On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there. 2 Both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Six water pots made of stone were sitting there, used for ceremonial cleansing by the Jews, containing twenty to thirty gallons[a] each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 Then He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water that had been turned into wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who drew the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 and he said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and after men have drunk freely, then the poor wine is served. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He, and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples went down to Capernaum. They remained there a few days.
The Great I AM
This passage in the Gospel of John is the first of seven miracles that Jesus performed that help us know that we have eternal life.
It’s also organized around 7 statements, called the “I AM” statements. When God told Moses to go get the children of Israel from Egypt, Moses asked God, “Who should I say sent me?” God responded, “Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.” So we know God as being the Great “I AM.”
In the Gospel of John, there are seven times when Jesus says, “I am…” and concludes with seven different things. This is the first of the seven miracles that are mentioned there.
It was a wedding. Weddings then weren’t like weddings today. They were very long, drawn-out events. It all started with a betrothal. That lasted for a year. During that time, the groom went and prepared the home for his new wife.
Then on the day of the wedding, he would go get the bride. A group went with him. There was a procession as the bride was brought to the wedding.
Then there was a feast. If the family could afford it, they would have a master of the feast.
I know this one was a big wedding based on the number of water jugs that Jesus had the servants fill. It was between 120-180 gallons.
So, the bride and groom had a problem. They were out of wine. Mary said, “If you have a problem, go to Jesus.” Good advice.
At the time of this miracle, Jesus’ ministry had not yet come to its fullness. At first, only the servants knew about the miracle. The celebration continued and none of these events took away from the couple’s time together.
Of course, the servants didn’t keep it quiet for long. Maybe some of the disciples were watching, or maybe Mary was. I don’t know who was looking on, but many people knew that this miracle had taken place, and word got out.
So as Jesus got ready to come into His ministry, there was already a foreshadowing of the miracles to come.
There has been much debate over the “wine” mentioned here. Even the Old Testament sometimes mentions wine as an intoxicating beverage. Noah drank some and became drunk. (Genesis 9:21)
But I want to make clear that the wine here is not like we think of wine today. The word wine in the Bible is the word “winos” which means fruit of the vine. Modern-day wine comes from distilleries. Those did not even exist at the time this wedding took place. When they distill the wine, it becomes more concentrated and the alcohol content is much higher. The wine at this event was not like that.
Fruit of the vine did mean the “wine” they had then, but it can also be grape juice. Many churches, including mine, use grape juice for the Lord’s Supper.
Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. (1 Timothy 5:23) This was not so he would become intoxicated, but for medicinal reasons. A little wine for health reasons is OK. I know of a lady who was a strong Christian. Her doctor advised her to drink a small amount of wine daily to help with her blood pressure. She did do that. Again, that was fine.
Some churches I’ve attended have their covenant hanging on the wall. These covenants often include a phrase like, “refrain from the sale and use of alcohol as a beverage.” That’s probably the position of many churches, whether they have that hanging on the wall or not.
We’re told to be filled with the Spirit and not drunk with wine. (Ephesians 5:18) Those who are drunk with wine act differently than they would otherwise. When we are filled with the Spirit we act differently than we would otherwise. We ought to be bolder.
It’s possible that in Biblical days, they had issues with the purity of the water. Mexico is a good modern-day example. When you visit there, you’re told not to even brush your teeth with the tap water, but to use bottled water instead. Many countries have this problem.
In Biblical times, they had a process where they would take an amount of wine, and 5 equal amounts of water and mix it with the wine. You can see how that would help avoid drunkenness by diluting the wine and the alcohol content.
It’s possible that any of these drinks were what they had at the wedding. I just want to be sure you understand that the word “wine” has a much broader meaning than what we think.
Whatever it was, they had wine and then ran out. Then they filled the water jugs to the brim and Jesus caused it to become the wine, and it was the best. The master of the feast said it was the best.
Why did this miracle take place? The New Testament is not the only place where miracles appear in the Bible.
Mary knew who Jesus was. She knew that he was the Son of God. She knew that He could take care of this problem.
There are seven miracles recorded in the Gospel of John.
To show that Jesus was more than just a man who was considered to be a great teacher. He was a man who went about doing good. But He was more than that.
He was the Divine Son of God. The Bible says that He was God in the flesh. He was God and He was with God. That’s beyond our human comprehension, but I believe it as fact.
Jesus was fully God but also fully human. He got tired. He had flesh. When he was whipped by the Romans, His flesh was torn from His body so that He barely looked human. He experienced physical suffering. He even knew what it was like to die. He also rose from the grave.
These miracles show who He was.
After Jesus ascended into Heaven, there were more miracles. Peter, John, and Paul all witnessed miracles.
Why were they so prevalent then? First, it was to show that Jesus was truly God. Second, it was to show that the disciples, who would write down the words that became the New Testament, were genuine Gospel writers, and that the writing was coming from God. Once God decided everything He wanted to be recorded was written down, there was no need for the abundance of miracles.
That doesn’t mean that there are no miracles anymore. The miracles in the Bible are there to show us that He’s a miracle-working God.
We aren’t Gospel writers and we aren’t God in the flesh, but we are people who can pray. We can pray and God will come and answer prayers.
