Jesus vs. Death (John 11:1-44)

For the past seven weeks, we've been looking at the miracles in the Gospel of John. Today we're coming to the final one, the most climatic one.

If you've been following along, every one of the miracles has pointed to something deeper. The miracles aren't just events that happened. They reveal who Jesus is. They show that he has power over nature, power to heal, whether it's someone who's been blind from birth or someone far away. But as we approach John 11, we're approaching something more serious than that. The question at the beginning of John 11 is, "What can Jesus do about death?" You may already know the story, but there is a bit of suspense at the start of the chapter. Sure, he can turn water into wine, but what can Jesus do about death?

Nobody likes to talk about death. When I visit my father in England, I often pass by the church cemetery just off the village square. The tombstones are so old that you can't even read them anymore. It's a bit sobering that nobody comes to lay flowers there anymore, nobody's got pictures of these people on their mantles. They're forgotten, and even their names aren't remembered. The Bible says, "Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone-as though we had never been here" (Psalm 103:15-16).

Death is a reality, whether we want to talk about it or not. Death is horrible. It raises questions about God. I've just been reading C.S. Lewis's book A Grief Observed. Lewis was a strong believer in Jesus Christ, and even gave lectures on suffering. But when his wife died, he found himself asking brutally honest questions about God. Let's look at what happened in John 11, and let the story enter into our lives today.

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who poured the expensive perfume on the Lord's feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, "Lord, the one you love is very sick." (John 11:1-3)

Bethany was Jesus' base of operations near Jerusalem. Some guess that Jesus lived with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha whenever they came to the area. The relationship was obviously close. John assumed everyone would know the story of what Mary did, even though it's not one he included in his Gospel. Mary and Martha somehow knew where to find Jesus, and when Jesus was told "the one you love is very sick," he didn't have to guess. He knew it was Lazarus.

But when Jesus heard about it he said, "Lazarus's sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God. I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this." Although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days and did not go to them. Finally after two days, he said to his disciples, "Let's go to Judea again." (John 11:5-7)

We find out later that Jesus already knew that Lazarus had died, even by the time that the messengers arrived. By the time Jesus got there, Lazarus had been dead four days, and the messengers had left four days earlier, probably right before he died. Jesus already made a statement that this would have a higher purpose: that he would receive glory through the upcoming events - not just the immediate events, but the chain of events that would follow, leading ultimately to his death.

For Jesus to return to Bethany would be extremely dangerous. The disciples said in verse 8, "Teacher...only a few days ago the Jewish leaders in Judea were trying to kill you. Are you going there again?" Thomas said in verse 16, "Let's go, too-and die with Jesus." Bethany was only a couple of miles away from Jerusalem, and everyone knew that if they went, they were walking into harm's way.

The decision was made to go. Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew it had a higher purpose. "Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I am glad I wasn't there, because this will give you another opportunity to believe in me. Come, let's go see him" (John 11:14-15).

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Some Jews believed that the soul hung around the body for three days, until decay set in. Then it would abandon the body, and there would be no hope of life. Some may have believed that Lazarus could be raised the first three days. Nobody would have held out hope on the fourth day.

Jesus didn't even enter the town, because he knew that it would create a scene. He waited outside for Martha, probably the older sister, to arrive. When she did, she repeated something to Jesus that had probably been said numerous times since Lazarus had died four days earlier. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask" (John 11:21-22).

When I've read Martha's statement before, I've thought that she was expecting Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. Actually, she wasn't. We find this out later, because she protests when Jesus asks for the tomb to be opened. She wasn't expecting a miracle anymore. She was simply stating, "Lord, if you had been here, things wouldn't have been different. But I still believe in you, despite what's happened. It hasn't shaken my view of who you are."

Jesus challenged her. It wasn't enough for her to acknowledge that she believed in him, even though Lazarus had died. She had to believe that he had the power, even over death. "Jesus told her, 'Your brother will rise again.' 'Yes,' Martha said, 'when everyone else rises, on resurrection day'" (John 11:23-24). She believed in the resurrection one day - a teaching that was pretty controversial. But Jesus wanted to clarify things. It's not enough to say, "Okay, he died, that's the end of it, but one day God will put it right. In the meantime, I still believe in you, Jesus." It's not just some future event; it's actually someone, standing right in front of Martha, who is the resurrection and the life:

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?"

