• Tony Birkhead

The Main Event Week - 1



When in doubt, take Jesus at His word!


INTRODUCTION

In order to demonstrate who he was, Jesus performed a number of miracles—which the apostle John referred to as “signs.” The first of those signs was at a joyous occasion where Jesus turned water into wine. The second sign was in the midst of a heartbreaking circumstance in which a father desperately asks Jesus to heal his dying son.


Share about a time when you wanted to do something, but everything felt out of your hands.


How did this challenge your faith?

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 20:30-31

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21:25

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 4:43-54

After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

John 20:29

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read JOHN 4:46-48.

In the passages leading up this incident, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in a Cana and shared the gospel with both a religious leader and a social outcast. In this passage, Jesus was approached by a man from an entirely different part of the social sphere: a Royal official.


What would make the official think Jesus could heal his son?


What misconceptions did he have about Jesus’ power to heal?


How would you describe the belief he had at this point?


Read JOHN 4:49-50.

How is the man’s faith different at this point in the conversation than it was when the conversation with Jesus began?


There’s a definite shift in the official. He had become desperate. He wanted His son to be saved from death. He was undoubtedly a man of means—medical assistance would not have been an issue for him. But whatever options he’d tried to bring healing to his son had failed. Jesus had become his only hope.


Does Jesus want us to see Him as our only hope? Why?


When performing His first sign, Jesus was reluctant to act. Was Jesus reluctant to heal the official’s son?


Read verse 50 again. What is important about the way Jesus responded to the official?


Jesus was not sending the man away begrudgingly. God delights in answering the prayers of His people. Jesus spoke here with a confidence that comes not with knowing something would happen, but being the One who caused it to happen.


Verse 50 says the man believed the word that Jesus spoke. What does that tell us about where he was putting his faith?


Read JOHN 4:51-54.

Why was the time the boy began to improve of significance to the father? How might that fact have affected his faith?


How is the man’s faith different at this point than it was when he started his journey to bring Jesus to his son?


When the man left Jesus, he was trusting His word was true. When he returned home to the news that his son was better, he did something peculiar: he didn’t immediately rejoice in the good news. Instead, he asked when he got better. When he heard the time, he saw his faith had been validated.


Why would the man’s household become believers?


This story doesn’t end simply on the good news of the official’s son being made well. The entire household put their trust in Jesus! And an important truth is revealed in their faith: the gospel is for everyone who trusts in Him. There is no one who is excluded, no people group, no social class, no one. The gospel is for everyone, and that is the greatest act of compassion God could ever have shown us.


MOVING FORWARD

Remembering the times when God has acted on our behalf is so important to our faith. It reminds us that God is faithful at all times, even when we can’t see what He’s doing, and it encourages us to believe His Word, no matter what.

  • What experiences can you recall that have helped your faith to grow?

  • What are one or two practical ways you can help yourself grow in your trust for the Lord?


PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for revealing His compassion in the healing of the official’s son and for the greatest act of compassion of all—Jesus’ death and resurrection, giving new life to all who trust in Him.


COMMENTARY

JOHN 4:46-54.

4:46–50a. On this return to Galilee, Jesus also visited Cana (bypassing Nazareth), the location of the water-to-wine miracle recorded in chapter 2. There he encountered a request for help from a royal official who served in the court of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Some interpreters suggest the man could have been a Gentile centurion, but perhaps not since Jesus directed his early ministry exclusively to Jews. This official had made the journey of twenty-five miles on the basis of Jesus’ reputation.

Notice the verbs as John draws a picture of a desperate man. He heard that Jesus had arrived, and he went to him and begged him. The word describes repeated and persistent pleas. Desperate faith drove him to Jesus and also drove him to his knees.

The Lord’s words shock us as they must have shocked the royal official. He did not address the desperate man but spoke in the plural (you) to the crowd, accusing them of wanting only more signs and wonders. But faith built only on the spectacular is not biblical faith. Perhaps Jesus drew a contrast here between the Samaritans in Sychar who believed because of his message and the Jews in Cana who were interested only in physical miracles.

Before we look at the faith factor, let us clarify a couple of common misunderstandings in this passage. The royal official of John 4 should not be confused with the centurion of Matthew 8 and Luke 7. The town was the same (Capernaum), but in the Synoptics we read about a dying slave rather than a dying son. Many scholars argue that all the Gospel writers drew from a common source and changed the flavor of the story. But John took great pains to establish his eyewitness account and also, writing much later, had opportunity to review all the Synoptic accounts while preparing his own.

