much to learn about Scripture, life, people, family, and myself.

I have learned to never stop learning. To keep asking questions. Keep being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (as the Book of James says).

I want to always be a student in the classroom of life. I want to be humble; when we are humble, we are willing to watch, listen, and learn. 

(to be continued in future posts)

6 Lessons from 6 Years of Pastoring a Church Plant (part 1)

(These notes are from the final sermon that I peached as pastor of Village Church in Churchville, VA on June 21, 2020. The sermon was titled, “6 LESSONS THAT I LEARNED IN 6 YEARS.” You can watch the whole sermon on my YOUTUBE PAGE.)

The end of a journey gives you a different, more sober perspective than before.

Maybe you know what that is like. Maybe you have watched a business close, a relationship dissolve, or you have even been close to death. An ending gives you a hindsight to see things in a new way. And when you look back and evaluate your experiences, there are many lessons to be learned. That is where I am in life right now!

That is also where the Apostle Paul was the Book of Philippians (especially in chapter 4, where we will be reading from). Paul was a church planter and pastor of several churches and many believers. Whether by choice or circumstance, he influenced those churches from a distance and through the leaders he positioned. You probably know the areas of some of those churches: Collosae, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and others.  

Because he travelled so much and because of his preaching had extended stays in nice jail cells, he had a lot of time to think, pray, and write. Some of Paul’s letters were actually written from jail – including the one we will read from today to the Roman believers in Philippi. When Paul wrote this letter, he was aware that his life could be over soon. That is why in 1:20-21 he wrote that he wanted Christ to be honored by his “life or… death” and that for him, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  

So here Paul is looking back over his life and ministry and is sharing lessons he learned. We’re not going to spend too much time on these today, but I want us to read Paul’s words so we can make some notes to study later. Let’s start reading in Philippians 4:4…

[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, [if you didn’t hear before] rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  

Now that is a message we need to hear today: Christians are to be people of  reasonableness – which means good sense, fairness, and moderation. We are not to be emotionally-driven loose cannons that say or do whatever comes out.

How do we achieve that kind of reasonableness? Look at the next verse: 

[6] do not be anxious [or nervous] about anything, [which is a lot to say from someone that was in jail and nearing the end of his life] but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [so ask God for what you need and be thankful for what you have] let your requests be made known to God. [7] And [the result is that…] the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As I say to my kids – the key to success is FOCUS. And they respond with, “Huh? What did you say?” But Paul is again encouraging believers with what he has learned from his own evaluated experience. He continues…

[9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. [10] I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. [11] Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 

Here it is – here is the secret to thriving in the good and bad times of life that Paul has learned:

[13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

In the rest of the chapter, Paul expresses his gratitude to the believers in Philippi for caring for him, helping him, and meeting his needs. Then he ends with this wonderful promise that hopefully we can all say “amen” after:  

[19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen

(to be continued in future posts)

How Did Jesus Bring People Together?

(This article was originally written for https://www.christianity.com)

You do not have to look very far through human history to see that we have a consistent pattern of division. From riots to wars to concentration camps, it seems to me that humanity has managed to fight and separate more often than they have been peaceful and unified.

The Bible shows us that it has been that way pretty much from the beginning. In the Book of Genesis, we read that Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, got angry and “rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8, ESV). The first child ever born killed his only brother (who was the second child to ever be born)! Sadly, it seemed to go down hill from there. 

Of course, it makes sense that we are so hateful and divisive when you consider the depravity of humanity. The Apostle Paul describes who we are apart from Christ:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, NLT) 

If that is what we have to work with, no wonder every generation (especially ours today) deals with hatred, division, and racism – it is our nature.  

But then someone came along and offered humanity a different way. That man’s name was Jesus. While Jesus’s goal was not just to end social injustices (although many in his day wanted him to), what he accomplished made a way for injustices and sins of every kind to be totally forgiven and overcome. In fact, Jesus did exponentially more to bring people together than anyone else in history… combined!  

So how did Jesus reconcile or bring people together? He did this in at least three ways:

JESUS TAUGHT RECONCILIATION 

Jesus’s sermons were challenging to the people in his time for many reasons. One of those reasons was because he taught his followers to love, accept, and forgive not only their friends, but even their enemies. He told a parable about a Samaritan that cared for someone in need even when a religious Jew wouldn’t (Luke 10). He described the Kingdom of God like a wedding feast where the host invited strangers from the streets to attend (Matthew 22). He taught that people who recognized their spiritual poverty and hunger would be blessed instead of those who had it all together (Matthew 6). He said not to retaliate when someone hurts you, but to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5). Even more than that, Jesus raised the bar so high with how we treat others that he said to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Not only did Jesus teach about it, though…

JESUS DEMONSTRATED RECONCILIATION

While the religious people around Jesus were notorious for their hypocrisy, Jesus always “practiced what he preached.” For example, Jesus went out of his way to stop and have a conversation with a shamed and divorced Samaritan woman in John 4. He rebuked his disciples when they tried to keep children away and welcomed their distraction with open arms (Matthew 19). He spent time with, talked with, and ministered to a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus, a rough fisherman named Peter, a philosopher named Nicodemus, a women that had been possessed by demons named Mary, a group of outcast lepers, countless handicapped men and women, and the marginalized of society. To top it off, as he was hanging on a cross dying himself he forgave the sins of a convicted criminal!

So Jesus taught about reconciliation, he demonstrated it, and then…

JESUS MADE A WAY FOR OUR RECONCILIATION

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the great unifier of human-kind. When we look through the lens of the Gospel, although we still see skin color, eye color, hair color, clothing style, tattoos, body size and shape, gender, and everything else that is unique about someone, those distinctions no longer influence our love for them. The Gospel calls us to deny ourselves, lose our own life, defer to others, love our neighbor, and forgive our enemies. So when (and only when) we totally surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, those things that used to divide us no longer matter. As Paul also wrote to the Galatians: 

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, ESV). 

But to be clear, just because we know what Jesus taught or have studied his life does not mean that we will have what we need to be reconciled to others. That is why even though Jesus did focus on mending human relationships, that is not actually where he started. Instead, he emphasized that unless we are first reborn spiritually and brought together with God, we will never experience the kind of love that God has for us, which is the only real way that we can be brought close to and love others. 

That is the “bad news” side of the Gospel. There is an old phrase that says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” That means that no matter who we are, where we are from, what we can do, or what we have, we are “condemned already” simply because we are born into this sinful world as a sinful, depraved person (John 3:18).

But the “good news” is that God saw us in that condemned, depraved state, he loved us anyway, and then he sent his Son to the earth to make a way for all of us to be brought into a relationship with him. Jesus’s death and resurrection makes a way for us to be reconciled to God and others. When we accept what he did for us and receive his gift of salvation, he makes a way for us to move past just talking about ideals of love, forgiveness, peace, and unity and to actually living them out! 

How is that possible? Because when we are born again, the Holy Spirit that takes up residence in our hearts yields these things like a tree bearing fruit. As Paul also wrote: 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-24, ESV).

This has so many applications, but especially with racism. When we have been changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then even how we see ourselves and others changes. As the songwriters Seth and Nirva Ready (an interracial couple themselves) sing in their song “Brother”: “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother.” But that is only possible through being first brought together or reconciled with God. 

Gathering Again after the Covid Shut-Down

I have seen statistics and heard stories over the past couple weeks about peoples’ experiences with returning to church meetings. Now that our church is heading into our third weekend of meeting together in-person, I wanted to share some of our personal experiences with what gathering again has looked like for us. Here are four simple observations.

Many people are cautious.

Some people are wearing masks, keeping their distance, and squirting a lot of hand sanitizer. Others are experiencing a deeper level of concern or even fear. It seems like some of the more cautious in our congregation are young adults that have younger kids and/or older parents that they are caring for.

Some people are not too concerned.

On the other hand, some people are shaking hands, hugging necks, and getting close to others (as if there never even was a coronavirus scare)! Whether this is because they are full of faith, unaware of the dangers, or just simply tired of being alone, these folks are not concerned about the health warnings and ready to move on with life. From what I can tell, these folks are generally middle-aged and up.