"Yes, Lord," she told him. "I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God." (John 11:25-27)

It's not a belief or a dogma. It's a person. It's not even about a future resurrection; it's about never dying, never perishing. Even between the point of physical death and the resurrection, the one who believes in Jesus still lives. Jesus is about to show that he has power over death, and that his followers don't have to say, "We still believe in you despite the reality of death." We can say, "We believe in you because you are the one who gives life beyond death. You are the resurrection and the life."

In the next few verses, a similar scene unfolded with the other sister, Mary. Jesus still stayed outside the village, and Mary said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:32). This was obviously something that Mary and Martha had been telling themselves.

What happens next doesn't really come through the English translations too well. "When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled" (John 11:33). "Moved with indignation" is pretty hard to translate. It was used in that language to talk about the snorting of a horse. It conveys anger, shuddering, the strongest emotions you could imagine. "Deeply troubled" means agitated, almost confused. I've always pictured Jesus getting upset, but it goes further than that. He had a breakdown. He burst into tears.

Jesus was facing death face to face. He was seeing the effects of sin. Words weren't enough. Just as when we face death, there's a sense that at times, words can't convey how terribly bad death is. He broke down and shuddered. A few vers es later, in verse 35, he cried more quietly. He asked to go to the tomb, and even then he continued to be disturbed.

Every person needs to ask what hope they have beyond the grave. Some have decided that they don't need hope, or that hope is an illusion. Jesus offers more. He not only cries - sobs - at the sight of death. He does something more.

"Roll the stone aside," Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man's sister, said, "Lord, by now the smell will be terrible because he has been dead for four days."

Jesus responded, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?" So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so they will believe you sent me." Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" And Lazarus came out, bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!" (John 11:39-44)

Jesus said earlier that this was going to bring glory to the Son, and give the disciples another opportunity to believe in him. It did. It gave the disciples the opportunity that Jesus wasn't just the one who turned water into wine, who healed the sick and made the blind to see. He is also the one who conquers death. He's God over all. He's the resurrection and the life.

It would be easy to think that this story is about Lazarus, but it isn't. Lazarus would die again one day. I'm sure that it was a lot easier to face, knowing what would come, but I think I'd be saying, "Not again." Dying is one of those things you only want to do once.

This story is ultimately about Jesus and his power over death. It's about his glory, and what happens to those of us who put our trust in him. We gain victory over death, because we then enter into a relationship with the person who is the resurrection and the life.

It's about Jesus, because the events that unfolded ultimately led to his own death. Right after this story ends, the leaders plotted Jesus' death. What happened here ultimately led to his own death, which led to our salvation. Jesus could face his own death, because he himself was the resurrection and the life.

For those of us who are bereaved today, there's hope. There's hope because Jesus sobbed at the death of his friend. Jesus met death, and saw its ugliness. He understands. There's hope too because "Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again" (John 11:25). There is life beyond the grave.

We would probably be smart to realize today that our lives are going to be shorter than we think. I have a friend who came to a party. I sent him a picture later, and he was disgusted at how old he looked. Life goes much faster than we'd like. We don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about death, but no herbal supplement or exercise program will delay it indefinitely.

There are few answers for death, but we do know the one who has conquered death and promised eternal life. Today, you can know the one who died so that you can live.


Comfort for those who are bereaved; that all of us would believe in the one who is the resurrection and the life


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Spiritual Eyesight (John 9:1-41)

