109. And you? What do you have to say?

Talk is cheap, says the old saying. I know it refers to promises made in words and not kept in deeds. For me, it also implies the gossipy chatter about something or someone in the public domain; the safe talk of anonymity that could never commit any person to an opinion that might be quoted or published. Simply put, gossiping about someone famous.

Shakespeare was first to call a person a gossip, describing a person who delights in idle talk; also called a newsmonger or tattler. Very soon the word came to mean the talk about others as news in a small community almost always involved other people. Going so much further back than the times of Shakespeare, one can just imagine the talk in Judea. Maybe news travelled along the tell-a-woman-network, before the telegram or telephone and long before our cable news networks and smart phones with information overload today. The tell-a-woman-network was one of my dad’s favourite jokes.

Whatever we call the chatter, the babble, the prattle of people – it was alive and well in the first century and one of the most important news sources. No wonder Jesus was literally the “talk of the town”. There was just no escaping the lengthy conversations as well as the shorter “have you heard”-versions of any move He made.

People and their opinions were even more so during the times of Festivals. The Festival of the Tabernacles, mentioned here in John 7 took place at the end of September, beginning October, one of the three Fall festivals. Every adult male within a radius of 15 miles of Jerusalem was under obligation to go and all devout Jews from all over. The festival lasted eight days. Jesus’ brothers wanted to convince Him to go, but He was not doing anything He did not see fit for the moment.

He talks about “My time”. There are other places in John where he talks about time and uses the word ōra, which means God’s designated time. (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27). Such a time was not moveable or avoidable. Here He uses kairos, which means the opportune time, the best time, the fullness of time. He is saying this is not the time, which will give Him the best opportunity for what needs to be done.

So much of life is measured in time. It is luxury to have time off – literally. It gives us a few hours or days for relaxation. Our lives are truly “wound up” in time like old-fashioned clocks and “winding down” is what relax really means. We decide about time. Days are marked on the calendar for holiday, for birthdays, for weddings and other special occasions. That is our chronos time, countable time.

Jesus decides about His time on a much deeper level. His calling and ministry determines when He does something. He does not mark it on an earthly calendar. He lives according to God’s calendar – the best time (ōra). When God’s timing determines the outcome, it is in the fullness of time – kairos time.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem in His own time. He diligently attended the Festivals. He knew that everyone of them would be fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection and second coming. He went privately, avoiding public scrutiny by arriving late. By choosing His time and He will not be pressurized into anything He does not feel works the best for His mission.

This is important for our dedicated and full trusting relationship with our loving Father.

  • It is impossible to force the hand of Jesus. His disciples wanted Him to show what He can do in the greater Jerusalem. Jesus does not win people’s approval, but the people themselves. Jesus works God’s way.


  • It is impossible to treat Jesus with indifference. His brothers were in tune with the world and did not find it uncomfortable. Jesus’ life was a condemnation of the world and His presence would make a big difference in the ordinary ways of things.

In the next verses (7:10-13) various reactions and responses to Jesus are recorded.

  1. His brothers treat Him with tolerant contempt, almost mocking Him.


  1. The sheer hatred of the Pharisees and priests shows. Jesus eposes the rivalry between them. They are so desperate to unite against Jesus, they suddenly stand together. They loved their own systems and hated anything that could diminish their standing in society. The Sadducees were political. All the priests were Sadducees. They did not observe the Pharisaic rules. They collaborated with the Romans and lived very luxuriously. Their interests were much more important than God.


  1. The deep desire to eliminate Jesus (John 7:30,32) develops within the various groups. Every person can either submit or destroy. Christ is higher than anything else. Neutrality is not possible.


  1. An arrogant contempt for His teaching is expressed. Jesus had no right to lay down the law. He did not know the culture, no training in the rabbinic schools. They were academic snobs. We have to remember how many of the great poets, artists, writers and evangelists had no training at all. We never look down on training and studies, neither elevates it to superiority to save and redeem. It is not always the key.


  1. The reaction of the crowd is mixed. Some show interest (7:11) and some initiate discussion (7:12).

To argue the good and bad of a matter can shape your thoughts. Could a person progress from discussing to knowing? Religion can often be a matter of argument. There is an important difference between gossip and discussion.

What is gossip? Is it always negative? Maybe just that change of tone in the voice could make the tale your telling a lie. Do we always convey the words of others truthfully in the same spirit it was said? Difficult!

We should stay away from idle talk says Timothy (1:6) and Titus (1:10) and categorize the idle talkers with the deceivers.

Not everything we say about other people is necessarily bad. I have often complimented someone knowing that it will be repeated to that person. It was my way of showing appreciation for someone. Words could be so wonderful and encouraging, building up instead of breaking down. Please read James 3.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is on talking about the Lord and the magnificent consequences of “good gossip”. A wonderful action by the Scribe of Heaven when the Lord listened in to a “good gossip” – for sure not idle talk, which is defined as foolish and irrelevant talk.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name. (Malachi 3:16, also 17,18)

Let us go back to John 7 and look at the outcome of the discussion and the verdict. Some said:

  1. He is a good man (7:12). He was so much more than that.


  1. He is a prophet (7:40). A prophet says: God says. Jesus says: I say. Jesus was not acting in delegated authority. He was indeed God Himself.


  1. He is a deluded madman (7:20). He was either the only sane person or mad. He chose a cross over power. He was a suffering servant instead of a conquering king. He turned the world’s standards upside down. He brought supreme sanity into a mad world.


  1. He was a seducer. He was leading people away from true religion. He was accused of every crime against the religion of the day: Sabbath-breaker, glutton and drunkard, having disreputable friends and destroying orthodoxy.


  1. He was a man of courage (7:26). He defied convention and was different. He had the physical courage to bear pain. He had the courage to stay the course when people abandoned Him. When He entered Jerusalem triumphantly, He knew He was entering the lion’s den. He feared God so much; he never feared the face of any man.


  1. He had a most dynamic personality (7:46). He went into His arrest empty-handed. Power flowed from Him. His arresting contingent was more bewildered.


  1. He was Christ – the anointed One. It is a fact – plain and simple.


There were other reactions as well:

  1. The crowds reacted in fear (7:13). The word used for talking is literally “murmuring”. It was muttering, jumbled speech just like the grumbling of Israel in the desert. We should not be afraid to speak out.


  1. A certain number of the crowd believed (7:31). They could not deny the evidence. They overcame the prejudice and fear.


  1. Nicodemus defended Jesus (7:50). He was a lone voice. If we stand up for Jesus it is for our own strength, not for Him. God does not need us as His vindication. Our own testimonies as well as those of others strengthen us. When we talk about the Lord, our own spirit and soul benefit.


The words of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
For my mouth will speak truth;
Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;

Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.


Pray with me the words of the Psalmist (19:14):

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.







108. Do you believe in fairytales?

We are inundated with fantasy these days. Books and movies created a new and vibrant wave of the genre in literature defined as:

the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.

There are so many titles to name. Older ones like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, newer ones like Harry Potter and all sorts of dragon stories are all prominent in the libraries of children and adults alike. Critics are rife. Do we so desperately need to escape reality that we need the impossible to relieve our minds of the struggle of life? We are, after all, the post-modern society, bathed in the actual, the factual, the authentic and the scientific validity of the real. We do not give ourselves over to the childish belief in some murky product of someone’s imagination.