Everyone is excited to be together again.

By God’s grace, our worship service attendance has been (surprisingly) pretty “normal.” In fact, most of the people that are gone would have been gone anyways because they are at the lake or beach. So if you count those that are joining online, then our attendance is above average! On top of that, folks are glad to be back together and are coming early and staying late to hang out.

One of the main factors for this above-average gathering is that we are meeting outdoors where we do not have to worry as much about regulations such as face masks and social distancing. Meeting outside is also something that our church is familiar with already because it is what we have done over the past 5 summers. I am guessing there is also an anticipation in the air because of the pastoral transition that we are in (but that is another story).

Online worship is still important.

As I mentioned, there are some people that are out of town and joining in online. Our “online congregation” is not quite as big as it was when no one was gathering in person, but it has not been that far off!

Looking ahead, I think that “going to church” via the internet will be more common and more important than ever. Whether people will be hesitant to be in a crowd or they will just consider online attendance as more of option, I think that the time and energy that we put into making the video and audio of a livestream as excellent as we can will be well worth it.

In many ways, I am excited about where the Church is right now. Sadly, there has also been a fallout or a negative consequence to the last three months of not gathering in person – I’ll deal with that in a later blog. But for now, I look forward to seeing what God is doing.


Hi. My name is Robert. I am an eternal optimist and extrovert who is devoted to Jesus and my family. I love life, preach the Gospel, and am always looking for a court to play some good volleyball.

In the midst of our DISTRESS, Jesus gives us PEACE.

Let me ask you a question: What are you afraid of? 

We have all heard the phrase “there is nothing to fear but fear itself,’” but I think we all know what it is like to legitimately fear something or someone. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes and affects people in different ways. It might just cause us stress or it leaves us breathless and in a panic attack. Because it causes reactions, fear even sells! That’s why there are haunted houses, scary movies, and why kids tell scary bed-time stories. 

In general, though, fear is a God-given feeling because it motivates us either to advance and fight, to turn and run away, or to shrink down and hide (which all might be helpful responses depending on the situation). We have all seen those responses over the last couple months in others… and maybe even from ourselves, haven’t we? But whether our current pandemic incites fear in us or not, all of us fear something. Actually, here is a list of some of the most common fears that I found this week:

  • Fear of spiders and snakes (although many species are no real threat)
  • Fear of heights and flying (even though car crashes and getting hurt on the ground are more common)
  • Fear of dogs (for some reason fear of cats doesn’t make the list)
  • Social fears (such as being completely alone in a dangerous place, in a crowded room, being humiliated, and speaking in public)
  • Fear of Germs and dirt (leading to compulsive hand-washing and avoiding potentially germ-y situations) 
  • Fear of thunder, lightning, and storms (causing people jump at the sound or hide under the covers) 

Those are specific fears, but I think we could probably sum up most or all of them into some general categories like “fear of the unknown” or “fear of harm.” However it plays out, we all deal with fear of some kind.

We are starting off our message that way because this is exactly what the disciples were dealing with in John 6, which will be our text for today. In this story, they were specifically dealing with a common fear of storms, being left alone, of harm, and no doubt even death and drowning – until Jesus shows up.

———

Today is week 7 of our series called “Chasing the Son” where we have been talking about the miracles or signs by Jesus in the Gospel of John. As we study these signs, we are discovering more about Jesus’s nature and ability as well as what happens when we respond to God’s grace by believing in him and positioning our hearts to seek after Him. As Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) reads: “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”  

Today is the second to last miracle – meaning after today we have one week and one miracle left that (I think you could argue) is the most incredible and most impossible miracle. So don’t miss next week’s message! 

As we have said each week, while these signs were a fraction of what Jesus did, they were uniquely designed to confirm his message, illustrate who he was, and build the faith of those who saw them. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus was not subtle or secretive about who he was. In fact, with each sign he had a corresponding I Am” statement that even more clearly explained who he was. For example, after he multiplied the bread and fish, he declared “I Am the Bread of Life.” Also with each statement he was testifying that he actually was God in the flesh, and the people around him knew that. 

As a result, there was a growing crowd of people following Jesus to see what he would do or say next. The problem was, many of the people misunderstood Jesus’s mission and thought that he was there to become a physical king of an earthly kingdom and rescue them from human oppressors. Interestingly, some Christians still have a similar misunderstanding today. But Jesus (and the Gospel) is never about an earthly kingdom or worldly politics – it is about a spiritual kingdom and eternal business. Jesus did not come 2,000 years ago to flex his power, overrun the government, and demand service. Instead, he (for the most part) reserved his power, respected his government, and displayed his own service by humbly dying on a cross for the sins of the world. That won’t be the case the next time he comes, mind you, but it was the first time.

This all gives us a good understanding of why at the end of last week’s passage, when the crowd tried to grab Jesus and make him their earthly king, he dismissed himself from the crowd and (as John 6:15 says) “withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Then while Jesus was alone on the mountain praying, the crowds disbanded, the day turned to evening, and the disciples set sail to go back home for the night.

And that is the background and setting for out text today as we look at Jesus’s next miraculous sign and discover our main theme for today that: In the midst of our DISTRESS, Jesus gives us PEACE.

———

Let’s begin reading in John 6:16:

[16] When evening came, [as close as the Bible ever gets to “It was a dark and stormy night…”] his disciples went down to the sea [the Sea of Galilee], [17] got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 

The disciples were leaving the mountain side of Bethsaida (which means “house of fish”) and headed to Capernaum (which means “house of comfort”) where they had their home base of ministry to kick their feet up and eat their leftovers from the seafood buffet. Several of the disciples were skilled fishermen, so this short 5 mile trip across the edge of the Sea of Galilee would have been as common for them as us going to the store across town, getting in our car, and driving home (with 12 baskets of leftovers in the back seat).

They would have done this hundreds of times. It was getting dark, but the water was calm, and there was nothing to fear. Or so they thought. Let’s read:

[18] The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 

Matthew’s account of this story (in Matthew 14) words it like this: they were “beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.” 

I don’t think I even need to ask if you know what that feels like, because we all know what it is like to be coasting along, things are going pretty good, we’re just living life, and “boom!” (or “whoosh!”) – the wind changes direction and pushes against us, the waves pick up and beat against us, the sea gets rough, and the storm comes out of nowhere and tosses us around. 

Maybe you got laid off from a job that you thought was secure, a relationship is in ruins that you thought was going well, you got injured or sick, an unexpected bill hits your savings, a pandemic keeps you from seeing the people you love (right?) – there is no shortage of examples because we have all experienced that moment when the sky goes from clear to cloudy, the sunshine turns to lightning strikes, and the storm takes over our life.

My dad called me on Friday this week. He told me that when he was driving home from work on Thursday, while he was waiting at a red light, time seemed to freeze while he noticed the driver side of his car start bending in and the glass breaking because a dump truck had left its lane and ran into his car – eventually pushing it over 200 feet and demolishing it in the process. I’ll spare you all the unbelievable details, but the result was my dad coming home from the emergency room two hours later in a hospital gown and no problems except bad road rash (and a bruised big toe).

I tell you that because he was just on his way home, it was a nice afternoon, everything seemed fine, and then in a moment his life could have been over if not for the grace and intervention of God. That was his story this week, but we all have our own stories, don’t we? And whether the storms that we have gone through are a big deal to anyone else or not, we all know what fear feels like. 

And that is what the disciples felt when the storm hit them. Look at the next part:

[19] When they had rowed about three or four miles…

Let me stop here and fill in a few details to help us understand the situation. 

First, remember that their trip was only about 5 miles, meaning they were not far from where they were going, but too far from where they left to turn back. Secondly, Matthew’s account tells us that they were in the “fourth watch of the night” (Matthew 14:25) which was the final three-hour period before morning. That means that a trip that should have taken them less than an hour had now taken them 9 hours. But at this point they might as well have been 100 miles away because the storm was so rough and the night was so dark, that they were stuck in the middle of it. 

