A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up to Jesus in a crowd and touched the hem of his garment for healing. Immediately Jesus felt the healing power go forth from his body. “Who touched my garment?” Jesus said. The woman came forth, frightened. “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus said, and the woman went away healed. The story explains to us that it does not matter how we come to Jesus for him to heal us, just that we come in faith.
The wise men followed the star from afar. They did not stop until they came to the palace in Jerusalem where they thought Jesus was born a king. But the chief priests and scribes pointed them in the direction of Bethlehem according to the Scriptures, to the house where Jesus was.
I find it interesting that the wise men followed the Word after they followed the star. It was the Word that put them back on course. It was the Word that led them to Jesus, the Star of their lives. And it is the Word that leads us to Jesus as well, who is the Star of our lives. As the psalmist says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
The star the wise men saw is no longer present in the sky. But the light of the Word remains for us today. All we need to do is open the pages of Scripture to see it. The Word enlightens our lives with hope, faith and love. It is the Word that brings us close to the Light of the World, Jesus, our Savior. He shines on us with forgiveness and everlasting life through his sinless life and suffering and death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
The light of Christ enters into our hearts, souls and minds, and into our very lives. We ourselves become the lights of the world because of Christ dwelling in us. We share the light of Christ with those we meet. Our glow of Christ’s glory from within us spreads to those around us. Christ’s light is brighter each day as it spreads. We keep the Light alive in us through prayer and worship and Bible study. We fan into flame the Light of Christ in thought, word and deed. Everything we say, everything we do, everything we think is a reflection of the Light of life. We are little lights that keep glowing for him.
When we look at the night sky, we see thousands of stars that make the night brighter. They make us remember that each one of us makes the darkness of the world disappear. We are reminded that God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore. We are little lights of Christ among many. We do not shine alone. We shine in concert with others, much like stars in constellations. Our lights form shapes and designs that send messages to those who don’t know Christ as the Light of the World. We work together to let people know that Jesus is the one true Light. God made sure that the children of Abraham (of whom we are a part) have lights that interconnect and intersect with one another. We are not random bursts of light, but steady beams that have a permanent place in this world. Shine on. Shine bright. Shine full that Christ might be bright always and ever in your life and in the lives of those around you.
There will be a time when the light we shine as humans on this earth will go out when we die. But the light of heaven will shine on in us. We will be blessed in the heavenly realms in the city of light where we will shine like stars as saints of God. In heaven there is light everlasting and no darkness at all. There is no sadness, no tears, no hardship, no sickness there. Light like no other outshines all light and there in paradise new light from the risen Christ beams forth.
Jesus met a rich young man who asked him, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus answered that question with a question, “What are the greatest commandments?” and went on to say, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said in response, “All these I have kept since my youth.” “Then there is one thing you lack,” Jesus said, “Go and sell your possessions and give them to the poor.” The young man walked away sad because he had many possessions and was not willing to give them up. Jesus said to his disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We in our world are very attached to our possessions. We become so attached that they become our gods. Think of all of our possessions—our houses, our clothes, our cars, our furniture, our dinnerware, glasses and silverware, our phones and other electronic devices—consider whether or not we can live without them. Some things we could give up easily and others we would have a hard time giving up. Why? Because they define who we are in this world. They bring us comfort and confidence in ourselves. But why is clinging to our possessions not something we should be doing? It is because those things are not who we are and those things will all pass away. What we need to cling to instead is our Savior, Jesus, because Jesus will be with us forever. He will last long past our every possession. He will define who we are beyond what we are on earth—we are children of God, saints in heaven, brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t hang our heads in sorrow but go forth with joy with our head held high.
The parable of the sower is a good example for us of what it means to grow in the Lord. The soil of our souls greets the seed of God’s Word differently, according to its condition. The rocky soil does not let the seed of God’s Word take root and grow. The rocks are indifference and apathy. The thorny soil lets the seed grow at first, but then the thorns of life choke the seed out and prevent it from growing. The thorns are the worries, tasks and troubles of the day. The good soil lets the seed take root and grow fully. The good soil is enriched with prayer, Bible reading and devotions. When we are living in the good soil, our faith grows, the fruits of the spirit ripen and our belief in Christ deepens.