Do we really need orcs to visualize the face and agenda of evil and destruction? Do we rely on an army of fawns to encourage in battle? Did you not breathe an audible sigh of relief when the eagles saved Frodo and Sam in the overwhelming hordes of Mordor?

I want to believe in the eagles that come when the battle looks grim. I want al the amazing characteristics of an eagle at my disposal. I want to BE an eagle. Yeah, I declare I AM an eagle. I can, because I believe absolutely every symbol and powerful promise of the words of THE Word.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles…
(Isaiah 40:31)

The author of Narnia said this:

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance, which has been hidden by “the veil of familiarity”. The child enjoys his gold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.

(CS Lewis – On stories) [My emphasis]

The crowd demands a sign. They want to see the impossible, the improbable. They know in their own effort to hold on to hope, that their Messiah should be able to do the unattainable.

Jesus claims He is the Messiah. (John 6:30-40)

Now He has to prove it.

The wonder of their experience in the feeding of the crowd, made them think of the manna in the desert, which was regarded as the bread of God. The Messiah would bring that again. They did not regard the bread of the feeding as heavenly. The manna that was hidden by Jeremiah, had to be produced. They wanted heavenly bread, not the miracle coming from earthly things.

Jesus reminded them that the manna was not from Moses, but from God. The manna was the symbol of the bread of God. He was the real bread of God that will satisfy their inner hunger. Physical hunger is superficial.

The bread of life sustains life. Jesus as the Bread of Life gives so much more than physical life. Real life is a relationship with God and it is only possible through Jesus. Without Jesus there is no life, even if you have bread to eat every day. He is the essential food – the Bread that gives true life.

Jesus invites us to see Him in the Scriptures, then come to Him, as He is accessible, then believe in Him and submit to Him, to share the life that He promises, so that we are liberated to find God. God begins the whole process to draw us through the Holy Spirit.

True life brings true satisfaction. Deep soul hunger is satisfied in this life. More than life on this earth we are safe in death. We have everlasting life, God-life.

Do we recognize God’s message in an envelope we do not like? (6:41-51)

We cling desperately to our own private arguments, our private prejudices and private goals for our private victory in life. Holding on to our own ideas is a sure path of defeat.

We listen without learning, in criticism and resentment, our superiority, indifference and self-importance blind us to truth.

God draws us. The word used is helkuein, which means to draw with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). The word implies resistance. The same word is used to draw a heavy-laden fish net at shore, the drawing of a sword (John 18:10), and Paul and Silas drawn before the magistrate (Acts 16:19).

If you cannot enter into the promised land you will wander in the wilderness. If you fear the giants and pagan nations of the promised land, you will have no part in the promise.

The people were hearing familiar things (6:51-59)

In the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice, part of the flesh was given to the priests and part to the worshipper for a feast. At the feast the god himself was invited as a guest. Even the pagans believed that the god entered the meat and they were literally eating the god. The meal left them god-filled to have the dynamic vitality of the god.

The mystery religions of the first century had the story of a god who suffered, died and rose again. It was often shown in a passion play and the believer had to learn from it so that the identity of the god could be taken on. He had to identify with life and death and rebirth. When he and the god became one, he was safe from death.

Ancient people dreamed of becoming one with a god. They were longing for it. Their eating and drinking in religious ritual symbolized true union. They understood the language. John is interpreting the words of Jesus with the deep inner results that the Holy Spirit intended.

The flesh of Jesus was the mind of God taking human shape. Accepting Jesus was to become one with God.

Blood is life. Without blood there is no life. The Jews believed the blood belonged to God. They could not eat the blood of an animal. (Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 15:23)

Jesus remains external until we make Him part of us. We must feed our hearts and minds and souls on Him until we are filled with the life of God.

Here is the true teaching of the Lord’s supper. Not only the bread and wine, but also every meal where we sit and enjoy the humblest of food, we become part of God who provides it. God is not limited to church-life. He is all life. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is expanded to include our entire being and existence, everywhere we go and with everyone we meet.

Some found it difficult to believe. It presented as an intellectual stumbling block. (6:59-65)

At the heart of a religion there must be mystery, for the simple reason that at that heart there is God. In the nature of things man cannot ever fully understand God. Any honest thinker will accept that there must be mystery. [William Barclay – Daily Study Bible]

There must be surrender to accept Him as final authority. It is the acceptance of a mystery revealed in Jesus.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Jesus Himself said:

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God… (Mark 4:11)

Paul revels in the mystery of Jesus. How beautiful he describes it in Ephesians (1:9 and most of the third chapter). In Colossians he continues to develop this theme. (Colossians 1:26,27; 4:3)

…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, (Colossians 2:2)

The proof for this mystery is the Resurrection and the Ascension.

The power to believe comes from the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit comes the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God. Human life is only worth it, if lived with a heavenly perspective. Think of eating, drinking, sport, work, business, even love. It is all trivial without the Source.

My WORDS, says Jesus are Spirit and life. (6:63)

Jesus was aware of the resistance and rejection.

Even here in this chapter of John we sense the beginning of the end (6:66-71). Jesus predicts the actions of Judas and the coming of the Cross.

The crowds are worked up; great things are happening; many are baptized (John 4:1-3). The tongues are active all over the land – Jerusalem, Samaria, Galilee.

Now, some are drifting away. They saw where this is heading. They knew He was on a collision course with the authorities. Better to stay out of trouble and not collide with the iron fist of the Romans.

They are the fair-weather followers. A cross is to be avoided at any cost. They are challenged.

They have come to get something, but did not reckon it could be the cross.

Years can be cruel, suffering lasts longer than expected. Dreams die, enthusiasm withers, loyalty suffers. We become small and bitter.

Only the love of Jesus can make us expand with honour as was originally intended.

Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;

(Isaiah 43:4)


107. Full and fed – what now?

What would happen if all our prayers were answered in one go, suddenly, just like that? We would be overwhelmed with gratitude with the One who made it possible and spontaneously worship Him. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a natural response to greatness and miraculous deeds, just like the crowds in John 6:14-15.

They wanted to crown Him king. He gave them what they needed. They could see the spectacular course of their lives, ending well with no worry or fear. If they could just keep this Jesus on hand to provide, to create, to heal and to bless, their lives could be lived in the most luxurious manner possible – a life without fear, a life of provision and protection, an abundant life, a life of excellence. How were they going to keep Him close?

Do you also think this would be a good life? Jesus with us always, answering prayer, providing, protecting, healing and being present in every detail of every struggle. Does this not sound familiar? Is it not the foundation of the ordinary Christian life?

Then you will agree with my statement.

All our prayers are answered, once and for all, for all time. The promise of provision, protection, healing, and blessing stands written in the blood of Calvary over every life that has chosen to submit to God, through His beloved Son. We have it all!

Just a few, by far not all, remarks to support my statement (all discussed in previous Pebbles).

All our prayers are answered – Revelation 5:8, Matthew 7:7,8.

A life of excellence guaranteed – Jude 24.

We are protected – Psalm 91 and 121.

Provision for all things – Hebrew 13:5-7 Amplified, Malachi 3:10-12.

We are healed – Isaiah 53:4,5, Psalm 103:3.


