THE BREAD OF LIFE – John 6:48-50

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INTRODUCTION:

There are many foods in this world of ours that are available only to a few people because of their cost or because of their scarcity or seasonal nature.  But bread is the universal food of mankind.  It is found on every table – rich or poor, king or peasant.  Whether it is made of wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, or some other grain, it is bread, the cheapest and most nourishing food.  Bread represents all the elements needed to sustain life.  Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, gives the following description.  “Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking.  Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.”

Here in John’s gospel, Jesus has been described in terms of the basics of physical life.  He is called “light” in chapter 1, and describes Himself to Nicodemus, in chapter 3, as the “light that has come into the world.”  Jesus also describes the work of the Spirit of God by using the wind, the movement of air, as an illustration of spiritual birth.  When speaking to the woman at the well, in chapter 4, Jesus identifies Himself to her as the Source of “living water”, and now He is referring to Himself as the “bread of life”.   Putting those descriptions together, we have the basics for sustaining physical life in human beings:  light, air, water, and bread.  His purpose for all these illustrations is to transition from “physical basics” to “spiritual basics”, and so far He has been very successful in doing so.  There is more to be said about bread.  In this passage of Scripture we’re going to see how this information about Himself is received by this small crowd of people who crossed the Sea of Galilee in boats that morning, and found Jesus and His disciples in Capernaum.

I.  JESUS RESTATES HIS CLAIM (verse 48)

Verse 48 contains these words of Jesus:  “I am the bread of life”.  He just said those very same words to them several minutes earlier in verse 35.  I think there is more to His words than just repetition for the sake of remembrance.  In Matthew’s gospel we find that Jesus spent quite a bit of time in the synagogues of the Jews.  It was His practice to visit the synagogues in Galilee when He was in that region.  Matthew 4:23 says, “And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues . . . “.  Since a small portion of the 5000 crossed the Sea of Galilee in the early morning and found Jesus and His disciples, I personally think that Jesus was on His way to the synagogue in Capernaum when they joined Him, and Jesus spoke to them about the bread of life while they were walking into town.  As they approached the synagogue, bystanders along the way may have joined the crowd, and they followed Jesus into the synagogue.  Inside there were more people, gathered for the time of instruction.  I think Jesus may be repeating His earlier statements for the sake of the people in the synagogue, who were watching them enter the building and were, no doubt, curious about what they were discussing.  This may not be the first time that Jesus taught in their synagogue.  John 6:59 confirms this.  It reads, “These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.”

I’m sure they all wondered what Jesus meant when he walked into the synagogue, waited for everyone to sit down and listen to Him speak, and then said those words, “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus was saying that in Him are all the elements for a healthy, growing spiritual life.  The famous missionary, Jonathan Goforth, had preached a series of messages in a chapel in southern China in the early 1900’s.  Afterward, a man asked to talk to him.  The man said, “I have heard you speak three times, and you always have the same theme.  You always speak of Jesus Christ.  Why?”  The missionary replied, “Sir, before answering your question, let me ask, ‘What did you have for dinner today?’ ”  “Rice”, replied the man.  “What did you have yesterday?”
“The same thing.”  “And what do you expect to eat tomorrow?”  “Rice, of course.  It gives me strength.  I could not do without it.  Sir, it is . . .”  (the man hesitated, as if looking for a strong word).  Then he added, “Sir, it is my life!”  The missionary responded quickly, “What you have said of rice, Jesus is to your soul.  He is the “rice” or “bread of life”.

There may yet be another reason why Jesus keeps repeating that He is the bread of life.  The Jews in Judea had grumbled saying that Jesus and His family were from Nazareth, and no prophet was supposed to come from Nazareth.  They didn’t ask Jesus where He was born and they didn’t do any research for themselves, or they would have learned that He was born in Bethlehem.  Did you know that the name “Bethlehem”  literally means “House of Bread”.  Jesus was speaking to them in Hebrew, and the word He was saying was “lehem”, the second half of the word “Bethlehem”.  He’s saying, “I am lehem” over and over again.  Wouldn’t you think that the town of Bethlehem might come to the minds of some of His listeners?  “I am ‘lehem’ from ‘Bethlehem’.”  “I am bread” from the “house of bread”.  I certainly wouldn’t rule out that possibility, and that’s a new insight for me.