Anybody here have selective hearing or seeing? Sure, we all do. Every second, our brain is bombarded with sensory data from all five senses. You just sat down, but already your brain has probably stopped consciously focusing on the feel of the seat. You're probably not thinking about the temperature of the room, although you probably did at one point this morning. There are all kinds of sounds that you're not focusing on right now - the faint hum of lights, somebody shifting beside you. Our brains would go crazy if they had to process every piece of data that our bodies sensed.We think we're seeing everything, but we're all being selective all the time. Today, you've probably noticed who's not here, who's sitting in a different spot, who's sitting with whom. You may have wondered what it means that so-and-so is sitting with that person. Years ago, before I dated Charlene, I brought a date to a function that Charlene also attended. She could tell you exactly what my date was wearing. I don't have a clue. I never did, not even that night. It's the same with cars. You get interested in a car, and all of a sudden you notice them everywhere. They were there before, but you never noticed them.The part of the brain that filters all this information is called the Reticular Activating System. It's continually at work, even though we never think about it. Today's story is about our spiritual Reticular Activating System. The goal for all of us, if we're followers of Jesus Christ, is to see the same things that he sees. We want to notice what's important to him.If you have a Bible with you, let's look at the story in John 9. This is the sixth of the seven signs in the Gospel of John, and it's the third miracle. Jesus is within about five or six months of his death. The location is Jerusalem, probably just south of the Temple area, right after the Feast of the Tabernacles. Let's read what happened.John 9:1-2 says, "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 'Teacher,' his disciples asked him, 'why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?'" Rabbis in that day taught, "There is no death without sin, no punishment without guilt, and there is no suffering without iniquity." They believed that if a pregnant mother went to a pagan temple, then the unborn child would be guilty of idolatry. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin caused him to be blind, especially since he was blind from the time he was born.The disciples saw the man as the subject of a theological discussion. That's not what Jesus saw. Jesus saw the man as an object of mercy.
"It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered. "He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him. All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. But while I am still here in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:3-5)
Jesus saw the man's blindness as something that could display God's glory. What Jesus says initially looks a bit confusing, until you realize that he knew his time was limited. He saw the man, and at the same time knew that he only had five or six months left before his death. He had clarity about his mission, as well as the limited time he had left. He saw this man as somebody who fit into the mission that God gave him.It's like that with us when we see people. What do we notice? I have to confess that I've looked at people and been more interested in having a theological discussion than loving them or helping them. Part of the problem is that I think that I lack the urgency that Jesus did. I don't really see time as short. I look at people, I look at time, and I see something completely different than what Jesus sees.Jesus called himself "the light of the world." There's more there than meets the eye. Jesus had originally called himself the light of the world in John 8:12, in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast that celebrated harvest and God's goodness and provision. As part of the festivities, four golden lamps were put into place, and oil was poured into large golden bowls. The lamps rose over the walls of the Temple, and were so bright that they were said to light up the entire city. The Levites led the celebration with musical instruments, and the signing and dancing lasted all night. But the main candelabrum was left unlit until the last night, so that Israel would remember that their full salvation had not yet been realized. It was in the middle of this feast, with the unlit candelabrum, that Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." He was claiming to be the fulfillment of God's promise of salvation.What happened next is pretty amazing. Jesus restored sight to a lot of people, but this is the only time that he restored the sight of somebody who had been born blind. Some even think that he used imagery from creation, of God forming life from dust, as he restored sight to this man. "Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smoothed the mud over the blind man's eyes. He told him, 'Go and wash in the pool of Siloam' (Siloam means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing!" (John 9:6-7)The man's sight wasn't restored right away. He was first sent to the pool of Siloam, a pool built hundreds of years before by Hezekiah to bring fresh water into Jerusalem. It was the source of water drawn out for pouring during the Feast of Tabernacles. John notes that it means Sent, and this too carries meaning - the Father sent the Son, and the Son sent the man there. It was all part of God's mission. The pool was some distance away, and the man hadn't received his sight yet, but he went. He obeyed. He received sight.The man's neighbors reacted predictably. They couldn't believe that it was the same man. It's the same way my neighbors would react if they saw me driving a Ferrari down the street. "Are you sure that's Darryl? It can't be him." They even reported him to the Pharisees. We sort of know what to expect next.