At the end of His earthly life, He was put in the grave, but the grave could not hold Him. That gives us hope. Some of us have faced death. We’ve been in car wrecks and survived, or had a serious illness. But there was a peace from God that passes all understanding. For those of us who are Christians, that’s so encouraging. If you’re a child of God, Heaven is what awaits you.
There is a story about an old evangelist named John Rice. A man pulled out a pistol, pointed it at the preacher, and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out.” His reply was, “Son, you can’t scare me with Heaven,”
Some people say that we talk about Heaven so much that we’re no earthly good. I say that we talk about Heaven so much that we ARE earthly good. We talk about Heaven so much that we know we have a miracle-working God, we can pray and sometimes see unusual miracles take place. We know that the grace of God is sufficient for us and that even if we don’t get the answer we want when we want it, Heaven is for real. We know that when this life is over, we’ll go into eternity and this will just be like a drop in the bucket.
If you don’t know Jesus, you ought to. You can call upon Him today. I can help you find the way. Contact me here and I’ll be happy to talk to you about your relationship with Christ.
Have you ever wondered how to serve the Lord when you have someone over you who’s not a committed Christian?
Maybe it’s a college professor trying to challenge your faith. It could be in grade school or high school with difficult teachers. Perhaps you have a difficult boss at your job. Maybe your company is going to be taken over by another company, and it has a bad reputation. You may worry about restructuring and new management.
We don’t know how all these events will turn out. What we do know is that no matter where we are or what circumstances we find ourselves in, we are to serve God to the best of our ability.
In Jeremiah chapter 27, Jeremiah had the difficult task of telling the kings that they were going to come under the rule of another nation.
Jeremiah 27 (MEV)
In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Thus says the Lord to me: Make bonds and yokes and put them on your neck, 3 and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyre, and to the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 And command them to go to their masters, saying: Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Thus you shall say to your masters: 5 I have made the earth, the men, and the beasts which are on the ground by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed good to Me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant. And also I have given to him the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son until the time of his own land comes; and then many nations and great kings will make him their servant. 8 It shall come to pass that I will punish the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, says the Lord. I will punish that nation with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9 Therefore do not listen to your prophets, or to your diviners, or to your dreamers, or to your enchanters, or to your sorcerers who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land. And I will drive you out, and you shall perish. 11 But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those I will let remain still in their own land, says the Lord, and they shall till it and dwell in it. 12 I spoke also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying: Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live. 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, “You will not serve the king of Babylon,” because they prophesy a lie to you. 15 For I have not sent them, says the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in My name, so that I might drive you out and that you might perish, you and the prophets that prophesy to you. 16 I also spoke to the priests and to all this people: Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets that prophesy to you, saying, “The vessels of the house of the Lord will now soon be brought again from Babylon.” For they prophesy a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live. Why should this city be laid waste? 18 But if they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of Hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the Lord of Hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the rest of the vessels that remain in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. 21 Indeed, thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 22 They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day that I visit them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.
Jeremiah prophesied judgment on God’s people who had been disobedient. It had already happened to the northern kingdom.
He told the kings that the world was going to come under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He advised them to cooperate and live. He told them not to listen to the lying prophets, and that even the vessels of the temple that hadn’t been carried away before would be taken away. They were going to stay until the Lord delivered them. It turned out to be a period of 70 years, so there were going to be 2 generations who lived most of their lives under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Timing is Important
Now, before I get into the “meat” of this, let me say that there are times to fight and times to stand. Not always do you acquiesce to those that are coming against you. You need to know when God is telling you to act. Fight when it’s time to fight and resist when it’s time to resist.
When the Roman soldiers captured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He allowed it to happen. But another time they came for Him, He walked into the crowd and just disappeared. (Luke 4:30) All of the apostles were imprisoned for taking a stand for their faith, but there were times when they didn’t allow themselves to be captured. Acts 9 tells of Paul being lowered over the city gates in a basket to escape capture.
I’m talking here about when God tells you to give in.
As we look at Jeremiah’s message to the kings, let’s think about three considerations that may be applied to us today.
Time and time again, God’s people had been warned that they needed to repent, They had been turning from the Living God to idols. They were disobeying God.
The United States has been warned time and time again. The U.S. has turned away from God many times. For example, over 63 million innocent lives have been lost to abortion since 1973. There are consequences for sin.
I believe that we are under judgment already. Empty store shelves are similar to a famine. The recent outbreaks of disease can be compared to pestilence. There are consequences for sin. Just because we are in the United States of America, it doesn’t mean we’re immune from those things.
But we also need to realize that the bondage is not always of our own making. There were people who were faithful to God in Jeremiah’s time; not everybody had turned away from the Lord. There were those who wanted to serve Him. However, they were still going to be facing the same consequences as everyone else. Not all bondage is of your personal doing, but we all have to suffer the consequences of national sin.
In years past, we had the national sin of slavery and racism, and we’re still making up for it.
In Jeremiah’s day, there was no United States. There was no nation that had the type of freedom that we have. The nation of Israel wanted a king. God gave them what they wanted, but had a warning. He told them that the kings would take their livestock, much of their goods, and a lot of their riches. Sometimes they had a good king, but sometimes the king was wicked.
My point is life under Nebuchadnezzar may not have been any worse than under a local rule that was wicked.