The whole outcome of Jesus’s ministry on Earth (his 12 apostles) were in this boat, and they are being overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion, giving up, and dying in this storm. What started off as confidence in their ability moved to fear of their situation. And where was Jesus? Nowhere to be found. He was still off praying on the mountain.

Now be honest: what would you be thinking if you were in that boat? Maybe you would wonder if Jesus even cared? Why he would leave you alone like this? Why this short journey was so hard? Or if this is it – this is how it ends.

Thankfully that wasn’t the end for the disciples! Let’s keep reading:

[19] When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.  

As if it was possible to be more frightened, when they saw this figure coming toward them they thought it was a ghost and cried out in terror. They were probably thinking, “first the darkness, then the storm, now it’s the grim reaper coming for us!” If it seems odd that they thought it was a ghost, remember that it was dark and stormy – meaning that either this figure on the water was somehow illuminated on its own or they could only see it when the lightning struck. Oh yeah, and people do not walk on water! What else could it be?

Moses could only walk through the water after God parted it, but Jesus walked on top of it! This was a powerful, visible demonstration of Jesus’s sovereignty.

Then Jesus, seeing their situation, understanding their storm, and knowing their fears, calls out to them. John writes:

[20] But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 

This is such an important verse in this story (really in all of Scripture). In fact, this phrase “do not be afraid” or “fear not” is the most commonly repeated command of God in the Bible. Why? Because fear often keeps us from moving forward in God’s calling more than anything else. Sometimes it motivates us to pursue and fight for the wrong things, sometimes it drives us to run away from God’s plan, or sometimes fear captivates and paralyzes us from moving at all – we hide in passivity. But we can also utilize our God-given feeling of fear to point us in the one direction that it was designed to point us: toward Christ! 

We will come back to that in a minute, but for now know that is what Jesus does in this passage. He walks up to the boat and…

[21] Then they were glad to take him into the boat, [and when they did, the wind and storm ceased] and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (John 6:16–21, ESV) 

I’m not sure that an actual teleportation took place (although that would be awesome). Instead I think now that the storm had passed and the sea was calm, they realized how close they actually were to the other side and they finished the trip quickly. As a result, Matthew 14:33 says, “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

This brings us to the end of the story and recognizing the main point that the presence of Jesus brought peace into their dark, wild storm, helping them realize even more that he was no man or prophet, but THE Son of God. Or for us today: In the midst of our DISTRESS, Jesus gives us PEACE.

With that in mind, I want to take the few minutes we have left and bring out three implications from this text to our lives today.  

The first one is this:

1. God is always there, even when we cannot see him.

Jesus’s physical presence in this story reminds us of the spiritual presence of God. Because even though Jesus was not physically in the boat for the first 9 hours, somehow from up high on the mountain, miles away, through the darkness and the storm, he saw them and came to them when they needed him the most. We do not know how long he was actually walking on the water, we just know when he chose to reveal himself. And then when he DID show up, they were still afraid because they did not know it was him!

That is why the first thing that Jesus said to his disciples was “It is I” or in the Greek “egō eimi” – which can be translated, “I Am.” Jesus was not announcing that he wasn’t a ghost, he was self-identifying once again that he was God.  

And as wonderful as Jesus’s physical presence on the Earth was, as he said in John 16, it was to his followers’ “advantage” that he went away so the “Helper” or the Holy Spirit could come. And that same Holy Spirit abides in the life of believers today, showing us our sin, leading us to righteousness, teaching us truth, glorifying the Father, and comforting our hearts (John 16:4-15) 

That means that even though we cannot sense his presence, when we are on the mountaintop, Jesus says “I Am.” When we are down in the valley, Jesus says, “I Am.” When we are sailing along on the calm sea or in the midst of the violent storm, fighting and fearing for our life, Jesus says, “I Am”! God is there. 

When we recognize his presence, realize his nearness, and worship him for it, there is a peace that “passes all understanding” that guards our hearts (Philippians 4). Like the prophet Isaiah declared many years before this story: For you have been a stronghold to the poor… [and] needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4). 

But not only is God always there, we need to know that:

2. God does not keep us from the storm, he helps us get through it.

Never believe the lie that God has a pain and storm-free life planned for us. If he did, then he never would have let the the disciples go through this storm. Instead, God allows to work and endure the storms of life because he, who knows our hearts, wants us to know how weak we truly are against a storm and how sovereign he is over it.

Jesus also allowed them to be in the storm to illustrate that the Christian life, is difficult and requires work. We are not saved by works, but we are saved to work. Just like physical fitness requires working out our bodies, in Philippians 2 Paul tells believers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” I heard a pastor friend this week say that there are lessons that pain teaches us that we will never learn any other way. 

One day we will look back at our storm we are fighting against consider it a “light momentary affliction“ as Paul called it in 2 Corinthians 4. He goes on to say: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, ESV) 

Don’t give up, keep working, and keep fighting – we’re almost there. Too many have given up already. God is going through the storm with us. And lastly…

3. God wants to use our fears to drive us to faith in him.

There is a reason that we fear what we do. Maybe we got bit by a dog as a child and now we fear dogs or we watched a scary movie that made us afraid of clowns. But whether it is real or it is in our heads, some things in life that cause us distress, which means suffering, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, and peril.

But Jesus did not JUST tell his Apostles: “do not be afraid”… he gave them a reason by saying, “It is I” or “I Am.” He was not belittling their fear, he was telling them to turn their fear around and focus it on him in faith. Why? Because He alone can calm the winds, still the storms, and bring peace. Jesus commanded them to do something that only he can truly command because he is he only one that can claim what he claimed. They discovered that the presence of Jesus in their boat brought the complete, serene, peace of God.

In the midst of whatever it is that brings us distress, Jesus is still the only one who can still the storm and bring travelers safely home. Maybe we are facing a storm because God wants to use our fear to drive us to faith in Him. So today: turn your eyes upon Jesus, invite his presence into your life, bring him into your boat, put your trust in him, and allow his peace to fill your heart. 

In the midst of our DISTRESS, Jesus gives us PEACE.

Let’s reflect on the words of this Psalm:

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32, ESV)

In the midst of our DISCOURAGEMENT, Jesus gives us FAVOR.

One of the oldest mythical legends that we still hear about today is the Fountain of Youth – a spring of water that when you get in will heal you of any disease and restore your youthfulness. 

While I’m sure that none of us would put our hopes and dreams in a silly magical fountain to get rid of our wrinkles and make us kids again, most of us have something that we hope will fix a lot of our issues if we can just get to it. Some people dream about the perfect to bring them fulfillment. Others are looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right bring them happiness. Or maybe we are waiting for a big break or a lottery win to set us up for success and prosperity. We know it’s idealistic thinking, but most people hope that “maybe one day…” Something will take care of all their issues. 

But the problem is that even if we do find that metaphorical Fountain of Youth, nothing on this earth will really make us happy. As many of you know, only a relationship with Jesus brings true fulfillment and joy. Yet our human nature strives for something else. It is the battle we face every day. 

It is the battle that a man in Scripture faced, too. He was hoping for a quick-fix or a cure-all. It wasn’t a Fountain of Youth, but it was pretty close – a Healing Pool. That’s the story in John 5 that we are talking about today.


We are in a series called Chasing the Son about the 7 miracles by Jesus in the Gospel of John that show us who Jesus is and what happens when we respond to God’s grace by believing in him and positioning our hearts to seek Him. Because there are rewards that we get from following closely, seeking, pursuing, or “chasing” Jesus. That idea comes from our theme verse in: 

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, ESV) 

Let’s go to John 5 and do as we always do: read God’s Word, work to understand the meaning, apply the truth, and respond to the Holy Spirit speaking in our hearts. 

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This story is the third of the seven “signs” or miracles of Jesus in the Book of John that were unique from the many other miracles that Jesus did because they were done in public for the designed purpose of revealing who he really was and stirring the faith of those who saw them.

