Sunday, September 17, 2023

“You Must Be Born Again” [Matt's Messages]

“You Must Be Born Again”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 17, 2023 :: John 3:1-15 

It was nighttime when Nicodemus came to visit Jesus.

I’ve said many times that this was the original episode of “Nick at Nite.” But it wasn’t a comedy or a children’s cartoon when Nicodemus came to Jesus. 

It was darkness.

I don’t think it was just incidental that Nicodemus visited Jesus at night. John probably doesn’t just throw in this detail for nothing. Though I’m sure it actually happened this way, I’m thinking that John mentions it to get our minds making the connections. For example, to his Prologue. Remember chapter 1? That preview trailer of the movie that told us what we were about to see in his gospel?

John told us that the Word (Jesus) was the light of men. And then he said, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (Jn. 1:5 NIVO). Nicodemus came in the darkness.

He might have come out of fear of being seen. Perhaps he was afraid of what other people would think of him talking to Jesus. It doesn’t say that. Perhaps he didn’t even come alone. We aren’t told. There were certainly others present, like John, who recorded this coversation for sharing later with us. 

Perhaps Nick came at night so that they had the whole evening to talk. We don’t know. But we do know that he came at night, and almost every time the word “night” shows up in this book, it is highlighting the evil and falsehood of the darkness and the contrasting goodness and truth of the light.

Regardless of when he came, I’m glad that he came to see Jesus because through this encounter we are given some wonderful mysterious truth that thrills our hearts and changes our lives today and forever.

Because in this story, Jesus tells us over and over, “You must be born again.” 

"Born again." This is the passage where we get that oft-repeated phrase.

Have you heard someone say that they are “born again?” It’s probably been over-used and mangled and manhandled into meaning all kinds of things that are different from what Jesus is talking about here.

But Jesus says it. And He means it for all of us–with no exceptions. “You must be born again.”

Let’s see how He got there. Let’s start in the first verse, verse 1.

If you remember, last week’s chapter 2 ended by saying that many people saw the miraculous signs that Jesus was doing at the Passover the Feast where He had been zealously cleaning house in the temple, and many of them had believed in Him–at least superficially. But Jesus did not believe in them. He could read their hearts and know that they really didn’t get yet Who He really was. So He pulled back. 

Chapter 2 verse 25 says, “He knew what was in a man.”

Well, the very next verse says, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’”

Now, that sounds pretty good, but Jesus is not impressed. He knows what is in Nicodemus’ heart.

It seems like Nicodemus may be trying to butter Jesus up, right? 

He comes to Jesus instead of requesting Jesus to come him. And he uses a bunch of words to honor Jesus even though Nicodemus was an elite ruler himself. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. So he was a member of that religious group that was so focused on rule-keeping. They were focused on attaining and maintaining holiness through scrupulously observing the Jewish traditions. Following the Law (at least on the outside) plus following all of the various traditions around the Law. That was the Pharisees.

But he wasn’t just a Pharisee. He was also a ruler. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council, a select group of men who had political power in Israel under Rome. Nicodemus was a Somebody. He himself was a rabbi (a teacher). We might think of him as a clergyman or even a professor in a seminary. And a congressman or senator. All wrapped up into one.

And he comes to Jesus at night time and says that he (and his compatriots) know that Jesus is from God. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs [saymeion, same word as the last two weeks] you are doing if God were not with him.’”

Again, it sounds good, but what’s wrong with that?

Is that Who Jesus is?

Is that Who we have found Jesus to be so far in the Gospel of John? Is Jesus merely a great heaven-sent teacher from God? He is a great heaven-sent teacher from God. Praise God for Jesus’ teaching!

But what did He say when He was tossing tables in the temple?!?

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!” (Jn. 2:16 NIVO).

Nicodemus’ mind is clothed with darkness.

He is missing Jesus’ true identity. He is missing Jesus’ true messiahship. And he is missing Jesus’ divine Sonship! “[The Word] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (Jn. 1:10 NIVO).

Really Nicodemus is kind of challenging Jesus here. He’s saying, “We know that you’re a great teacher from God. Right? Right? Is that Who you are? We are the credentials committee, and we’re ready to confer some credentials on you if you meet our criteria. You clearly seem ready for our blessing.”

But Jesus is unimpressed. And He doesn’t seek Nicodemus’ blessing or his credentials. Instead, he blows right past Nick’s opening statement and goes right to the heart of things. V.3

“In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’”

Jesus doesn’t even respond to Nicodemus’ attempt at flattery. He goes right for his heart.

I have two points to hang this morning’s teaching on, and we’ve reached the first one.

It could be summed up with the words, “No one.”


That’s a statement of fact and a fact of life.

No one can see the kingdom of God unless He is born again. No one.

Not Nicodemus with all of his fancy credentials.
Not Pastor Matt with all of his titles and degrees.
Not [fill in the blank with someone who you might think might have achieved what it takes to enter the kingdom of God by some other means].
Not anyone in this room or any other room.

No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

Remember, the Kingdom of God is Jesus’ favorite subject to teach on. How many times did we talk about that when we read through the Gospel of Matthew in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020?!

We long for that kingdom to come. And King Jesus is going to bring it! He is the King of this Kingdom.

But no one, but no one gets to see this kingdom come unless they are born again.

What does that mean? The Greek words here are “gennathay anothen.” To “be born” “once more.” Or the word “anothen” can also be translated “from above.” And it is translated that way many times in the Gospel of John. “Born from above.”

I think that Jesus probably means both of those. But Nicodemus only fixates on one of them. V.4

“‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!’”

Nicodemus doesn’t get it. But I think he might be playing dumb. He’s being obtuse. He kind of mocks Jesus, doesn’t he? I think there’s some darkness here. “Surely we can’t crawl back into our mommy’s tummies, right? What a weird and silly idea!”