Now you will immediately ask why so many Christians do not live this outwardly superior life of distinction.

Let us dig deeper into John 6.

Jesus withdraws from the euphoria of the crowd. He will never mislead them to promise superficial, instant answers. He promised a LIFE of abundance. It implies a deep change in thinking, attitude and vision. He will always communicate the cost of following Him.

The nature of a mob in a situation like this can be summed up as: “a lively sense of favours still to come.”

Would they be willing to sacrifice, to get rid of their worldly baggage, to forgive and love unconditionally? Are you willing to live the full extent of the Christian life – or do you just want Jesus added to enable your idea of a good life? Do you want God for what you can get out of Him – to use Him for your own purposes, to reach your own goals?

Your Messiah may be so unrecognizable in your life as Jesus was to the Jews of the time. Do you only want to get rid of the Romans as rulers so that you can rule, or do you think of your generational legacy? Godly lives change our world through our children as well as our community, our territory, our “tent”.

THINK – where are you now? What brought you to this place? Make the declaration: This is my best life now!

WHY? You have never known so much about the Lord as right now. That is ALL that matters. Submit all circumstances to your knowledge of Jesus and His character.

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:18)

Where will you be with the gifts and no cross? What are the gifts without the cross?

Reading further (6:16-21) we have to see that this account is not just the story of a miracle. It is a peep into the character of Jesus.

The crowd wants to crown Jesus; He slips away and stays away to disperse the crowds. The disciples set sail for Capernaum to meet up with Him again. He sent them on (Mark 6:45).

The Sea of Galilee is a landlocked lake and the wind moves though a trough towards the lake. It was about six kilometers rowing and they were probably hugging the coast for shelter.

The beauty of the story is that Jesus was busy with the people and still He had not forgotten His disciples. He was very much aware of the storm. Life is lived with the loving eye of Jesus on us. He is there when our strength fails.

He always helps – we are never left alone to see how we cope.

He is in the midst of the fiercest storm – ready with a miracle.

Let us read on. (6:22-27)

The people lingered. They were in awe of the miracle and wanted more. They were surprised at His presence on the other side of the lake and could not work out how He crossed.

He does not explain Himself. To understand God and exactly how He does things, is not the key to faith and miracles. He acts without explaining. Dr Paul Tournier puts it this way: God works, God disciplines without stopping to explain…and the adventure continues.

He talks about their lives and the way they need to discern the more important things.

Do not think with your stomach?  You need to think with your soul. Think upon the Bread of Life.

It is the man with vision into the heavenly that is truly alive. Earthly perspective brings shortsighted living. (Isaiah 55:2)

The excesses of the Roman Empire were rife at this time. Meals cost thousands and sometimes millions of denarii. The people feasted for days, taking medicine to vomit to be able to eat more, eating pearls soaked in vinegar, nightingale tongues, and peacock brains. The clothes were embroidered with gemstones and spaces decorated with the best the Empire could offer. There was a deep hunger in society for satisfaction, which the best of the best could never satisfy.

Jesus alone can only satisfy the hunger for truth. He is the only One in the history of mankind who said: I am the TRUTH.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27)

A seal was more than a signature. It was authenticity. It made a document valid and guaranteed the contents of commercial goods.

The seal of God is written with three letters in Hebrew – aleph the first, min, the middle and tau the last. The truth of God is the beginning, middle and end of life.

God’s truth can truly satisfy the hunger of the soul, which he created.

For the Jews the work of God was synonymous with “good” works, to earn God’s favour. (6:28-29)  Jesus says: God’s work is to believe in Him, Jesus. Work for God can only be measured in faith. Jesus is the face of God. True fellowship is the work of God.

Our lives change in the Presence of the Father. No work on our part can change our inner beings. We respond to God’s holiness, love and wisdom.

The essence of God’s work is changed lives.

Can we close by coming back to answered prayer? All our prayers are answered. Can you trust God for the timing? As we count days in calendar time [chronos], He sees your life in the fullness of time [kairos].


The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd
I always have more than enough.

 (Psalm 23 in The Passion Translation)

106. Little is much…abundance.

We so love the success stories of this world – the rags to riches type of thing. Ordinary people becoming rich and famous, commoners marrying royalty to live the fairytale life so many yearn for. Dreams of big money, luxury lives and desirable possessions drive the mad rush towards achievement, life at the top and maybe some rest and peace after all.

Very soon in the ministry of Jesus He was famous and known throughout the land. People talked about Him. He was controversial and He fully recognized His divisive message. In His own words:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

People flocked around Him to admire and to judge. Is it not the same with earthly fame? I sometimes think people yearn for fame, as it is a sure sign of success when their name is on the lips of the masses, without having any idea of the sacrifice to their personal life. Famous people’s lives are in the public domain, unfortunately not just the good, also the mistakes, bad judgment and failures. It is outright cruel.

When life hits hard, it is no fun to read media interpretations of vicious envy and a good measure of “schadenfreude” (joy in the misfortune of others). The man in the street judges and throws the stones, all from the safety of anonymity. Media attention has challenged many people, their strength of person and above all their core values. Living a life of fame should be carefully approached with God’s wisdom for guidance through the volatile and brutal desert of public opinion.

And what about us? We are the man in the street with the stone in our hand. We feel free to gossip and dissect the scandals with no fear of personal sacrifice. If we want to live a life of excellence, gossip on all levels must be confessed and banned from our discussions. The very important principle of Luke 6:31 applies here.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

When we gossip, we will be the subjects of gossip. I believe there is a spirit of lying and deceit in every piece of tittle-tattle. My attitude and tone of voice in retelling a story can make it a lie. If we are not careful and fearful before God, we can wound and hurt with the violence of a swinging knife. (James 3). I picture some words in the image of a dagger to the heart, turning it now and then to inflict more pain.

Let us then step up and leave the judgment of famous people to God, lest we are judged by our own harsh words.

In the first verses of John 6 Jesus is found at the Sea of Galilee with a multitude following Him. He retreats to the mountain with His disciples. Jesus getting away from the people implied that He made time for His disciples for in-depth discussions. He made time for prayer. He deliberately avoided arguments with the authorities. Alone time is not defeatist. It is a vital part of living a public life, crucial for straight and God-centered thinking.

From Capernaum to other side of Galilee was about six kilometers. People followed Him. They were astonished about His teaching and yearned for more. They followed on land. The village Bethsaida was near the fords of the river on a plain where the grass was smooth. It became the setting for a miracle.

People made haste to find a good spot. There were bigger crowds as the feast of the Passover was near and everybody was travelling. Pilgrims on their ways to Jerusalem were also among the crowds, choosing a route to avoid Samaria.

The sight of the crowd stirred sympathy in Jesus’ heart. They were hungry and tired. Philip was the man to ask as he came from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Where could they get food? It would cost more than 200 denarii to feed the vast crowd. About four pence made one denarius and that was a day wage for a labourer. It would cost more than six month’s wages to feed the crowd.

Andrew came with the boy carrying five barley loaves and two little fishes. Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus. Barley was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt, regarded as the bread of the poor and animals.

The fishes were probably the size of sardines. Pickled fish was staple in Galilee. Fresh fish was a luxury unheard of. Fish could not last without preservation and therefore it was dried and salted.

