Controversial Jesus #4 - Signs
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund looks at the story of the feeding of 5,000 in John 6 and showing how Jesus addresses our fears when the crowd questions him.
It is a great day here at Orchard Hill in our Strip district location. Right now we have our grand opening for the property on 1620 Penn. We had obviously here in Wexford a lot of kids coming through our first communion that's happening as well in Butler county today and then our chapel had our adult choir. So just a lot of fun things happening around Orchard Hill and it's great to be together and get a chance just to celebrate those together. Let's just take a moment and pray.
Father we thank you just for the the kids who came and took first communion today, we pray that you would cement in their minds what that is all about and it would be a significant part of their lives moving forward. And father in the next few moments as we're gathered, I pray that you would speak to each of us wherever we come from, whatever our weeks of health.
I pray that your word would be clear to us and God if I've prepared things that don't reflect you or your truth I pray you'd keep me from saying them. And if there are things that would be beneficial in this moment that I haven't prepared, I pray that you would help me to say those things in this moment and we pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.
So if I were to ask you what you believe and you were to simply make a statement, "I believe", and then you would fill it in with however you would answer that question, I would guess we would get thousands of replies. In other words, almost all of us would say something different. Oh, there might be some similarities, but there would be a lot of differences. And for some of us what would happen is we would say something that we think we believe. But sometimes there might be something that causes us, down the road, to act differently, which would mean that it wasn't something that we actually believed. It was something we thought we believed. But, but our actual beliefs might cause us to live differently.
Well, there's a old activity that maybe you've seen, it's called the trust fall where you stand backwards and some people stand behind you and they catch you as you kind of lean back. I'm not going to do that since no one's behind me. But the trust fall is an activity where you basically say, I suspend control for a few moments and I entrust it to another person.
And when we talk about belief, especially belief in God, what we're talking about is suspending control and entrusting it to God, to Jesus, in our lives. And yet so many times that's easier said than done and we may say or think that we believe something, but, but our actual belief, our actual trust may be different. I was thinking about the the trust fall thing and so I googled trust fall fails. Here are a few of the things that came up. Yeah, this fall and I'll check you. Okay.
We didn't get ya.
Now the reason I show you that is because when it comes to entrusting yourself to anybody, there's a moment of suspending control, that's scary. We've been working our way through the gospel of John. There are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in the New Testament, John is one that is written primarily so that we believe that's what John 20 tells us. Verse 30, 31 it says these things are written so that you might believe so that you might trust so that you might have life. And when we come to chapter six, which is where we are today, what we see is that there are two miraculous events that are recorded. And Often when we study the Bible, what we might do is we might dive into these events and not look at the content that's around it in the chapter. And that's legitimate and sometimes good.
In fact, last fall we actually spent two weeks looking at the feeding of the 5,000 which is the first miraculous event. John calls it a sign in John 6. But today what I want to do is I want to look at these two miraculous things and then the words that are set around it, because I think they help paint a picture. Because what you have is you have Jesus feeding 5,000 people. And probably more than 5,000 because that was probably just the men. And he did it from just a few rations, just a few things. But he took that food and fed everybody. And then when they left kind of that region and had traveled, Israel's a long kind of narrowed nation, they'd gone up to the north and they were crossing the Sea of Galilee, some of his disciples and a storm blew up. And according to John six Jesus walks on water and then he calms the storm.
And so you get these two miraculous recordings of what Jesus did. And whether you're somebody who says, "oh, I believe in miracles, I believe in the Bible, or that seems fanciful or not." What's behind these stories, I believe is Jesus saying, "I want you to understand that I am trustworthy." And the reason I say this is because in verse 35 of John Six Jesus says, "I am the bread of life." He says, "if you come to me, then you know that you can trust me and I will make sure that you have eternal life." And when Jesus uses the phrase "I, am the bread of life," he uses a Greek word. Greek underlies our new testament. He uses the word "zoe", which is a different word than the most typical word for biological life. In the Greek language. The typical word would be "bios". You can kind of hear the idea of bios, biology kind of in that word.
That means physical life. What Jesus is doing is he's not saying, come to me and I'll give you physical life. I'll provide for all your physical needs. What he's doing is he's saying, "because I did these other miraculous things, you can trust me for what matters most to you, your zoe, you're your quality of life." But here's what I would guess is the challenge for many of us. And that is you hear that, I hear that, and you think "really? Like that happened years and years ago and right now my life has plenty of challenges." Can I really trust God with my life? Because what happens in our lives is we have things that we say, "If this doesn't work out, if this doesn't work out the way that I think it should, then my life won't be the life that I want." And as a result, we live with fear, with anxiety, and we do all we can to arrange things so that we never live without what it is that we think we need.