They were there because of the judgment for their past sins. Now God was telling them He was going to add to that.
Serving God in Difficult Times
You can serve God in captivity. You can serve God when you’re under foreign rule.
There’s an example of that in the Bible. Joseph, in the Old Testament, was very loved by his father.(Genesis 37-50) His father gave him a special coat of many colors. That caused jealousy among his brothers. One time when they were out tending the flocks, the brothers conspired to capture Joseph. They took him and put him in a pit. Then they took his coat, tore it, and put animal blood on it, They took the coat to their father and made it appear that Joseph was dead.
When the brothers returned to the pit, rather than kill him, they decided to sell him to a group of Midianites that was passing by. They then sold Joseph to a high-ranking official in Egypt named Potiphar.
Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, taken from his homeland, and sold into slavery. He did the best he could in those circumstances. Over time, he was given positions of responsibility. The slave became like a chief administrator over Potiphar’s house.
Then, Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph. When he refused her advances, she became angry and falsely accused him of assault.
Faithful Through the Trials
The roller coaster of Joseph’s life continued. After the accusation, he was thrown into prison. But he was a cooperative prisoner and became a trustee of sorts. He organized the other prisoners and together they cleaned up the prison.
Before long, Joseph became high in authority in the prison.
Then, a couple of Pharoah’s officials were put into prison. While there, they had some dreams and Joseph told them what the dreams meant. He said one would be released and the other executed. It happened just the way Joseph said it would.
The one who had been released forgot all about Joseph…until the Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could explain. When he heard about the dream, he remembered Joseph and said he was in touch with God and could interpret dreams.
Pharaoh sent for Joseph and God revealed to him what the dream was and its meaning. Joseph told the king that famine was coming and that he should build storehouses during the plentiful years so there would be food when the famine came.
The king was so impressed that he put Joseph in charge of storing up the grain for the coming famine. The man who was once a prisoner was now in a place of high authority in Egypt.
Even in captivity, you can serve the Lord.
Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego
Think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3:16-28) The king had erected a statue of a false god and ordered everyone to bow whenever they heard the music. The king commanded that anyone who would not worship be thrown into the fiery furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not do it. Their refusal was reported to the king. The king had a dilemma because during their captivity, the three had found favor with him. He didn’t want to execute them.
The king confronted them and asked again if they would bow. They all said no. The king asked if their God was able to deliver them. They said they knew He was able, but even if He chose not to, they still wouldn’t worship the false god.
So, the three were thrown into the furnace. When someone looked inside, they did not see three people…but four! The Son of God was in that furnace with them. They were delivered.
During Daniel’s captivity, the king decreed that no one was allowed to pray for a period of time. Daniel defied the order and prayed three times a day, as he always had. He was thrown into a den of hungry lions. The lions’ mouths were shut and Daniel was delivered. (Daniel 6)
In 2 Kings 5, we find the story of Naaman. He was a great warrior, but he had leprosy. A slave girl who was serving his wife talked about the prophet Elisha in her homeland. Naaman trekked to Jerusalem for healing. Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him. He sent word that Naaman should go wash in the Jordan River 7 times. He was healed.
You can serve the Lord in captivity. You can serve the Lord when things aren’t going well. You can serve the Lord if your government becomes corrupt.
We still have a responsibility to serve God to the best of our ability. We still have a responsibility to do that which is right and to be honest.
Do things for God, and your treasures will be laid up in heaven. We need to make sure that our friends and family have the promise of heaven, regardless of what the future holds. Remember, we’re just passing through.
In my last post, I talked about Triumph to tragedy to what? “Victory” is what all of us who know the Lord want to say. Today I’m talking about triumph to tragedy to glory.
24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were greatly perplexed concerning this, suddenly two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 As they were afraid and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered His words. 9 And they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 But their words seemed like fables to them, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves. He departed, wondering in himself what had happened.
John was a passenger in the car. They had been up quite a while, and it was dark. He began to doze off, then he’d raise up. Then he’d doze off again, and then sit up again. Then, all at once, he heard a gasp from the driver, and then it became sort of a shriek. John woke up and saw that they were quickly approaching a tree. He saw the windshield shatter before his eyes. After that…something happened.
Previous Blog Post
Today I want to talk about the triumph first, the tragedy, and then the glory. In my last blog, I talked about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That was a wonderful thing. The crowd cried, “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!”
Accused and Tried
But He knew the rest of the week was going to be different, and it was. It became a tragedy.
Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was taken before the High Priest where a fake trial was held. He was found guilty of blasphemy. They did not have the legal authority to put Him to death, which was their ultimate goal. So, they took Him before Pilate, who was a representative of the Roman government.
Pilate completed his investigation and said he found no fault in Jesus’ actions. He washed his hands and said he was “innocent of this man’s blood.” The crowd cried out and said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children!” Pilate said, “Yes! His blood WILL be on you, and on your children.” Then he caved to the pressure, turned, and gave the order to crucify Jesus.
Scourged and Crucified
So, they took Jesus and hung Him on a cross between two thieves. It was an innocent man hanging between two definite criminals.
It wasn’t just a man, however. People had seen Him perform miracles. Although they understood that He was fully man, fully human, He was also the divine Son of God.