The parables of those things that are lost are very telling to us as followers of Christ. The woman with the lost coin is like our God who looks everywhere for us who are lost and living apart from him. He looks in every nook and cranny. He looks in, under and around everything for us. He uses a broom to sweep every corner for us.
When he finds us, he calls his friends and family (the angels, the saints, the trinity) to celebrate that the lost has been found. We, his coins, are special to him and treasures to him. What a joy it is to be celebrated and treasured in this way.
The second parable in the series about lost things is a parable about caring. The parable talks about one sheep among 100 who is lost. The shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep. This shows how much the shepherd cares for each and every sheep. He will spend precious time away from the majority to rescue the minority. Once he finds the lost sheep, he will carry that lost sheep on his shoulders so that the sheep will not be injured on the way home and the sheep will return in victory for having been found.
The parable of the lost son captures what it means in human terms to be lost and then found by God. The young son asks his father for his inheritance, which the father gives to him. This shows what a generous father the son has and what a generous God we have. The son spends the money on wild, reckless and wasteful living. This reflects how free we are with God’s gifts and how ungrateful we are in our spending of those gifts. When the son realizes how wasteful he has been, he seeks to return to his father’s house. When we realize how reckless we have been with God’ gifts and how sinful we have been, we seek to return to our God for forgiveness. When the son returns to his father, his father welcomes him with open arms and throws a party for him. When we return to God, he forgives us our sins freely and celebrates our return with all those gathered in his home in heaven. He makes sure that when the time comes, we will be his honored guests at the feast of victory in heaven.
The time when Jesus walked on water points us to our view of our Savior. When the disciples were in a boat during a storm, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They said it was a ghost as first. But Jesus let them know, “It Is I!” We have times in our lives when we don’t recognize Jesus and we think he is something other than he is. We often think of Jesus as some sort of spiritual body floating around in the air, but as Jesus himself would reveal, he has flesh and blood like any other human on earth. He is fully human and fully divine.
When Peter asked to come out onto the water to Jesus, Jesus said, “Come,” and for a time Peter was walking out on the water toward Jesus. This shows that it is the power of Christ within the human body that can make miracles happen. It also shows that this activity is not happening to ghosts. It is happening to real flesh-and-blood people.
But then Peter is distracted by the waves and the wind and the water and starts to sink. This shows that it is focusing on the power of Christ in our lives that keeps us moving forward. Once we look away from Christ, things start to go downhill. Yet even as Peter is sinking, Jesus reaches out his hand to pull Peter out of the water. This shows that even when things are going downhill and we are pulling away from Christ, Christ is still there to pull us toward him and bring us back in union with and in faith in him.
Jesus says to Peter at this moment, “O ye of little faith.” Jesus makes it clear that it is our lack of faith that pulls us away from him. We plead to keep ourselves strong in faith given to us through the Holy Spirit to keep us close and connected to Jesus. After Jesus has rescued Peter, he and Peter board the boat and Jesus stills the storm.
It is a time to recognize that Jesus has come to earth and not just for the individual in danger but for all who are enveloped in the storms of life. Jesus’ stilling of the storm saved thousands.
Jesus tuned water into wine at the wedding of Cana. The Bible says this was the first miracle Jesus performed in his ministry. We may wonder why that is. There are many possible reasons. One is that this miracle enabled the wedding guests to continue celebrating. Another is that it is a foreshadowing of the Lord’s Supper at the end of this ministry. A third reason is that the miracle reveals the transformation of his people through his presence.
Jesus’ mother Mary plays a large role in the events surrounding this miracle. She tells her son, “They have no more wine.” She makes the problem known to Jesus. She recognizes that help is needed and she realizes that it is Jesus who can help to solve the situation. She later tells the servants standing by, “Do whatever he tells you.” She lets these lowly workers know that Jesus is the one they should listen to.
A wedding is a celebration and the wine is a symbol of the celebration. So when the wine is gone, the celebration comes to an end. Mary and Jesus both recognize that this is not a good place to be. Jesus desires that the people there celebrate some more. The marriage feast is a symbol of the feast of heaven, where the Groom, Christ, weds the Bride, the Church. There the feast’s celebration will last forever. In Cana, the celebration continues when Christ provides more wine. In our lives Christ wants us to live in celebration of him and with him. Let us remember this truth as we read this passage.