Then they took the man to the Pharisees. Now as it happened, Jesus had healed the man on a Sabbath. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, "He smoothed the mud over my eyes, and when it was washed away, I could see!"Some of the Pharisees said, "This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath." Others said, "But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?" So there was a deep division of opinion among them. (John 9:13-16)
We don't have the time to read the entire chapter, so here's what happened. They interviewed the man. They interviewed his parents. They then cross-examined the man once again, before he told them off. Then they got really mad and threw him out - they excommunicated him. Then, Jesus tracked him down and introduced himself. The climax is verse 38: "'Yes, Lord,' the man said, 'I believe!' And he worshiped Jesus."Then Jesus says, "I have come to judge the world. I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind" (John 9:39). This is when you get the idea that the story is about more than a man being given sight. It's also a commentary on how some of the most religious people can be so very blind when it comes to seeing what Jesus sees. The disciples couldn't see - they saw a theological discussion rather than a man in need of help. The Pharisees couldn't see - they were conducting investigations, lives were being changed. But a blind man saw, not only physically, but spiritually. The very people you'd expect to see didn't, and the last person you expected to see did.It's pretty scary to think you can see when you can't. Jesus concludes in verse 41, "If you were blind, you wouldn't be guilty...But you remain guilty because you claim you can see." It's at this point that we're probably supposed to ask ourselves if we see what Jesus sees, or if we too think we see, but are really blind. We're to ask if we see what Jesus sees, or whether we're as blind as the disciples and Pharisees.Leonard Sweet has said that the great spiritual awakening happening outside of Christianity and the church can't see out of its box far enough to see it. It's worth asking if the church can really see what Jesus sees, or whether it too is suffering from blindness without even realizing it.It's probably helpful to look at what prevented the disciples and Pharisees from seeing in this story. I think that certain attitudes got in the way. The disciples had an attitude - not a bad one, at least in the conventional sense. But it did prevent them from seeing someone the same way Jesus did. I'm convinced this happens all the time in our lives as well.We had a kid down the street from our house who unplugged our fridge one year while we were out of town. Not a happy situation for us. We lost a few hundred dollars worth of food. It's safe to say that I developed a bad attitude against this kid. If I picked anyone that I thought God would touch, it wouldn't be him. Despite my attitude, God has been at work in this kid's life. My attitude got in the way of seeing him the same way that Jesus does.Our attitudes toward people can get in the way of seeing them as Jesus does. One of my prayers is that God would allow me to see others the way that he sees them.Sometimes beliefs get in the way too. The Pharisees were more concerned about Sabbath-breaking than they were about changed lives. That's because they couldn't see past their beliefs. The strange thing is that their belief wasn't based on God's beliefs. They had confused their rules with God's rules. They were as concerned as we usually are with orthodoxy or right belief. Ironically, their concern for right doctrine got in the way of seeing things through the eyes of Jesus.It's scary, yet important, to ask if there are any beliefs that we hold to that prevent us from seeing things as Jesus does. What assumptions do we hold? I've found this challenging. I've been wrestling with different concepts of the church. There are a lot of Christians who are tired of the church - not the church as the Body of Christ, but of the church as an institution. They're looking to be the church in a new way, which may be more like an old way. They're meeting in houses, and instead of owning buildings and building programs and hiring preachers, they're doing things a little differently. It's easy to miss what God is doing in groups like this because it doesn't fit into our belief structure. Sometimes that belief structure has nothing to do with God, but we hold to it like it does. Our beliefs can get in the way of seeing things like God does.The scary thing is that they didn't just miss seeing things the way that Jesus did. They missed seeing Jesus. The very Son of God was standing right in front of them, healing and doing God's work. The people that should have been most able to see it were the most blind. A blind man saw more clearly than they did.This miracle is about more than a blind man receiving sight. It's about who Jesus is. He's the light of the world. It's about the fact that the people who should be best able to see the light are sometimes the most blind.I don't want to miss seeing what God is doing. I don't want to be blinded by my incorrect attitudes and beliefs. I don't want to have Jesus act right in front of me, and yet miss it.Prayer:
Open our eyes. Open our eyes to our incorrect attitudes and beliefs. Open our eyes to the people around us, what you're doing in their lives.Most of all, open our eyes to Jesus.
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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