Before being nailed to the cross, he had been whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails. His flesh was torn from his body and hung in ribbons. One scripture says that it couldn’t be recognized as human flesh. It was the most horrific physical suffering we could imagine. It was so graphic that one movie that was made about the crucifixion had to receive an “R” rating due to the violence. Even though that depiction was awful, the reality was even worse.
More Than Physical Suffering
As bad as the physical suffering was, He also suffered spiritually. He who knew no sin became sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21). The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and that’s what Jesus did…He died. Because He was the Son of God, His death was different from any other death.
We’re all aware of physical death. That’s what we see at funerals. But there’s also spiritual death. It’s much deeper. It’s when we’re separated from God. But you don’t have to be separated from God because Jesus died the death that we deserve. We don’t have to be separated from God. He offers it as a free gift to mankind. I pray that if you’ve never accepted that gift you would do it before this day is over.
A Different Kind of Death
A lot of people die, but their death doesn’t count to me. Of all the funerals I’ve attended, those people’s death didn’t count to me. But because Jesus was the Son of God, His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for all of our sins. He didn’t have to pay the penalty for His sins because He had none. The only way He could “have” sin was for it to be taken from us and, in a way I don’t understand, be placed on Him. So, He became sin and suffered the ultimate penalty of death.
If you’re in a spiritual state of confusion and you wonder where you are, the thing you need to do most is to not leave that up to doubt and come to Christ. It’s the same answer whether you don’t know Him or you do.
Regardless of your previous church experience, do you know that you know if you were like John in that car wreck, you would go to Glory? If you don’t, there’s no need for you to be in that state. Before this day is over, you can get in contact with me via this blog and I will pray with you. Your prayer is how you will receive the gift. You can go to sleep tonight knowing for sure!
So, it’s tragedy to triumph to what can be glory. In the case of Jesus, it was, indeed, glory. The scripture above tells the story.
The women were going to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body with oils and spices. They were concerned because they knew there was a large stone blocking the entrance and wondered who would roll the stone away. It is believed that it weighed between one and a half and two tons.
It turned out that they didn’t need to worry. When they arrived at the tomb of Jesus, two angels were there and had rolled the stone away.
The Bible tells us that there were Roman guards as well as temple guards watching the tomb. History says it may have been as many as 16 in total. Four at a time would stand at the mouth of the tomb while the others would patrol the rest of the area around it.
They took turns guarding the entrance so no one would fall asleep. If one did happen to fall asleep, the sentence was usually death.
The Rest of the Story
In order to get the whole story, it’s necessary to read all 4 of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). But the Bible tells us that a great earthquake came and the guards were “like dead men” – they were asleep. They didn’t even see the stone rolled away.
After Jesus rose from the dead, those who wanted Him crucified went to the Roman guards and instructed them to tell people that the disciples had come and stolen the body. The guards feared that they would be put to death, but the Jewish leaders assured them that they had great influence and would pay off the leaders to save the Roman soldiers from execution.
That’s the story that was circulated. But, that’s not what happened. Jesus did die, and He was in that tomb, but He rose again, victorious over death.
When the women went and told the disciples, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first, and when Peter arrived, he looked inside, and then he went in. He found the grave clothes lying in a pile. But the napkin that had covered His face was folded by itself. (John20:7) Jesus had been dead, but now He was alive! It was unimaginable!
They’d seen all kinds of things that defied the mind of man. There was the time when 5,000 men, plus women and children, needed to be fed. A collection was taken up, and they got 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. Jesus was able to feed that entire crowd with that, plus leftovers!
Another time, the disciples were out in a boat. There was a storm on the water. They looked off in the distance and saw Jesus walking on the water. It defies the mind of man. How could He do these things? He was God in the flesh!
But the greatest miracle of all had just taken place. Jesus died, willingly laying down His life. They did not take it from Him. It was His choice. Then, He rose Himself from the dead with the power of the Father.
To make sure that we “got” it, He appeared to the disciples. The first time He did that, Thomas wasn’t with them. The others tried to tell him that they’d seen the risen Savior, but he refused to believe until he could put his hand in Jesus’ side where the spear had pierced Him and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet (John 20:24).
The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was with them. Jesus turned to Thomas, who fell at His feet and cried, “My Lord and my God.”
He arose victorious!
So, you have the triumph of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection. Think about John. The windshield shattered in front of him. He heard a loud crash. He was about to go through the windshield, but all at once, there was no pain, just comfort. There was bright light all around. Angels? Maybe. I know this: it was good. His body was mangled and would have to be buried. Triumph to tragedy to glory.
That is how it would be if you’ve accepted the Lord’s free gift of salvation. Isn’t it a wonderful and marvelous thing?
We can’t do enough to be good enough. We can’t do enough to make up for all the wrongs that we’ve done in the past. We can’t do enough to erase all the resentments we’ve had in the past. We can’t take care of it ourselves. But Jesus did. He paid it all.
For those who accept His free gift, it doesn’t matter if they die in a car wreck or if sickness ravages their health, they will go on to Glory.
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. We know that after He died, He went to what He described as paradise.
The thief who was crucified next to Him said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The other thief reviled Jesus but the first one said, “He (Jesus) is innocent. You and I are guilty.” Jesus turned to the first one and said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
So, Jesus rose again. He arose in a body that could be recognized. When He appeared to His disciples, they knew who He was.