II.  COMPARISON TO THE MANNA RESTATED (verses 49-50)

Once again, Jesus also compares Himself to the manna for the sake of all the people who are present, many of whom did not hear the first statement in verses 28-32.  But this time Jesus changes the wording slightly to emphasize a different perspective.  Earlier, in verses 28-31 the crowd asked Jesus to show them a sign as proof that He came from God.  Then they describe the kind of a sign they want Him to perform.  To paraphrase, they said,  “Give us a sign like the one Moses gave the people of Israel.  Send us manna from heaven to eat.”  The crowd wanted another free meal; only this time they wanted it catered from heaven!

The Lord Jesus responds to them by telling them about the long-lasting effects of the bread He has to offer them.  In verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  Jesus is speaking spiritually, but they are taking it literally.  They want this bread, just as the woman at the well, in John 4:15, wanted that “living water”!  He also states, in verse 33, that the bread He offers is not exclusive to the Jews, but inclusive of the whole world.  He “gives life to the world”.  So the bread Jesus offers in Himself is long-lasting and inclusive of all peoples without distinction.

A.  THE MANNA WAS PHYSICAL FOOD  (verse 49)

In verse 49, Jesus once again begins to compare Himself to the manna, but this time He emphasizes that He is the bread which will prevent death.  He says, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.”  The manna sustained physical life but it didn’t prevent death.  All who ate the manna eventually died.  There would be no argument among the people listening to Him concerning that statement.  They were probably nodding their heads silently in agreement.  The Scriptures were clear that the manna was given to sustain the lives of their ancestors until they died, or until the next generation entered the promised land and could eat the fruit of that land.  However, the next sentence from the mouth of Jesus is going to raise some eyebrows and start the grumbling again!  This is especially so because He is now inside the synagogue where there are probably priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees among those who are listening to Him speak.  The crowd isn’t friendly anymore!

This is not the Sabbath day.  They apostle John is very diligent about letting his readers know when it is a Sabbath or a feast day of the Jews.  The previous Sabbath was just a couple of days earlier, when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-17).  If it’s not the Sabbath, why would Jesus be going to the synagogue on a weekday?  This synagogue was a busy place during the week also.  It served as a community center, school, court, and place of study.  There was never a dull moment in the synagogues of that day.

B.  THE BREAD OF PERPETUAL LIFE (verse 50)

In verse 50, the Lord Jesus once again makes a comparison between the manna and the bread He has to offer them.  He says, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.”  So far, the crowd has been thinking that Jesus is talking about physical bread, so they are naturally going to deduce that He is talking about physical death.  Two people from the Scriptures must have immediately come to their minds.  Their names were Enoch and Elijah, and they are the only two people in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings who did not die.  (Genesis 5:22-24; II Kings 2:1-15).  It’s also obvious from the Scriptures that it wasn’t bread that kept these two men from dying.  What is Jesus talking about?  Why is He making such a claim?

To begin with, I think the Lord Jesus wants to bring the subject of death to their minds.  The children of Israel were given the manna in answer to their fear of starving.  Jesus is going to give them an answer to their fear of death.  It’s a subject about which there was a considerable difference of opinion among first-century Jews.  Each of those present in that synagogue had ideas they were taught as children, along with their own personal ideas about death and the after-life, referred to in Hebrew as the Olam Ha-Ba (the World To Come).

A cemetery in Indiana has a tombstone that is over a hundred years old, and it bears this epitaph:

Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby had read those words and scratched this reply below them:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went.

The passerby was right.  The important thing about death is what follows.  Where are you going?

One sizable group of Hebrew people during the first century were the Sadducees.  They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  One of my professors in Bible college said something that I’ve never forgotten.  We were studying the Gospels and he said, “The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead;  that’s why they’re ‘sad,you see’.”  If I didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead, I’d be sad too; wouldn’t you?

From what I’ve read about first-century Judaism, the greater focus of attention appears to be on the here and now, rather than on the there and then.  If you have a computer, you probably get notifications of updates that need to be installed.  Some of those updates take quite a bit of time to install.  Usually you are given the option of three buttons to choose from.  You can click “install now”, “set a time”, or “remind me later”.  If you’re like me, you don’t want to be bothered by the interruption and so you click the “remind me later” button.  I’ve been clicking that button several times over the past weeks, putting it off again and again.  I need to stop and let the developers of my operating system get the job done!  First-century Judaism probably wasn’t much different from our society today when it comes to the issue of death.  It wasn’t a subject that they liked to discuss, so they often ignored it or kept putting it off until later.  Evangelist Billy Graham made the following comment:  Much of the world pretends that death does not exist.  We like to speak of the dead as “departed”, or persons who have died as having “passed on” or “expired”.  We do not like the word “death”.  It seems so final, so irreversible, so hopeless.