Jesus answers Nick’s confusion with a bold restatement of the facts of life. V.5

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'” No one gets into the kingdom any other way.

Clearly being “born of water and the Spirit” is another way of saying, “born again.”

A lot of Bible scholars have come up with a lot of ways of interpreting the phrase, “born of water.”

Many have assumed that it was about baptism. And that’s possible since John had been baptizing for repentance, and that might have been tied into living a new way. But this is before Christian baptism, and I just don’t think that Jesus was saying that you have to be baptized to be born again. That’s not how the rest of the Bible reads.

I think it’s more likely that water is natural birth and of the spirit is spiritual birth. So He’s saying you have to be born twice. Once through amniotic “water” and then secondly “from above, from heaven, by the Spirit.” That’s much more likely.

But here’s a third way to think about it. Water as a symbol of cleansing. 

Here’s a passage of Scripture that Nicodemus should have known from his study of the Old Testament. Ezekiel 36:25-27. 

Listen to this to promise to Israel of restoration after exile:

“I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:24-28 NIVO).

Does that sound familiar?

It sounds the promises of the New Covenant to me. Like we learned about in Book of Hope in the Prophecy of Jeremiah.

And it sounds a lot like Jesus in John chapter 3. Cleansing of water and a new spirit inside of God’s people so that they now obey from the heart. That sounds to me a lot like being born again.

Nicodemus should have known about that. No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

Now, notice that this not something that you and I can do for ourselves.

It sounds like a command, “You must be born again.”

Can you make that happen?  Can anybody here regenerate their hearts? Just like you can’t get back inside your mother’s womb physically, you can’t somehow give your own sinful heart a new spiritual beginning. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” This is God’s work, not ours.

It's just like we read in the Prologue: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (Jn. 1:12-13 NIVO).

It sounds like a command, “You must be born again.” But it is actually a condition, not a command. If you are not born again, you will not enter the kingdom of God. But you can’t do it to yourself. The Spirit has to do it in you.

We don’t have control! We don’t even know How He does it. It’s mysterious. It’s like the wind. Look at verse 8.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”

There’s a big play on words there. The word for “wind” is the same word as for “spirit.” It’s “pneuma.”

In my mind’s eye, at that moment in the story, the door of the house they’re in bangs shut and the wind kicks up and howls through the window. 

It doesn’t say any of that. But Jesus is talking about the wind. It’s mysterious. It goes where it wants. You don’t control it. And you can’t say where it is coming from or going to.

But you can sure tell when it’s been there! You see the effects of the wind. You hear the sound of the wind. You see how the wind changes things. Like after a windstorm, and you see the all limbs down. You can tell where the wind has been.

And, Jesus says, that’s how it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. You can tell that the Spirit has been through them. You can tell that the Spirit has given them a new birth inside of them by the results.

Which reminds me of another passage of Ezekiel. The one the next chapter, chapter 37, when the LORD tells Ezekiel to talk to the wind and breathe new life into the dead bones. Remember that one? Ezekiel 37:9 and 10. 

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army”  (Ezek. 37:9-11 NIVO).

That’s a picture of the Spirit bringing new life where there was no life. Unless the Spirit blows, then there will only be death. No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

I think it’s interesting that Jesus says that Nicodemus shouldn’t be surprised at his saying, “You must be born again.” Because Nicodemus is obviously surprised by that!

So where did Nicodemus go wrong? He probably goes wrong in the same place that most people go wrong when you ask them what is the condition for going to heaven. What does it take to see the kingdom of God?

What do most people think? Being a good person. Doing good things. Maybe doing more good things than bad things. Following the rules. 

Who do you think deserves to be in the kingdom of God?

It’s the rule followers, right?

The folks that took the Ten Commandments seriously.

The folks that got their lives cleaned up.
The folks that went to church.
The folks that were fine upstanding citizens.
The folks that gave their money.
The folks that jumped through all the hoops.
The folks that followed the rules.
The folks who were religious.

You know whom I’m describing, right? Those are the Pharisees. And this guy Nicodemus is a prime example of them. And if left on my own, that’s what I might become, too! So many times I’ve been a rule-following, religion-doing Pharisee.

But that’s not the condition that Jesus talks about here. Our Lord says that no one (no matter whether they have followed the rules all their life or not) will see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. And Nicodemus should have known that, and so should we.

Nicodemus should have known it from his Old Testament. The necessity of a new heart is all over it. And he should have known it from his own heart. How he desperately needed a new one. Do you know that you need a new heart?

Do you know that you need to be born again? Born of water and of the Spirit?

No one. No one gets in unless they are.

In verse 9, Nicodemus responds with one last question. He’s still confused. He’s still pushing back. He still doesn’t get it. He’s still in darkness. V.9

“‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.”

At least he’s honest. He wants to know–if his rule-following isn’t enough, then what will be? “How can this be?” 

That’s the last thing that Nicodemus says in this story. We’ll hear from him again in chapter 7 and then again in chapter 19, but he falls silent right now.

He no longer tries to argue with Jesus. He just listens to Him. V.10

“‘You are Israel's teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

He doesn’t go easy on Nicodemus, does he? He’s frustrated that Israel’s teachers aren’t teaching the new birth from the Old Testament. And He’s disappointed that they aren’t receiving His diving teaching either.

“You talk, Nicodemus, about how “we know” that I’m a rabbi who has come from God. But I actually have come from God, so “we know” what we’re talking about! And you aren’t receiving what I’m teaching about earthly things like wind, water, and birth and the necessity of the new birth for seeing the kingdom. How are you going to graduate to the next level when I start talking about what living in the kingdom will actually be like when it comes? “You talk about credentials and qualifications? Well, let me tell you mine.” Verse 13.