He asked them for some fish, and they gave it to Him and He ate it (Luke 24:41-43). That showed that it was a physical body, not just a spirit. It wasn’t a mass hallucination, it wasn’t a hologram, it was a physical body. The disciples saw it.
Two people were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus appeared to them and walked with them for a while. It took them some time, but they finally figured out who He was and recognized Him.
They recalled how He spoke about the Old Testament prophecies and how they pointed to Jesus coming, dying, and rising again. They asked, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…” (Luke 24:13-35)
Because He disappeared from their sight. Yes, it was a physical body but it did some amazing things. He walked through walls, appeared inside, and appeared inside.
He is the first fruit of the resurrection. That’s why you and I can know that when we face death, we’ll rise again, just like Jesus did. We’ll have a new body.
John entered into Glory. What can it be for us?
We will have a resurrected body someday. It will be like the body that was described of Jesus. It will be amazing.
Healing Still Happens
Just think about all the pain and suffering that you see people going through. Sometimes, God will take someone who has a terrible illness and He will heal them.
When Jesus was on Earth, they saw it all the time. Now, it happens in answer to prayer. Healing on Earth doesn’t happen for everyone, and some people get hung up on that.
But I know that sometimes, God does things that amaze the medical community. I know people have had imaging done, and on those images there are tumors. Then they go back to the doctor and more imaging is done and the medical staff says they can’t explain it, but the tumors are gone! That does happen sometimes. God does that.
What Does Your Future Hold?
But, the simple fact of the matter is, unless Jesus comes back, we’re all going to die at some point. After this will be the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). If you’ve accepted that free gift of salvation, you just sail right on through. If not, you don’t have that promise.
So will it be triumph to tragedy to glory or will it be triumph to tragedy to worse tragedy? Those are the only two options we have.
The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, the dead in Christ will rise first, and those of us who are Christians and are still alive will be caught up with Him in the air and will forever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17)
Those bodies are going to be fully realized, resurrected bodies just like Jesus has. What happens between now and then? I don’t have all the answers, but we know some things from scripture.
A Conscious Experience
One thing is: The thief who was on the cross next to Jesus was later with Jesus in a conscious experience.
We know that Jesus talked about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Jesus said that they died, and the rich man, being in torment in conscious existence, lifted up his eyes and saw that Lazarus was being comforted. (Luke 16:19-31)
We Will Be With Jesus
Between now and when the Lord comes back and the bodies are brought out of the grave, something happens, but I don’t know what.
What I do know for sure is that God is good and Jesus is good. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) Whatever “state” that is, it will be wonderful!
Then when the Lord comes back and we rise with Him and “pick up” our resurrected bodies, we’ll be free from pain and disease. The more time that passes, the more I understand that and am thankful for it. There will be no more pain, crying, sorrow, or death. (Revelation 21:4)
I’ve talked about the triumphal entry, the tragedy of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, but the glory of His resurrection!
Do You Know That You Know?
The story of John is based on actual events. There have been people who were in car wrecks and lost their lives. But because they had accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, they entered into Glory. For the ones who hadn’t done that, it’s more tragic.
Earlier, I asked the question, “Do you know that you know?”. It’s not about being self-righteous and thinking “I’m going to Heaven because I’m so good.” No one is good enough without Jesus. If you want the Biblical description of our own “goodness”, it says our good deeds are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) It is the same for all of us.
So, if you can’t get to Heaven based on your own goodness, how do you get there? It’s based on the goodness of God.
As I’ve said before, the wages of sin are death. Every one of us has sinned. We became sinners by choice. We rebelled against a holy God and wanted to go our own way. We all deserve death. That’s why Jesus died.
His Death is Sufficient
He died, and it is sufficient for all of us. That’s why it is the gift of salvation. We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. But we do have to accept it.
Imagine if I had a $100 bill for each person reading this. Imagine if I offered one to you. Maybe someone reading this works for a bank and wants to verify the authenticity of the bills.
After examination, our banker friend confirms that they are genuine $100 bills. Now, all you have to do is come and get it. It’s all been proven to be real. Are you going to accept it?
A little boy with no inhibitions may run and get the first one. There may be some who will scoff at the offer, and insist that the bills are counterfeit, stay where they are, and miss out on the gift.
Here is a free gift. It’s called the Gospel. The word “gospel” means good news. It’s unbelievable for some. They may say, “God wouldn’t accept me.” The unbelievable news is that your sin has already been paid for. Salvation is there. Will you come and get it?
How do you do that? By faith. The Bible says the word of faith is near you, even in your heart. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again. (Romans 10:8,9) That’s exactly what I’m talking about here.
That’s what Easter is all about: That Jesus died and rose on the third day. If you believe that these things are fact, you are very close to salvation. The word of faith is near you. That’s the doctrine.
The other thing you need to do is, with child-like faith, come to Jesus and say, “It’s almost beyond belief that I could be saved. It’s almost beyond belief that You would love me that much. It’s almost beyond belief, God, that You would give Your Son for me. But it’s true, and I believe it.” You’re SO close!
The Bible says that all who received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God. (John 1:12) To get the $100, you have to receive it! Many will come and receive it, but some will say, “There’s some catch to it. I don’t believe it.”