Do the Old Testament scriptures talk about the death and the afterlife?  Yes, in many places.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and others are spoken of as being “gathered to their people” after they died.  By contrast, the wicked were described as being “cut off from their people.”  Daniel 12:2 speaks of a conscious life after death in one of two places, and both are everlasting.  It never ends.  Many passages of Scripture use the word Sheol to refer to the place of the dead (in the Psalms, Job, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Jonah, Isaiah, I Samuel, and others).  Add to that the teachings of the Rabbis that were collected as part of the Mishnah and Talmud.  In these writings it seems that each of the rabbis had a different teaching about the afterlife.  This added confusion to the minds of the people, and increased their fear of what’s in store for them beyond the grave.

With that background in mind concerning death and the afterlife, the people’s ears must have been tingling and their attention focused on the Lord Jesus after He said those words in verse 50:  “This is the bread which comes out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”  Everyone there was wondering, “What is He going to say next?”  “How can this be possible.”  I think Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us as well, a principle for sharing the Gospel message:  Sometimes, in order to awaken in people a desire for eternal life, you’ve got to put the fear of death into them!  By putting the fear of death into people, we may also be putting the fear of God into them:  “If there is a God, what’s He going to do to me when this life is over?”  “I’ve tried to be good, but so far I haven’t been very successful!”

CONCLUSION:

Is death a subject that you don’t like to think about or talk about?  Do you sometimes worry about your own death and what might await you on the other side?  Would you like to put an end to those worries and have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life?  If so, please go to my sermon on John 1:12, entitled “What Does It Mean To Receive Christ”, and consider what God wants you to do, and what He gives you in exchange for your act of obedience and faith.  May you allow the Bread of Life to be the One who satisfies the deepest hunger of your soul, both now and for eternity.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Let’s feast on the Word of God, which describes for us the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life.

 

 

 

THE WEDDING AT CANA – John 2:1-11

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Don’t you love weddings!  They are such joyful occasions!  I’ve heard people say that they didn’t like going to funerals, but I’ve never personally heard anyone say that they didn’t like going to weddings.  There is the beautiful ceremony, the exchange of vows between the bride and groom, and those words:  “I now pronounce you husband and wife . . . You may kiss your bride.”  Then there is the reception afterward:  all the good food and drink, the joyful conversation, the photos taken, and the wonderful memories.

THE SETTING (verses 1-2)

The setting for this passage of Scripture is a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Verses 1 and 2 tell us that “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited.”  Jesus and His mother must have been friends of the bride and groom. Notice that John uses the term “mother of Jesus“.  He never calls her “Mary” in his Gospel.  In all the Scriptures the place of preeminence is always given to Jesus and not to Mary.

First-century Jewish weddings differed in many ways from our typical American weddings, but the receptions were similar.  The three stages to a first-century Jewish wedding are:  the “betrothal” (for a year – somewhat like an engagement), the “procession” (led by the groom, who goes to her parents’ home and takes her to his parents’ home where the marriage is consummated), and “the feast”.  This passage is talking about the wedding feast.  This feast could go on for several days, a week, or even longer.

What would be one of the worst things that could happen at a marriage feast?  What would cause the most embarrassment for the families of the bride and groom?  What would provoke anger among the guests and cause many of them to leave?  Running out of food and drink, right?  That would destroy the joy of this happy occasion because it would be saying to the guests, “We don’t want you here any longer!”  “Go home!”

II.  JESUS’ CONVERSATION WITH HIS MOTHER (verses 3-5)

Mary may have been helping with the feast because she knew that they were out of wine before the guests realized it.  In verse 3 she said to Jesus, “They have no wine”.    Was Mary expecting her Son to perform a miracle?  I don’t think so.  The apostle John tells us that this was His first miracle (see verse 11); so Jesus did not perform any miracles during His childhood.    Based on her previous experiences with her Son, I think she had a different reason for bringing this need to His attention.  In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, and verses 41-52, Jesus is 12 years old and went with His parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast.  Afterward. without their knowledge, He stayed in Jerusalem.  When they searched for Him, “they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”  When His mother expressed their concern, Jesus said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me?  Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  Jesus did return with them to Nazareth, and “Mary treasured all these things in her heart”.  Verse 52 says that “Jesus increased in wisdom”.  I believe that Mary brought this need to Jesus because she was convinced that He had the wisdom to come up with a solution to this problem.  I don’t think that she was expecting a miracle from Him.  That’s my opinion.  If it is right, Mary witnessed much more than she expected.