Let’s read:

John 5 [1] After this [after the healing of the Roman official’s son in Capernaum in John 4] there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda [which means “house of mercy”], which has five roofed colonnades. [3] In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 

This Pool of Bethesda was in an urban setting in Jerusalem between five big columns holding up a roof that provided shelter – almost like a bridge or overpass today. Despite its name, it was a place of destitution and discourage-ment for many hurting, handicapped, and hopeless people that society has dropped off.

Why here? Because there was a legend held by many folks that if they got into the pool at just the right time when an angel stirred the water they would be healed! At the time, this superstition was the only hope that they knew of. Let’s continue in the story:

[5] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. [6] When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  [7] The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 

In the middle of this large crowd of people gathered by this pool, Jesus pinpoints one man to talk to. That is what we call the “favor” of God – which we will come back to in a minute. 

[8] Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” [9] And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked [there is the third sign miracle] Now that day was the Sabbath. [the day the God gave as a gift to his people to rest] [10] So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 

This was not completely true, but instead of praising God the religious Jews criticized God’s work – which is what mask-wearing hypocrites (as Jesus called them) always do.

[11] But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” [12] They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” [13] Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. [Meaning when Jesus healed the man, he didn’t realize who it was because of the crowd at the pool] 

[14] Afterward Jesus found him in the temple [no doubt giving praise to God for his healing] and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” [all of our problems do not necessarily come as a result of our past sin – but a lot do – and this man’s evidently did]

[15] The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. [16] And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. [17] But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:1-15, ESV) 

There is much to this story that we could study, but for now I want to give 5 quick observations about what it reveals to us about Jesus’s nature and work.  

1. JESUS WENT TO WHERE PEOPLE WERE

Jesus ministered to all kinds of people in all kinds of places: in the city, out in the country, at the outskirts of the town, in the temple, in homes, at the courthouse, on the sea, and even in the graveyard. In the Gospels we see Him purposefully going to where he could best reach people that needed him, such as this urban area of Jerusalem by the pool where helpless invalids were.

We talk about this all the time, but Jesus’s mission to “seek and save those who are lost” is great news for us because we were those who were lost apart from the grace of God. He left the splendor of Heaven and made his home on earth to put himself in a position to “sympathize” with and bring life to the poor, sick, outcast, sinful, and spiritually dead – which is everyone. The Gospel is for ALL those who are far off today.  

But next in the story we see that… 

2. JESUS FOUND THE PERSON IN THE CROWD

I love this. Even though there was a crowd of (as verse 3 says) “blind, lame, and paralyzed” invalids gathered around because of the legend of the pool, Jesus had a way of finding the one in the midst of the many. Yes he cared about the whole, but he also cared for the individual. 

Scripture paints a vivid picture of humanity here because the world, America, Virginia, and our county is full of spiritually “blind, lame, and paralyzed” men and women. They are all gathering around different pools that they hope one day will finally work for them and bring them the help and fulfillment that they need – whether that be relationships, occupations, kids, religions, self actualization, or something else. But they are just myths and will not heal us.  

In this story Jesus is demonstrating that his deity is not a myth, his ability is not a legend, his power is real, and his love is overwhelming. When we say, “For God so loved the world…” that isn’t a general, non-specific, non-personal kind of love. In God’s infinite love, he loves the individual no matter who you are, where you are, or what you have done. God’s love is not oblivious and distant, either. Notice how in verse 6 that “Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had… been there a long time.” What a beautiful thought! 

Have you ever felt like no one notices you? That no one hears you? That no one gets you? That no one cares about you? Everyone feels that at times; maybe you are feeling it right now. But in the middle of the billions of people on the earth, God sees you, he hears you, he knows what you are going through, and he cares for you with an everlasting, never-giving-up, personal kind of love. He who created you knows your struggles, hurts, worries, doubts, fears, passions, and dreams. The band King and Country sing these lyrics:  

“…God only knows what you’ve been through. God only knows what they say about you. God only knows the real you. But there’s a kind of love that God only knows”

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That leads us to a third observation:  

3. JESUS KNEW WHAT HE NEEDED, BUT ASKED WHAT HE WANTED.

Day after day, year after year, this lame man would have called out for help, just hoping that something would happen that would fix their lives. We do not know his man’s age, but almost four decades before, long before Jesus the angel even announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds, something happened in his life to wreck his life so he came to this pool to wait on a mythical angel to come stir the waters so he could be healed. 

At least… that’s why he showed up 38 years ago. But think about it – do you think he still had hope that he was going to get better? Would you? Actually, after reading his words, it sure sounds like this man was beyond frustrated. He had been waiting for his big moment, his big break, for 38 years! And it appears that through the years he moved from confidence in this legend, to hope, to wishful thinking, and now to discouragement. He has tried for years – but he has given up.

he was discouraged to the point that he had given up hope. He was just finishing out his life here by the pool. And Jesus (knowing all this) walks up to him and asks him bluntly “Do you want to be healed?” 

Now here is what I thought: “Of course he wants to be healed! That’s why he was there!” But Jesus had a way of asking probing questions to get past the surface and reveal someone’s heart. Because our deepest desires display our core beliefs. Jesus was essentially asking: “do you [really] want to be healed” – as in (my paraphrase) “I know you have been here for a long time, but do you want to let go of all of that discouragement and finally be healed?” 

Through His Word and the Holy Spirit, God still asks those kinds of questions. I know them well.  

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Remember the man’s response? He said, “I don’t have anyone to help me and everyone always gets in my way.” He had the Eeyore complex, didn’t he? Like Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh books, he was just making excuses. His discouraged mentality was “why even bother? it probably won’t work anyway.”  

That leads to our fourth observation (and I am most grateful for this one):  

4. JESUS LOOKED PAST HIS EXCUSES AND GAVE HIM AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FAITH.

There was a time that the man wanted to get better. He used to have goals. He didn’t start off wanting to be stuck like this with no where to go. But at some point all his dreams were gone and excuses were left in their place. Do you know someone like that? Does that sound like your life?  

Really, I think we are all pretty good at making excuses, aren’t we? I know I am. We call them our “Big Buts.” But this, but that, but God, but my spouse, but my kids, but my job, and the list goes on! But here’s a big question for us: What would change in our lives if we (got rid of those “big buts” and) stopped making excuses? That’s tough, I know. 

Now to be clear, this is not a motivational speech about doing better, it is about being different. That is why Jesus didn’t validate the man’s excuses or even help him get into the water. Instead, he gave him what he really needed.  

We see that when we look a little closer at verse 8 when Jesus responded to the man’s excuses with: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” There are three related commands here. Jesus said to first “get up” (meaning rise, awake, or even “snap out of it”!), then “take up your bed” (pick up what you have been laying on), and move your legs and walk.”  

Here is what I realized in studying this passage. The first two commands the man COULD do. We know that he was not totally paralyzed because he said in verse 7 that there were times that he tried to pull himself into the pool, but people got in his way. So he could find a way to pull himself up. And since his “bed” would have been a pile of blankets or a “pallet” on the floor (not a queen mattress on a frame) – he could have picked that up, too. So Jesus heard and looked past the man’s excuses and discouragement to his heart’s desire to be healed, and commanded him to do something that he could do: get up and take up his bed. 

Then he told the man to do something that he had not done in 38 years and lost hope of ever doing again – walk. But the problem was that the man physically could NOT walk. His legs would not work! So why would Jesus command him to do something he couldn’t do?  

Well if you are familiar with how Jesus worked in the Gospels you probably know why. It was because he was giving him an opportunity for faith. Jesus was planning to follow the man’s obedience in the first two steps that he could do naturally by working to supernaturally empower him to do what he could not do. The blessing followed his faith-filled obedience.   

And thanks be to God, after all this time of discouragement, this man obeyed and then we read in verse 9 that: “…at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” At some point between his belief in what he heard and his faith-filled obedience to stop wallowing in self-pity and pride, rising up, and taking up his bed – he was healed! Which brings us to our last observation: 

5. JESUS RESPONDED TO THE MAN’S BELIEF

Jesus found him, called him, drew him in, and healed him. But his healing was in response to belief and obedience. As we said last week, God does not NEED our obedience to work. He created all things with nothing but his voice just fine without us in the beginning. But he chooses to involve us and work through our obedience. Because his obedience displayed his belief. 