Now that's natural. That's good, that's healthy. That's not a bad thing. But the result is that what we end up doing is we end up saying, "I trust in God or I believe in Jesus," but what we really trust in his ourselves to take care of things for our lives, the way that we need to take care of them. And God becomes kind of sidelined in our reality. And so we live with fear. We live with anxiety.
And my guess is that many of us have some substantial fears, here today. You might be afraid of maybe a doctor's phone call and a test result. You might be afraid of what's ahead in terms of your career. If you can arrange some things, there's some financial challenges. You might be afraid of, of being alone or have a relationship disintegration, or of choices that somebody else is making.
We have these things that we fear and the question is, "can I entrust them?" Can I do a trust fall, so to speak with God with these things?" John Ortberg writes about this idea of trust and belief in his book Faith In Doubt. And one of the things that he talks about in this book is that we have these different kinds of layers of belief, this belief that says, "I say I believe it, I think I believe it, but then what I actually believe..." And here's how he writes about this. At one point he says, "True confessions. Have you been involved in any deception, exaggeration, or distortion over the last year? If your answer is no, you're involved in deception right now. So your true credo might involve beliefs like this" And what he's doing now is he saying these is aren't the things that we say we believe, even think we believe, but sometimes these are the things that we really believe.
"I believe that a lie is a bad thing, but it might be necessary for me to avoid pain. I believe that it pays to be nicest to people who can do something for me. People who are wealthy, attractive, smart, athletic, successful or important. I believe that I have the right to pass judgment on other people. I believe that I have the right to gossip about people. I believe that I had better be looking out for myself, for number one. I believe that things have not gone as well for me as they should. So I deserve a little treat, another donut, another drink, another pill, another fantasy. And I believe that 30,000 children dying of preventable diseases every day in our world are not worth me risking my affluence for." See, we may say we believe something, we may even think we believe something. But the way that we choose to live actually forms a mental map of how we really live.
And so what I'd like to do is looking at these stories, the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus walking on water is, I'd like to look at the dialogue that follows. Because Jesus's dialogue with the people who were around him are instructive. And what we see in this section is we see four questions that the people asked Jesus. And when they ask these questions, what they were doing, in a sense it was they were interacting with their own trust issues. And I believe that these might point to your trust issues, my trust issues. And for some of us this might be, "do I trust God at all? Is there even a god?" For others it might be, "I believe there's a god. I believe in Jesus. I've been a follower of Jesus, but can I trust Jesus? with what's most important to me? Or do I need to take care of it myself?"
And here's the first question that we see. This is in verse 25. And this is after, now Jesus has calmed the storm, gotten the other side and it says this, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" That doesn't seem like much of a question. I'm going to say it's a practical question, but we see from what Jesus says right after this exactly what this is about. Verse 26, "very truly I tell you, you are not. You are looking for me not because of the signs that you saw. Good I performed. But because you ate the loaves and you had your fill." You know what Jesus is saying here, he's saying the reason that you're looking for me, the reason you want to know when I got here is you want another meal.
You saw me provide the the the meal to the 5,000 and your real question is if you're powerful, either do another sign so we can be impressed or feed us, take care of us in some way. And, and here's the, the challenge I believe for so many of us when it comes to God. And that is we may give intellectual ascent to God being powerful, but what we ended up doing is saying, "But if you're not powerful when it comes to me and giving me what I think I need, then I'm not sure that I can trust you or that I want to trust you because you are not working in my life in the way that I think you should work."
I don't know if you've had kids or you were a kid, but chances are you fit one of those two categories. And if so, you probably had a moment either when your parents would go on a trip or you would go on a trip and you'd come home and you had your kids there. And there's a thing that happens often where parents get things whenever they go on trips and they bring them back to their kids. I don't know if you have gotten into this. I decided early on, I don't travel very much, but I decided very early on that I wasn't going to do any of it because I had seen this play out a few times where as soon as the apparent arrives home after a trip, the kids are like, what did you bring me? What'd you get me? Did you get me something? And I didn't want to be that guy. You know, stumbling around bad airport shops looking for, you know, overpriced gear that I had to bring back all the time for my kids.
But, but here's a little bit what it's like when, when the disciples are the followers here, the people say, rabbi, when did you get here? What they're doing is they're saying, what are you going to do for me? But notice Jesus statement here is, "I am the bread of life." What he's saying is, "I'm enough. And if you prioritize what you think I can give you, then what you're doing is you are saying you're powerful enough to provide for me. And if you don't provide for me, then I'm not sure that you're worthy of my trust. But here's the thing, you and I, we don't dictate to God how and when he chooses to work. And as long as we think we can, we'll always struggle with real trust. So there's the first question.
