42. Blindness

Short Meditations in John 6:  42. Blindness

Jn 6:42   They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

We have a propensity to grab on to a piece of knowledge or piece of history and allow that to distort our thinking. Having read one famous atheist, I know that he had an experience as a child that put him off faith, off believing in God. It was an experience with one man who was a questionable Christian and that atheist has clearly allowed the bad testimony of that older man in his childhood to distort everything he thinks about God today. How tragic that our bad testimony can have this effect.

Yet we see a similar blockage in the thinking of these Jews in the crowd who have followed Jesus. The had witnessed the feeding of the five thousand and recognized that it was a miracle but still they had asked for a sign and when Jesus starts teaching about himself, now all they can do is focus on the little bit of limited knowledge that they have about him. He has said he has come down from heave but they know his parents – there are obviously people there who have come from Nazareth and know his family background – and so this is all they can focus on. They apparently know nothing of his miraculous birth, of the events with the shepherds and the wise men and the amazing dreams that had protected and guided that family. They have partial knowledge, incomplete knowledge, and they allow that to hinder belief, they allow that to blind them to the truth.

We live in an age of amazing scientific knowledge and technical advancement, and so in science we know about atoms and molecules and even quarks and dark matter, we know all the theory and we allow this limited knowledge to undermine our faith beliefs. We experience amazing technology, we programme computers with bytes and algorithms to produce artificial intelligence to empower robots, and we think we are masters of the universe as we look into deep space and postulate godless theories, failing to see the Creator who designed and brought all these things into being. We play on social media and have a sense of ‘knowing’ that comes with many ‘friends’ and we allow it to undermine our faith and we question faith and we question church and we lose perspective and thus lose a grasp on truth and reality.

At the heart of all this – in the crowd before Jesus and in so many today – is this propensity to self-centred godlessness that the Bible calls Sin, and it blinds and confuses and sows doubts. Our affluent materialistic lives see only a small part of the picture – like these Jews – and so we say silly things, ask silly questions, blind! Let’s not!

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37. Missing the Point

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 37. Missing the Point

Mk 2:6-8 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?

When we allow prejudice to reign – for whatever reason – we take on a form of blindness. This is illustrated in these three verses. Bear in mind the fact that Jesus has been ministering for some time all over Galilees, large crowds have been getting healed and it has all been happening in the open. Nothing has been done behind closed doors! So these ‘teachers of the law’ must have known all about it, must of known all about the amazing healings that had been taking place, and must have already discussed among themselves the phenomenon that was Jesus of Nazareth at work!

If you and I had been there we might have simply wondered about this amazing miracle worker from Nazareth and that is all. However, we would not be Jews of that day, and especially those trained in the Scriptures that today we call the Old Testament. If we had been, we would have known the many Scriptures that pointed to a coming One, One promised by God, a deliverer from heaven – those are just some of the descriptions found in the Old Testament.

So, if we had been such trained individuals and IF we had open hearts and minds, we might be open to wonder what else God would permit His Anointed One (or Christ) to do. Perhaps He might even delegate authority to this One to forgive people. After all John the Baptist came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1:4)  In other words John came bringing as method of getting right with God which produced forgiveness of sins, so what was so different here?

The point that most of us miss is that the interpretation that these teachers of the law put on Jesus’ words is particularly antagonistic and looks, at the minimum, at stopping Jesus’ ministry, and at worst, killing him (for blasphemy was a capital offence under the Law). Yes, it was the truth – Jesus had come from heaven as the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh – but that wasn’t the only interpretation you could put on his words.  The crucial point here was how open were these teachers to the possibilities about the Coming One and especially in the light of all Jesus was doing and saying? Answer: they weren’t!

16. God’s Qualities

Meditations in Romans : 16 :  God’s obvious Qualities

Rom  1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Often in Scripture one little word provides the clue or makes sense of what is being said. In the previous meditation we considered the wrath (or ‘anger-in-action’) of God but remaining in verse 18 we didn’t see the reason for it. Now we have verse 19 which starts with the simple word, ‘since’. An alternative word might have been ‘because’. God is angry because His character should be able to be seen by people because it is obvious when you look at the world.

The design argument for God was brought into focus by William Paley who, in the latter part of the eighteen century brought forward the idea of the watch and the watchmaker. He simply suggested that if you come across a watch and opened it up and looked inside it you would automatically conclude that there was someone who had made that intricate design. It doesn’t prove God but suggests, along with Paul, that if something is clearly designed then there is clearly a designer. God is such a designer. Now atheists have subsequently sought to punch holes in this theory but the word of God still stands.

As Paul says, God is angry at stupid people who insist on being blind to the obvious. To the simple and straight forward, it should be obvious when you look at the incredible world that we live in, that there is a wonderful Creator behind it because, says Paul, “God has made it plain to them.” It IS obvious to the open-hearted seeker. It doesn’t matter what YOU say, God says it is obvious and if you refuse to see it, that is an act of will and that raises His anger against you!

Even the most famous of the modern crusading atheists uses words like “has an appearance of being designed’ when referring to the world, while at the same time denying God’s existence. To the Corinthians Paul said, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4) Satan has whispered into the minds of unbelievers and reinforced their willful blindness. They are blind because it pays them to be blind. If they cannot see then they can deny the One who made all things, but it is a willful blindness.

In more recent year these crusading atheists have realised how dull and sterile they appear to the rest of us and so the strategy has been to wax eloquent on how wonderful this world is – but not made by God of course! We know how the world works, they say, so we don’t need a Maker of it. Of course this is just another form of their blindness. It is like looking at a Ford car, examining it in detail and coming to an understanding of how the engine works and saying, “Ah, now we understand. There is no need to postulate a Maker of this car because we know how it works.” It ignores Henry Ford who designed it originally and as such is just another expression of this willful blindness. Oh the efforts these men go to, to try to deny God’s presence!

Note that Paul doesn’t say it proves God’s presence but simply that it points to His presence and it has done so ever since “the creation of the world”. The modern atheist struggles with his own inconsistencies. On one hand he puts up a scientific theory that says that nothing can come from nothing and then puts forward the ‘Big Bang’ theory and says it was something from nothing but, as Francis Schaeffer used to say, you can’t get something from nothing-nothing. If you can imagine absolutely ‘nothing’, nothing at all, not even a single particle of energy, first of all we can’t imagine that and second our logic says that it is absolutely impossible for something to come from absolutely nothing on its own – unless we are an inconsistent modern atheist of course!

So, says Paul, God’s invisible qualities, His power and divine nature are, and always have been, patently obvious to anyone with an open mind. Everything about this world says it wasn’t an accident, everything says it was designed by an all-powerful, all wise Supreme Being and this is the God who is revealed in the world and in the Bible. So obvious is it, says Paul, that men don’t have an excuse.  You can scream and shout about it as much as you like, but God says you don’t have an excuse and so your willful rebellion raises His righteous indignation and displeasure. As we go on we’ll see how that indignation and displeasure is expressed.