The people had to sit down, Jesus blessed the food. He was acting as the father of the family and prayed a prayer of thanks for the food. He acknowledged God as the Source of food for the family.

Take a minute to think about your table prayers. When Jesus took the bread and the wine at the Last Supper with His disciples before the crucifixion, He said: remember Me. I believe we pray at the table to remember Jesus and what He has done for us. We should build a unique prayer of gratitude and remembrance for blessing at every meal and not mechanically repeat a senseless rhyme to get it over and done with.

The people received from the disciples. The disciples were an interesting bunch, from a variety of backgrounds. I am sure they distributed the bread in very individual ways, each one with a different approach. They represent the variety in the church of Jesus today. We minister culturally and individually as the situation demands.

The foremost consideration is that we minister the bread from Jesus’ hand.

 The people ate enough. They were filled. The word used for filled means to be filled to repletion, to be completely full after a meal.

 The fragments were gathered. At Jewish feasts it was regular practice to leave something for the servants. The people would have known. Twelve baskets, bottle-shaped baskets without which no Jew left his house were filled with leftovers. The food was more than enough.

There are interesting ways to look at the miracle:

Of course Jesus is the maker of the miracle and multiplied the loaves and fishes. It reminds us of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4 where she was set financially free by miraculous multiplication.

Pilgrims and labourers usually carried food with them for kosher requirements. It is very possible that every person had some food with him or her that day. The people were selfish and human. While travelling the food would have been carefully planned for a few days for personal use only. It would have been reckless to share and much safer to keep it for own use. Sharing of food would have been miracle in itself, with no regard to provision for the days to come. To share the food could have been a fearless abandon of the worry and planning where tomorrow’s provision is going to come from. A crowd of selfishness became a sharing feast. The change of heart and freedom from anxiety about provision made the miracle so much more intense.

The meal with divine provision became a sacramental meal with the words of Jesus. Later in the same chapter He speaks of drinking His blood and eating His body. The wonder of His presence made the food different. Ordinary food became spiritual food.

Let us consider the people instrumental in the miracle:

The contrast between Philip and Andrew is distinct. Philip spells out the impossibility of the situation. Andrew brings what he has.

This is SUPER important. What happens if we bring what we have to Jesus with our heart’s cry? Jesus would do what is necessary to provide what is lacking. We provide the material for a miracle.

The boy brought his ridiculously small contribution. Anybody looking at the crowds and his lunch would have laughed at the silly, absurd thought of feeding a multitude with a boy’s lunch.

Jesus only needs what we can give. Are you denying yourself a miracle because you think what you have is not worthy?

 Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

Are you problem orientated? Do you see the complete desperateness of the situation under the banner of realism? People, who do not like miracles, compliment themselves with realism.

Have you thought of the people you brought to Jesus? Do you think of your children and what they might become in the Kingdom?


[There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may some day become.” He was right – because one of them was Martin Luther.]



105. The One and Only, the One in All.

The package deal, is what we want. We have so many things pre-packaged. Somebody else thought long and hard and put things together to serve a combination of needs. Some may call it a hamper, some may call it the full meal deal, some may call it a wrap up – whatever the goodies inside may be, it is an effort to meet more than one need in one container tied together.

Here in John 5 we start with one of the first longer discourses of the Fourth Gospel. John writes his interpretation of what Jesus meant in all the words spoken to His disciples over the many months of His three-year ministry. John wrote to establish Jesus as the true Messiah, the Promised One, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World and every other title that could have been expected by Jews as well as Gentiles. His writing comes with a half a century of Holy Spirit insight in the life of Jesus, which he witnessed in person.

The passage (5:19-47) is packed with good things, explaining the superior and excellent good news, which is the answer to every query about life all contained in one man, Jesus. He is the only ONE you will ever need.


To the Jews who heard this passage it meant that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • Son of Man is a title we hear in Daniel (7:1-14). THE Son of Man – not a son of man.

The visions of Daniel were all about the cruel and ruling empires:

the lion with eagle’s wings was Babylon, the bear with ribs, devouring the nations was the Medes, the leopard with four wings and four heads was the Persians, and the fiercest of beasts with the ten horns and iron teeth was the Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. They will all will pass away. All this cruel and savage reign, that could only be described in terms of beasts, will be replaced with a gentle and peaceful human.

In the coming of Jesus humanity was brought back to its original created purpose.

Between the Testaments there arose a whole literature, which promised the golden age to come in which the Jews called the Messiah the son of man. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. It is a clear claim to be the Messiah.

  • Miracles of healing are associated with the Messiah. (Isaiah 35:6 and Jeremiah 31:8-9).
  • Raising the dead is something that God alone could do . Only God could kill and make alive. Death is in God’s hands. (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1:17, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:6)
  • Final judgment was also ascribed to the Messiah.

For Jesus to speak like this was an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage. He must have known well that to make claims like this would sound like blasphemy to the orthodox Jewish leaders and the consequence was death. Any man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives – he must either accept Jesus as the Son of God or hate him as a blasphemer.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is not based on equality or submission of power; it is based on love, as ours should be.

Jesus was confident in his identity – against all the forces of Jewish orthodoxy. He was completely fearless. He could be misunderstood; His words could inflame and endanger His life. He knew full well.

It is more important to fear God than men.

God through Jesus is the giver of life. Not possible to live fully without God. Jesus changes our lives on the deepest level possible, both in this world and the world to come. He is the ALL in one for ALL times.


He judges. Jesus’ life and words are judgment in itself. Through Him, judgment of personal sin is solved. To accept Him is life, the ultimate way to peace and happiness. True judgment, how Jesus judges, only happens in full harmony to the will of God. (5:30)

I used to fear judgment. I often wondered how I can relax in the Gospel message if it speaks of judgment. My own sinfulness, especially the realisation of my own unworthiness, made me worry about a judging God.

God comforted me in my fears and revealed to me how this world needs judgment. We cannot confront sin and evil without the clear direction of what is good and right. That is judgment. God’s judgment is the solution to our broken world. It makes it better, not worse.

For us it is difficult to judge fairly. We suffer pride, prejudice, jealousy, intolerance, contempt, ignorance and self-importance. Have you ever seen court procedures and the paperwork involved? It takes thousands upon thousands of pages to come to a conclusion.

God alone is perfect. He knows everything. He judges from perfect love, sitting on the mercy seat.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Unsupported evidence by only one person is unacceptable (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). A man cannot state his own case. It is his word against another. We are so privileged to have our case stated by Jesus. He is the Son of Man and have received the authority to judge from the Father (5:26)


When Jesus was persecuted, He received honour in His suffering and opened up the path of honour through suffering to all of us. It does not matter what life throws at us – Jesus was there and promises hope and salvation from the worst. It is an unquenchable hope and an unconquerable certainty. Amid all the persecution of the early church they never doubted Christ’s ultimate victory.

Jesus is life and He is life now. Without Him death has already in this life, become a reality. We can live with dead works and dead thoughts. This is the core of the Gospel – spiritual death.

Life is promised by a new relationship with

  • God: fear becomes love, distance becomes intimacy;
  • fellow man: hatred becomes love, selfishness becomes service, and bitterness becomes forgiveness;
  • self: weakness becomes strength, frustration becomes achievement and stress becomes peace.