Here's the second question. This is in verse 28 and I'm going to call it a minimal question. Says this, they asked him "What must we do to do the works that God requires?" And the reason that I say that this is a minimal question is because what they're doing now is they're saying, "Okay, we grant that you're powerful. So how do we get in on it? What do we need to do? Tell me how good we need to be, exactly what we need to do so that we can experience your power, or you can feed us, you can take care of us in some way." And what's at stake here is the difference between human effort and God working on our behalf. You see, so often what happens for people when they come to this idea of faith or the idea of religion, the idea of God is they'll come. And what they'll do is they'll say, well, I need to do my part, then God will do his part.
But what we need to see, and we see this by Jesus' answer to the question, is that it isn't about us doing our part and God doing his part. Belief is not us getting it right, but it's pointing and looking to the one who got it right on our behalf. It's not that faith is good advice for good people, but it's good news for people that aren't very good. And here's where we see this. It says this, "Jesus answered the work of God is this to believe in the one that he has sent?" So they say to Jesus, "Jesus, what must we do to do the work you require? How can we get in on your power? How can we be part of this?" And Jesus says, "Here's my answer. Just believe in the one that he sent. That's it. That's what I want you to do."
But so often what we do instead is we believe that we cooperate. Rather than saying, "I simply receive from God." There's a book that just came out, it's called The Second Mountain by a man named David Brooks and his wife and research assistant. I'm not sure what she was first, but, Anne Snyder has helped him with this book. And in an interview when they were talking about writing the book together, basically, or her helping him, he acknowledged that he struggled with the concept of grace and wanted this idea of participating with God somehow. And then he says, but Anne was having none of it.
And here's what she said, "I want to reiterate that yes, grace is the central thing Christ offers, but that is the doorway, that it is the doorway. And it is to know him. I see lots of emphasis on striving in your note, and I appreciate its antidote to cheap grace, but the foundational fact as you cannot earn your way into a state of grace. This denies Grace's power and subverts its very definition. Grace must reach out to the broken and undeserving and must reach out to those recognizing plainly their vulnerability, their own need and emptiness. It can only find welcome in those who are sitting still."
You see what gets in the way of this is our pride and our need to feel like we control things. And so instead of doing a trust fall into the grace of God, what we do instead is we say, "Let me arrange things and maybe God will do something on my behalf. "But, but Jesus's clear answer when they say, what can I do is he says, "You just believe that's it." That is what your work is. And what happens so often in the American church today as we say, yeah, "I believe, but then I get where I need to go through my effort rather than it's all the effort of Jesus Christ." And the reason that this text says that he can hold on to those in the future and for eternity who've entrusted him is because it isn't about our work. It's our belief and his work. It isn't what we've done. Therefore, we can live with a sense of security.
So we have a practical question. We have a minimal question but, but we also have what I'm going to call a skeptical question. And this is verse 30 it says, "What's sign then will you give that we may see and believe in you." Now, I don't know about you, but I love this because what's happening here is Jesus is just done two huge miracles. He's fed the 5,000, he's walked on water, he's calmed the storm, and they're like, Hey, what sign are you going to give us? That you're the messiah that your God, this would be like having a kid that you have fed in your house every day, two or three times, for years, and them still saying, "Well, how do I know that you're going to feed me again tomorrow?" That's what this is like and here's what this shows us. It shows us that no miracle, no sign is ever enough.
Have you ever had that thought that just says, "Well, if God would just do something miraculous than I'd be able to believe. If you would just do something that I could say that's a verifiable, clear miracle. That was God. I know that was God, then I could believe." But here's the truth. And the truth is miracles don't actually lead to lasting faith because we will never have enough evidence. And yet we've already had plenty of evidence. And here's how you know this. If you look back in the Old Testament, there were the children of Israel who were led out of Egypt. And if you remember the story they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. So God pushed the sea apart and then he led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I mean, if ever there was an unmistakable, "Oh my goodness, there's God," that would have been it.
And do you know what happened to those people in just a few days, weeks, months, whatever, after that, Moses goes up on this mountain and they go, "What happened to Moses? Let's make a golden calf to worship." I mean, that makes no sense. They had all these miraculous things and yet they go, "I don't buy it." And what happens when it comes to faith? Sometimes we say, "If I could just see a miracle, then I would believe," but it isn't miracles that actually lead to faith. It's miracles that help us see who Jesus is, even the ones that are recorded here. But Jesus's statement is, "I am the bread of life." And what he wants is he wants us, wants you to come to a point where we say you're what will bring the lasting satisfaction, not what I see.
And then there's one other question that's here. I'm going to call it a cynic's question. And in a way, this is maybe similar to a skeptical question, but it's a little different. Verse 42 they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph whose father and mother we know. How can he say, I came down from heaven." Here's the, the idea is they're saying really like, I know Joseph, I've worked with Joseph. That guy has Jesus, the son of God. Are you kidding me, Mary? I mean, I was in PTA with her. She's not all that.