That’s the reality of it. That’s a fact of history. There was a man named Jesus who performed miracles. There is eyewitness testimony of them!
There are eyewitnesses who saw Him alive after he was crucified.
The disciples all saw the resurrected Jesus.
There were 500 people at one time that saw Him after the resurrection.
These are all facts of history.
It changed the disciples’ lives. In fact, they all gave their lives for Christ, because they believed they would live again.
You Can Have the Glory!
You just have to believe it by faith. Come and confess your sins and call upon the Lord. The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) That’s how you walk up and get the $100.
If you’ve never been saved or if you’re not sure about your salvation, the answer is the same. If you have some doubt and aren’t sure if you ever really accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, or if you know you never have, the answer is the same.
It’s all about Jesus & His death. It is because of what He’s done that we can be sure! Not for any other reason.
If you’ve come to a point in your life where you’ve wandered away from God, just go back to Him. Follow the Lord and He will come into your heart and life. It will be tragedy to glory!
Many good stories tell of someone going to a high point, then plummeting to a low point. Hopefully, they rise again. A lot of times, they rise even better than before.
You may have heard of Dave Ramsey. He became a millionaire at a young age, but then he lost it all. He managed to claw his way out and once he did, he made a vow that he would never be in debt again. Since then, he’s become a financial advisor and helped many people overcome financial struggles. He has a book called “The Total Money Makeover,” and has a course called “Financial Peace University”
Not all stories have happy endings, however. That’s a tragedy.
Today, I want to discuss three such stories today. The first one is from history, the second one is about our Nation, and the third is about our own personal history.
21 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go over into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 All this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion ‘Look, your King is coming to you, humble, and sitting on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their garments on them, and He sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their garments on the road. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him cried out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He entered Jerusalem, the entire city was moved, saying, “Who is He?” 11 The crowds said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
In Luke, this account says that some of the Pharisees were angry at what the crowd was saying and told Jesus to rebuke them. Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you, if these should be silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40)
Jesus accepted the praise of the people, as was His right. He was God in the flesh.
The triumphal entry as it is sometimes called, or Palm Sunday, was a great day. But we know that it wouldn’t continue. The celebrating would end. The week would go downhill after that.
One of Jesus’ disciples betrayed Him, and He was falsely accused and arrested. He was taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and accused of blasphemy. Caiaphas didn’t have the power, legally, to put Him to death, so He was taken to the Roman authorities, a man named Pilate. Even though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he allowed himself to be swayed by the crowd.
First Pilate thought that the crowd would be satisfied if he had Jesus scourged with an instrument called a cat-o-nine tails. He did so, and the flesh was ripped from Jesus’ body. The Bible says it was unrecognizable as human flesh.
That was not good enough for the Jewish leaders. They continued to incite the crowd. Pilate said he would release Jesus to the crowd, but, at the urging of their religious leaders, they said, “We have no king but Caesar. Give us Barabbas!”
Barabbas the murderer was set free, and Jesus was taken to Calvary and crucified. The wages of sin is death, and on the cross, Jesus truly died for our sins. He took our penalty upon Himself and He paid it.
All of His disciples, not just Peter, forsook Him and fled. It was a dark time in history.
It was a dark Friday, but Sunday was coming! We saw the triumphal entry, the tragedy of death, and then what? The victory of the resurrection. Death could not hold Him and He rose on the third day.
That is history. The two other stories are still being played out.
The United States of America
God brought our forefathers to this Nation and has protected us. Many good things have happened throughout our history.
In my sermons, I’ve been referring to a book called “100 Bible Verses that Made America” by Robert Morgan. One of the verses I spoke about was John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
In the 1630s, many people were fleeing England and the Church of England. The church had already separated itself from the Catholic church. Many people wanted to reform the church as it had become abusive.
Reforming the Church of England
There were two schools of thought on how to reform the church. One group said it was too far gone, and they needed to, more or less, start over with new people. The group wanted to gather like-minded believers together and practice Christianity as they felt the Scriptures instructed.
The other group was reluctant to leave the main church. For whatever reason, they wanted to stay and reform it from within.
Both groups angered some people and were persecuted. The ones that pulled away from the Church of England were persecuted for doing that, and there were power struggles with the group that chose to stay. But both were persecuted by the government.
Then they heard about a New Land. A place where there weren’t a lot of set traditions. A New World where they could explore new possibilities.
So, in the 1630s, they began arriving in America by boatloads. Many of those who were coming were the descenders and the ones who had been forced out of the church. Many of these new arrivals were pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars. Once they arrived in America, they decided to establish a school.
As explained in the 1643 booklet, “New England’s First Fruits,” “After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the city government; one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”
They wanted to establish education. They wanted to establish it for the ministry. They wanted to start a Christian school. But they also felt it was very important to educate the children.
This is good! This is a triumph. However, we also have tragedy within our education system.
John’s Triumphs & Tragedies
John was born in 1607. He was the son of a butcher and a restaurant owner. By the time he was 18 years old, the bubonic plague had destroyed many members of his family. Only John, one brother, and his mother survived.
Somehow, his mother was able to gather enough funds to send him to Emmanuel College, which was part of Cambridge University. After studying, John was ordained as a dissenting minister. So, he’s had some tragedy and now some triumph.