To be spiritually dead means to stop trying to be good. This life is a constant forward push. We can either slip back or move on. To have no courage means slipping back. Spiritual death is to stop feeling, become insensitive, comfortable with evil, with no compassion and a mind shut to truth. Nothing new can change the thinking or learning of such a man and that leads to a blunt conscience. (The best description of the spiritually dead while in this life is found in Ephesians 4:17-19)

This life determines eternity. The hour is now. Our new life in Jesus is for NOW. (5:24,25)

Jesus talks about another witness – meaning God. (5:31-40)

He cites John the Baptist who bore witness to Him.

He talks about a lamp that burns and shines. A lamp is lit, it does not light itself. It is “borrowed” light. The light comes from another source – fire or electricity. The message of John is warm; it was a guide to repentance. A light is temporary; it burns out. John decreased while pointing the way. A true witness burns itself out for God.

Another witness besides John is the witness of Jesus’ works. When John enquired from prison if He is truly the Messiah, Jesus answered that His works will testify as to His authenticity. His works also points to God. God is the supreme witness.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10)

The Jews were adamant that God is invisible and that no man has seen God, not even Moses (Deuteronomy 4:12). They believed God was only in the conviction of the mind and Jesus expresses that in this passage. It is God’s witness in our hearts regarding Jesus.


To the Jews the Scriptures were everything. Jesus was evident in the Old Testament. They were the best Bible students in the world and they rejected Him – how come?

Here the word for Scriptures is graphe which means autobiography. The Bible is a document written by a divine author by the hands of humans. It is regarded as the eternal voice of God to communicate His character.

How do we read the Bible? With a closed mind, not to find God, but to support an argument? God is revealed throughout history as speaking through the Scripture, but also acting! The Bible is a record of God in action. It is not the words that are holy, it is the story it tells which is holy.

There is only one way to read the Bible and that is with Christ revealed in every chapter. He is the supreme revelation. The Jews were worshipping God’s words alone and not His actions. The words cannot give life; it is the One who speaks them that gives life.

The purpose of the words of Jesus is so that you might be saved. It is all for us, not His own glory that He speaks. He says: I love you and I want to save you.

Before and after Jesus there was a stream of impostors claiming to be the Messiah. Why did they even consider these impostors? Usually a false prophet speaks according to man’s desires. They promise empires, government and material prosperity. Jesus came with a Cross. Jesus died and lives on. The impostors all died and disappeared.

The scribes and the Pharisees desired the praise of men. Everyone recognized them by the way they dressed and behaved; they prayed a certain way; they loved the respectful greetings on the street. They were fully devout, but did not hear the voice of God and did not recognize Jesus. Why?

If a person measures himself by his fellow men, he will not hear God speak.

Jesus points out that Moses writes about Him (5:46). If you read the Scriptures you will find Jesus revealed. Moses himself would have condemned them all. They attached all this value to Moses and did not recognize the One of whom he spoke.

The greatest privilege of the Jews became their greatest condemnation. They had knowledge to no avail. When we have the knowledge, we have the responsibility of acting on it.


Dear Pebble pals,

I am travelling for the next month and will be back just after the middle of February. I know that a break brings new inspiration and perspective.

May God bless you richly for seeking Him in His Word. Remember He is always active where we read with a heart focused on Him.

Malachi 3:16-18.

104. An old, old story for the new year.

Let us go back. To our birth? No further back. To the time of our forefathers? Even further back. Well okay, to the time of Jesus on the earth because we are studying the book of John. No, wrong again. Let us go back to the beginning. The beginning of what? The beginning of everything. Let us take our lesson today from the story of Genesis that gives us the believer’s account of Creation, the creation of everything in the mighty Hand and by the majestic Word of our Father.

Why would we go so far back? Is there anything there to learn that could be applicable to modern living? Let me quote our ancient friend and poet David.

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. (Psalms 119:18)

Let us look with enlightened eyes to one of the most liberating principles of ancient times with a prayer to apply it to our life this year in order to experience new things from God.

We have discussed the principles of a miracle in our previous piece. Jesus heals the man at the Bath of Bethesda in spite of his 38 years of illness and his focus on a useless superstition. This amazing miracle takes place on the Jewish Sabbath, which is meticulously observed by the church leadership.

We have talked about it in Pebbles before and I quote from: A royal encounter [95]:

An example of this meticulous law observation by the Pharisees, was the rules on the Sabbath, when no work was to be done by man or servants or animals. The definition of work was developed over generations. The Mishnah is the codified scribal law and it contained 24 chapters on the Sabbath alone. The Talmud is the explanation (commentary) of the Mishnah. On the subject of the Sabbath the Talmud runs 64 columns of fine print. In the Babylonian Talmud it runs 156 double pages. One rabbi spent more than two years to study one chapter of the 24 of the Mishnah on the Sabbath.

Just a quick example: To tie a rope knot was sin, to tie a woman’s petticoat was legal. If you needed to let the bucket down in the well for water on the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a rope, but you could tie it to a woman’s underwear – fully legal and pleasing to God in their opinion!!

The Scribes worked out the details; the Pharisees dedicated their lives to live by it. Even in the deception of following the law so strictly, it must have been a special kind of man to dedicate his life to pleasing God. The word Pharisee meant: the separated one and so they lived: separated and away from ordinary life to keep every detail of the Law.

With that background let us look at the reaction on the miracle in John 5. The healing of an incurable disease should have been an occasion for joy and gratitude. The news was met with bleak judgment because it took place on the Sabbath. Apart from Jesus “working” in the healing process, the man carried his bed. The law said the Sabbath should be different from other days. The Jews set out thirty-nine different classifications of work, one of which was that it consisted in carrying a burden.

Jeremiah talked about the Sabbath (17:19-27) and so did Nehemiah (13:15-19). In Nehemiah it is clear that he wanted to prohibit trading on the Sabbath. The Rabbi’s (around the time Jesus came) argued that carrying a needle in your robe or walking with false teeth, or your wooden leg is not permitted. Every petty detail was escalated to a matter of life and death.

The healed man under cross-examination said the man who healed him told him to do it and he did not know his identity. Later he met Jesus in the Temple and told the authorities it was He. The poor man’s miracle joy was robbed in an instant as he was trying to save his life from stoning – the punishment for breaking the law. He wanted to say it is not his fault that he broke the law.

The accusations came to Jesus – the verb is in the imperfect tense (5:18), which shows repeated action in the past. John used this story as a sample of what Jesus habitually did.

His defense: God did not stop working on the Sabbath and neither does He.

Another writer said: “The sun shines; the rivers flow; the processes of birth and death go on the Sabbath as on any other day; and that is the work of God.”

 True, according to the creation story, God rested on the seventh day; but he rested from creation. His higher works of judgment and mercy and compassion and love still went on.

Even on the Sabbath God’s love and mercy and compassion act. Jesus is God – it was the most natural thing for Him to reach out and heal in the time of need. How can we live if our compassion and acts of love are suddenly suspended on the day of the Lord? Can it ever make any sense at all?

The Jews reeled in horror – Jesus was putting Himself equal to God. Jesus was teaching that a human must always be helped. There is no greater task than relieving pain and distress. Our compassion is God-like and 24/7. Other work is to be laid aside on the Sabbath – never compassionate work and relieving suffering.