And so you have that moment where they're just saying, this can be. Have You ever had that moment where you say the Christian account of how things work is just a little much. God came to Earth in the form of a human being. He lived a sinless life, so those of us who are guilty can be redeemed, set free from our sin. He went to a cross after living a perfect sinless life. He died. He rose from the dead. He conquered sin. He conquered the grave. He walked on this earth for 40 days and revealed himself. Then he ascended into heaven where he sits and makes intercession on behalf of the people that are his people and one day he'll come back to reign. I mean, do you ever just have that moment where you're like, really, that's the cynic question. I love how CS Lewis though talks about this. What he says is the Christian story is simply too wonderful not to be true.
In other words the idea of how God has worked on our behalf is too wonderful not to be true. But we'll all have these moments of saying, "Really, is this possible? How could this be Joseph and Mary's son? Or, or, or is this really true?" Or the skeptical question like, "Show me something. I need you to prove it to me once again." Or maybe the question that's around just God, "Will you do it for me," or, God, "What do I need to do to participate?"And we may have all those questions at different times in our lives, but what we need to come to see is that real faith, real trust will sometimes come in the hardest moments where we suspend control and simply say, "I'm going to entrust myself to another." I like how Madeline L'Engle wrote about this years ago. She said this, she said, "Those who believe that they believe in God without passion in the heart, without anguish in the mind, without anguish and uncertainty without doubt. And at times without despair believe only in the idea of God, not in God himself."
And then Martin Luther put it like this. He said, "Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God." I love how he put that. "Faith is a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God." Do you know what he's saying? It's a free fall into the arms of another.
And the only way that that I'll live there, that you'll live there, that I'll say, God, I'll choose something that that isn't about what I think is best for me, but honors you. If those two things don't seem to be in concert, the only way that I'll get there is if I can identify some of the things that I think I believe. But what I actually believe may take me another course until I say I actually do choose to trust in the unseen, untested goodness of God. Now, this could have lots of applications here today. Some of us are probably here and we're saying, you know, I don't know about God. I don't know about Jesus. I just live my life. I take my chances and I believe that I've been a pretty good person. So whatever happens in the future, I think I'll be okay.
But according to the scriptures, you have not taken a trust fall. You've simply said, "I'm good, and I'll take my chances on a god." When a trust fall for you might simply be saying, "God, I'm going to acknowledge that I'm not good enough, that I've sinned and I need a savior. And so today I just give up control of that." For some of us, you may be here and you may say, well, I believe that. I've known that for years and I've practiced that. But what you've been doing is you've been choosing things that aren't honoring to God in different parts of your life and you know exactly what those things are. But you say, "You know what, I, if I give this over, if I trust God with this, then I won't have what I need." And what you've done is you've said, "I won't have the life that I want. Jesus isn't really the giver of life."
And so you've made choices, small, big, to arrange things the way you want and instead of trust falling back into God's care, what you've done is you've said, I've got to take care of at least this part of my life. God may be able to save me for eternity, but he isn't trustworthy for the here and now. Maybe for you, today. It's just a simple acknowledgement that what you say you believe, even what you think you believe may not match what you actually believe.
Because what you actually believe will inform how you live. And maybe just maybe as you kind of look at this story, this account, you'll see that Jesus working and performing signs was an invitation to say, "I want you to know that you can trust me with all the details of your life. That you will really have a better quality of life if you trust me." But sometimes that feels unseen, unknown, untested, and there will be agony to get there. But on the other side, where the joy is is saying, "I don't have to take the weight of all the good things in my life. I can trust that even if it doesn't feel good today, that God is at work and I don't have to perform for God because Jesus has done for me what I can never do." And when I get that, when you get that, then that, that gives us life.
So here's what I'd like to do just to end our time today. And that is I'd like to have us, on all our campuses, recite the apostle's creed together. The apostle's creed as something the church has said for years. And as we say it, you may say, "I don't want to say it because I don't believe it." That's understandable. Or you may say it and say, "I don't know that I believe all of this. Like in my real core, but I'd like to." And maybe just as you say it, it's a way to say, "God, I'd like to believe who you are and this wonderful account of the way things are in the Christian view because it would change the way that I live." And so I'm going to ask you to stand in all of our campuses, venues and recite this together.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dad and on the third day, he rose again. He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the father and will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
Father, we thank you that you have made yourself known to us through Jesus Christ. God, help me to suspend, control and trust you and God. I pray that for each person here because when we do that, you say that you will give us life. A better life than we have if we don't. And we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. Thanks for being here. Have a great day.