His response is, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?  My hour has not yet come.”  This is a very controversial passage of Scripture.  I read it in 20 English versions so far.  Many of the translations and paraphrases seem disrespectful on the part of Jesus, and a few of them are brutal.  This is not the first time that this expression appears in the Scriptures.

After studying verse 4, I’ve personally come to the conclusion that this was a private conversation between Jesus and His mother.  John records it because he was there at the wedding, always stayed close to Jesus, and must have witnessed that conversation.  He wrote it down because this was the first of Jesus’ signs, pointing to His true identity as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31).  Mary did not make a request of Jesus.  She merely presented a need.  His response was respectful and, judging from her reaction, she realized that Jesus was willing to do something about that need.  I believe that Jesus always did the right thing.  Rather than trying to imagine the exact meaning of His words and the tone of His voice when He said them, I am content to treat verse 4 as a private conversation, spoken in Hebrew, and look, rather, at the results of it.  Let’s move on to verse 5 and see what happened.

In verse 5, Mary obviously understands, from His response to her concern, that Jesus is willing to respond to this situation.  So she tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  Those are Mary’s last words spoken in the Gospel of John.  Her words are good advice for us today, aren’t they?  “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  By saying those words, Mary was stepping back so that the focus would be on Jesus, and so that He could deal with the situation in His own way. 

III.  THE MIRACLE ITSELF (verses 6-10)

I agree with Warren Wiersbe when he says that this is a “quiet miracle”.  Mary, His disciples, and the servants may have been the only ones who witnessed this event and realized that Jesus performed a miracle.  It’s quite a contrast to the last miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel:  “And He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’.  He who died came forth . . . “.  Let’s take a look at this miracle here in John chapter 2.  It raises some questions and teaches some lessons.  Verse 6 says, “Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.”   There is a reason for John’s detailed description of the waterpots.  These pots were part of a religious tradition.  The Mishnah was a collection of the traditions of the elders passed on from generation to generation and then put into written form in six large volumes.  The largest volume was devoted entirely to the subject of ceremonial washing of hands and vessels for eating, not to remove dirt but to make them “ceremonially clean”.  They had to perform these washings before and after every meal.  The Scriptures did not require this practice.  Only the priests were to cleanse themselves (Leviticus 22) before offering a sacrifice or eating consecrated food, and only if they had come in contact with a leper or an unclean animal or person.  So the Jewish traditions had expanded God’s Law way out of proportion, and they insisted upon their observance very rigidly.  A Rabbi named Rabbi Akiba, who was imprisoned by the Romans and given scarcely enough water to sustain life, preferred to use all that water for his ceremonial washings and to die of thirst.  This may seem like a long side-track but you will see how it fits into this passage of Scripture soon.

In verse 7, “Jesus said to them (the servants), ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’  And they filled them up to the brim.”  Those six waterpots now contained a total of 120 to 180 gallons of water; maybe even more since they were now filled to the brim.  That’s a lot of water!  If you drank a gallon of water a day (and most of us drink about half that much in a day),  the water in those pots would last you from four to six months, or even longer!  Jesus had a reason for telling the servants to fill those pots to the brim.  He wanted there to be no doubt that there was “only” water in those pots, and that there was no room to add wine to them.  There was no way that those servants, or any people nearby, could come to the conclusion that this was a trick, or that wine had been added to the water.

When those servants completed their task and had returned to Jesus, He said to them in verse 8:  “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.”  The Scripture says, “and they took it to him”.  They obeyed Jesus’ request, but can you imagine what they must have been thinking to themselves and saying to one another as they were taking this “water” to the headwaiter for him to sample.  “Is he going to be angry with us and make fun of us for bringing him water to taste?”  That brings up my first question:  When did the water become wine?  John does not record that Jesus touched the water, or spoke words such as “become wine”, and he doesn’t record any “waving of the hand” by Jesus to indicate the moment of transformation.  When do you think it happened?  We don’t know for sure, but I’ve changed my personal opinion as a result of my study of this passage.  I now believe that it didn’t become wine immediately after they filled the pots.  It didn’t become wine when the servants drew the water, nor as they were on their way to the headwaiter.  I personally believe it became wine an instant before the headwaiter tasted it.  I have reasons for this personal belief.  For one thing, I don’t think there was a smell of wine after the vessels were filled.  I think that six vessels holding a total of 180 gallons of wine would have given off quite an aroma (or “bouquet”).  I also don’t think it was wine when the servants were carrying it to the headwaiter.  If I were one of those servants, I would try to hold the ladle or cup up near my nose to smell it, and also look at it to see if there was a change in color.  If I could get away with it, I might even take a sip, and that’s a no-no!  So the suspense must have been unbearable as they watched the headwaiter bring it to his lips, take a swallow or two and call out to the bridegroom, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior.  But you have kept the good wine until now!”  So I personally think that the water from the waterpot didn’t become wine until just before the headwaiter tasted it.  Verse 9 says that the headwaiter did not know where it came from, so he was able to be impartial in his response. His proclamation to the bridegroom indicates that Jesus not only turned water into wine, but into aged wine; performing in an instant what would normally have taken many years to happen naturally.