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.”

“I’ve actually been there. It’s my home. I’ve just come from there. And I’m going to return there. I know what I’m talking about. So let me answer your question about how this can all be: I’m going to make it all possible by going up on a Cross.” Look at verse 14.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

And that’s point number two; summed up in one word: “everyone.”


No one sees the kingdom unless they are born again, but everyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life.

Now, this is the only time that you and I are allowed to say that Jesus is like snake.

That snake-like Jesus!

But that’s exactly what Jesus says about Himself. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up...” What is He talking about?

Snack and Yack kids, you might want to draw a picture of a snake on a pole. It’s the story from Numbers chapter 21. It’s a short story. I’ll read it to you:

[The people of Israel] “traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’

[They were complaining about manna!]

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Num. 21:4-9 NIVO).

God told Moses to make a fake snake and put it up on pole and if you looked at it in faith, you were saved. Everybody was rebelling. Everybody deserved death by snake bite. But God was merciful and provided a way out, a way of salvation. Lifted up.

The snake was the symbol of sin. The original snake in the garden. The snake on the Pharaoh’s headdress. The snake was a symbol of the darkness. But the snake was impaled on the pole and lifted up. And if you looked, you lived.

And Jesus says that He was going to be like that snake. He’s predicting His own sacrificial death on the Cross! He is going to be a fake snake, taking on His people’s sins. And being lifted up.

That “lifted up” is also a double meaning phrase. Like being born again and born from above. This is lifted up in crucifixion but also in glorification. He is not just killed on a pole but exalted and enthroned as He does.

“That’s how, Nicodemus. That’s how this can be.”

The Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21-6:1 NIVO).

Do you believe that?

If you look to Him, then you will live. You and I can’t make ourselves born again. That’s the mysterious work of the Spirit of God. But by God’s grace, we can look to Jesus and live. We can believe.

And everyone, everyone[!] who believes in Him may have eternal life.

No exceptions. That’s a rule. That’s a statement of fact and a fact of life.

That’s the whole point of this gospel. John wrote this book, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31).

The Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13 NIVO).

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

And you know what the next verse is which we will look at closely next time:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO).

Look and live.
Look and live.
Look and live.

Nicodemus may have come in the darkness.

But on that night he was exposed to the Light.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11

Sunday, September 10, 2023

“This Temple” [Matt's Messages]

“This Temple”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 10, 2023 :: John 2:12-25 

Jesus is anything but mild.

There is a myth going around that Jesus Christ is mild. That He is harmless. That He is weak. That Jesus is non-threatening. A wimp. Easy to kick around.

Jesus has no bark or bite. Jesus is not spicy, or hot, or tangy. Jesus is mild.

But that could not be further from the truth.

I love the hymns of Charles Wesley. He’s one of the most amazing writers of deep theological hymnody that ever lived. 

But there’s one line in one of his hymns I really don’t like. He calls Him, “Gentle Jesus, meek, and mild.”

Jesus can be gentle. He’s fundamentally gentle with those who need Him to be. He is so tender, gentle at heart (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus can be meek, understood biblically. In the Bible, meekness is strength under control. Jesus never used His power in any wrong way.

But Jesus is anything but mild.

Jesus is no passionless, weak-sauce, no wimp.

And this eye-opening story in God’s Holy Word shatters that myth.

He did the miracle of turning water into wine, but only a very few people even knew about it. Even people who drank the new wine!

But in this next story, Jesus is very public. He doesn’t do a miracle, but He definitely steps out of the shadows and into the spotlight. 

And this, too, reveals His glory. This, too, reveals His identity. This, too, makes Him and His Father known. It gives us a new view to a whole other side to His personality. 

Last week was about joy. This week is about anger.
The first part of the chapter was quiet. This last part is very loud.
In the last story, Jesus was content to be a guest. But in this story, He’s cleaning house in His own home.
The last story was about wine, but this story is about a whip.

Which of those is the “real Jesus?”

The answer is “both,” right? These are both right next to each other in God’s Holy Word, so they need to both be right next to each other in our own minds and our own theology of Who Jesus really is.

We have to make room in our minds for the Jesus Who will clean out the temple with a whip.

Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But when John writes his Apocalypse, he predicts a day when unrepentant unbelievers are trying hide from “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

This Lamb may be meek, but He is anything but mild.

Let’s look at it more closely. Look at verse 12. This is what happened after the joy of the wedding in Cana. Verse 12.

“After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.”

Jesus leaves Cana for Capernaum which was also small town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was kind of a home-base for Jesus during this period of His ministry. He’s there with his mother who figured into the story last week and won’t show up again in this gospel until His hour has come upon Him. He’s there with His mother and His brothers. Probably the other, later, sons of Joseph and Mary. They will show up a few times in the next few chapters. And He’s there with His disciples. So far we’ve met John, Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

And then after some period of time, Jesus gets ready and heads south for the Passover celebration. Verse 13.

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”

The Passover is the annual Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. It was a big deal for the nation at this time (and still is!) and everyone went up to Jerusalem to celebrate it. This Passover is one of three Passovers that are mentioned in the Gospel of John.

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, up to the temple, to observe the Passover, and what He sees there leads Him to take shocking action. 

And what He found was shameless commerce in the place of worship. Verse 14.

“In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”

That was not how it was supposed to be.

The title of this message is “This Temple” because this story is all about what Jesus did and said at the temple on this day. (Though we are going to find out that it’s not as much about this particular temple as it is about Jesus.)

The temple was supposed to be the meeting place between God and His people. It was an earthly headquarters of heaven on earth. God’s House here on earth. 

Of course, God was not contained in that building or even in its outer courts.  God is uncontainable! But this building symbolized in one central location the very presence of God.