What do you think about the Sabbath here in our 21st Century? Is it applicable to modern living? Are you willing to incline your ear and hear the voice of God speak afresh on this matter? What do you hear?

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)

Just HEAR how The Message makes the case:

“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!

Remember, we live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Your Sabbath does not need to be on a Saturday or Sunday specifically. It can even change often as it is practical to observe this joyful weekly feast about the goodness of God.

The underlying principle is that God wants to bless you with rest and for that you need to set apart your time. If you do not enjoy a day where you can “pull yourself together”, sit back and reflect on life and God, do yourself a favour this year and build it into your week.

This might be one of the greater challenges for “something new”.

Jesus told the man to sin no more in case something worse happens to him. For the Jews sin and suffering were connected. They always sought first forgiveness then healing.

To be healed by God in a miraculous way of illness or any other affliction, brings great responsibility to live the life of one who has been richly forgiven. It is not “business as usual” after such a magnificent divine intervention. We do not deserve anything and is given everything in the grace in mercy of our loving Father.

Our life is forever changed to live the grace that has been extended to us miraculously.

Very important: we should never connect sin and suffering in the way the ancient Jews did. We live in a broken world and much suffering comes from the sin and brokenness around us. We are not carrying the burden of the sin of this world; Jesus did that on the cross. We are merely affected by our living space and do not “earn” sickness through our personal sin.

We never “explain” suffering and illness. We ask God to reveal Himself in every situation.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3)

There were those in the church who used their liberty as an excuse for the flesh (Galatians 5:13). There were those who sinned in the confidence that grace would abound (Romans 6:1-18).

There have always been those who have used the love and the forgiveness and the grace of God as an excuse to sin. But we have only to think what God’s forgiveness cost; we have only to look at the Cross of Calvary, to know that we must ever hate sin because every sin breaks again the heart of God. [William Barclay]

Healing comes in the humble prayer of the one who bends his knee before God and Christ. Divine healing is not cheap – Jesus warns the man to live responsibly in his healing and not regard it as a ticket to sinful living.

After the miracle Jesus withdrew; quite literally it meant to turn aside, to bend the head aside, to shun, to avoid. He was slipping away to avoid applause and argument. Sometimes it is good to just walk away. Take your Sabbath.

We are not the “fixers” of wrong living and wrong thinking.


work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)


103. Time for a party – of course!


The whole world throws a party! It is New Year. If one would like to sit glued to the television you can observe the celebration by fireworks in the various time zones, countdown upon countdown. Lots of bottle popping, elegant parties, drunken parties, dance parties, dress up parties and a public holiday to pick up the pieces and start the year which was so welcomed a few hours previously. Many a heavy sigh is heard in the unseen as the burden of life descends and weighs on the minds and hearts of people.

Has anything changed? Is anything new?

New could mean two things. It could mean: neos – more of the same depicting quantity as in a new pencil but many others already exist or: –

kainos – unique, has never been, depicting quality as in one of a kind.

Is this year going to be the same as always? Are you looking forward to something that has never been; never seen in this world before?

John 5 states that Jesus attended the feast.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem…

There were three Jewish feasts that were an obligation to Jews living within a fifteen mile radius of Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of the Tabernacles – two in Spring and one in the Fall. Passover was mid-April and Pentecost seven weeks later. Jesus delighted in the Feasts. Every feast is fulfilled in Him.

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. “God’s parties” remind us of His lovingkindness, His provision, His unmerited grace throughout the calendar year. God’s year is marked by seven parties.

The seven feasts of the Jewish calendar all found fulfillment in Jesus. The Feast of the Unleavened bread depicts Jesus’ sinless life, the Passover depicts the Lamb that was slain and the Firstfruits depict the resurrection. Just as the first sheaf of the harvest is waved before the High Priest so Jesus was glorified in heaven after the resurrection as the first fruit of the Church. Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The Feast of the Trumpets depicts the announcement through the prophets and the Church of His atonement and second coming), the Atonement (Yom Kippur) depicts the character of the Church as a repenting and forgiven people and the Feast of the Tabernacles depicts the reign of joy and peace through the Church and the wedding feast of the Second Coming).

Feasts are anointed parties, consciously celebrating blessing. We should build them into our year and if we have children or family with us, we should include them when we dish up something special. Just a meal together is marked by the testimony of God’s grace. Blessed is he, who distinguishes between the holy and the ordinary. Make the ordinary holy. Holy means to set it apart for a specific purpose. It is not something falsely elevated to be boring or unreachable. Just go ahead and declare an ordinary meal a celebration of blessing. Say it with joy and praise God in the process.

Psalm 90:12:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Jesus enters Jerusalem through the sheep gate. It is the gate through which the lambs entered, destined to be slaughtered at the Temple at Passover. He fulfills the symbol of the slain Lamb.

Bethesda could mean House of Mercy or Bethzatha, which means House of the Olive. The pool was deep enough to swim in. Beneath the pool was a sub stream that bubbled now and then. According to the superstition it was believed that an angel stirs the water and the first person to jump in would be healed.

Sound like superstition, but such beliefs were rife in those days. Ancient people were impressed with holy waters. Water was precious and the people held a certain reverence for water.

Jesus was the friend of the friendless. The man had nobody to help. He did not lecture him on his belief in the useless superstition. Jesus just went ahead and healed him.

Events unfolded and words were spoken:

  • Jesus asked if he wanted to be cured. 38 years – maybe his hope died and left him passive and despairing. When healed he had to take up living. Some people are so comfortable in their affliction that they do not want to live normally with all the responsibility of caring for oneself. He responds with a big YES.


  • Jesus told him to get up. The power of God never overrules the power of men. Miracles happen when we cooperate with God.


  • He had to attempt the impossible. Getting up was probably not the words he was waiting to hear. He lived in defeat for 38 years – for some people a lifetime. What would you like to hear?


  • On the word of Christ our own effort becomes the miracle.


  • Superstitions are agreements with evil. It is words of defeat spoken over yourself by yourself in words or thoughts.

Let us note very carefully what takes place. This man of defeat and disease agrees with the words Jesus speaks to him and walks away in victory. A moment before he was still in the grip of wrong thinking and negative dependence on evil agreements in false promises of outcome. His meeting with Jesus changes everything. He agrees in thought and responds to the question of Jesus as an expression of his desire for a miracle. In raw faith he attempts the impossible.

Do you believe Jesus when He says He will do something new this year?

Will you attempt the impossible?


 “Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)


[This story could also be interpreted as an allegory:

The man = people of Israel, the five porches = the law. People are sick under the law. They find shelter but no healing. For 38 years they were wandering in the desert, waiting for the promised land, waiting for the Messiah. The stirring of waters = baptism – rising up healed and redeemed.]


John writes it as the truth of actual events. Every story has so much more…



102. Have yourself a miracle – it is time.

Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder. (Isaiah 29:14)

The festive days are now much closer. We need to do some things – pack to travel, prepare for guests, shop the fridge full, pick up the turkey or whatever your fare may comprise.

Christmas is special, that’s for sure. Christian or secular, these are days that interrupt the normal schedule. Days of relaxation, days of family, days of joyous reunions and also days of old wounds, buried anger and deep disappointment.