Second question:  How much of all those waterpots full of water actually became wine?  We don’t know that for sure either, but I have my recently-formed opinion on that question also.  I don’t personally believe that any of the water in any of those pots became wine until it was drawn out for use.  Whatever was not drawn out for use remained water.  That may sound ridiculous, but based upon Warren Wiersbe’s comment that this was a “quiet miracle”, if Jesus performed the miracle in this way, the only people who would have known that this was truly a miracle would have been His mother, His disciples, and the servants.  The headwaiter and even the bride and groom may not have known that a miracle was performed by Jesus.  If His miracle had been performed in this manner, there would be no traces of a miracle left behind – no stone waterpots still full of wine, and no empty waterpots having the smell of wine.  Maybe this was part of the intent of Jesus’ words to Mary in verse 4 – “My hour has not yet come.”  It wasn’t the time yet for some people to be proclaiming that He is the Messiah while others are seeking ways to kill Him.

Does this theory still seem farfetched?  You may want to read chapter 6 of John’s Gospel.  The five barley loaves and two dried fish were being multiplied as Jesus was breaking them up and putting them into baskets for the disciples to distribute.  Once again, the miracle itself was not visible to anyone except His disciples.  Only the results were visible to others.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I think it makes the miracle even more amazing if it was truly performed by Jesus in this way.

IV.  RESULTS AND CONCLUSION (verses 11-12)

Verse 16 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”  It appears that the Lord Jesus’ primary audience for this miracle was His disciples, who were with Him and watched the whole event up-close.  The intended, and actual result was that they saw a manifestation of His glory and “believed in Him”.

You may be wondering when I’m going to keep my promise and return to the topic of purification:  the ceremonial washing of the hands and vessels for eating – the reason those large waterpots happened to be there.  Is there more to be learned from this miracle of Jesus?  Let’s find out.  Psalm 104:14-15 speaks of God’s goodness and generosity to mankind.  It says, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth.  And wine which makes man’s heart glad . . . ”  Wine represents joy, celebration, and festivity.  That’s why it was so important to the wedding feast.  But there was no true joy in Palestine at that time.  The daily ceremonial washings and other rituals made life tasteless for the people.  It took their focus away from their personal relationship with God.  Have there been times when going to church and attending Bible studies has been little more than a ritual for you?  Have there been times when it seemed that there was nothing to be joyful about?  We’ve all experienced those moments, haven’t we?  If we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we have every reason for joy.  What we need is a fresh realization of the glory of God.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence is fullness of joy . . . “.  He is always present with us, and in us if we are His children, and He always desires to have fellowship with us.  When unconfessed sin, or circumstances, people, things, or worry rob us of joy, let’s pray David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-12 and allow the Lord to put our lives back into proper focus:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, . . . Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” 

Amos 9:12-15 and Joel 3:18 tell us that an abundance of wine is also a symbol of the presence of the Messiah.  That was certainly true of Jesus’ first public appearance!  “The mountains will drip with sweet wine”.  Let’s remind ourselves of His coming, why He came, what He did for us and what He is continuing to do for us as our High Priest.  Let’s also remind ourselves that the greatest wedding and wedding feast is soon to come.  Revelation 19:7.9 says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”  Participation in this marriage and marriage feast in heaven is by invitation only, and the joy of this event will last forever.  Is your name on the invitation list (The Lamb’s Book of Life)?  If not, become a child of God through a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior today (John 1:11-13).

I’d like to see you there, at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  That is my prayer.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.  Amen.”  (Revelation 22:21)


 

 

CONSTRUCTION SITE:

Thank you for visiting this construction site.  I hope you will come back to view some of the other sermons on this site.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

CHRISTMAS – Why Is It Significant?