God Sightings (John 6:16-24)

How much of your life is routine? I've been asking around, and it seems that the number is probably about 95%. There are extraordinary moments - births and deaths, awards, and marriages - but most of life is spent on the mundane. We spend a lot more time waiting, preparing, traveling, and working than we spend doing the extraordinary.We've been looking at the seven signs or miracles in the book of John, and today's is one I can relate to. Some of the other signs involve extraordinary events. I've never experienced them. I've never run out of wine at a wedding. I've never been paralyzed, or had a child healed from impending death. I've never had to feed a crowd of over ten thousand people. Those are all very extraordinary events.But I have been frustrated in my travels. Today's sign is different from many of the others. It's not even called a sign. It's what happened in between stories. It's about a group of guys who were traveling from point A to point B, and who had some problems on the way. It's never called a sign. It's miraculous, but it's almost like this miracles is a byproduct. It's what happened when life was taking place.If you have a Bible here, turn with me to John 6. We're going to read the story. It may seem familiar because it's so well known. It's also similar to another event that took place in Jesus' life, recorded in Matthew 8, in which Jesus calmed a storm. The story begins at the end of last week's sign, as we read in verses 14 and 15: "When the people saw this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, 'Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!' Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him king, so he went higher into the hills alone."Jesus had just finished feeding over ten thousand people with a small amount of food. After performing that miracle, he withdrew from the crowd. You could spend a whole morning thinking about this alone. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus withdrew to pray three times. Each time, it was to spend time with God tempted to abandon the mission God gave to him. Think about that for a minute. Jesus recognized the importance of intimacy with God when he was most tempted to abandon the mission God had given him.While Jesus prayed, he sent his disciples away by boat to Capernaum. This wasn't a long trip, but the disciples would have wanted to cover the short distance between Bethsaida and Capernaum before sunset. If you've been to the Sea of Galilee, you know what it's like there. It's six hundred feet below sea level. It forms a cup-like depression among hills. At night, when the air cools, the wind can churn the lake. Let's read what happened:
That evening his disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified... (John 6:16-19)
I guess so! I watched a scary movie the other night. It was really good. I like to watch with the lights off. When the movie was done, and I turned off my TV, I noticed how dark it was. It didn't take me a long time to turn the lights on. I can imagine how the disciples must have felt. The other Gospels tell us that it was the fourth watch, between 3 and 6 a.m. They had been traveling between 9 and 12 hours for what should have been a short trip. Their lives weren't in danger, but they had been blown off course and were probably frustrated, tired, and irritable. Then they saw someone walking on the water. Sleep deprivation, frustration, and then somebody walking on water. I would have been terrified myself.The story continues in verse 20: "But he called out to them, 'I am here! Don't be afraid.' Then they were eager to let him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination!" (John 6:20) Jesus called out, "I am here!" In the original, he said, "I am!" This could have been simply what it sounds like in English, but it was also God's name. This may have had some deeper theological significance. He could have been revealing his identity as God to them. As soon as he entered the boat, the storm ended, and whether by miracle or simply because the storm was over, they soon arrived at their destination. And that's the story.John never included a story by accident. He always had a purpose for what he chose to include. What's the point of the story here?On one level, it's here to explain how Jesus arrived without a boat. John 6:22 and 25 say:
The next morning, back across the lake, crowds began gathering on the shore, waiting to see Jesus. For they knew that he and his disciples had come over together and that the disciples had gone off in their boat, leaving him behind...When they arrived and found him, they asked, "Teacher, how did you get here?"
At the most basic level, it's a description of how Jesus got from point A to point B when there didn't seem to be a logical explanation.It also tells us something about who Jesus is. He is God over nature. He's with us in all circumstances, in all of life.It brings to mind some Old Testament passages that talk about God. Job 9:8 says, "He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea." Psalm 107:25-30 says:
He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and sank again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits' end. " LORD, help!" they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!