Where are you this week before Christmas? Are you in a frenzy of activity with a load of things to do and quietly panicky? Are you alone with nothing to look forward to? Is Christmas a mountain of pent up bitterness that has not moved for you? Is this the first Christmas after heartbreaking tragedy? Is it the first Christmas with a new baby in the family?

Wherever and in whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, take time to reflect and experience a miracle. Some or other time a tray full of niceties may be offered to you this Christmas. Even if you cannot look forward to something wonderful in the physical world, God has the miracle tray all ready. We may be very sure of it based on that baby’s birth so long ago in the calculation of earthly time. He is waiting for your call.

Will you be quiet with me for just a little while? Please join the true Feast to hold on to as an anchor for the days to come. The majesty of the miracle in a simple cave or barn in Bethlehem so long ago, echoes to this day.

In this moment of prayer, there is one aspect of the greater message that God calls attention to in my heart to write. Above all else, Christmas is the earthly telescope to see the Father’s heart. His heart is set on this broken world and His eyes are looking for a heart to respond to. His response is a miracle in your life.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

His eye is on you this Christmas. He is actively involved in your private feasting in His presence. He wants to be. Hear how the Psalmist expresses this desire of God (32:8):

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you. (NLT)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV)

We have talked about the rainbow in previous Pebble-pieces. Do you remember we said the rainbow is always there; it depends on how we look? We need a prism, some Godly eyeglasses, to see. Christmas is a miracle prism. If we look through the Christmas prism, we see the rainbow – the full content of the Covenant promise that was made to Noah. The Covenant is the heart of our great God promising to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts choose Him.

Choose Him in this quiet moment we have together and have yourself a miracle. How does it happen?

Let us go to our Bible study in the Gospel of John – not to the nativity story, but to the story of an active Jesus amongst the needs of the people. John 4:46 and further:

And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum…

The man who came is a courtier (basilikos), the word used for a royal official and somebody of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus was the village carpenter. Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, some twenty miles away. It took him some time to get home.

The scene is odd to say the least. An important man coming over to see a village carpenter was not very likely. Lots of pride is swallowed. It is obvious his need was deep. He gave no thought of what the people would say.

He refused to be discouraged. Jesus’ statement is not very encouraging:

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

Jesus was probably talking to the crowd that inevitably collected. He was making sure the man was serious just like He did with the Syro-Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28. If the man turned away in anger it would have been his loss. His faith proved to be real.

His faith transcended his feelings – it is super-important.

This is a nobleman, a high official displaying surprising faith. Was it easy to turn back and just believe the word of this simple carpenter? I think not. He was like a drowning man clutching to hope given to him.

This encounter illustrates the powerful impartation of peace in the words of Jesus. His hope fuelled his faith. Jesus’ promise of healing just had to be true.

He surrendered. He and his whole household believed. He didn’t receive healing and just forgot. It was a complete “revolution” in his house. It could not have been easy around Herod. The news of the healing was bound to get out. He would have had to withstand mockery and accusations of madness.

He faced and accepted the facts. He surrendered to the miracle. His need was met and he honoured the man through whom it came. This is the true Christian life.

We live in the days after the resurrection. We know the power of God. Will you trust Him and surrender to your miracle?

Go ahead and ask Him. 

His eye is already on you. Receive the peace in these words:

 For there is born to you this day in the city of David

a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 





101. Are you ready for December?

I am writing this piece in the first days of December and somehow it is like it always is. The month is well on its way before I could realize and relish this month of festivities.

I have written on the traditions of Christmas in previous Pebbles pieces. Here is a quote from number 31; something I would like to repeat.

The unspoken, universal announcement has been made. The lights are up, the decoration-plans executed. Retail and wholesale are ready for the harvest and their advertising campaigns spell out the demands of the season. Headaches over gifts and travel plans are painful and real and emphasize the heavy, hurting burden of the so-called time of joy and celebration. Tills and credit card machines deafen the very familiar music in the shopping centres all over the world.

 I don’t have a plan or advice for the secular, empty and sometimes ridiculous celebration of Christmas. As a family we have distanced ourselves from Santa Claus and in stead placed the emphasis on God the Father and the great gift of His son. We do have a tree and other decorations to mark the celebrations, making sure that Jesus is central to everything we do. Gift giving was always limited and balanced – it took great effort to keep it creative and joyful. [Pebbles number 11]

This year, like so many in the past, the tree is up. To me it is the symbol of the stump of Jesse that blossomed and produced the Saviour of the world (Isaiah 11:1).

The Christmas cards will once again go out, proclaiming the events of so long ago. Many, many pageants worldwide will find their Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus, shepherds and angels among the ordinary and everyday to display the simple events of Bethlehem that forever changed the world, whether one believes or not. Within so many pagan societies the spirit of the season, even if it is for gain and greed, displayed in sparkling balls, lights and the giving of gifts, cannot be resisted. Somewhere there in spiritual darkness, a child will again ask… why? Our God reigns, says the prophet Isaiah. God will answer in His particular and spectacular way, in ways we cannot see.

But… we are not ignorant of the truth. We know why and we rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. We are the church of Jesus. Let us tune in to radio Christmas and hear the bells ringing over the kingdom harvest in the world where we celebrate.

What is on the menu this Christmas? I am sure we are thinking of something good to eat. Traditional fare or something simple – Christmas has developed an entire industry around the food and drink for this one day of the year.

While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples were going to find food. It was clear that all of them were hungry. When they came back they were worried about Jesus not eating. But He is not hungry anymore. He says: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work

Then He talks about the harvest. Let us eat His words. (John 4:35-38)

The harvest is one of the core themes of the words of Jesus on earth. Here He sees the work of His father in Samaria. He sees the fruit and anointing on His words. He introduces the harvest as symbolic of God’s field, God as a sower was already a theme in the Old Testament. As an example is Hosea’s son’s name – Jizreel, which means: God scatters and sows. The harvest is symbolic of blessing on your labour.

The Jews divided the agricultural year in six parts of two months each for seedtime, winter, spring, harvest, summer and the season of extreme heat. Jesus knew that Sychar was in the midst of a region famous for its corn. Arable land is scarce in Palestine. It takes o only four months from sowing to reaping. He looked over Samaria and talked about the harvest that is ready. Again he contrasts the spiritual to the physical. The harvest in Samaria was ready on all levels.

In the ordinary way of things, men waited for the harvest. In the divine nature of things, the spiritual harvest of Samaria was sudden. The people were hungry for the Word, the Promise and the spiritual food.

Harvest is a time of joy. The sower and the harvester rejoice together. How beautiful the Psalmist declares the promise:

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.    

He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalms 126:5-6)

Beneath the surface was the dream of a golden age for the Jews. The promised land was not a desert. It was a land “flowing with milk and honey”. The vineyards were to yield the harvest promised so long ago when the spies carried the bunch of grapes to big for one man to carry. The spies and their grapes are the icon of God’s overflowing abundance. The promised land became a desert because of sin and idol worship.

Jesus expanded His vision of the harvest.

The disciples would reap where they have not sown. Jesus’ word and work on the Cross would be the seed and the disciples would go and reap. We are still busy reaping the harvest.