This man was at the point of totally recognizing his weakness and inability to help himself. And that is point where God loves to work. God doesn’t heal the healthy, he heals the sick. He doesn’t save those who can find their own way, he saves the lost. He doesn’t strengthen the capable, he strengthens the weak. He wants to work in our lives, but we have to empty ourselves of ourselves first to make room! Jesus said that whoever tries to save their life will end up losing it, but whoever loses their life for His sake will save it (Luke 9:24). 

But there is one more level to this man’s believing obedience that we need to keep in mind that displays God’s mercy, grace, and sovereignty so much more. In verse 13 we find out that because Jesus was hiding in the crowd, the lame man did not actually even realize that it was Jesus who healed him! Yet Jesus healed him anyway. 

Oh how God does this so often: he works even when we do not know it is him. I think in a way, this was looking beyond the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the day that we would believe in Jesus and be saved, even though we cannot see him. That is what Peter talks about it:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8, ESV)

Because not only did Jesus heal him physically, but since he was in the business of eternal life, he went and found him later in the temple and revealed to the man who he was, he forgave his sins, and then he said to him in verse 14 – See you are well! Sin no more” 

And for us today:

In the midst of our DISCOURAGEMENT, Jesus gives us FAVOR.

Favor isn’t something we can work for, it is a gift of God because he is loving, good, and merciful. Favor is the opportunity that God is giving us right now to respond to him in faith, even though we do not deserve it. Favor is due to God’s grace – his amazing grace.

How do we RESPOND to this?

Maybe you recognize that you have been holding out hope for something in this life to “fix” your life or bring you fulfillment. Maybe you’re trying to figure it out all on your own. Here is what Jesus says to you: “If anyone would come after me [pursue Christ, Chase the Son], let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, ESV) 

You can deny yourself, you can take up your cross or issues, but you need the power of Holy Spirit working through your belief to follow Christ. So let go of the reins of our life, forget your excuses, surrender to Him, and allow God to work the miracle of regeneration in your soul. 

Or maybe you are are dealing with discouragement in an area of your life. Maybe you’re not sure if there is even hope or healing left. Maybe you have wasted years of your life. Maybe you have wasted the last 8 weeks of your life since the shut-down. Be encouraged today that God is a God of 2nd chances… and 3rd chances… and 27th chances. And he loves to show up and show out for his glory when we have reached the end of ourselves. Here is Jesus’s words:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV) 

May we respond to God and the Gospel in belief-filled obedience. Even if you do not understand it, even if it’s been so long since you followed God, drop your excuses, believe, and obey. The same power that healed this lame man is the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) – and he lives in us! Through that strength, let’s deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. 

Ephesians 5 [14] …“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead [as children of the light], and Christ will shine on you.” 

In the midst of our DESPERATION, Jesus gives us HOPE.

Just a few weeks ago, the halls of schools were thundering with the sounds of feet hurrying, lockers slamming, kids laughing, bells ringing, and teachers calling out “you’re going to be late to class!” Remember those days? If you’re still in school, those days will be here again quicker than you know it. But if you’re like me, those days are a little further back and harder to remember! 

What does school remind you of? Hanging out with friends? Sports and clubs? Sitting and learning? Do you think about the desks, books, papers, and lessons? Or maybe all you can think of that dreaded word – TESTS! 

But (you probably know) that is not just in school that we have tests. There are tests that we have to take every day in life, although may not be written tests with bubbles to fill in. Instead they are tests on our character, our patience, our love, our family, our church even, and (more than anything) tests on our faith. Job even recognized this in Job 23:10 when he said, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” 

With that in mind, in a minute we are going to look at God’s Word in John 4 at a man – a father of a young, school-aged boy actually – who took a “test” of sorts with his faith. The lessons that we can learn from this man who was seeking Jesus in this story that we are about to read can absolutely change our life, as we are also, Chasing the Son. 

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Before we get into our text today, let me bring us up to speed. We are in a series that we started just two weeks about walking through the 7 miracles by Jesus in the Gospel of John to see not only who Jesus is but also what happens in our lives when we respond to God’s grace by believing in him and positioning our hearts to seek Him. We are calling it: Chasing the Son.  

John’s purpose in chronicling these miracles (or “signs”) by Jesus was so that we would all believe in Jesus Christ as the “Son of God who gives eternal life” (John 20:21, ESV). That is our main focus, too. But we are also considering the results or “rewards” that we get from following closely, seeking, pursuing, or “chasing” Jesus. That idea comes from our theme verse in:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

Let’s go now to John 4. We will start in verse 45. Jesus just finished having a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well and his disciples.

John 4 [45] So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. [Where Jesus turned water into wine] For they too had gone to the feast.

As you can imagine, everyone is pretty excited about Jesus right now. This “nobody” from Nazareth showed up to a wedding and brought joy to the people through working a miracle. No one had ever seen anything like this and (for many of them) this would have been evidence that God was still working and has not forgotten them. Because for the last few generations, they had not heard from God through a prophet – not since Ezra and Nehemiah led them back from bondage. So Jesus was pretty popular in Galilee. Let’s continue. 

[46] So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 

There are a few main details in this short verse that we need to consider to get the full context of what is about to happen.

First, notice the place. Jesus passed through Cana, which was a special place for Jesus because of his family and friends. Although it was a small village in Galilee, Cana was in a prime location on the Roman Road only a little more than 5 miles north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Also, Nathanial, one of Jesus’s disciples, was from here.  

This whole region of Galilee was a busy place with a thriving fishing industry because of the Sea of Galilee. This put Jesus in touch with fishermen (some  that he called to be his disciples) as well as gave him easy access to the people in the towns around the Sea in Galilee.

Because of that, it makes sense for Jesus to have spent most of his life and ministry here. For example, as we follow through all the Gospels we see also that:  

  • Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River
  • One of his disciples was Mary from Magdala 
  • He cast out demons from a man in Gadara 
  • He did countless other miracles in towns, such as Gennesaret, Chorazin, and Bethsaida (Luke 10:13) 
  • His disciples Phillip, Andrew, and Peter were from Bethsaida

Also, as we see in our text, Jesus went to the town of Capernaum in Galilee. This was also a significant place in Jesus’s ministry because this was Jesus’s home base for his ministry as an adult. He even had a house in here that he used as a ministry center. Jesus often taught in the synagogue in Capernaum, and he had friends from here, such as Peter. If there was one place in Galilee that Jesus influenced most, it seems to be Capernaum. In fact, history teaches us that this was the site for a Christian church building later in the 4th century that was actually a modification from someone’s 1st century house.

So that’s the place, but now look at the person. The text says that an “official” came up to Jesus. This was a Roman officer that had a military leadership role. To put this into perspective, in the first few chapters of John, Jesus ministered to fishermen, people at a wedding, a respected Jewish teacher, an outcast Samaritan woman, and now to an official working for the Roman government. This reminds us that Jesus’s mission was to seek and save those who were LOST – no matter where they were from, what they looked like, or what they did. That is still the mission of the Church today, by the way!  

The third major detail to notice in this story so far is the problem. The official’s son was seriously sick. We do not know what was a matter, but he had something that left him in a fever and near death. This was not just an inconvenience or a little issue. Because of the scope and severity of the sickness, the father of the boy was desperate to get him some help. 

Now that we have this context, let’s read the rest of the story: 

[47] When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee [side note – someone had to have told him about Jesus], he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. [48] So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” [49] The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  

[50] Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. [51] As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. [52] So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” [53] The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. [54] This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. (John 4:46–54, ESV) 

Considering this story of Jesus the Great Physician, a sick boy that was beyond hope, and a father who was desperate, I want us to know this:

In the midst of our desperation, Jesus gives us hope.

In his desperation, the father travelled from Judea to Capernaum, which was about 16 miles. But the distance his feet had to go to this small town was nothing compared to the distance his heart had to travel to go from a place of pride and authority as a Roman official to humility and weakness to ask Jesus, a commoner from Nazareth, to heal his son. 

