The Chicken Miracle

It could have been me. It could have been me hanging there! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase that image from my mind. There he hung, my friend, my friend of three years. We’d done everything together. I’d never seen a suicide before. What was I doing when I heard? Oh, yes, I was just wandering aimlessly through the streets, my guilt was so heavy I thought I would die. I overheard someone say, “He hung himself” “He just threw the money down in the Temple and went out and hung himself.”

I followed the curious and together we saw the authorities removing the body. Judas, I’m sorry! I’m sorry for the way I felt about you last night. As I see your body, I realize it could have been me. I was so pompous!  When you kissed Jesus in Gethsemane – I could have killed you. In my anger I took a swing at one the high priest’s servants and cut off his ear. As I think about it now, that started the longest and worst hours of my life. I went from foolhardy confidence to a betrayal as bad as yours. It wasn’t six hours earlier that I had so boastfully claimed that even if everyone else ran when the going got tough, I’d be there. And even when Jesus said that before the morning came, before the rooster crowed, I’d claim I never knew him, I was so cocky I said I’d never disown him. And yet after Jesus scolded me for cutting off the man’s ear I went from anger to unbelievable fear. I ran. Like a scared schoolboy, I ran – I deserted Jesus, just after saying that I’d never do that.

Jesus called me Peter, the rock. How wrong could He be? A rock? Huh! More like a jellyfish. I’ve never felt so unstable and weak in my whole life as at this very moment. What kind of a man am I? Like a spineless coward, I moved from tree to tree and then from shadow to shadow in the night following the guards as they took Jesus to the high priest’s house. And there I sinned as surely and as wickedly as Judas himself. How can a man do what I did? I didn’t just hide, I lied. – I said I didn’t know Jesus. I didn’t just lie, I took God as my witness that I didn’t know Jesus.

And then came the worst moment of the worst hours of my life – - I heard a rooster crow. I consider that the worst miracle Jesus ever did. Do you know how many chickens there are in Jerusalem? Do you realize what had to happen for every one of them to be kept quiet except one?  And then that one to crow at exactly the moment that I swore I didn’t know Jesus? That sound cut through my mind and pierced my heart so that I didn’t think I could stand the pain. I felt that crowing announced to the whole world what kind of man I was -but worst of all it announced it to me.

Yes, Judas, I understand the physical pain of guilt. It’s like a rock in your gut. And the pressure on your chest seems more than you can bear. I ran from that courtyard and staggered through the streets sobbing – I didn’t know where I was going but throughout those next hours all I could see in my mind were images of Jesus:

Jesus as he walked on the water,

Jesus as he healed the blind man,

Jesus as he raised Lazarus from the dead.

And with every image I saw I heard that rooster crow.

 Is there any hope for a man like me?

Is Judas’ fate mine as well?

 Even now as I stand here out of sight, I see them taking Jesus to Pilate. Will I intervene now? Will I step up and try to persuade them to let him go? Will I walk with Him and identify myself with him? I’m silent as stone as I hear the crowd cry out “Crucify him!” Couldn’t I at least yell out “No!” Can’t I even say to someone near me, “This isn’t fair.”? I continue in my tomb-like silence as he is publicly stripped and beaten. Can’t I at least catch his eye and let him know that I’m praying for him? Can’t I tell him that I’m with him?

 They put a thorn crown on his head and a king-colored robe on his back and they spit on him as they mock him calling him the king of Jews.  Can’t I yell out that they are wrong – that he truly is the King of the Jews. Even If I’m the only voice for justice, can’t I say something? And then as they put that heavy cross on his bleeding shoulders, I find that I am paralyzed not only in my tongue but also In my feet. I not only keep silent, I don’t even step up like another man and take his cross. What kind of a person am I? I started so well, so I thought. I remember when Jesus first came to Galilee and called James, John and me to go with him and be his disciples. I’d heard of him, I’d heard of the miracles that he performed. I was Impressed and thought this was a great opportunity to really be somebody. I remember the time he raised that little girl from the dead. I recall the pride I felt as It was Just me and James and John that he let go with him Into the house to raise her. I knew that Jesus and me, we were tight- you know. And who could ever forget that he took me to the top of the mountain where we saw him changed into light and speak with Moses and Elijah. I was in unique company – Jesus was someone that I could go places with. I felt the tallest however the time that Jesus asked me who he was and I told him that he was the Messiah. Right there in front of the others he said that I would be blessed and that to me would be given the keys to the kingdom. I knew it! Jesus and me, we could change things. Me and Jesus, we could get rid of the Romans and the Pharisees and create a great new society. WOW I I had such great plans – all that I was going to do for Jesus. And then that rooster crowed and all my plans came crashing down around me. I knew then that I wasn’t going to do anything for Jesus. I couldn’t do anything for Him. I was afraid, I was empty, I was powerless, I was me! And now I just blindly watch as that cross in lowered into the ground. And as his body hangs on those nails I suddenly see! Like a mirror to my soul – I see me on that cross. He who knew no sin became sin for me. The horror of his death reflects the ugliness of my pride. It is me in the depths of my selfishness that I see on that cross.