In either 1636 or 1637, John married a woman named Ann Sadler. The next year, they made the decision to go to America. After arriving in the new country John became an assistant pastor in Boston. He had the excitement of being in a new nation but still had some perils. It was discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he died in 1638. He was young; just over 30 years old.
Although young, John did something that would have a lasting impact on America. In fact, it still has an impact today. He left half of his property and his library of 300 books (my kind of man) to a new college that was going to be developed. They were so grateful that they named it for him. John’s last name was Harvard.
About 100 years later, there was a fire that destroyed all but one of those books. One student had checked a book out of the library. The title was, “The Christian Warfare Against the Devil World and Flesh and Means to Obtain Victory.”
Harvard University’s History
The college was named after John Harvard in appreciation for his generosity. The doors were opened, and a student handbook was published.
“Laws and Statutes for Students of Harvard College” read in part, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3) “Seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.” (Proverbs 2:3) “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language and logic and in practical and spiritual truths as his tutors shall require according to his ability. Seeing the entrance of the Word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)
That is how Harvard University was established. It began with triumph, but it’s gone to tragedy. Today, Harvard stands for universalism. Back then, it was for Jesus Christ: the only way to Heaven, the only One who gives true Light of the World. Scriptures used to be found all throughout the handbook. Today, they describe themselves as being very inclusive, having diversity of all types, and “, especially religions.”
That means that Christianity is good. But so are Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions on the same plane. Sometimes Christianity is criticized for being exclusive by saying there’s only one way to Heaven. However, Judaism is also exclusive; they say (correctly) there’s only one God. Muslims are very exclusive as well.
But, Harvard says they’re all alike. They have an inscription that says, “Facing death without religion.”
I have news for you. If you face death without a certain “religion,” Christianity, there’s no Heaven for you.
The term religion has gotten a bad reputation in past years. While Christianity is a religion, what I’m talking about is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the one who died for our sins and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.
Harvard would do well to return to its roots, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Even in the lower levels of schools, like grade school, junior high, and high school, references to God are not allowed.
In a city not far from me, Carbondale, Illinois, a substitute teacher once wrote a question on the board. I can’t recall what the question was, but the answer was “God.” Even though he didn’t write it out, even the suggestion of God was enough to get him into all kinds of trouble.
Then there’s relativism. It’s almost a crime to criticize or condemn a group of people who adopt a certain lifestyle or adhere to a certain belief; unless it’s Christianity. At Harvard, you can’t say anything about any particular group, unless it’s Christians.
Secularism is also rampant in schools. Critical race theory. Now, critical race theory is something that, as an idea, is a good thing. Racism in any form is bad and should not exist. But it takes things too far when it says that people of a certain background should be ashamed and need to apologize for something done hundreds of years ago. Everyone should understand that they have worth to God, regardless of their ethnic background.
There is sex education in schools today. While I have not seen any of the materials myself, I have heard that they are nearly pornographic in nature.
Confusion in the Land
Thanks to the great educational institutions of today, we can’t even decide what is a boy and what is a girl. You may doubt this is true but we have a new Supreme Court Justice who says she can’t define what a woman is because she’s “not a biologist.”
There is a school where some students are “identifying” as dogs and cats. People who tell them they are not a dog or cat can get in great trouble. It’s crazy! It’s a tragedy.
Will the morality and common sense of yesterday be recovered? I don’t know. Will Christian schools, such as Harvard once was, revive? Will there be a return, in the educational system, to Christianity?
These issues have, however, caused some parents to pay more attention. Some families have made the decision to home-school their children. I do realize that’s not an option that everyone has. That’s a bright spot in all this mess.
But our school system began with Christianity. It’s gone downhill since. Which way will it go? Will it continue its decline or go back to the way it was? I don’t know. It’s up to each individual family to decide, and figure out what sacrifices they want to make.
Our Personal Story
Now we come to the third story: our own personal one. We’re all members of the human race. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, the human race was condemned to live in sin. With the first brothers, Cain and Abel, there was a murder, because sin had entered the world. It has been passed down from generation to generation ever since.
But, each one of us since has chosen to sin. At some point, we decided we wanted to go our own way and disobey God. That’s a tragedy. But, a tragedy, and then what?
If you ignore the message in the first story, where Jesus went to the cross, died, and conquered death, it will be an eternal tragedy. Revelation 20:14 says that Death and Hell will be cast into the lake of fire.
But, if you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, the tragedy turns to triumph and you will end up in Glory! Jesus made triumph possible for all of us.