And it was a place where God’s people could go to pray and go to offer their sacrifices and go to meet with God.

It was supposed to be filled with God and with the worship of God.

And even in the outermost courts there was a place for the Gentiles to approach God–people who weren’t even yet God’s people were invited to come and to get to know Him, to come to pray, to come to worship.

And at this moment that outer court had been crowded with commerce. Instead of quiet contemplation Jesus found what amounted to a barn and a bank. V.14 again. “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”

Now, doubtless, these folks thought they were providing a wonderful service to the people coming to the Passover. Jesus, coming all the way from Capernaum, may not have brought cattle or sheep for the Passover sacrifice. It would be convenient to buy those things in Jerusalem. And even more convenient to buy them in the temple!

And every Jewish man had to pay a tax, and they couldn’t pay it with the Roman coins that had Caesar’s image on them. That would be considered blasphemous.

So they had to get their various coins turned into Tyrian coins (for a small fee, of course). And everybody needed it, so how helpful it was for there to be guys at tables doing that exchange right there in that temple for you!

The key words here in verse 14 that so bothered Jesus were “in the temple courts.”

They had brought the animal store and the currency exchange into the temple courts.

They turned the place of worship into a cross between the county fair and the shopping mall. Do you see the bustling marketplace where they were supposed to be praying? Cows moo-ing. Sheep baa-ing. Dove coo-ing. Men haggling over the rate of exchange? What a Babel!

Well, Jesus is no longer quiet or elusive. And He sure isn’t mild. Look at verse 15.

“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!’”

Do you see the fire in His eyes?

Jesus reaches down and picks up some cords and weaves them together into a whip and then he raises that whip and starts to drive all of these people and beasts out of the temple.

He’s not being mean.
He’s not being violent.
He’s being forceful.

He’s not out of control. He’s is totally in control, and He’s taking control of the temple. 

I doubt that he used the whip on people. The whip was there for the cattle to get them moving. Though if the people had pushed back, they might have felt it, too.

You can see the people, wide-eyed, backing out of His way. “What’s going on?”

And then Jesus takes His arm, and He slides it down the table scattering the money to the ground. And then to press the point, He put His arm under the table and flips it over!

“That doesn’t belong here!”

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!”

Do you have room in your theology for an angry Jesus?

There is such a thing as righteous anger, and Jesus is righteously angry.

“Stop it, right now.”

I have two points to summarize the message of this story, and they are both about the identity of Jesus and this temple. Here’s the first one:


Do you see what Jesus is saying about Himself in verse 16? “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!”

“My Father’s house.” That’s a bold claim. Whose house is this temple? This is God’s house! And Jesus is here yelling that it is His Father’s house. That Jesus Himself is the Son of this house. He’s not just some random person. He’s not even just a loyal Jew. Jesus has gotten so angry because this bad thing is happening in His Father’s house! So that it personally affects Him. He is Lord over this temple.

He has a right and a responsibility to get angry about it.

Imagine if you’d grown up and moved out and then went back to visit your childhood home, and found intruders had broken in and set up a pet store in the front room.

And your parents’ guests are crowded out. There is no room for them. And the room where they should be visiting and enjoying themselves smells of animals and is filled with the sound of cash registers. 

How would you feel? What would you do?

Jesus is filled with righteous indignation and empties the room of the intruders. He has every right and responsibility to do this. Because He is the Lord of this temple.

As His disciples contemplated this in the days that followed, they realized that this was only right and a fulfillment of what the Messiah was always supposed to be. Look at verse 17.

“His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”

That’s a quotation from Psalm 69, verse 9. One of the most quoted Psalms in all the New Testament. It was clearly about the Messiah. He was going to be zealous, full of zeal, full of passion, full of deep care about what is right for God’s house. 

This zeal would “consume” Him. That word means to be eaten up as by a flame! He would be on fire for the glory of God.

And, of course, that will also consume Him in the sense of leading to His death. A few years later, Jesus will clear this temple again early in the week and by the end of the week, He will be crucified for doing it. “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

What is the application of this truth?

The first and most important is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son!

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to think about how I’m supposed to relate to Jesus’ anger here. Am I supposed to be angry like He is? Is Jesus angry about me?

But the first and foremost thing we’re supposed to see about Jesus here is that He is rightfully angry because He is the zealous Son over this house.

John the Evangelist says that he put these things in his gospel so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

In John 2, we are supposed to see Who Jesus is and put our faith in Him.

Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son? Do you believe, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory [here His angry glory], the glory of the One and Only [the Unique Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:14&18).

“How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

It’s only after we see Who Jesus is revealed to be that we can think about applying the theology of His anger into our lives, as well.

Believe that Jesus is the zealous Lord of this temple.

But it is good to think some more about His anger here and how it relates to us. It’s good to ask ourselves the question, “Who are we most like in this story?” Whose shoes do we put ourselves in?

I think that often we like to think of ourselves as Jesus in this story, especially when we get angry about something. We like to think of our anger as righteous. We should be turning the tables on our enemies!

But the Bible says that so often our anger does not trend towards righteousness (James 1:20). We get angry about the wrong things and for the wrong reasons and to the wrong degree. And you and I are not the zealous Lord of the temple, so we should be careful about what we allow to make us angry.

I would hope that we’re like the disciples in this story. Reflecting on who Jesus is and relating Scripture to it.

And I would hope that we are like the common worshipers who probably would have been so relieved that worship had been restored at the temple and the temple returned to how it was supposed to be.

I think what we really are most like in this story at this point is the temple itself.

The Bible says that we are temple of God. The church is the temple of God. Christians are the temple of God. Not this building. This is not a temple. It’s a wonderful tool. It’s a great meeting house. But this building is not a temple. This is not the House of God.

