The odd healing of the blind man of Bethsaida


In recent centuries, philosophers have doubted miracle stories. Some of them have asserted that only uneducated people who don’t know much about science could believe them, so the stories must have some time after Jesus’ live passed into the realm of legend.

Others have claimed that the biblical authors deliberately made up stories that couldn’t be true in order to gain a mass following among the unsophisticated and credulous.

One question, then: if someone made up a bunch of tall tales to make Jesus seem like more than just another teacher, why would they make up a story about a miracle that seemed not to work?… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Wait for the gift

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,which you heard me speak about.” — Acts 1:4

God’s ways are not our ways. The last recorded words of Jesus in any of the synoptic gospels are some form of the Great Commission. John’s version comes in the next to last chapter, but Jesus’ final comments there prepare the disciples to get to work.

In other words, all the gospels end with Jesus saying, “Go” to bewildered and reluctant disciples. The book of Acts opens with him saying, “Wait” to a team that felt ready to get started.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced a promise from God that seems so vivid that we’re bound to see it manifest in the next fifteen minutes.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Do you love me?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'” — John 21:15 (NIV)

Shane Stanford, whose The Seven Next Words of Christ (Abingdon Press, 2006) provided the framework for this series of devotions, considered the entire 21st chapter of John as a single word. There is a certain symmetry to seven last words balanced by seven next words. Besides, according to the number symbolism in biblical times, seven is the number of completion. Still, I think Jesus’ interview with Peter is too important to combine it with anything else.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Haven’t you any fish?

“He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered him. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” — John 21:5-6 (NIV)

Jesus seldom does the same thing twice, yet this was the second time he told his disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Nearly every sermon I have ever heard on either passage points out that commercial fishing was and is done from the left side of the boat.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: What’s bothering you?

“What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Luke 24:17 (NIV)

After Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women, he turned up on the road to Emmaus, where he met two men not otherwise mentioned in Scripture. They had been following Jesus and had hoped he was the promised Messiah. Even though they had indirectly heard about the women’s report, they walked in discouragement.

So Jesus asked them what they were talking about–not as an idle question, but as a means of getting them to open up so he could minister to them. I find two noteworthy statements close by.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Who is it you looking for?

“Woman, who is it you looking for?” — John 20:15a (NIV)

Everyone knows about the seven last words of Christ on the cross. Many churches probably offered musical settings of them some time during Holy Week. Of course, as I wrote in the immediately previous post, Jesus violated everyone’s expectations by his resurrection from the dead. And then he had more to say. Easter Sunday has passed, but not Easter season. It’s a great time to look at the next words of Christ after the cross.

[I recently came across a book by Shane Stanford, The Seven Next Words of Christ: Finding Hope in the Resurrection Sayings (Abingdon Press, ©2006), and acknowledge my debt to it.]

We probably can’t reconcile the four surviving accounts of what happened on that chaotic Easter morning, but all agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ.… Read the rest

Jesus, the towel, and us

“The night before Jesus was betrayed, he took the bread. . .” We have probably heard that every time we take communion, but what about, “The night before Jesus was betrayed, Jesus took a towel. . .”? Why is that towel not as much a symbol of Christianity as the cross or the communion elements?

Jesus always surprises because he refuses to act like the rest of us. Before the feast of the Passover, when he knew he would be seized, tried, and executed illegally, he remained calm. He knew that Judas would betray him, but he remained loving. He chose an especially dramatic way to demonstrate  his love.… Read the rest

Christ’s attitude in us

What could have gone on in Jesus’ mind on Palm Sunday, as he received cheers that he knew would not last. Here was the Lord of the universe, deliberately riding a donkey into an ambush. He knew a judicial miscarriage of justice, an illegal trial followed by an ignominious death, awaited him in less than a week.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wonder what he thought. Paul tells us all we need to know. Jesus was God in human form: the fullness of deity, the maximum portion of being God that his fully human nature and body could hold.

He had laid aside all of his heavenly privileges to accept his humanity.… Read the rest

Fear and unbelief while Jesus slept–and more fear when he woke!

Most of the fourth chapter of Mark is devoted to a sample of Jesus’ parables, along with his private explanation of one of them, the Parable of the Sower. The closing narrative amounts to an illustration of that one.

In demonstrating Jesus’ mastery over the natural world, this passage explicitly asserts his deity. Mark has already shown him as healer, as someone with authority over demons, and even recognized by them as the Holy One of God. (See, for example, Mark 1:32-34)

So when Jesus said, “Let’s go across the lake,” the disciples should have known enough to take it as the word of God.… Read the rest

A promise about prayer, with conditions for abiding

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” — John 15:7 (NASB)

I’m sure every Christian loves Jesus’ promises about prayer. So many of them seem, on the surface, to say that we can ask for anything and our heavenly daddy will do it. Of course, every Christian has the experience of praying and not having it done.

Jesus never made that promise glibly. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he made it in the context of comparing his church to a grapevine. He is the vine and we are branches.… Read the rest