Another pointed issue is the phrase signs and wonders which has taken on immense popularity in our day. John generally used the word signs (semia), but this is the only appearance of wonders (terrata). Borchert writes, “In the ancient world miracles and acts of power were linked to the presence of the miracle worker, but here the healer refused to be present. The story, therefore, is an important illustration of the purpose for which John wrote the Gospel.” And again, “Jesus is clearly portrayed in the Gospel as one who seeks to lead persons through stages of inadequate believing to satisfactory believing even if it means denying the person or request” (Borchert, p. 220).

Jesus did not say you may go as the NIV translates. The word go is imperative, so the man has been commanded by the Savior of the world with a promise of life for his son. But if he left, according to his way of thinking, he would leave behind his one chance for help. Jesus demanded that his faith be desperate enough to trust his word, not just his visible works.

Wonders may produce awe, but words produce faith. Remember John’s theme: Believing is seeing. Our modern society assumes everything must be tested by science, explained with logic, or personally experienced. When it passes those tests, it can be identified as reality. But the writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1).

This story is so dramatically human because it is so like life. Any of us who has failed or flunked, been fired or flattened can understand desperate faith. In my view of the passage, Jesus did not criticize the royal official but rather the Galileans who gathered around because they had seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast.

4:50b–54. The man obeyed, persisted, and received the promise of a miracle. Most notable in this section of chapter 4 is the phrase that appears at the end of verse 50: The man took Jesus at his word. This kind of faith God constantly rewarded in the New Testament, and particularly in the Gospels. The total trust that Jesus will do what he has promised, a response to the Savior, culminates in faith-behavior—actually doing what Jesus says to do.

Apparently, it was too late in the day to begin the trip back to Capernaum, but the next day the royal official set out to cover the twenty-five miles. We can only imagine the anxiety of that seemingly endless trip, but the servants brought the good news before he arrived home. The father asked about the timing of the child’s recovery, and his faith was confirmed. Vague and impersonal faith became specific and personal faith. The word believed has no direct or indirect object in verse 53, so we assume the royal official and all his household exhibited intentional faith in Jesus’ person, his deity, and his messianic claims.

Not only did the royal official himself believe, but he shared the entire experience with his family. The concept of “household salvation” is certainly not uncommon in the New Testament, and we are reminded here of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. Let us keep a good balance here. While recognizing the strong influence of the major male member of a household in first-century Middle Eastern culture, we must also acknowledge that everyone in the house knew how sick the boy was as well as when and why he recovered. In fact, the faith of the members of the household, not having spoken with Jesus as their master did, represents the kind of faith John describes throughout this Gospel.

John did not record any other witnessing done by this man, but the story obviously got back to him so it could be included in the Gospel. A very private miraculous sign moved a petty politician from desperate faith to deliberate faith. Jesus came to save us from sin. But he does not want us to trust him just because we are desperate and have no other choices. He wants us to believe in his word and trust him with every part of our lives.

In a classic work published almost a hundred years ago, Archbishop Trench describes the growth of the noblemen’s faith: “But did he not believe already? Was not this healing itself a gracious reward of his faith? Yes, he believed that particular word of the Lord’s; but this is something more, the entering into the number of Christ’s disciples, the yielding of himself to Him as to the promised Messiah. Of admitting that he already truly believed, there may be indicated here a strengthening and augmenting of his faith. For faith may be true, and yet most capable of this increase.”



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5

In a previous job, I had a boss who kept promising me a promotion if I just waited “a little longer” and “kept working hard.” That’s exactly what I did. I waited and worked. But the promotion never came. He was someone who dangled a promise in front of me, but never came through. Have you ever known someone who overpromised, then under-delivered? Maybe it was a boss. Perhaps a friend. Or maybe even a family member. Whoever it was, it can be easy to grow jaded and skeptical. To immediately assume whatever is promised won’t actually happen.

GOD DOESN’T OVERPROMISE- While people constantly disappoint us, there is one who never will: God. Today’s verse tells us that, “Every word of God proves true…” Could you imagine meeting a person like that?! Who never overpromised or made plans they couldn’t keep?

DO YOU DOUBT? - So, what promises of God do you struggle with doubting? That you’re saved by the blood of Jesus alone? That Jesus is coming back for his Church? That he will answer prayer? No matter what they are, you can take refuge in the promises of God. They are sure. They never fail. They are as real as the sun above your head and the earth beneath your feet.

CHOOSE YOUR REFUGE - A refuge is “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.”

Imagine you’re in a war and being chased by vicious enemies. Ahead, there are two fortresses you can seek refuge in. One is hundreds of years old. It is built of sturdy stone and has impenetrable iron gates. It has weathered hundreds of storms and sieges in its lifetime. Then, there is another. It, too, looks impressive on the outside. But as you look closer, the gates are made of rotting wood. The bars over the windows are rusting. And there are cracks in the foundation.