The day will come when the disciples sow and others will reap. Christianity will be “scattered” and “sowed” and others would reap. Never be discouraged if you do not see the harvest. There will always be a harvest. Nothing is ever in vain, even when you do not see results.

Here we are in the month of December. We are reminded of opportunity. The harvest waits. We can never fail to reap the attraction of people to the Word of God.

We are reminded of the challenge for ministry over years with perseverance and commitment. We plant trees and watch them grow, but we cannot imagine how they will be when they are big, hundreds of years old.

John 4:39-42 are verses that express a core value of our ministry in the kingdom. It is one of the outstanding passages to illustrate that hearsay becomes revelation knowledge.

The Samaritans were introduced to the Truth by words that came to them from an unexpected source. Would they have chosen to hear of the Messiah through this woman? Probably not.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14,15)

Closer intimacy comes with growing knowledge. Once they were introduced they sought His company. They asked Him to stay. To experience Christ does not happen through somebody else. You have to invite Him in.

Discovery and surrender – what a wonderful Christmas combination.

John calls Jesus the Saviour of the world. He is the only one to do so. He is thinking about the Samaritans many years after this incident and is still in awe of the barriers broken down in such a short time.

The title comes from the Old Testament. He is the God of salvation. At the time John was writing, the Roman Emperor took this title for himself.

Jesus was not only a great example. If we have to live up to His example it could be frustrating and discouraging. He was an enabler. He was saviour. He rescued from evil and hopelessness. The Samaritan woman was the example of His saving power. She was labeled and despised. She probably agreed that a good life was beyond her hopes and dreams. Jesus broke the chains of her past and gave her a future. That is some saving power for you!


Pebble pals, do not shy away from the celebrations. It does not matter that the date is wrong and the onslaught of godlessness nauseates you. We are never victims. Use the opportunity. The feast is coming – whether you like the way it is done or not. Step into it, mindful and aware, and equip yourself with a word in season [Isaiah 50:4]. Bless everybody whose life you touch.

The harvest is ready. Let us feast with our feet shod in the loveliness of the Gospel of peace so that it is us who brings the good news. It is our party shoes for Christmas (Ephesians 6:15).

Put on your party shoes. Wear your white clothes, your garment of praise embroidered with your testimony of salvation. These are the decorations of our lives – truth and life, kindness and grace, insight and understanding, help in need and so much more of the fullness of the riches in Christ.

Bring them in. Just like the old hymn says:

Sowing in the morning,  sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.


Please listen with me to this old favourite Christmas song so brilliantly performed. Just think how many times this has been sung all over the world.



100. Free to pray.

Do you zone out as soon as somebody talks about worship? It is just too much. Does God really need hero worship, to hear everyday of my life how great He is? If He is God, why do I have to tell Him and please Him by saying certain words?

Let us consider this woman and her spontaneous mention of worship in the presence of Jesus. Her life is laid bare in the presence of a stranger, a Jew, somebody to be afraid of and yet she recognizes the divine presence of God and she talks about worship.

The Samaritans were so far removed from true worship. They were desperate to be part of something authentic. They knew deep down they weren’t doing well and they did not know how to feed the longing for the real.

Let us look at verses 22-42 of John chapter 4.

The Samaritans rejected the Psalms and the prophets. They accepted only the first five books, which Moses has written. They were accused of superstition, and it was probably true. Over centuries they were so influenced by pagan gods that they added Jehovah to the list of other gods for fear of leaving Him out.

Fear and ignorance is the opposite of love and knowledge.

False worship is to selectively choose what to believe and to omit the rest. A one-sided religion justifies anything from scripture.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)

True worship is hope with reason behind it.

They were so superstitious that they worshipped out of fear. Their religion was not based on the desire to serve or to love. For them it was better to play it safe. Worship was based on fear not love.

Jesus says: True worship is spiritual because God is spirit. Things are not important, the heart is.

One of the commentaries says it this way: (my emphasis)

It is the spirit of a man, which is the source of his highest dreams and thoughts and ideals and desires. The true worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. Genuine worship does not consist in coming to a certain place nor in going through a certain ritual or liturgy nor even in bringing certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, himself immortal and invisible.

The woman becomes aware of the wonder of the words spoken to her. She recognizes that it could only come from someone as special as the Messiah, a deep longing and expectation also among the Samaritans. This opens the way for Jesus to reveal Himself to her. Jesus is her dream coming true.

The disciples were probably in state of bewilderment seeing Jesus talking to a woman. The Rabbis despised women and held them incapable of real teaching, saying: Better that the words of the law should be burned than deliver to women. By Rabbinic standards Jesus could hardly have done a more shatteringly unconventional thing than to talk to this woman.

The disciples did not talk to the woman. They did not ask what she wanted or asked Jesus why He was talking to her. They were perhaps getting used to His surprising ways. This is a wonderful step towards true discipleship – not to question why and to bury old prejudices and conventions.

The woman hastened back to the village. She was changed. She left her water jar. It means she planned on coming back.

She faced her own sinful nature (Luke 5:8). In the presence of Jesus we are at once confronted and liberated. She was overawed by Jesus’ ability to see inside her life and liberated by getting rid of her secrets. Bondage is often secret.

Jesus reveals not only sin, but also potential. When bondage flees, our real life can start. He chooses a woman to reveal himself as the Messiah to Samaria.

She wanted to share her discovery. Her shame was dealt with in the presence of Jesus. She could face the world again.

With His disciples he again follows the pattern of conversation, contrasting the physical and spiritual. Jesus’ tiredness disappeared when He sensed the need in the woman.

Real food is to do the will of God. Jesus did it perfectly. He liked what God liked.

He was sent by God. He was under orders. That was His food and it fully satisfied Him. John 5:38 He talks about the works of His father; John 17:4 He says He has finished the work of His father; John 6:38 He states that He was doing the will of Him who sent me; John 10:18 He says He lives the commandment He received from His Father; John 14:23 He finds satisfaction only in doing the commandments of the One he loves.

For us doing the will of God is the only way to peace, happiness and powerful, victorious lives.

True worship is to hear the Word in the presence of our Lord and pray into His words.

 Holy Spirit prayer is to listen and then pray.

  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Worship in Spirit and Truth comes by true revelation – up close and personal. We need to chat to Jesus by the well of living water. It is individual, unique and specific. Just like the Samaritans, we need to get personal and “see” Him in our prayer.

There was no doubt when they saw Him. All ritual and uncertainty were dealt with in His presence.

Everything is hearsay until:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
(Job 42:5)


Sit where you are, close your eyes and use your Spirit-controlled imagination to see Jesus sitting with you. Take His hand, rest you head on His lap. Hold on to your picture, while taking your thoughts captive and bring your life to Him. Tell Him you surrender again.

Sitting quietly in His presence, take note of the thoughts presenting themselves in your mind. Bring them all to Him. Pray about it. If it is something disturbing or sinful, pray into that and confess.

Ask Him to take the burden of sin and “see” in the Spirit how your sin and worries disappear into His body on the cross. Seal your prayer with His blood. Our trademark is the empty cross, but in this prayer you “see” Jesus on the cross bearing your fears and sin. Do not let Him die in vain. Do not take it back on you.

Write your prayer and the things you prayed about. Worship and thank Him for release and liberty. Your worship will come out of your deep sense of His presence.


You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:1)