In his desperation, the father did not just nonchalantly ask Jesus to heal his son, he begged him. There’s no way he would have known that Jesus would or even could heal his son. All he could have known at this point was the miracle in Cana. And while we know that he was drawn by the Holy Spirit (because because no one can come to Jesus unless God draws them – John 6:44), he still responded to what he had heard and went after, pursued, sought, and chased Jesus. He was willing to do whatever it took to help his son. 

In his desperation, the father heard Jesus’s remark about “unless you see signs and wonders” and did not let it sidetrack him from his pursuit of getting help. When Jesus said that, he was not only challenging the royal official, but also all the people around that saw it who remembered when Jesus turned the water into wine and were just looking for another show of Jesus’s power. But this man persevered and asked Jesus again, which proved that he wasn’t there for a sign or a wonder but because he thought that Jesus was the only one that could offer any kind of help to his son. 

Which leads to one more attribute about his desperation – the father believed that Jesus not only could heal his son, but that he did. When Jesus said, “Go; your son will live,” we read in verse 50 that “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” His belief was not just in words or thought, it was in action. Later as he journeyed back home, verse 53 says that he “knew” it was not an accident or coincidence, but that it was Jesus who worked a miracle without even touching his son. And as a result of his belief, “all his household” believed as well! 

So this desperate Roman official came and prayed to Jesus in humility, expressed a willingness to do whatever it took, persevered even when he was challenged, and then believed Jesus in his heart and acted on his belief in his actions. Even in the midst of his desperation, Jesus gave him hope.  

———

This is an inspirational story with a great ending, but we can’t leave it at that. There are lessons here that we learn about who Jesus is (that he IS the great healer and hope-giver), but also about ourselves and the rewards that we get from seeking Christ. Because if we allow it, our desperation, too, will lead us to humility and a recognition of our weakness. It will lead us to a willingness to step out and do whatever it takes, especially surrendering ourselves to God.  

Our desperation will lead us to perseverance through difficulties of life, the challenges of God’s Word, the criticisms of others, and the risk of getting our feelings hurt. When we are desperate enough, someone challenging our motives or asking us to move out of our comfort zone will not stop us.  

And if we allow it, our desperation will lead us to belief in God for who he truly is. Because at the end of that road of desperation, humility, willingness, perseverance, and belief, we find Jesus. Jesus always leads us to hope. Hope is more than a good feeling. It is a nearly tangible confidence, trust, and faith. Hope goes beyond our present situation, it lets go of any past assumptions, and it clings to the future solution provided by God.

There is no greater outcome or conclusion, more profound truth, or more significant discovery through what we are going through than to get the hope of the Gospel of Jesus. Do you need hope? Seek Christ. Chase the Son. Because even in the midst of our desperation, Jesus gives us hope. 

So what should our response be to these truths from God’s Word? 

Do you need to allow your desperation to lead you to humility, willingness, perseverance, belief, and ultimately hope in Jesus? What are you desperate for? What in your life has pushed you to the end of your ability? What are you finally recognizing is out of your control? Allow the grace of God that has appeared to all people move you to (as Titus 2:11-13 says), “…renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” 

Remember the “tests” that we talked about in the beginning? Here is life’s biggest test. Whether our situation be confusion, sickness, the loss of a job, financial struggles, or dealing with death, the question is this: will we allow it to drive us to doubt God or drive us to trust in him? Will we chase the Son? Because at the end of our rope is hope in Jesus. 

Or maybe our response needs to be to act on something we say we believe. Because true belief ALWAYS requires action. The Roman official did not stay home and complain nor did he keep asking Jesus when he said to “go.” Instead, he went in obedience. While the spoken Word of Jesus did the work, God’s blessing followed the man’s belief-filled and faithful obedience.  

But there were other times in Scripture when Jesus did not do something because of peoples’ unbelief and lack of faith. In fact, one of the saddest verses in the New Testament is

Matthew 13:58 that says, “And [Jesus] did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

God does not NEED our belief, but for our own growth and for his own glory, He allows us to struggle to the point where we need HIM to step in. And then because he is a good Father, God LOVES to do great things for his children when they live in obedience to him, even when it is difficult.  

The world is full of people that say they believe with their mouth, but have never really believed with their heart. How do we know? Because it hasn’t resulted in actions. They still live the kind of lives they want to live. James said that faith without works is actually just “dead.” This isn’t about perfect or keeping a law, it is about obedience out of love for our Father. 

Lastly, maybe our response needs to be (as the official did) to stop and take notice of how God has worked and just give him praise. What if instead of complaining about our situation, we use it as a platform to praise God? If we do, we will not only see more of who Jesus is and how he is always at work, but it will impact others around us eternally – especially those closest to us. 

So how desperate are we? Let’s let go of any pride, reservation, fear, and doubt, seek Christ who is the only one that can truly help us and bring hope.


This sermon was preached by Robert Hampshire at Village Church in Churchville, VA.

In the midst of our DISAPPOINTMENT, Jesus gives us JOY.

There is an old adage that says, “anything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong.” It is called Murphy’s Law. It reminds me of an angry sounding song called “Ironic” by Allison Morsette that I heard years ago. I do not necessarily endorse the song, but it did have a pretty interesting take on life when it says:

“Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you.
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
.
And life has a funny way of helping you out
When you think everything’s gone wrong. And everything blows up in your face”

That is a pretty pessimistic way of looking at life, but we all know that not everything always goes as planned. I have way too many stories to illustrate that point, and I’m sure you do to. 

In fact, we are living in a time in the world right now that a whole lot of plans have fallen apart. 

So what do you do when the plans that you made aren’t working out? What do you do when the resources you have build up run out? you thought you had enough to get by, enough left in the tank to get through, enough strength to get over, but you have run out. What do you do when life throws you disappointment or even disaster? When all the answers you know still leave you with questions? 


We are in a series where we are walking through the 7 miracles by Jesus in the Gospel of John to see not only who Jesus is but also what happens in our lives when we respond to God’s grace by believing in him and positioning our hearts to seek Him. We are calling it: Chasing the Son. I believe that God has led us to this for such a trying and uncertain time as this.

As we explained last week, the Apostle John (who wrote this eye-witness count of Jesus’s life) was probably the closest follower to Jesus, which gave him a unique and closer vantage point. John’s whole purpose in writing this book was “so that all may believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God who gives eternal life” (John 20:21, ESV). That is why he focused on these 7 particular miracles or “signs” because they display Jesus’s ability and confirm his message.

These stories contain such detail and exceptional circumstances that put everyone that experienced them then and everyone that reads them today face to face with deciding that Jesus was either the best con-man and illusionist the world has ever known or that he is actually the Son of God that he claimed to be. And when we do believe, as our “heme verse for this series says:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV) 

Personally, I believe without any doubt that these stories are true, Jesus is who he said he was, and responding to his grace by seeking him in faith results in salvation and blessing. But even if you are not quite there yet or even skeptical, thank you for joining me on this journey as we are Chasing the Son.” 

In each of these sermons we will try to accomplish four goals as we study God’s Word:

  • Tell the Story
  • Explain the Meaning
  • Apply the Truth 
  • Respond to the Spirit

That’s it. I want you to know that not only so we can be on the same page, but also so you have an idea of what we should always do when reading the Bible – whether together or on our own.  

So with that, let’s turn now to John 2 and begin looking at where we are going.

In the chapter before this, a man named John the Baptist, the last Old Testament-style prophet, announced Jesus’s arrival as the Son of God and then baptized him in the Jordan River. As a result, the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and remained on Jesus while God the Father spoke from Heaven, declaring his approval of his Son (which was a really cool moment where the Trinity is pictured together at the same time). Then Jesus called at least some of his disciples to follow him, and he began his public ministry on earth. 

That takes us to our text for today. Let’s read… 

John 2 [1] On the third day [after John the Baptist announced his arrival] there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. [3] When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  

Let me stop there and explain a couple details.  

First, this was a huge event in a small town. This would have been the kind of celebration that everyone and their mom came to. It was also a multiple-day event that people (especially the bridegroom) would have planned and worked hard for so this couple could start their new life together.  