I asked a member of my congregation to give a testimony during a recent service. You can watch it at the end of the video above. Her name is Janet. “Good morning. Brother Randy asked me to give my testimony about our life before Christ, during Christ, and after. “I’ll tell ya, before Christ, you know, you’re going along and you think everything’s wonderful because you made the plans, you designed your life. It was going pretty good, I thought, and Roger thought. “I was 27 years old, and we had a baby. We had Adam, and he was 3. Neither one of us were really raised in church, and so you can see where that’s going. But, anyway, we decided that we would split our ways because I lived in a house with a lot of alcohol and a lot of fighting and a lot of, not really abuse, but it was abuse. It would, these days, be considered abuse. Anyway, we lived through that and we ended up agreeing that we would get a divorce, and that would be best. “Well during the divorce, I had a good year. I thought, ‘I’m sailing through.’ I’m not thinking about the Lord, I’m not thinking about Jesus, God because it wasn’t in me. I didn’t have the Holy Spirit. I didn’t have any guide but my own self. “About a year went by, and I was in a movie theatre, I was dating someone. Very nice man, he didn’t drink. That was my number one thing – he couldn’t drink. So, we were sitting there and I thought, ‘Everything’s wonderful. It’s great. I’ve got this really nice man.’ and all of a sudden, a voice spoke to me in that movie theatre in Carbondale. It was God. “He said, ‘Get up and go back to your husband.’ I looked around because I thought, ‘Somebody is talking to me. Who is it? Somebody knows me here.’ I looked around but nobody was standing looking at me. “I’m giving you a short version of this, but God – once again, I’m a hard-headed person Roger will probably “amen’ to that – but I have to be told twice sometimes. So if you ask me to do something I might forget or I might not do it so you have to tell me twice. But God, in His great mercy, said it again. Just a little bit more bolder, but not mean or anything, He said, ‘Go back to Roger. I want you to get up and go back to Roger.’ “And I’m telling you, my body lifted out of that seat without my hands pushing my body up, I stood up, I ran outside and I began to cry. The person I was with came out there and said, ‘Are you ok?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m really not. I need you to take me home. I need you to not talk to me. I’m going to look out the window and I don’t ever want to talk to you or see you again after today. And he just was beside himself. “You know, you can’t explain God. God is God and He will do what He wants to do in your life. And it’s best that you surrender if you’re fighting something. It doesn’t have to be what I went through but, you know, don’t fight it, because He knows best. “So, he took me home – it wasn’t the end of him – him and Roger had to have a little talk. He thought he was the man for me, Roger thought he was the man for me, and God knew Roger was the man for me, so you see the point. “But, anyway, during the time after I accepted…I went home, knelt by my bed, and cried my eyes out all night long. And these verses are the ones I had marked in another Bible that I had read when I calmed down from crying. It’s in Jeremiah (29). It says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not evil. To give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.’ “Well I had already cried and I had already prayed for hours. I didn’t think my body could do that. ‘And you will seek me and you will find me when you search me with your whole heart.’ “And I’m telling you, I never searched for something so much in my life. I’ve lost a ring before with a diamond in it. I’ve lost a watch before. I’ve lost things that doesn’t even touch the value of Christ. “But that day I cried out to Him, I prayed and He heard me and He listened and He kept His promise to me.
“Well the next day I woke up and I said, ‘I’ve got to go see Roger.’ And he was living in his own house in town and I was still in the country and I went, knocked on his door and I think he seen me that he didn’t come to the door. “Anyway, don’t blame him. Anyway, I went in and I said.’Roger, I really need to have a talk with you. This is serious.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. And we went to the kitchen table and we sat down and I said, ‘I want to tell you something. The Lord grabbed ahold of me last night and He told me to come back to you.’ I go, ‘Now in my own self, I didn’t want to, but when He spoke to me, I wanted to. And I’m here and I want you back, and I want a marriage that God wants and I want what He wants. “Well, you know, it don’t happen like it does in the movies. He said, ‘No. I don’t know. I’ll have to wait.’ He kept saying no and I wouldn’t leave until he said maybe. So, the maybe was ok and I left and prayed and prayed and prayed. “I think a couple of weeks went by and it was around Christmastime and he showed up. And we had a pot roast and stuff together and God began to work and to mend things. “In that time I had gotten saved and I went to the church down the road and I gave my heart to the Lord. I didn’t tell Roger nothing about that, but I just began to give my heart to the Lord and just cried out for Roger. “I went to the altar every Sunday and then, I don’t know, you can ask him, maybe it was a year, he showed up. He sat on the back pew with knuckles gripped – he was not going to the altar. I was just thankful he was hearing the Word of God. “I went down and prayed even though he was there and I cried out and I said, ‘Lord, it’s got to change. I want him back and I want him in my house but I don’t want this same life. I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want You and I want to move forward for You.’ “So I was down there crying, and crying, and crying, and the preacher’s wife put her hand on my back and whispered, kind of like God did, and said, ‘Janet, you don’t have to pray no more.’ I looked at her like she was crazy and I said. ‘What?’ She said, ‘You don’t have to pray no more. He’s here” “I looked over there and he was squalling like a baby.
“I’m telling you, I had an experience with God I’ll never forget. It changed my life. I was in captivity. I mean, I was in a bad place and I thought it was a wonderful place. But the devil deceived me. He made everything look good. So if I’d had my way I’d be in Hell, if not now, sometime down the road I would be. My kids probably wouldn’t have been saved, I wouldn’t even have Shelby. You know, I just give God all the glory today because He does know what path He wants for us. He does know what’s best for us. We’ve got to get ourselves out of the way and let Him do His work in us. And listen to that still, small voice because He does speak. He still speaks to people, I know, “I love you all and I just wanted to share that with you.”
Which way will it be for you? There’s tragedy because we’ve all sinned. But will it be continued tragedy for you, or will you choose to live in Glory?