Now I understand. All those miracles were not just to show me his power but were to show me that he Is God. And when he chose me and called me to be his disciple it wasn’t to see what I could do for him, but for me to see what he would do for me. Oh Jesus, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling. Naked, (I) come to thee for dress, helpless, (I) look to thee for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly, wash me, Savior or I die.”

Do you Need to be Baptized to be a Christian?

Some time ago a parishioner wrote asking if baptism is necessary for salvation.  Publishing his letter and my response is an attempt at raising and clarifying the issues at stake. Your response would be helpful. Dear Pastor, I have been doing a Bible study on baptism.  I, myself, have not been baptized as an adult and was preparing to do this but I wanted to understand the point of it before I did, lest it be a meaningless act. I’ll spare you the details of my study but, in general, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others all drew a sharp distinction between water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Apparently one receives the Holy Spirit upon acceptance of Christ, though it is unclear whether it requires the laying on of hands, etc.  It would seem that at one point Jesus himself did not conduct water baptism while at other points he did.  The disciples are never revealed to have been water baptized though John the B must have baptized at least some of them while they were yet his disciples.  Baptism of the Holy Spirit seems to be a result of acceptance of Christ and NOT a second step.  Thus if we trust Christ as our savior, we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a result and it would seem that nothing more is needed for our salvation.  Paul seems to stand for the idea that no works can bring about your salvation because the crucifixion was sufficient and thus it would seem that water baptism is just a public declaration of commitment to trust Jesus as Savior but not essential to salvation.  I consulted a book authored by Billy Graham who says he is convinced that baptism is not necessary.  Then I came across John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 (KJV).  While Acts 2:38 makes water baptism the instruction of Peter, John 3:5 is where Jesus expostulates with emphasis (“verily, verily I say unto you”) to Nicodemus that both water and spirit baptisms are EACH utterly indispensable for salvation.  I am uncomfortable with an understanding of the legalistic ritualistic nature of water baptism being indispensable for salvation, yet that is what Christ says.  I was baptized as an infant as was my wife.  I have never had a “confirmation” but my wife, who was raised Catholic, was “confirmed”.  From my study, I have concluded that being baptized as an infant is meaningless and confirmation is not baptism.  So I think we both need to be baptized.  My wife insists I’m drawing too many conclusions from John 3:5 and asked that I email you to gain your opinion. Awaiting your reply, John   Dear John, Thank you for your note. I fully agree with your understanding of the timing of “spirit” baptism as coincident with conversion.  I might clarify your wording somewhat by saying that the baptism of the Spirit is the act of the Spirit whereby he joins us/immerses us in/unites us to Christ.  I also concur with you that water baptism is not a “work” that is required of us to become a Christian.  Water baptism is however commanded of us by our Lord and practiced by the church since its inception.  Water baptism is not only a witness to what the Spirit has wrought inwardly but is also a means that God uses (as he uses other means such as worship, prayer, reading of the word, etc) to minister his grace to our lives as believers.  These “means” do not save us but they are used by God to minister to us. Likewise, God blesses obedience in baptism. The passage in Acts 2 has been used by some to indicate that water baptism is an act essential to the process of BECOMING a Christian.  While I believe that baptism is a believer’s obedient response to Jesus, too many other verses would contradict the idea that water baptism is essential to BECOMING a Christian.  Maybe one way of saying it is that water baptism is an “essential” obedient response of one who IS a Christian. It was inconceivable that a NT believer would not be baptized – but that doesn’t mean that the baptism was essential to BECOMING a Christian. As to John 3:5, the controversy over what that verse means is unending.  Let me say that explaining the word “water” as a reference to water baptism is NOT a given.  No less a NT scholar than Don Carson (probably the leading NT scholar in the English language today) sees it as a reference to cleansing, thus “water” (cleansing) and “spirit” (as God’s nature) refer to two dimensions of salvation – we are cleansed from sin and given God’s nature.  I recommend his lengthy discussion of this and alternate views on pages of 191-196 of his commentary on John (available from me if you wish). Based on the difficulty of having certainty of what Jesus meant in John 3:5 it seems unwise to base our theology of baptism on it. It seems wiser to use less controversial passages as our basis.  Having said all of the above, I still concur that infant baptism, which has no direct and only inferential evidence in the NT, is not the baptism which the apostles practiced.  And I know of no one who would suggest that confirmation is any kind of equivalent of baptism.  Because the word “baptism” speaks of an immersion and because I believe the NT teaches and illustrates a post-conversion public demonstration of commitment to Christ through baptism, I recommend, though do not demand, that believers be baptized by immersion following their conversion to Christ.   I hope this has been helpful Warmly, Pastor