These people gathered here are (see Ephesians 2:19-22!).

And every true Christian is a temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).

So the better question we might ask is, “Are we crowding out the true worship of God in our own hearts and in our own lives together and replacing it with whatever does not belong there?”

Have we replaced the worship of Almighty God with the worship of Almighty Dollar? Is money more important to us than prayer? Is convenience more important to us than gathered worship? Is there something we have let crowd out the place of God in our heart of hearts?

It’s not too hard to think of what that might be. Especially for someone else. It’s easy to see how other Christians and other churches have gotten their priorities out of whack. The real question is, how have I? How have we?

And are we ready to allow Jesus change us? 

Because Jesus is not mild. If you have Jesus in your life, He’s going to change it.  And that change may be kind of violent!

Sometimes we want a mild Jesus that won’t create a fuss. We want a mild Jesus who won’t make a mess of what we’ve been building in our own lives. But the real Jesus is zealous for God’s glory in this temple. And we need to be ready for Him to be passionate about changing our lives so that they are the way they were intended to be.

And that might be really messy. Jesus cares. He really cares, and that might mean tables tossed all over the place.

Are you open to that? He’s probably going to toss a table that you’re fond of. Something convenient.

It’s so easy to replace true worship with convenience. True following with something that’s just a little bit easier. I’m sure that these folks didn’t decide all at once to open up the temple courts to commerce. At this time, the temple complex was 36 acres. They probably just gave a little corner of the court of Gentiles over to the money changers and the sacrifice sellers. What could it hurt? But then it just grew and grew and grew. 

What little corner of your life have you given over because it was easier than what you knew God wanted? Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s good. And Jesus is not mild.

You and I need to be open to hearing Jesus say, “Get these out of here! How dare you?”

“How dare you?”

“How dare you crowd God out of your heart so that you don’t bother to pray?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with politics, with the flag, with America instead?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with your family instead?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with money and greed, with possessions, with stuff?”
“How dare you crowd God out of your heart and fill it with {whatever} instead?”
“How dare you give pride of place to anything other than God Himself?”

“How dare you push worship off into a corner so that it gets lost?”

If your Jesus never says to you, “How dare you...Get these out of here!” then you probably aren’t following the true Jesus.

Because Jesus is the zealous Lord of this temple.

The Jewish Religious Leaders were not so convinced.

They sent a delegation to ask Jesus the same kind of thing they asked John the Baptist. “Who do you think you are?” Look at verse 18.

“Then the Jews demanded of him, ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’”

Notice that they didn’t say, “Hey, what you did there was wrong.” No, they didn’t argue with His actions. They just wanted to know His authorization. They knew that these were not the actions of a madman but the actions of a messiah! “Can you give us a sign (same word as last week, “saymeion”) to prove that you are allowed to do this sort of thing?”

How should Jesus respond to that?

Well, He could have done a miracle right there and said, “I am the Son of God and God the Son and you should all now bow and worship Me. How’s that for a sign?”

But He doesn’t. Jesus never gives in to someone else’s demands. He never provides a sign when they require one. He’s too smart to do that. He knows what they would do with that, and it would never be the right thing. It would always give people the wrong idea, and if their hearts weren’t right would always lead to the wrong conclusions and make these worse.

If you jump down to verses 23, 24, and 25, you can see that there were many people who were watching Jesus at this time and came to the conclusion that He was the Messiah, but Jesus knew that they didn’t have the right idea about what the Messiah was and their hearts weren’t ready to truly change and follow Him. Look at verse 23.

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name [or at least they thought they did]. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (vv.23-25).

At this point, Jesus turns elusive again. He doesn’t want to lead a revolt against Rome. He knew that they didn’t “get Him” yet and knew where their hearts really were. So He doesn’t give Himself to them fully, and He doesn’t answer their demands for a sign. He doesn’t fall for that.

Instead, He tells them about the ultimate sign that was still to come. Look back up at verse 19.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’”

That’s dramatic, isn’t it?! “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” It’s like a dare. Go ahead, make my day. “Destroy this temple. I will raise it again in three days.”

Now, they’re going to have a big problem with that. It sounds ludicrous to them. Way too much of a miracle. Verse 20. “The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’”

“I really don’t think so. King Herod started this rebuilt temple project 46 years before this. It’s taking forever. And it won’t be done for a few more decades, and it will be destroyed. And you are going to rebuild it in three days? If we destroy it? You’re the one tossing tables around in it.”

They don’t get it. And it took His disciples a long time to get it, but eventually they understood that Jesus wasn’t talking about this temple, but This Temple. His body. Look at verse 21.

“But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

Here’s point number two of two:

Jesus is not just the zealous Lord of this temple.


In my mind, He actually points to Himself when He says verses 19. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

And they just don’t have the categories yet to follow what He’s saying. It was like a time-bomb parable, meant to go off in their minds after the resurrection. 

Jesus is saying that He is the true and better temple. He is what the temple was always supposed to be.

We’ve seen this idea already in chapter 1.

Verse 14 says (again): “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Remember, the Word is God and now the Word has come to dwell with His people. The Greek word there for “dwell with” is actually the same root word for the tabernacle in the Old Testament, the tent version of the temple!

Jesus is the temple, the meeting place with God.

Or remember what Jesus told Nathanael at the end of chapter 1?

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:50-51 NIVO).

Jesus is the stairway to the Father. The connecting point. The juncture between God and His people. That’s what the temple was supposed to be!

Jesus is the true fulfillment of the temple.

The temple was to be full of God. And what does Paul say about Jesus in Colossians 2:9? “[I]n Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form...” (Col. 2:9 NIVO).

Jesus is the true fulfillment of the temple. And if they tore Him down, He would rise again.

And guess what? They tore Him down, and He rose again.