For the Jewish person, it would have brought Moses to mind, and the most pivotal event in Jewish history, the Exodus. Moses led the nation through water on two occasions.Mark's account of this story points us to something else that was taking place in this story. Let's look at what Mark 6:48 says. "He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them..." (NIV)When you read this verse, you're a bit puzzled. He was about to pass by them? He's walking in the middle of the lake, and he's just going to walk by, like he's saying, "Hey guys, I'm just out for a walk. I'll catch you on the other side." Really? Is this what's happening?"Pass by" refer to just passing by when it refers to you and me. When it refers to God, it can mean something different. Look at the following couple of passages:
The LORD replied, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, 'the LORD,' to you. (Exodus 33:19)"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. (1 Kings 19:11)
When "pass by" refers to God, it usually means an epiphany - a revelation of God. It's possible, even likely, that Mark uses this term to refer to say that Jesus was revealing himself as God. He self-disclosed his deity, and caused his glory to pass before the disciples. The message: Jesus is God. He's visited us in the flesh. This man, the one who performs miracles and walks on water, is not just a man, not just a prophet. He's God, and he's showing us his glory.The disciples didn't get it. Mark 6:51-52 says, "Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were astonished at what they saw. They still didn't understand the significance of the miracle of the multiplied loaves, for their hearts were hard and they did not believe."I wonder when God's glory has passed before us, and we've been like the disciples. We haven't seen the significance. It's gone right over our heads. In fact, we may not even think God acts in this way anymore. We believe God showed his glory to the disciples, but we wonder if God even does this today. We miss all kinds of God sightings.Do you ever pray, and what you prayed for happens, and you say, "What a coincidence! I was just praying for that." God answers prayer, and shows us his glory, but we miss it. We don't even recognize his work in response to our prayers.Sometimes we see his nature reflected in creation. I've stood in Yosemite Park. You may have seen the Northern Lights. We've all had our breath taken away by God's creation. Romans 1:20 says, "From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature." Psalm 19 tells us that nature shows God's glory. It's possible to see and admire nature without responding in worship. God's glory passes us by, and we miss it.Sometimes God shows his glory in worship. There have been times when the sense of his presence has been so palpable, it's humbling. We sing, "Open the eyes of my heart," and sometimes he does. It's not always what we expect. When you read in the Bible that God showed his glory, it's always a scary experience. God sometimes opens our eyes to his glory as we worship him, in private or with others. Sometimes we miss it.I said earlier that God sometimes shows us his glory when he answers prayer. Sometimes he shows us his glory when he doesn't answer prayer. When the doctor says the c-word - cancer - and we have a peace that passes understanding, God has shown us his glory. When we stand in a funeral home visiting with others, and have lost someone close to us, and we're filled with overwhelming grief and yet inexplicable strength, God has just shown his glory. Every one of us have seen God's glory in one form or another. But we've also sometimes missed it, just like the disciples.Even if we've missed his glory in life, it's on display in the Bible. John 1:14 says, "And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father." God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. You can't help but read about Jesus without seeing God's glory, his unfailing love and faithfulness to us. We've seen his glory, but sometimes we've missed it.So let me ask you this question: when has God's glory passed before you? When have you seen God at work in your life? When have you sensed his presence, his glory, like never before? Think about the times. God has been at work in your life. You may not even be a follower of Jesus Christ yet, but he's been active in your life. You've seen his glory, even if you might have missed it.How have you responded? I know I've been like the disciples some of the time. His glory's passed me by, but I haven't recognized it until later. I haven't stopped to acknowledge him and praise him. It's time to go back over the times that Jesus has passed us by, and to praise him for how he's been at work in our lives.John 6:21 says, "Then they were willing to take him into the boat" (NIV). I guess so. This almost seems like a gimme. What else would they do? Yet this is something some of us might not have done, at least not yet. We've seen God's glory, but we haven't asked him into our lives. It's time to respond to God's glory.Prayer
Praise for when he's shown us his glory - when he's been at work in our lives, as well as showing us his glory through ScripturePrayer to invite Jesus into our lives