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INTRODUCTION:

After the first American astronaut landed on the moon, the President of the United States  praised this wonder of modern science.  He said, “The planting of human feet on the moon is the greatest moment in human history!”  Later, evangelist Billy Graham made this comment:  “With all due respect”, he said, “the greatest moment in human history was not when man set foot on the moon, but when the infinite and eternal God set foot on this earth in Jesus of Nazareth!”  Just how significant is the birth of Jesus Christ in our world today?

I.  THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S BIRTH

The year is 2012 A.D., isn’t it?  As you probably know, the letters A.D. are an abbreviation for two Latin words:  “anno Domini”, a phrase which means “in the year of the Lord”.  Events prior to Jesus’ birth are dated B.C., that is, “before Christ”.  Everything in history is dated from the time when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.  Every newspaper and magazine, every official document gives testimony to Christ’s birth.

II.  THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING HIS BIRTH (Luke 2:1-20)

Yet when we look at the circumstances surrounding His birth, we see poverty and humility.  But from these circumstances, and the symbolism in them, we can gain valuable insight into why the Lord Jesus was born.  Let’s take a closer look at this passage of Scripture:  Luke chapter 2, verses one to twenty.

In verses 1 to 6, we read that Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken of the whole Roman empire.  Joseph and Mary were forced to make an eighty mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they belonged to the descendants of David.  Caesar didn’t know it, but he was doing an errand for God, so that Micah’s prophecy in Micah 5:2 would be fulfilled.  The Savior of the world was to be born in the city of Bethlehem.

In verse 7, Mary brought forth her child alone.  There was no midwife;  there were no friends and no family, except her husband, Joseph.  Similarly, at the end of Jesus’ life, as He hung dying on a cross, there was only a handful of His family and friends close to him.  Verse 7 also says, “they wrapped Him in cloths.  The Greek word literally means “to swaddle” or to wrap in strips of cloth.  This was often the way dead bodies were wrapped in preparation for burial.

Verse 7 also says that they laid the newborn baby Jesus in a manger – a feeding trough for animals.  Jesus was born in a stable, a place for sheep and cattle.  There were probably many lambs under the same roof with the baby Jesus.  This is significant because, before Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

From verses 8-20, we learn that the only other people to see the newborn baby Jesus were the shepherds.  And these were no ordinary shepherds.  The Jewish book of legal codes, called the “Mishnah”, prohibited the tending of flocks of sheep throughout the land of Israel, except in the wilderness areas, because sheep were unclean animals.  The only exception was the flocks used for the temple sacrifices.  These sheep were killed and offered up as sacrifices for the sins of the people.

III.  WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST BORN

Why was Jesus Christ born?  What is the true meaning of Christmas?  I found out the answer to that question in 1970.  Have you ever had a miserable Christmas?  Well, Christmas of 1970 had all the indications of being the worst Christmas I would ever experience.  It was Christmas eve, and I was in the Air Force, stationed at a remote base in northern Thailand.  I was away from my family and friends, and there was no “Christmas spirit” in me.  I was on a bus headed into town to attend a Bible study at the Christian Servicemen’s Center.  I had been going there for several weeks, hoping to find some answers to life.  The director of the center must have noticed my despondency because he asked  me if I would mind staying for a while after the Bible study.  He said he had something he wanted to talk to me about.  I had nothing else going on that evening so I agreed.

He began by asking me this question:  “If you died tonight, and you stood before God in judgment, and God said, ‘Tom, give me one reason why I should let you into My heaven’, what would you say?”  I don’t remember what the Bible study was about that night, nor who was there, but I do remember the joy and peace I experienced when I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life as my Savior and Lord.  I also remember smiling as I rode back to the base on the 10:00 p.m. bus.  I was probably the only serviceman who was smiling and who wasn’t drunk!  On Christmas Day I had no Christmas tree and no presents, but I had more joy than I had ever experienced.  I spent most of Christmas Day reading the New Testament Scriptures.  It was a new book to me because I was now a child of God.  If you want to know more about what I learned, and what happened to me that night, it’s all in the ABOUT PAGE of this blog.

The real joy of Christmas comes when we discover the true meaning of Christmas.  Why did Jesus Christ come to earth?  Let’s allow Jesus to answer that question for Himself.  In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For the Son of man also came, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.”  In the midst of shopping for presents, sending cards, and putting up decorations, is there room in your heart for Jesus?