Of course, this is a much greater miracle than simple re-building a stone temple really fast. This is a Person coming back from the dead! And this is a much greater sign than what the Jews were asking for.

He refused to do a miracle for them, but He promised the greatest miracle ever done!

Years, later at His trial, His accusers will report that He threatened to destroy the temple. Though they couldn’t get their stories to match up.

And Jesus will later predict the destruction of the temple that did then happen in 70AD.

But here He wasn’t threatening to destroy it. He was promising to fulfill it.

To not just make it what it always should be.

But to be what it always was meant to be.

So that you and I can meet with God because God has come to meet with us.

Jesus is the true fulfillment of all of the sacrifices that were done in the temple.

One commentator I read this week said that when Jesus cleared out the cattle, doves, and sheep, there was only one Lamb left in the building. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is anything but mild!

Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus is the true fulfillment of this temple? Because of what He did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb? 

If you believe it, then you will have life in His name. 

Now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

10 Years of "Resisting Gossip!"

Picture by Rosie Photography
Rejoice with me!

Resisting Gossip was released ten years ago today.

It's hard to believe it's been that long, and even harder to wrap my mind around all the ways the Lord has blessed it over the last decade.

I've been going over my files and marveling. I'm hoping to re-share some of the highlights on the book's Facebook page over the course of the month. 

Resisting Gossip is currently available in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, Russian, Korean, Romanian, and as an audiobook. A companion study guide and Bible study, Resisting Gossip Together is also available and corresponds to 10 teaching videos.

The greatest blessing has been hearing from readers who have grown in their ability to win the war of the wagging tongue. I am a grateful author.

“The First of His Miraculous Signs” [Matt's Messages]

"The First of His Miraculous Signs”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 3, 2023 :: John 2:1-22 

This is one of my favorite souvenirs from our sabbatical in Great Britain.

Heather bought me this metal sign with a red dragon on it.

Anybody know which of the countries on the island of Great Britain sports this red dragon on their flag?

It’s the country of Wales, that’s right. One of the nations within the United Kingdom. That beautiful country on the western shores of the island where Heather and I spent several weeks there in early June. King Charles used to be the “Prince of Wales.”

Heather bought me this sign. It’s really beautiful. It has the “red dragon of  Cadwaladr” on it which has stood for the national pride of Wales for nearly 1400 years! 

And you can’t see it from there, but it’s completely filled up with the names of Welsh towns and cities in it.

They all sound exotic, and many are unpronounceable for me because I don’t speak Welsh. But we love to look it over and pick out the names of the places we visited:

St. David’s

And there are little figures, and symbols, and icons embedded in between. It’s really beautiful. Thank you, Honey, for buying for me. I haven’t figured out where to hang it yet. Probably in my office somewhere.

And this metal sign, like all good signs, has a central message. Something it’s pointing to.

And it’s pretty obvious. Because it’s it written right across the front in the middle. Can you read it from back there?

It says, “I ❤ WALES.”

I fell in love with that beautiful corner of the world: the beaches, the fields, the forest, the people, the culture, the church, the whole exotic thing. I love Wales. 

Wales is the place where, I think I finally started to really rest on our sabbatical. Where the rest caught up with me, a month and a half in. So it will always have a special place in my heart.  “I ❤ WALES.”

Why am I telling you this?

It’s to emphasize the idea of a sign.

A sign points to something.
A sign has significance.
A sign says something.

Sometimes it just says, “Stop!” Like a big red octagon with big white letters. “Stop!”

Or our church sign out there on Route 53. "This way to Lanse Free Church!"

A sign, if it’s doing it’s job, points to something significant.

And in today’s passage of God’s holy Word, John the Evangelist writes about what he says was, “The First of Jesus’ Miraculous Signs." Greek word, “saymeion.” Sign, mark, token, signal. In this case, it is a miraculous event that is the sign.

Did you catch that when Keagan read it? It’s in verse 11. Skip down there and look at it again.

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (Jn. 2:1-11).

That’s pretty significant, pun intended. Jesus performed a sign. It was a miracle. But it wasn’t just a miracle. It was a miracle with a meaning. A miracle with a message. If you looked closely at this sign, you got the message.

John says Jesus with this sign “thus revealed his glory...”

To those who knew what was happening (which was a surprisingly small number in this case, to those who knew what was happening), Jesus gave a glimpse of His glory.

And John told us to expect just that. Remember what he said in the prologue? Chapter 1, verse 14. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

And I don’t know about you, but I want to see His glory, too.

So let’s look more closely at His first miraculous sign.

It’s really a wild story. It’s really weird and strange. I thought this week, “This story is too weird to not be true. Nobody would come up with this. Nobody would do it this way unless this is actually how it happened. Too strange not to be true.”

Obviously, Jesus is going to to do a miracle here.

But you could almost miss it! In fact, there were people who were there, who saw the miracle, who even drank the miracle, and didn’t know the miracle had happened! Isn’t that wild?!

I wouldn’t do it like that. But that’s because I’m not Jesus.

This is Jesus revealing His glory. This is Jesus’ first miraculous sign.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s jump back up to the first verse and see how this miraculous sign came about. Verse 1.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding” (vv.1-2).

A wedding! Don’t you just love a wedding? What a wonderful event a wedding can be. And Jesus’ day, a wedding was a huge deal. The wedding feast often lasted for a whole week! Everyday life took a pause and the two families and their close friends came together to celebrate the joining of this man and this woman in holy matrimony.

This was a big deal especially in a small town like Cana. Remember, that’s where Nathanael was from (the guy in the last chapter, whom Jesus invited to “come and see” to come check Him out and see if Jesus was as good as advertised).

This is apparently the third day since then, and they’ve reached the little town of Cana in the northern region of Galilee, and there’s a wedding going on that Jesus’ mother was at.