Praying for the Salvation of your Children

“Praying for the Salvation of Your Children”

From “Characteristics of Faith” May 27th, 1860 by C. H. SPURGEON
(1834-1892) http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0317.htm

Edited by Dr. Jerry Nelson  www.soundliving.org

This is a strong indictment of those who care more about their children’s happiness than their children’s holiness:

“Now, have you ever thought my dear Christian brethren and sisters, about blessing your household? Do I hear someone objecting by saying, “I keep my religion to myself?” Do not be very anxious about its ever being stolen, then; you need not put it under lock and key; you don’t have enough religion to tempt the devil himself to come and take it from you. A man who can keep his godliness to himself has so little of it, I am afraid it will be no credit to himself, and no blessing to other people.

But have you met a father who seems to have no real interest in the spiritual welfare of his own children?  He wants to see his sons prosper financially and he would like to see his daughters marry comfortably; but as to their being converted, it does not seem to trouble his heads. It is true the father attends worship and fellowships with other Christians; and he hopes his children may turn out well.  But he never seems to have made it a matter of the anxiety of his soul that they shall be saved or not. “Out” with such a religion as that! Cast it on the dunghill; hurl it to the dogs. It is not the religion of God. He that cares not for his own household is worse than the heathen.

Praying the Promise of God Regarding Your Children: Never be content, dear parents, till all your children are saved. Lay the promise before your God. The promise is unto you and unto your children. The Greek word does not refer to infants, but to children, grand-children, and any descendants you may have, whether grown up or not. Do not cease to plead, till not only your children but your great grand-children, if you have such, are saved. I stand here today a proof that God is not untrue to his promise. I can cast my eye back through four or five generations, and see that God has been pleased to hear the prayers of our grandfather’s grandfather, who used to supplicate with God that his children might live before him to the last generation, and God has never deserted the house, but has been pleased to bring first one and then another to fear and love his name. So be it with you: and in asking this you are not asking more than God is bound to give you. He cannot refuse unless he turns back from his promise. He cannot refuse to give you both your own and your children’s souls as an answer to the prayer of your faith.

“Ah,” says one, “but you do not know what children mine are.” No, my dear friend, but I know that if you are a Christian, they are children that God has promised to bless.

“O but they are such unruly ones, they break my heart.” Then pray God to break their hearts, and they will not break your hearts any more.

“But they will bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.” Pray God then that he may bring their eyes with sorrow to prayer, and to supplication, and to the cross, and then they will not bring you to the grave.

“But,” you say, “my children have such hard hearts.” Look at your own. You think they cannot be saved: look at yourselves, he that saved you can save them.

Go to him in prayer, and say, “Lord, I will not let you go except you bless me;” and if your child is at the point of death, and, as you think, at the point of damnation on account of sin, still plead like the nobleman, “’Lord, come down lest my child perish (John 4:49), and save me for your mercy’s sake (Psalm 109:26).’ And oh, God that dwells in the highest heavens never refuse your people. Be it far from us to dream that you would ever forget your promise. We put our hand upon your Word most solemnly and pledge you to your covenant. You said your mercy is unto the children’s children of them that fear you and follow your commandments (Psalm 103:17). You said this promise is unto us and unto our children (Acts 2:39); Lord, you will not turn back from your own covenant; we challenge your word by holy faith this morning—”Do as you have said.”

 

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