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

When You Want More (John 6:1-15, 25-71)

What is it that you want more of in life? Who here would like more time? I would. I would love to be a kid again. The days lasted forever. You tell a kid to wait a day, and it's like you're telling them forever. Now, it seems like I just sit down after preaching and I'm back here again. I've got magazines and books I'd love to read, things I'd like to do. I would love to have more time.

Who here would like more money? Are you ever surprised by your bank balance when you go to the ATM? Wouldn't it be nice to be surprised the right way? To feel like our money had multiplied when we weren't looking?

There are lots of things we want more of, but think deeper for a second. There are things we want more of that we can't put words to, at least not easily. I married a couple on Friday. One thing I love about performing weddings is that I get a close-up look at the facial expressions of the couple. I watched their expressions on Friday, but I did so with mixed feelings. No matter how good a couple they or anyone else will be, every married couple will eventually experience a profound sense of disappointment. No husband, no wife, can meet all of the complex needs or hungers of the soul. It's impossible.

It's the same at work. You may have a great career. It may be good a great deal of the time. But everybody, in every job, eventually longs for more. No matter what dream job you land, it's still not enough.

I could name lots of things - hobbies, friends, kids, relationships. They're all great, and there are moments of life that we feel satisfied. But there are also long periods in between in which we ask, "Is this all there is? There has got to be something more."

Today's story is going to speak to that need. If you've been following along, we've been looking at the seven signs or miracles that Jesus performed that are recorded in the Gospel of John. Signs are significant because they point to something. They aren't just events that happened. There's a significance, a deeper meaning, behind each one of these stories.

Today's story is especially significant. It's the only event that happened in Jesus' life, apart from the last week of his life, that's recorded in all four Gospels. It's also a watershed moment in his life. Up until now, Jesus' popularity had been on the increase. John 6:2 says, "And a huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miracles as he healed the sick." After this event, his popularity took a nosedive. John 6:66 says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." What we're about to read was a pretty significant incident in the ministry of Jesus.

Let's read what happened:

After this, Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. And a huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miracles as he healed the sick. Then Jesus went up into the hills and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the annual Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a great crowd of people climbing the hill, looking for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, "Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?" He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. (John 6:1-6)

If you've been to Israel, you might have gone to where some think this happened. It's hard to picture - five thousand men, plus women and children, probably well over ten thousand - spontaneously coming to find Jesus. It must have been staggering to watch. But you can't begin to imagine the logistical problems surrounding a group of people that large. If you've ever had to plan a large event or cook for a large group, you know it just doesn't happen by itself. Jesus turned to one of his disciples, Philip, who knew the area best, because he didn't live too far away. It's almost like he's asking directions to the closest store. He had a deeper purpose, though. "He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do."

That last verse makes me think. I wonder sometimes if God isn't trying to teach us something when we have a shortfall of time, money, or some other resource. When I run out of money, or last year when our church faced a deficit, I sometimes think God may be trying to get our attention to see what we'll do, even though he already has in mind what he wants to do in the situation.

We tend to respond just like Philip did. "Philip replied, 'It would take a small fortune to feed them!'" (John 6:7). We tend to look first to our own resources, which is fine. But our resources are seldom enough. Let's stretch the need factor wider than providing a meal for over ten thousand, which we couldn't pull off. Let's make it more commonplace. We don't have the resources for what we need - for breaking bad habits, for making our marriage what it should be, for many of the things we long for. A lot of us have found that our resources run out a lot sooner than we'd like them to. What do we do when they run out?

"Then Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up. 'There's a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?'" (John 6:8-9). What do you think of when you think of barley? No, not beer, and not soup. I mean barley bread. It sounds exotic, like one of those expensive breads you can buy at the bakery. Back then it was anything as exotic. Barley sold for a third of the price of wheat. An ancient writer said that barley products are "suited for irrational animals and people in unhappy circumstances." Barley wasn't really too great a treat, nor was there much - probably just five pita-size loaves. The fish wasn't much better. It probably wasn't fresh fish. More likely, it was pickled or dried. Andrew was right to see that this wouldn't come close to feeding such a large crowd, but you have to give him credit for telling Jesus about it.

"Tell everyone to sit down," Jesus ordered. So all of them-the men alone numbered five thousand-sat down on the grassy slopes. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and passed them out to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate until they were full. "Now gather the leftovers," Jesus told his disciples, "so that nothing is wasted." There were only five barley loaves to start with, but twelve baskets were filled with the pieces of bread the people did not eat! (John 6:10-13)

Jesus had everyone sit, a very good idea since a crowd that large could easily begin to stampede for food. He took the bread, and gave thanks, perhaps using the common Jewish prayer: "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." And then, without fanfare, he began to distribute the food. I don't know when people realized that a miracle had taken place, but it soon became clear that they weren't running out of food, no matter how much had been passed out. There was no question that something had happened.