John never tells us her name, but the other gospels tell us that it was “Mary.” This is the woman who gave Jesus birth. She carried him for nine months. Jesus is fully human. Nobody knows that better than this lady right here.

And she’s at this wedding. Perhaps she’s related to the bride or the groom. If so, it’s probably the groom, because he’s responsible for the wine at the wedding. We are never told exactly who the bride or the groom were.

But we are told that Jesus and His disciples had been invited to the wedding, too. We don’t know how many disciples Jesus had by then. Last week, we learned about Andrew, probably John, Simon (who Jesus called Peter), Philip, and Nathanael. So probably those five guys at least and maybe more are with Jesus at this wedding.

And everybody is having a good time...and then disaster strikes. They run out of wine.

Now, you and I can’t really understand what a big problem that actually was. Heather and I didn’t even have any wine at our wedding, and it was just fine. But this was a disaster for this couple, and even more for the groom and his family because it was their responsibility to provide the joyful drink for the feast. It was shameful and embarrassing at best and potentially ruinous at worst. The bride’s family might have been able to sue the groom’s family for breach of contract.  There was financial liability on the line. It was a major failure of Middle Eastern hospitality, which was no small thing!

It was a big problem, and Jesus’ mother swings into action. Look at verse 3.

“When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’”

Mary knows about Jesus. She remembers the angel’s visit. She remembers that she had been a virgin who conceived a child. She remembers the shepherds. She remembers the wise men. She treasured up all of those things in her heart.

And it’s been about thirty years, and she decides that now’s a good time to ask Him to do something.

Perhaps it’s because He’s pulled up to the wedding with some disciples. Some actual followers. Maybe she’s heard that John the Baptizer has publicly pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God who is going to take the away the sin of the world.

Whatever her thinking is, she pulls Jesus aside and says, “They have no more wine.”

This party is about to go south real quick. The wedding feast will be a failure. The joy is being drained from this event.

Now Jesus’ response might have been very surprising to her. Especially in the way He talks to the woman who gave Him birth. Look at verse 4.

“‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’”
He doesn’t call her, “Mom.” He calls her, “Gunai” in Greek which is a respectful way of addressing her but not particularly affectionate. It’s kind of like “Ma’am.” [By the way, don’t try this at home. Kids, don’t call your Mom, “Gunai.” That’s just for Jesus.]

Jesus says, “Ma’am, why are you getting me involved in this?”

“Dear woman, why are you trying to make this my business?”

It’s fascinating because I think this signals that Jesus is fully on His Father’s mission. He doesn’t take orders from His mom. Now that He’s into His public ministry, He is distancing Himself from His mom so that she no longer has an inside track. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love her, but He’s about the Father’s business now like never before.

And also, somewhat paradoxically, it’s not yet His time to go big. Did you see that in verse 4? 

“My time has not yet come.”

Literally, “my hour” has not yet come. We’re going to see that idea of Jesus’ hour over and over again as we study this book. Jesus says that it has not come several times over the course of the first 11 chapters.

It’s not time yet for Jesus to get all of the attention. It’s not time yet for Jesus to be lifted up. It’s not time yet for Jesus to reveal Himself fully as Israel’s Messiah. He’s not going to jump up and do a miracle that says, “Here I am! See me in all my glory!”

If there’s a revelation of His glory, it’s just going to be a glimpse. If He does anything right now, it’s going to be quiet, reserved.

We’re going to see this again and again, too. Jesus is somewhat elusive at this stage. He’s private and careful at times. We’re going to see Him pull back, especially when people are getting the wrong idea about Him or could get the wrong idea about Him. 

It’s not yet His time. But His time is coming.

Now, I love how Mary responds to this. Mary is not offended. She is not put off by being called “Gunai.”  She’s not like, “What did you call me? I’m your mother.” No, she seems to understand what Jesus is doing. And she accepts everything that Jesus says about it not being his time.

But she is also not deterred! She is able to accept whatever Jesus does here as the right thing. Which is a great example for you me. As usual, Mary is showing us how it’s done. Model is almost always a model disciple for us to follow. She accepts whatever Jesus does here as the right thing.

But she seems to still expect Him to do something! She knows His heart. Look at verse 5.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

I almost thinks she winks at that point. She gives a shrug to Jesus (okay!) and then says to the servants (perhaps she was family and had a responsibility for the catering, hard to say), “Do whatever he tells you.”

And that, too, is an incredibly point of application for you and me today, isn’t it?

“Do whatever Jesus tells you.”

Even if it feels kinda crazy? What is Jesus telling you to do? What are His commands?

Here his commands are strange. Jesus does act. He does, in fact, a miracle. He calls the crowd together and waves his hands over all of their cups and says, “Alakazaam, Alakazoo. Wine for me and wine for you!”

Is that what He does? No, nothing like it. Look at verse 6.

“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.”

They might have been empty. Everybody who came to this wedding would have had their hands ceremonially washed before eating. The water was poured over the tops of their hands and the bottoms. Maybe several times.

And we don’t know how many guests were at the wedding. But we do know there 6 of these big stone water jars which when filled hold 20 to 30 gallons. What’s 30 times 6? 180 gallons. Imagine 180 milk jugs up on here on stage with me. 

And Jesus told the servants to fill them up TO THE BRIM with water. V.7

“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so,  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.”

Stop there for just a second. When exactly did the miracle happen?

We don’t know. We’re just told that it did. And by the time anybody drinks the wine, Jesus is not mentioned again in the story! I think he might have done the miracle and then quietly slipped away from the wedding.