Which refuge would you choose? Obviously the choice makes itself! You would look for safety in the first fortress. As Christians, we have the same choice each day.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

The word “yoke” can be foreign to those of us living in an industrialized nation. Basically, a yoke is a piece of wood that is used to hold two animals together, usually oxen, to help them share the load in pulling a till or a buggy of some sort. The key here is that the yoke allows the animals to support each other in pulling the heavy weight.

As we live our lives, we are often times yoked by many things. We might be yoked with a personal decision that is weighing heavy on us. We might even be yoked with a spouse who helps us in the hard times. We can even be yoked to sin as the Israelites were with Baal (Numbers 25:3). No matter how you look at it, we are yoked to something, whether good or bad.

Jesus tells us to come and take his yoke and we will find rest. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say he will take our burdens and attach his yoke to it as we standby and watch. No, he takes us under his yoke and carries those burdens with us along the way. In turn, he takes the majority of the burden and makes it “light” for us. We also “learn” from Jesus as we carry the burden with him. This allows us to learn to change from the inside instead of repeating the same wrong things over and over. Is there something pulling you down that you haven’t given to Jesus today?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

The word “dwelt” literally means God set up His tent or tabernacle among us. In the Old Testament the tabernacle was a large tent that traveled with the Israelites wherever they went. The priest would go into meet with God—they had to be ceremonially clean in every way to enter God’s presence. Jesus turned this upside down, because He takes on flesh and pitches His tent in the middle of our backyard—a messed up backyard at that. Put simply: Jesus entered the mess of our world.

Jesus was born in a dirty stone feeding trough, to a young struggling family, in a small town where sheep outnumbered people, in a defeated country that was under military occupation, among a people who felt politically and spiritually defeated. And as we look at His life and ministry we see Jesus’ path intersecting with the most unlikely people, inserting Himself in the midst their sin, their mistakes, and their struggles. He pursues even those who will eventually deny Him, betray Him, and crucify Him. If you are a follower of Jesus this should resonate with you BIG-TIME.

We cannot impact the world from a safe distance. Following Jesus will lead us to enter the mess of real lives in the real world. Just as Jesus entered the mess of our lives, we must be willing to enter the mess of others lives around us…

Adapted From: http:// shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

1 Samuel 30:1-6

King David’s psalms reveal that he faced some very lonely times. However, few experiences compared to his utter despair over the ashes of his city, Ziklag. The story of how he reached such anguished depths actually began much earlier—at a time when his faith failed.

After years of fleeing from King Saul’s death threats, David was discouraged and weary. He’d believed God’s promise to make him king, but now his certainty began to waver. So he did what many of us do—he resorted to human reasoning. Under the circumstances, it appeared his best option was to seek refuge among the Philistines, who were enemies of Israel (1 Samuel 27:1). Blinded by his seemingly hopeless situation, David stepped out of God’s will in order to get beyond Saul’s reach. His lapse may have been just temporary, but it nonetheless proved significant, in that he stopped believing God could guide him safely through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).

Several months later, the future king returned to Ziklag to find that the city had been ruined. Even worse, his family and his people had been taken. David’s band of warriors prepared to take out their frustration and anger on him. From the bottom of this pit of despair, a humbled man looked to God and found his strength and his faith renewed (1 Samuel 30:6).

At our lowest points, we can be tempted to stop trusting in the Lord and instead take matters into our own hands. But when we do, it’s easy to wind up in a mess. The good news is that even in a mess, if we look to the Lord, we will see the way out of our pit and back into His will.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.

Psalm 91:1-2

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he quoted the Scriptures—but he left something out. He said, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’ " (Matthew 4:6).

He quoted Psalm 91, which says, "For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" (verses 11–12). Notice Satan left out the words "to keep you in all your ways." Why? If you look at it contextually, these verses are effectively saying that when you’re in the will of God, you don’t have to be afraid. You can trust the Lord.

Satan was essentially saying, "Just jump off, and the angels will catch you." But Jesus put it into context, saying, "It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ " (Matthew 4:7).

You don’t have to get up every morning and say, "I might die today." Yes, you might—but not if God doesn’t want you to. The Lord knows the date of your birth and the date of your death. You can be confident in Him. I believe that Christians are indestructible until God is done with them.

That doesn’t mean we go out and drink strychnine or play with venomous snakes. But it does mean that if it is not a Christian’s time, then he or she isn’t going anywhere. There is a difference between trusting the Lord and testing the Lord by taking unnecessary risks. We don’t have to live in fear, because our times are in His hands.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…


Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29

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