The First Sign was the water turned into wine. The groom was surprised that such fine wine was served so late in the party. Typically, watered-down wine was served when everyone was tipsy and couldn’t discern its quality. The miracle showed that you can save the best for last. Jesus is the “best-for-last” display of God’s identity. God sent prophets, judges, kings, and priests; but Jesus is the final and finest taste of God. This sign also showed that Jesus has a mastery over the created world.
The Second Sign occurred when He healed a sick boy. A royal official came to ask Jesus to heal his dying child. In response, Jesus boldly declared “Your son will live.” The man took Him at his word and received news that his boy was healed as he traveled home. Jesus was able to heal a distant boy He had never touched or even seen!
The Third Sign occurred when Jesus cured a paralyzed man. The paralytic had been sitting by a pool waiting for a superstitious healing. For years, this man had heard that once a year an angel came upon the water and “magically” healed the first sick person in the pool. This man was staring at the water wishing he had someone to help him in, when Jesus approached and asked him if he wanted to be made well. Jesus asked him to turn from his superstition and look upon Him for healing. The man did so, and his 38-year affliction was healed instantly. This sign revealed that Jesus is the master Healer.
Jesus’ Fourth Sign occurred when He fed a huge crowd with a handful of food. Thousands had gathered to hear Jesus teach; but they were hungry. Jesus borrowed a small lunch from a young boy and prayed for God to bless the meal. The disciples passed out the food, and miraculously some 5,000 people dined eagerly as Jesus multiplied the food over and over again.
Later, as Jesus’ disciples headed out on their boat for an evening ride, Jesus approached them walking on the water (the Fifth Sign). The disciples were shocked to see that Jesus had mastery over the laws of nature. Jesus even invited Peter to join Him on the soggy stroll. As long as Peter looked up to Jesus, he was able to walk on water. But when he looked down at the waves, he began to sink. (Some dispute that the Bible is actual history because of the miracles. They claim these signs prove the Bible is a fairy tale. Consider this: If the Bible is true, and Jesus was God, shouldn’t God be able to do miracles? Isn’t that rational and logical? Wouldn’t it be more dubious if God claimed to come to Earth and then didn’t do anything miraculous? John was giving evidence that a supernatural God can do supernatural things.)
Many chapters in the New Testament are devoted to additional signs and miracle. Jesus gave sight to a blind boy and taught us that suffering was not caused by the boy’s misdeeds or his parent’s mistakes. Jesus disputed karma and showed that God can use misfortune to reveal His power. Some uppity religious leaders were outraged that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, a commanded day of rest. Their religious rules trumped God’s compassion once again. The once-blind man and his parents were called to court to explain. The blind fellow simply testified, “I once was blind, but now I see.” This sign showed us that Jesus is the God who heals, is the God who can bring good out of bad situations, and is the God who can easily bring sight to blind eyes.
Ironically, the spiritual leaders who argued over Jesus’ Sabbath violation were blind spiritually. They obsessed over rules and rituals rather than embracing God’s forgiveness. They were blinded by their good deeds. These self-righteous fanatics believed that their good deeds outweighed their bad deeds in God’s eyes.
Jesus had harsh words for such religious people. The religious thought they were better than others because of their rituals and rule-keeping. Jesus describe them as “white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.” They looked good on the outside, but they were cracked and decaying inside. Jesus showed that deed-oriented hearts are full of religious judgment, arrogance, and self-righteousness.
Jesus offered a new message, completely upside-down from religion. While religion is about changing from the outside in, Jesus offered to change people from the inside out. Jesus offered to clean our hearts knowing that all actions flow from the heart. Jesus offered to place His new kingdom and culture into each person’s life. He taught a counter-intuitive philosophy: “It’s better to give than receive; find your life by losing it; become first by going last; humble yourself and be exalted; choose to serve rather than be served.” Jesus showed that justifying one’s self through religious deeds always leads to self -promotion and oppression, while His message leads to humble confidence and freedom.
One of the most powerful signs Jesus performed alluded to His own destiny. Jesus raised a friend from the dead. After Lazarus had died, Mary and Martha were mourning and lamented that Jesus didn’t come quickly enough to heal their brother. When he did arrive, He wept with them, and offered a promise: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though dead, shall live.” Jesus said that the next sign would prove His power over death.
Jesus walked to the tomb door, had the stone rolled away, and called out, “Lazarus, come out!” His friend exited the tomb, fully alive. This sign proved that God’s Son has power over mankind’s final enemy: death itself. Trusting Him will bring not just forgiveness, but also the power to beat death and ultimately live forever with Him in Heaven. Wow!