Secondly, notice that Jesus and his disciples were invited. This picture reminds us that God who created marriage long before this also highly values marriage because of its grand purpose of displaying the Gospel in a tangible way. In a way, this story takes us back to the Garden of Eden where it all began and God brought a man and woman together. Marriage is one of the most beautiful and sacred common graces. We must treasure and guard it.

But Jesus being invited also reminds us of the importance of us actually inviting Jesus into OUR relationships, families, and lives. As I have heard many times, Jesus is a gentleman and will only go where he is invited. 

Think about this, though. Of all the places for Jesus and his disciples to go for their first public appearance. it was here. This was not an accident or random. Jesus was the most purposeful man that ever walked the earth. To put it into perspective, this site for Jesus’s first act as the miracle-working, God in the flesh, Savior of the World was this small-town wedding with family, friends, and the catering company. That would be like a king being born in a stable and the only people that know about it are shepherds, foreign star-gazers, and a couple elderly people in a temple. Oh wait – that IS what Jesus did!

Thirdly, their problem was that they ran out of wine. For these 1st Century Jews, wine was a staple drink that was often the only thing to drink because they could not pass out bottles of purified water like today. So instead of getting sick from unclean water, they drank wine. But so all these people could drink something (and so they would not get drunk, which is a sin), they made diluted wine. So running out of wine would have been a social disaster. It would mean that the party was over, the celebration was done, everyone would have to go home, and newly married couple start their marriage with this. There was a crisis in Cana!  

So Mary, the mother of Jesus (who was in some kind of wedding planner role) comes and tells Jesus, “they have no wine.” Why would she tell Jesus? Well… who else was she going to go to for help? Her husband, Joseph, had probably died a while before this (because he is never mentioned again after Jesus’s childhood and Jesus tells John later to take care of his mother). And think about it: Jesus always gave the best advice, had the best ideas, and had a way of “fixing” things that Mary would have been very familiar with.

Let’s read what happens next:

[4] And Jesus said to her, “Woman, [which was courteous, but not familial] what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”  

Jesus was letting Mary know that he was about his Heavenly Father’s “business” and no longer hers. Also, as John MacArthur puts it, Jesus was on a “divine schedule that culminates in [his] death – and everything leads to that; every event, every issue, every circumstance is leading to that final hour.” But for reasons known only to God at this time, this event fit into Jesus’s schedule. 

Here is Mary’s response: 

[5] His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

This is a pretty important statement by itself; maybe even a verse to live by: “do whatever Jesus tells you.” But consider this: these are the last words recorded from Mary in the Bible! I would say that she could have said nothing greater!  

So Jesus does not go to the market or the vineyard. Instead, he just finds some containers to work a miracle to display his glory: 

[6] Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. [7] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim

The jars were used to wash in, not hold drinking water (so it would be like drinking from your sink, which is pretty gross). There was nothing special about these pots; they were just empty until the servants filled them with 120-180 gallons of water up to the brim with no room to secretly add wine. Then: 

[8] And [Jesus] said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. [9] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine [which happened between their obedience in pouring the water and taking the ladle to the master of the feast – because obedience precedes blessing.] , and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom [10] 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.”  

I’m not a wine connoisseur, so I had to do a little research here before I could really appreciate what Jesus just did. What I found was that the process of turning grapes into wine (fermentation) takes a minimum of a couple weeks, but to get good wine (the kind that would make someone say “you have saved the best for last,”) would take months to years (even decades) to allow the wine to age and settle out the debris.

But it’s not just that – (now I did know this already) you can’t make wine without grapes or fruit! In fact, it can take three years to actually grow the grapes to the point where they are ready to be harvested, crushed, and strained. But before that you need to ready the right kind of soil, plant them, and care for the vines.   

And Jesus did ALL of this in a moment, without closed bottles or oak barrels, without soil and sowing, without harvesting and crushing, and without grapes! And the wine Jesus made in this inconspicuous way with nothing but his voice following the obedience of the servants tasted better than the wine that they had been drinking which they had made just for this occasion! 

The only explanation here is that this was an absolute miracle. Jesus bypassed all natural science and transformed the molecular structure of something into something else. This has got to be the most underrated miracle that Jesus performed! And we only even find it in John’s account, which makes me think that only a handful of people even saw it, although many people around benefited by it.

Now let’s finish the passage and read the result of this miracle: 

[11] This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. [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 (John 2:1–12, ESV) 

———

So while this sign is amazing and makes for a great story, the bigger question is… “why?” Jesus always had a higher reason (or reasons) for doing what he did, including this. So why did he turn water into wine as his first public manifestation of his glory?  

Well we already know the big answer. It is the same answer for why he did all of his miracles and why John wrote this book: so that we might believe in Jesus. That is crucial. It wasn’t for their convenience or just to show off, it was for his own glory which results in people coming to Christ and believing in him.  

But what aspect of Jesus’s nature is on display here? Or (more particularly) what can we learn about what seeking Christ (or “Chasing the Son”) results for believers? Because as our theme verse says in Hebrews 11, God has rewards for those who seek him. 

The answer to that I believe is so incredibly simple, yet so needed: it is JOY.  

Wine in Scripture (especially in the Old Testament) was a symbol of celebration and joy from God’s blessing and Holy Spirit. And the people at the wedding ran out of it. Their celebration and dancing turned into disappointment and was about to be disaster. But Jesus shows up on the scene to bring a temporary joy or happiness that leads us to realizing the internal, eternal joy that only comes through believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World. 

The old song says, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come – let earth receive her king.” And as the next line says, “Let every heart, prepare her room,” what Jesus wants from us is the same thing that he wanted those stone jars for – emptiness. Jesus wants to fill the lives of those who believe in him, for those who seek him, those who believe that he rewards those who seek him – with a well of everlasting joy. And the closer we get to Christ, the more we empty ourselves of ourselves, the more joy we live in.

This is a tough reality, but one of the best outcomes of our disappointment or disaster in this life and especially during this season is that we reach the end of ourselves, we recognize that God is not served by human hands, and that he does not need our feeble attempts at playing God. He wants us to open and surrender our lives to him and allow him to work miracles in us for his glory.

The same Jesus who can turn water into wine can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, darkness into light, ashes into beauty, and he can turn that which seems so bad into that which is so good.

In the midst of our disappointment, Jesus gives us joy.

———

So how do we respond to this text?

If you are NOT a believer today, your response is this: empty yourself of yourself. Stop trying to fill your life with cheap wine that was never meant to satisfy. It is going to run out. Maybe it already has. Listen to the prophet Isaiah:  

Isaiah 55 [1] “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. [2] Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. [3] Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… [6] “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; [7] let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon… [12] “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace

Paul says in “…do not get drunk with wine, for that is [excessive], but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). If you want to have real joy, peace, and satisfaction, it only comes through being filled with the sweet, fresh Holy Spirit.

If that is you, here is my challenge to you: 

If you are a believer already, let your heart be reminded that the same God who is the sovereign Creator, ruler, and maintainer of the material universe is the same God that provides abundantly for his children’s needs. Jesus said that a good father would never give his son a stone when he asks for bread – so how much MORE will our Heavenly Father provide for us who are seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness! 

Even in the midst of that which might be disappointing right now in our lives. Even when life seems to be falling apart, we can trust that God is good and that he is ALWAYS working to take and transform all of this into good and JOY in our lives.

If you are a believer, here is my challenge for you: give God praise for how he is working in your life, for how he is providing for you, or how he is bringing you joy – even in the midst of disappointment. In the midst of our disappointment, Jesus gives us joy.


This sermon was preached by Robert Hampshire at Village Church in Churchville, VA.

Do you Believe? (“Chasing the Son” series introduction)

Have you ever been in great need? Have you ever felt huge disappointment? Have you ever known great loss? What about anxiety? Have you ever been almost paralyzed with fear?

If you are feeling any of those things in your life right now, then you are not alone! Everyone feels these things at different times in life. I have personally felt some of these more in the last couple months than I have in a long time!  

