Showing posts with label disciples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disciples. Show all posts

22 October 2013

The blind man sees

Part 6 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
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Nobody has ever done this before! Why? What happened? This rabbi with his disiples following along - he's healed a man that was born blind. He can see now, he really can see! Hmm... Sounds a bit far fetched to me. No, really, the Pharisees have checked with the guy's parents.

Remains of the Pool of Siloam
Remains of the Pool of Siloam
For the background to the signs in John and links to the other articles in the series, please read the index page.

John 9:1-41 begins with a question. The disciples would like to know why a man was born blind. Was it because of his own sins or those of his parents?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was.

Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’

But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’

‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked. (more...)

Healings were by no means unknown in Jesus' day. But healing a man born blind was regarded as one of three 'Messianic miracles', one that only the Messiah would be able to do. To the religious authorities in Jerusalem it is therefore clear evidence that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah. That's why the Pharisees wanted to check this inconvenient evidence very thoroughly.

Here are the four questions suggested by Neil Cole with some pointers for finding the answers in the material quoted above.

What does this story tell us about people? - Who was there? Well, the blind man himself of course. The disciples were there watching. We also hear about the man's neighbours and others who knew him. The Pharisees get involved and interview the man's parents. There's a lot going on and we see people with just the same attitudes and issues that we see in people today. Why do you think the Pharisees are so unwilling to accept that the man was healed?

What does it tell us about Jesus? - What did Jesus actually do? How did he heal the man? Why didn't he just say "Be healed"? Does he always do what we expect? Does he always wait for us to ask for something? (Did the blind man asked for his sight?)

What does it tell me about myself? - Are you more like the disciples, the man who was healed, the parents or the Pharisees? Maybe, in some ways, you are like them all. Who had faith in this story? How would you have reacted in the shoes of the people John describes? The blind man was obedient in what might have seemed a silly and pointless trip to Siloam. Are you obedient when you don't understand the reason?

Who else needs to hear this? - Who do you know who might benefit or be challenged or encouraged by hearing about this sign in John? Are you going to tell them?

Questions:

  • How do you think the man felt when he washed at Siloam and began to see? [Tweet it!]
  • Which triumphs in this passage, law or grace? How? Why?

See also:


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23 May 2013

Sandy Millar at Moggerhanger

Sandy Millar came as the guest speaker to the Great Ouse Filling Station. Interesting and engaging, he read Ezekiel 37:1-14 and reminded us of the need to be prayerfully active in reaching people with the good news. Making disciples is an essential part of following Jesus - after all, he told us to do it.

The F alt=Sandy Millar spoke at the Filling Station at Moggerhanger on Monday.

Let's break that sentence down into its component parts.

Sandy Millar... - Sandy is an interesting man. He is a great speaker, very engaging, relaxed enough to  include plenty of stories and asides, yet focussed on the particular theme he wants to get across.

Retired now, he began his career as a barrister and ended as an Anglican bishop.

At one time he was the vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton where he was largely responsible for the development of the Alpha Course and, later, the Marriage Course.

...spoke... - Past tense, you missed it. But it was good.

Sandy spoke about Jesus' instructions to 'go and make disciples'. He read one of my all time favourite Bible passages, Ezekiel 37:1-14. Speaking life into dry bones is another way of thinking about disciple making.

Sandy suggested that making disciples should be our main focus, it is our mission. Here are his five main points.

  1. Recover a new understanding of the lostness of the world. It will help us see our neighbours in a different light.
  2. Develop a new confidence in the gospel. Recognise that Jesus does have the necessary power.
  3. Find a new understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead!
  4. We also need a new understanding of the urgency of evangelisation. We need to do good, we need to speak with people and pray for them. Pray over the dry bones.
  5. We need a fresh experience of the Holy Spirit.

...at the Filling Station... - Filling Station? What is that? Filling Station is a parachurch organisation that runs local meetings to build and strengthen local church. It involves a time of singing and praise followed by an address by a guest speaker. Most Filling Stations meet once a month.

The idea began in the West Country and has spread across the entire UK. Recently it has moved into Europe too.

...at Moggerhanger... - Weird name! Moggerhanger is a village east of Bedford, on the edge of the village is Moggerhanger Park where our local Filling Station meetings are held. We don't meet in the old house itself, but in the Garden Room, a separate meeting space in the grounds.

