June 28, 2020

The First Miracle

When was the last miracle you witnessed? Was it really a miracle? How would you describe a miracle to your friend? Listen or read to find out.
Series:John
Duration:28:09

Mike Gerhardt, 6/28/20, The First Miracle, Outline #5, John 2:1-11. What lessons are learned from first miracles? I believe when I came to Jesus and walked forward at the Baptist Church on that August, I felt it was a miracle & so did many others. I remember the birth of my first child and thought I am seeing a miracle of God. I recall the time I stood outside of the grader’s door to find out that I passed my Hebrew final at the seminary which meant I could graduate that week and I KNEW that was a miracle. There have been many other times that I believe I have seen miracles. Times when I have prayed and headaches were dissolved, the pain was relieved, and cancer was gone all in the name of Jesus. The Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious & Social Studies in New York City sponsored a national survey of 1100 doctors on the subject of miracles in 2004: 74% of the physicians believed that miracles have occurred in the past & 73% believed miracles can occur now. I wonder what the stats would be today. Let us define a miracle using the Greek words from scripture.  A miracle is healing (therapon), transformation (metamorphe), wonder (teras), power (dynamis), and strange event (paradoxos). In his book God is closer Than You Think, John Ortberg includes this story: When my friend Kim was young, her dad pulled off the road to help a woman change a flat tire. While he was lying under the car, another vehicle accidentally swerved onto the shoulder and in the collision, the car was shoved onto his chest. His right thumb was torn off at the joint, five of his ribs were broken, and his left lung began to fill with blood. His wife who was five feet tall, placed her hands on the car and prayed in the name of Jesus and lifted the car off his chest so he could be dragged out. (Later she found she broke a vertebra in the effort to lift the car). Kim’s father was in critical condition. In the operating room, suddenly his skin changed from ashen to pink. He experienced miraculous healing. He invited a surprised surgical team to sing Fairest Lord Jesus! This was the precise moment his father in law, who was a pastor, had his congregation praying. Sometimes these stories come from grocery checkout publications that have aliens playing third base for the Boston Red Sox. However, Kim’s father was James Edwin Loder Jr., a professor at Princeton Seminary. His life was miraculously changed. Jesus became a living presence. His heart grew tender. He became known as the weeping professor. He lived in a God-bathed, God-soaked, God-intoxicated world until 2001 when he went to be with his Savior. Your first recognized miracle can change your entire perspective on life and on Jesus. Some falsely teach that Jesus may have performed miracles as a child. John 2:11 clearly states this is Jesus’ first miracle. Keep in mind that John has a purpose for mentioning this and has knowledge of Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels. This event began John’s lessons for Israel. John will use seven miracles to point to the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the World. The miracles in John are 7 signposts: Water into wine, the official’s son, the paralytic, the 5000 fed, walking on water, curing the blind, and raising Lazarus. If you are a Bible scholar, you would say there were eight; the second large capture of fish in John 21. Most would say that was a confirmation of the resurrected Christ to the disciples, especially to Peter and not a signpost to the unbelieving Jews. Israel, as a people group, was unwilling to accept their Messiah. Let us imagine that this wedding feast in a picture of the nation. It described Israel’s condition…their wine had run out, their spiritual fervor waned, they were without joy or celebration of hope, they had the ceremony, but they were empty. Weddings were big productions in Palestine. In some parts of the world today it is the most important event for a family and for the community. When Janet and I were in Haiti, we learned that many impoverished families would take out impossible loans and mortgages to finance their child’s weeklong wedding. When the wine was gone, it was more than a minor social embarrassment since the family had an obligation to provide the feast and drink as everyone else did before. The Messiah will one day bring the joy and celebration of a king’s wedding to Israel. John mentioned that the wedding took place on the third day. John often puts these time markers in his gospel, sometimes explaining them and sometimes not. Don’t read into this as Jesus rising on the third day. One day we who know Jesus will be called to the banquet table of the wedding feast for the Lamb of God Jesus and His Bride the Church as predicted in Isaiah 54, Hosea 2, and Revelation 19. Then the wine will flow freely, and the feast will bring joy and celebration to all. There are lessons here for all of us. A thirsty crowd with empty water pots does not go well at a wedding where there is lots of dancing. Have you ever been thirsty after an exhausting game and you really want water? You go to the orange Igloo water cooler, put your cup under the spout, push the button, and NOTHING - it’s empty. Then someone offers you a Coke. Now I am not against Coke, but for me, I’d rather have water. The crowd was thirsty for wine and the wine was gone. The world around us is thirsty for something but they are trying to quench their thirst on other things: the pleasures of sin, the accomplishments of technology, or otherworldly substitutes. What they need is to drink in the Savior Jesus and let Him fill them with a spring that never runs dry. In Newsweek (some of you remember that weekly news magazine) 20 years ago Ken Woodward reported how a 15-year-old Tyler shuffled to the altar in a church in Springfield Missouri to be healed. Surgery to correct his malformed knee joints went bad and left them swelling and in pain. 40 teens surrounded him and began to pray. Gradually the whole church raised their prayers for Tyler all at once for about 45 minutes, then silence, and someone announced Tyler was healed. He stood up, did some deep knee bends which he couldn’t do for many years, and then he ran around the church. Tyler said: I heard about people getting healed and I thought it would be cool, but I didn’t know for sure until it happened to me. First, fill the jars with water. Can you picture these 6 tall stone water pots, 20-30 gallons each? These are not somethings you move easily. They were stationary for the most part. They were used for ceremonial washings. Their significance included the purification of hands and utensils for meals as well as other real and symbolic washings as part of the culture of Israel. Filling the jars could be a picture of cleansing our hearts in repentance. Paul mentioned that we are jars of clay in 2 Corinthians 4:7, cleansed, then filled, and miraculously changed. The servants did what Jesus told them. The result was 120-160 gallons of wine!! Jesus did more than turn water into wine. Three years after this, He accomplished eternal life for us on the cross. The Miracle of New Life can change our water into wine, our tears, and fears into dancing, our despair, and mourning into hope.

Today is my 67th birthday. Some tell me that I don’t look a day over 77; I’m not sure if I should take that as a compliment. I hear people say that they would rather not have any more birthdays and I tell them that I think that can be arranged! It was about 50 years ago when I trusted Jesus as my savior and was changed inside and out. Tony Campolo tells this story: I was in a church in Oregon and prayed for a man who had cancer. Several days later I got a call from his wife: You prayed for my husband, he had cancer. I asked: Had? (Whoa, I thought it really happened he was cured!) She said: He died. I felt terrible. She continued: Don’t feel bad. When he came to church that day he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to die, and he hated God for it. He was 58 and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He stayed in bed and cursed God for not healing him. The more his anger grew the more miserable he was to everyone. No one would visit. But after you prayed for him, a peace came over him and a joy-filled him. The last three days have been the best in our lives. We sang, we laughed. We read scripture. We prayed. I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing. Then she said: He wasn’t cured but he was healed. Healing comes in many ways. One day we who know Jesus as Lord and Savior will be delivered from tears, sickness, and death. We will be finally healed, and we will see Jesus face to face. I think of Mary’s words to the servants: Do whatever He tells you. That is good advice. Be healed inside and out!