Well with the risk of sounding like a child’s Sunday School teacher…

The answer to all of these things is JESUS.

It really is! But just saying that is not enough – we need to understand what that means on a much deeper level. And today – we’re starting a journey into that. Today – we are “Chasing the Son!” We’ll get back to that in a minute. 

[intro]

Last week was Easter Sunday. To be honest, I know it was just online, but I think it was still one of the BEST Easter weekends we have ever had as a church! We did a lot, it was a lot of work, maybe your internet speeds aren’t the best, and it is definitely not the same not being able to hang out in person, but how cool was it that we were able to have a sunrise service together on top of a mountain, we were able to all sit down at the table in the Spence home for communion, we were able to have a night of worship together, and we were able to interact with each other (although virtually) as much as we wanted.

But MOST importantly, this past Sunday was so good (no – great!) because of 3 individuals that reached out to me through Facebook to ask for help in following Christ – and I got to talk with all of them this week. THAT is what this is all about! Praise God for that.

Easter weekend last week was also significant because of something that God began speaking to me about through his word as I was preparing: the idea of seeking him. This idea was what we talked about in both the Sunrise service and the Easter service, and I believe that it is so crucial (especially right now during this season of our life and church) that it is going to be the main idea that we will focus on for the next several weeks. So today, we are beginning and introducing a series about what happens in our lives when we position our hearts to seek God. We are calling this series: Chasing the Son. 

Now to be clear, God has already sought us out. The Old Testament is full of the promise and presence of Jesus, and, of course, the New Testament tells us about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And not only that, God is always leading us to himself in all kinds of ways. So our “Chasing the Son” is not going after something that is running away from us, but it is a response and to and pursuit of God for what He has already done for us. In “view of his mercy” (as Paul said in Romans 12), we have the choice and opportunity to “seek,” “go after,” “pursue,” or “chase” him in our hearts. To seek his presence, desire his will, go after his heart, and live in pursuit of his glory.  

God’s Word speaks a lot about seeking and what we ought to seek.

Jesus says in Matthew 6 to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” a verse that God has right in front of me right now in my stage of life. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5 to “seek to do good,” in Colossians 3 to “seek things that are above, not on earth,” and in Philippians 2 to not be like those who “seek their own interests” but that of Jesus Christ’s. 1 Peter 3 tells us to “seek peace.” 

But before we seek any of those things, the primary object of our seeking hearts must be Jesus Christ. In a similar way that the wise men followed the start to seek the baby king born in a manger, and how Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus in the tree, and Mary was seeking Jesus at the tomb, our only appropriate response to what God has done for us is to seek him: to seek him in repentance, in surrender, and in worship. To (as Jesus said in Luke 13) “strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:23) – and of course the narrow door is Jesus. 

Paul preached to the Greek philosophers in Acts 17 that our Creator God, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in man-made temples and is not served by human hands. Instead he is the one that gives to us “life and breath and everything.” Paul then declared that God made all people not to seek idols, but “that they should seek God… The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:24–31). 

And to give us one summary verse for the importance of us Chasing the Son in our hearts that we will keep coming back to throughout this series, read what Hebrews 11:6 explains to us: 

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

Do you believe that God exists? Do you want to please Him and be near him? Do you want the rewards that he offers to those who seek him? I sure do. So… let’s begin “Chasing the Son!”

———

Let me give us an idea of what we’ll be doing in this series so we can go ahead and begin preparing our hearts on our own for what God wants to say to us.

So first we need to know that over the next several weeks we are going to be walking through several stories in the Gospel of John and focus on to only who Jesus is, but also what the “rewards” or results of seeking him are – especially during difficult, trying, and uncertain times. 

You may already know, but John was a follower of Jesus and one of the 12 Apostles. From as near as we can tell, he was the closest to Jesus, even calling himself the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John’s unique vantage point often gave his eye-witness accounts of the life of Jesus a better view, leading to a little deeper or more theological look than the others. Because of that, I often say that it is the best Gospel to study for anyone new or getting back into the faith. And actually, this is the fourth time (I think) that we at Village have preached a series through parts of the Book of John.

And here is what resonates with me so much (and why I believe that God is leading us to study this book right now): John looked back at his life and wrote this book between 70-95 A.D. (under the special inspiration of the Holy Spirit) for the primary purpose of (as he says in John 20:21) “so that all may believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God who gives eternal life.”  

That focus on belief is so evident throughout the Book of John. In fact, the word “believe” is used almost 100 times throughout it! John wants us to know who Jesus truly is so that we can know what being NEAR him is like. He wants us to be able to express like Asaph did in Psalm 73:28 when he said, “…as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” 

And one of the ways that the Holy Spirit inspired John to write “so that all may believe in Jesus Christ” was to explain some miracles that Jesus did – specifically seven miracles or “signs” that publicly and purposefully confirmed or “authenticated” Jesus’s message. For example, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding; he healed a Nobleman’s son, a lame man, and a blind man; he fed a multitude by miraculously multiplying some food; he walked on water; and he even raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. These were not the only miracles that Jesus performed, of course. John actually wrote that there were too many to even write about (21:25)! But these seven had the same purpose of stirring up the faith of all who heard and saw them for the glory of God. 

And those miracles or signs are exactly what we will be studying over the next several weeks as we go through this series, “Chasing the Son.”  

——— 

So I would encourage you – if you are not already reading the Bible regularly, find a Bible or Bible app, start with John 1, verse 1, and join me in reading and studying through this book and stopping to meditate on these signs as we see together what God has to say to us today as 21 century believers going through this unprecedented (for us anyway) time in our lives.  

Because here is the thing: as we will see, everyone of these miracles that Jesus performed involved other people – and those people had a story – and in that story there was great need, disappointment, loss, anxiety, and fear. And Jesus stepped into each of those stories, he displayed who he was, and he gave hope, joy, peace, and life where it was desperately needed.  

And I don’t know about you, but there are times that I need a little more hope in my life because things are not looking so good. There are times I could use a little more joy or peace because of all that seems so negative and gloomy. Sometimes I feel like something has ahold of me and draining life out of me.  

And it is during these times that I need to be reminded of and focus on who Jesus is, I need to lean into him, to seek him, to pursue him. I need to “chase the Son.” So that is what we’re doing. We need to hear this. I need to hear this. There is someone that God has placed on your heart that needs to hear who Jesus is, what he’s done for us, and what he will do for those who seek him with their whole heart.   

Next week we will get into the first sign that Jesus performed, but today I want us to end by simply focusing on our belief in Jesus. Because as the verse from Hebrews that we read earlier teaches us, “…whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV) 

So… do you believe? 

One of the most wonderful aspects of God is that he WANTS to be known and that he has made himself known. That is one of our created purposes – to know God. He sent his own Son to the earth to be with us so that we could be brought near to him and know him. He who created us is not far off, he is near! 

Since we’ll be studying in the Book of John, let’s be reminded who Jesus is from John – chapter 1, verse 1. See, John didn’t start with the “nativity” story like the other Gospels – he went back much further – all the way to the beginning! This is what God has revealed about himself: 

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… [9] The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… [16] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [17] For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:1–17, ESV). 

Later, in John 3, Jesus had a conversation with a “seeker” that wasn’t quite there yet. He had questions and concerns – and he was going to Jesus with them (and God loves when we do that). And the main question that it came down to was about being born again to have real, true, eternal life. And isn’t that the question on everyone’s minds – from the moment we are old enough to think about it to the day we day: how do I really live life?  

Well look at Jesus’s response to Nicodemus: 

[5] …“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… (John 3:5-6, ESV).

Okay – we are all born of the flesh (we are human), so how do we get “born of the Spirit” – meaning how do we find true life on the inside? Listen to what Jesus says:  

[16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18, ESV).

So… Do you believe? If you do, declare it! Declare it to yourself, to God, and to others. And if today you want to declare your belief in Jesus Christ for the first time, then please comment below and I’d love to talk with you!

As my friend Rob said this week: “To get through the crisis, we must trust who Christ is!”


This sermon was preached by Robert Hampshire at Village Church in Churchville, VA.