The wine poured out at the table of the wedding party from the jugs of water was called “the best.” But this best of wine would be overtaken by even better wine at the Lord’s table the night before his death. This wine which the disciples drank was the very blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of all their sins. Like the wine of Cana, the wine at the Lord’s Supper brought celebration, but a deeper celebration that would bring everlasting joy through the removal of sins. The first wine poured at Cana flowed through Christ’s ministry to the Lord’s Supper’s wine. And it is this wine that flows to each one of us when we partake of the bread and wine of Holy Communion in our gathering as God’s people. This very best of wine enters into each one of us through Christ as it did at Cana, but in a richer, more abundant way.
The water that became wine came from 12 jugs. It is these jugs that represent the 12 tribes of Israel, which symbolize the people of God. The change from water into wine, therefore, represents the transformation of God’s people into richer, fuller, more vibrant followers of the Almighty, because of Christ’s presence flowing through us. We are no longer ordinary, normal, average people like plain old water. We are special, chosen, extraordinary people invigorated by the life of Christ within us. We no longer have nothing to do. We have purpose and meaning and a goal—to be with Christ and live for him.
I was startled recently to discover that roughly 70 percent of the world’s Christians live without the right to worship (Belz, Mindy, “Joining the Chorus,” World Magazine, February 16, 2019). We are privileged to live in the 30 percent can take going to church publicly for granted. We can become complacent and nonchalant about it. But those who do not have the right to worship in their countries tend to be more devoted to worship when done in secret. There is more of an urgency and necessity among those who do not have the right to worship. They find a way to do it. They are excited to take part. They are drawn closer to Christ through the activity of clandestine church.
The next time you go to church, imagine that you do not live in a place where you can worship openly. How does that affect your worship? Is there a richness, a depth, that perhaps was not there before? Is there more joy in the practice of worship when you consider it is something that is not allowed in most of the world? Is there a greater gratitude to God for the blessing of public worship?
Keep the 70 percent in prayer. Keep going to church. Keep the Church alive through your dedication to it.
Vietnam veteran Roger Blum served as a combat artist. He remembers “painting combat scenes was not relaxing. It was intense and personal.” His job required him to look hard at the results of combat. He fights back tears even today when he thinks of those who died. He admits that his trust in God at the time amounted to making sure to stand next to someone with a machine gun.
Then he met another combat artist who was a Christian. Blum was amazed at the Christian’s visible happiness and freedom in Christ. The encounter with the Christian artist led him to examine his own faith. After the war, he attended a neighbor’s Church and fell in love with Christ. He now paints wildlife and landscapes that show God’s creative glory (Dierberger, Sharon, “Portrait of a Christian Artist,” World Magazine, April 27, 2019, 61).
The story of Roger Blum serves as a blueprint for the transformation that we experience when we encounter Christ. Without Christ, the world and our own perspective focus on the tragedies, the battles, the hardships of life. That is what we picture most in our minds. But with Christ, those tough things are not our focus. Instead, we look to what is beautiful around us. We picture most in our minds what brings God glory. Take time to examine the world through the eyes of Christ to find compassion, grace, love and hope. Share the vision of Christ with others and put it on full display for all to see. That is the art of the Christian perspective.
Roy Allela, a 25-year-old from Kenya, recently invented a pair of gloves that convert physical sign language into audible speech in real time. The invention, called Sign-IO, uses sensors to read the wearer’s fingers and hand gestures and compares them to American Sign Language (“Smart Signs,” World Magazine, February 16, 2019, 55). The signs are then vocalized for the hearer.
This invention reminds me that we as Christians serve as communicators of the Word of God who may not fully understand it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the signs and wonders written about in Holy Scripture are relayed through us in ways that listeners can hear about them and understand them more clearly. This can be realized most compellingly in preaching and in Bible study groups. Our interpretation that comes through the Holy Spirit can communicate Christ to many in ways they may not have been aware of before. What a gift we have been given.