These signs leave each of us with a choice. Here’s a fact: the Bible is one of the most validated and well-supported ancient documents ever written – proved to be reliable and historical by archeological science, manuscript evidence, and independent collaboration. Yet in it, Jesus makes some remarkably shocking claims. How will we respond to these claims? Is Jesus a liar pretending to be God? Is He merely a clever magician who performed elaborate tricks that fooled both his doting followers and skeptical enemies? Is Jesus a lunatic who just believed He was God? Did He trick the disciples and future historians into playing along with an elaborate scheme? If these signs occurred as history confirms, is Jesus truly God in the flesh? Is He the only source of forgiveness and entry into Heaven? Each of us must decide and respond to Jesus’ one question: “Who do you say I am?”
Speaking of I am, the next theme of Jesus’ teaching and ministry was a series of “I Am” statements. Remember
Popeye the Sailor Man? He used to sing, “I am who I am and that’s all that I am.” Jesus made seven “I Am” statements. This phrase “I Am” is significant. When Moses asked God His name, God answered, “I Am Who I Am.” That strange name was God’s way of expressing his timelessness and uniqueness. Jesus claimed to be the great “I Am” and said that “before Abraham existed, I Am.” In saying this Jesus is claiming to be God, the One who is eternal, self-existent, and beyond time.
Jesus later declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Jesus was comparing Himself to the manna that God provided in the wilderness. Manna was God’s provision for physical hunger, but also a spiritual provision for trusting Him. Jesus was claiming to be the only one who can satisfy human cravings for meaning, purpose and peace. His love and forgiveness can satisfy our soul’s deepest appetites through His generous grace.
Jesus called Himself “the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He was claiming to be the source of all truth, and inviting anyone seeking truth and enlightenment to find the answers in Him.
Jesus also made frequent reference to the temple or tabernacle. As we learned in the Old Testament, the Israelites had one way to encounter the presence of God: in the tabernacle. When He gave instructions to Moses, God dictated that he construct a narrow gate through which one could pass to experience God’s forgiveness. Jesus metaphorically referred to Himself as a new gate. God wants anyone and everyone to look up and find His forgiveness. God created a way that one can form a deep friendship with Himself, and Jesus claims to be that way. He promised that through Him, we can be rescued from our moral failures and inadequate good works. Jesus offered a farming metaphor that His culture could easily understand, explaining, “I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In contrast to other religious leaders who offer theories and unachievable systems, Jesus offers Himself as the way to have the best life possible.
Jesus says that He is the leader, father, and shepherd you’ve always wanted. He is the shepherd who is willing to die to rescue His flock from danger. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus is alluding to His death and indicating a willingness to sacrifice Himself for mankind. The main message of the Bible is simply this: Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. Jesus was willing to express His perfect love for us by dying sacrificially and rescuing us from our inherent brokenness.
The fifth “I Am” was declared when the resurrected Lazarus emerged from the tomb. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus offered to not only die for us as a good shepherd, but to also raise us from the dead at His resurrection! He was claiming to be the great death-defeater; Jesus offers this gift at no charge to anyone who believes in His power.
Jesus challenged his audience to make a choice about His identity. His bold claims are either (a) true and must be accepted or (b) wrong and to be rejected. Jesus unapologetically claimed to be the exclusive “I Am” and said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” As the One who offered Himself as a sacrifice for mankind’s wrongdoing, Jesus was claiming to be the only way to know God.
Do you believe this? After all the evidence Jesus presented for His life and identity, what’s keeping you from saying, “Jesus, I believe You are who You say You are. I want to stop trying to measure up, but instead look up for forgiveness”?
Jesus’ final “I Am” speaks of how He promises to work mysteriously in the life of anyone who accepts Him as forgiver. Jesus says that He can be the sole Source of direction, love, and life. He claimed to be the Vine that produces His fruit in our lives. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” A Christ-follower is someone who trusts Jesus to forgive and lead them. At the moment a person trusts Christ, the Spirit of Jesus comes to live inside them. What is His fruit? The Bible describes different characteristics of God’s fruit using words like: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
When God’s Spirit comes to live within a person, the Bible teaches that authentic good works are finally possible. Why? Because the good works are produced by His Good Spirit within. Prior to this, good works aren’t good because they were produced by a selfish heart. They were motivated by either pride, with a “Look what a good person I am” attitude, or fear, with a “I need to do enough to get to Heaven.” People who help others to merely pad their heavenly resumes are actually using people, rather than loving them.
In contrast to human efforts to be good, the Spirit of God produces genuine good works from within the human heart. Good deeds flow from Him, not the individual. Good deeds are no longer motivated by the fear of not getting into heaven; your reservation in Heaven is already secured by Christ’s sacrificial work. Since admittance to heaven is secure, a Christ-follower’s good deeds flow from knowledge that God’s Spirit is the source of goodness and selflessness. Since God is the source, they can finally be freed from pride since they know He deserves the credit for all things good. When God is the Vine and we are the branches, selfless good works (or fruit) can be harvested from our lives.
Here is a live teaching of Fast Track (Matthew-John):
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