...on Monday - Just the day of the week. The meeting was on Monday 20th May.


Questions:

  • Are you aware of a Filling Station meeting near you?
  • Do you have a sense of urgency about making disciples?
  • What are you doing to make disciples amongst the people you know?
  • Look at Sandy's five points again. What do they say to you, personally? How will you respond? 

See also:

11 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Doing it our way

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

We read the first chapter of Acts and discussed it. I was interested to note that the disciples behaved just the same way we do; in the absence of Jesus they decided to do things their own way.

An icon of MatthiasLast time Paul and I met we finished Mark's gospel and decided to work through Acts next.

Today we made a start by reading Luke 1:1-4 to help us understand how Luke had written both books to give the best and most consistent possible account of the events concerning Jesus and the early church.

Then we read the first chapter of Acts section by section, stopping to discuss what we had read as we worked our way through. Here are some of the things I found especially striking.

The pattern of events is perfectly clear. Jesus was arrested, tried both by the religious and civil courts, was crucified, died, and spent the entire Sabbath (Friday evening until sometime before Sunday sunrise) in a sealed rock tomb. Then he returned to life and for forty days he was with the disciples in Galilee and then in Jerusalem before he returned to the Father in heaven.

The rule of Christ - During these forty days he gave 'convincing proofs' that he was alive (verse 3). And during this time he spoke about the kingdom, that is he told them about his rule, the extent of his reign. This realm is not only in heaven but also in the hearts and lives of every man, woman and child that will follow him and obey him. Simply put, a kingdom is that realm where the king reigns; the sum of the places where his commands are treated with respect and fully carried out. It's important that my heart and your heart are part of his kingdom. You're either in or you're out!

He begins to reign immediately; he commands them to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the promised gift. Did they know what this gift was? Yes, the gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Did they know what this meant? No, they had little idea of what would happen or how it would change everything! But they would certainly recognise it when it happened.

We're just the same. We know that if he is ruling in our lives he will bless us but we don't expect the amazing things he does. When they happen though, we recognise them and realise our expectations were too limited. It's not that we lack faith (thought often we do lack faith), but rather that he habitually does abundantly more than we could expect even in our most faith-filled moments. (Ephesians 3:20) This should encourage us immensely!

Back to the city - I was very struck by verses 12-26. This is also just like us, scarily so. Just pay attention to what they did.

Jesus has just left them to return to the Father, they walk back from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem without him. They must have retraced the steps they would have taken with Jesus many times before, the same route the Temple guards would have taken Jesus after his capture. The olive grove of Gethsemane is on this route, part of the way down the hill. Their thoughts must have been confused and every step would have held a mix of precious and painful memories.

They go back to the upper room, very likely the same place they had eaten that last meal with him at Passover. But he is not here now. He has left physically and his Spirit has not yet 'baptised' them. They are without any kind of heavenly counsel, left to work it our for themselves. And they do.

The wrong way - Peter stands up and takes charge (they probably agreed that someone had to). He speaks to the remaining ten disciples and those other men and women gathered in the room. He argues (perfectly reasonably) that Judas should be replaced to make up the number twelve again. In their own wisdom they decide on two candidates and then they draw lots. Effectively they decide between Joseph and Matthias by tossing a coin!

Does this sound familiar? An important decision needs to be made, Jesus doesn't seem to be around, so someone takes charge, and we make the decision by election and/or by chance.

The right way - What should they have done instead? What should we do? We should have faith and we should have patience. In other words we should wait expectantly for the solution to be given to us. Prayer would do no harm while we're waiting. Jesus had actually told them to wait - wait until the promised gift arrives, wait until you are baptised in the Spirit. How immediate was their lack of trust, their taking of things into their own hands, their failure to wait.

And how much pain and disappointment could be avoided in church life if we listened to Jesus instead of rushing off to fix things for ourselves!

The real replacement - And who was the new apostle? Matthias (and Joseph too for that matter) remain in obscurity. Who was the new apostle? Arguably he was a pharisee. He might have called for the release of Barabbas. He certainly attacked the early church and helped at the stoning of Stephen. Saul, a person the disciples may not have heard of and certainly would never have chosen - this same Saul is the Paul who became the apostle to the gentiles and wrote all those amazing letters that make up a large part of the New Testament. Wow!

We desperately need to learn this lesson. Pray, expect, wait - and do what we are told, not what we think to be best.

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

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