He told them to draw out some liquid from the jars and take it to the head caterer. He was probably the emcee or the head waiter. And he never finds out where the stuff comes from. But the servants knew. And the disciples did, too. They saw it all. V.9

“Then [the maters of the banquet] called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

We weren’t sure if Jesus was going to do any miracle. Not only does He do it. He overdoes it! But not only did He provide wine, He turned water into wine. And not just any wine. He made the best wine ever!

This was the superior stuff. This would have had the label on it with the highest numbers at the wine-shop. Have you seen those rating numbers? Like anything about 90 is supposed to be really good. This would have been 100, 200 out of 100.

“You have saved the best till now.”

Problem solved. Can you imagine what that feast would have been like after this miracle?

The joy? The enjoyment of the new couple? The rejoicing and dancing of the two families become one. The disaster was averted and the feast became a festival. And Jesus quietly slipped away without taking the credit. That’s not how I would have done it. But it’s how Jesus did it, and His disciples saw it and believed. V.11 again.

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (Jn. 2:1-11).

What do you think they saw? Let’s talk about that for application today. What do you think His disciples saw of Jesus’ glory in this miracle? In other words, what did the sign say? What was the meaning of the miracle? What was the message of the miracle?

What of Jesus’ glory was revealed?

I have four quick points, and here’s number one.

His first miraculous sign revealed:


He didn’t do this miracle because He was Mary’s son. He didn’t have to do it out of a familial bonds. It wasn’t because He was blood. He did it because He cared about Mary and about this family. He had compassion on them. He saw their plight and was willing to intervene.

It’s possible that the groom had really mismanaged his finances and this was all his fault, but our Lord had mercy on him and quietly stepped in.

Jesus cares. And if you believe that, then you will experience peace.

His mother knew His heart. His mother knew that if she brought the problem to Jesus, He was heart was probably going to go out to the family and want to do alleviate their suffering and bring them joy.

Do you know that that is the heart of Jesus? Do you know His compassionate heart? Do you know that Jesus cares? If you believe that, you will have great peace.

He might not fix every problem you have when you ask. He won’t in fact. He does not take away all of our suffering. Not yet. That time has not yet come. But Jesus cares. And when the time is right, He acts. Out of His compassionate heart. And that changes everything. That’s point number two.

His first miraculous sign reveals:


Jesus can turn bland old water into the best wine ever. And that’s just for starters.

Jesus can turn ceremonial water into celebratory wine.
Jesus can turn disaster into delight.
Jesus can turn dryness into exuberance.
Jesus can turn the old into the new.
Jesus can transform death into life.

He can do miracles including miracles in our lives today.

What are you asking Jesus to transform in His power?

A lot of commentators have wondered if there spiritual significance of the water being ceremonial for washing like the Old Testament law and the wine being like the new wine of new covenant grace. And I say, “Maybe!”

Some of have pointed that the wedding going dry was like the spiritual dryness of Israel under the Pharisees and the wine being like the joyful spiritual life that faith in Christ will bring. And I say, “Maybe!”

Whatever symbolism might be there, we know there is power there to transform.

Jesus revealed His glory. Jesus has real power to make real change. If you believe that, then you will experience real joy. Because you know that He is truly power and can do amazing things in your life.

Do you believe that? If Jesus can do that, just think what He can do with your problem!

180 gallons of the best wine that guy had ever drank. Which really show Who Jesus really is. That’s point number three. 

His first miraculous sign reveals:


In other words, Jesus is the Christ.

Remember that’s the point of this book! John says in chapter 20, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31).

In time, His disciples got the message.

“He makes wine.” “He makes the best wine.” “He must be the Messiah.”

Last Christmas we were studying the Book of Hope in the Prophecy of Jeremiah. Do you remember that? So much of Jeremiah was gloomy because he had to be a broken record about the broken covenant.

But in chapters 29 through 33, there was a bright ray of light prophesying about the Messiah who was going to enact a new unbreakable covenant. Do you remember that?

Do you remember how Jeremiah described the Messiah’s kingdom? Listen to chapter 31, verses 10 through 13:

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands [Like in Wales or in Central Pennsylvania]: 'He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.' For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD–the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jer. 31:10-13).

I think the disciples caught a glimpse of Jesus’ messianic identity when they saw the  party really getting started.

“That’s the Messiah!” 

And we know that that is just a foretaste of the Wedding Feast still to come. When Jesus is not just an amazing guest but the Bridegroom Himself. This miracle was a sign pointing to His identity.

And if you believe in it, then you will have life. Life in His name!

Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?

If you do, then you (like His disciples in verse 11), will have life in His name.

“He thus revealed his glory.”

Last point. Point number four of four as we go to the Lord’s Table.

His first miraculous sign revealed:


As Jesus told His mother, this was not His hour, but His hour would come. And when His hour came, He did not flinch from embracing it for us.

In a few months, in John chapter 12, we’re going to read what Jesus said in the final crucial week. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds [that’s us!]...Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’” (Jn. 12:23-28).

Do you believe in Jesus’ perfect timing?

It often seems like Jesus is late. He could have made the water into wine before the old wine ran out. But He didn’t do that.

He could have done it before His mom talked to Him. But He didn’t do that either. 

It sometimes seems like He’s delaying things. And He is waiting for His return until the full number of His chosen ones come to repentance, until His Father says, “Go. Go on back.”

But that’s because His timing is always perfect. He knows exactly when to act and what to do.

So that it was on the very night He was betrayed that the Lord Jesus “took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

Good signs point to significant things.

Signs are miracles with a meaning, miracles with a message.

Jesus’ first miraculous sign revealed His glory:

The glory of His compassionate heart. Believe that and you have peace.
The glory of His transforming power. Believe that and you have joy.
The glory of His messianic identity. Believe that and you have life.
And the glory of His perfect timing. Believe that and you have salvation.

His disciples saw His glory and they put their faith in Him.

May we do so, too.