"When the people saw this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, 'Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!' Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him king, so he went higher into the hills alone" (John 6:14-15). Why do you think people assumed that Jesus was the prophet they had been expecting? We find out later in the chapter:

You must show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What will you do for us? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! As the Scriptures say, "Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat." (John 6:30-31)

Both Moses and Elisha had fed a crowd miraculously. People assumed that when the Messiah came, he would perform the same miracle. In fact, they were a little disappointed with the miracle Jesus performed. Moses fed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions; Jesus only fed about ten thousand. It was enough that people followed Jesus, but they still wanted more proof. Jesus used this as a teaching op portunity to point to a deeper need beyond any miraculous provision of food that he could provide.

We have bodies that get hungry, but we also have souls that get hungry. We look for everything in life to fill that hunger. We occasionally feel full, but the feeling doesn't last. We long for that feeling that we occasionally get when we eat at a really nice restaurant - the feeling of being full, but not stuffed; of having enjoyed an incredible meal and leaving with just the right feeling. We long for that feeling in life, but we can't seem to maintain it. Sometimes we can't even seem to get it for a fleeting moment, no matter how hard we try.

In 1987, U2 came out with the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." That's how we feel, isn't it? We know there's more, and we want more, but we can't seem to get it.

Is it possible that the hunger in our souls is pointing us to something deeper? It's pointing us to the solution, to what will ultimately fill our souls. The solution is a person. It's Jesus.

Jesus said, "I assure you, Moses didn't give them bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "give us that bread every day of our lives."

Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

That's the message for today. What we want, what we need, what we lack, may just be pointing us to our deepest need, our deepest hunger. It may be pointing us to Jesus.

What does this mean? It means that we ultimately won't find what we're looking for in all the usual places. We won't find it in our marriages, our jobs, our kids, our hobbies, or our relationships, no matter how hard we try. That doesn't mean they're bad. They're good, and should be enjoyed. It just means that they won't fill the deepest hunger in our soul.

It also means that church isn't the answer. The solution to this hunger isn't religion. It's God. Churches are useful, but only when they bring people into an encounter with Jesus, the bread of life. We can't fill anyone's hunger, but we know who can. You may have left church empty and disappointed. That may not be your fault. Churches should be about people who are so full of the presence of Jesus that when you meet them, you meet Jesus. Our church is only as good as our ability to help people encounter Jesus.

It also means that our devotions may not cut it. If you were raised in a church, you may have been taught to do devotions a certain way. It usually involves a certain amount of reading and prayer, maybe some other things. Anybody ever finished their devotions and still felt hungry? It's not enough to do devotions. We need to encounter Jesus and be fed by him.

It's not something that can be met by our own resources. The people asked Jesus, "What does God want us to do?" (John 6:28). But it's not something that we do. It's ultimately a relationship that we enter into. "Jesus told them, 'This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent'" (John 6:29). Jesus provided it for us at great cost. We're invited to receive it. "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live" (John 6:51).

Gordon and Gail MacDonald once wrote a book called If Those Who Reach Could Touch. It's about our longing to connect in relationships, and it hints at the fact that our longing to connect doesn't always translate into an actual connection. There may be a lot of us today who would like to reach out and be fed by this living bread. We want this connection with Jesus. We're tired of going through the motions. We want to be full.

Jesus is more than willing to respond. He's already provided what you need. It's not about religion, or about keeping a set of rules. It's about entering into a relationship with him, or of re-establishing that relationship with him. It's about taking time to listen and to connect, to sit down and stop long enough to feast on the bread that he offers.

"Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends" (Revelation 3:20). Last week, Charlene decided she needed a day away from the kids, the phone, and from everything else - including me! - to be fed by Jesus. She went away for a day to a place she wouldn't be disturbed. I'm due for the same. You may be as well. One of the smartest things we could do is to go home and schedule a day, perhaps just half a day, to be fed in our souls. It's time to stop looking elsewhere. It's time to be fed by Jesus.

God's invitation:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare...
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near. (Isaiah 58:1-2, 6)

Our response:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and stand before him? (Psalm 42:1-2)


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.