by Rev Joel Yong
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, why was this man born blind? Did he or his parents sin?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. Instead, he was born blind so that God could show what he can do for him.
The disciples’ question revealed a seemingly karmic understanding of the imperfections of life.
They thought that the man was being punished and that is why he was born blind- presuming it was due to his parents’ sin.
Jesus’ reply- showed a different perspective.
Rather than consider the finality of the suffering or imperfections we possess in life, we ought to consider the possibilities of our situation.
That God might be glorified.
That God might show us what He can do for us.
In that failed marriage.
In that dismal health report.
In a downward-spiraling career.
In the case of a prodigal child.
Consider what God can do.
What does it take to be a good sportsman? Focus, excellence, discipline, determination & ambition. What does it take to be a good Christian? SAME! (Col.3:17)
by Rev Joel Yong
Jesus later crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd followed him because they saw the miracles that he performed for the sick.
People followed Jesus for various reasons.
A large crowd did so because of the healings he did.
It’s nice that they appreciated what He could do.
But it would have been better if they appreciated Jesus for who He was … and not just what He could do.
The crowds turned against Jesus when they saw Him powerless, strung upon a cross, crucified.
He no longer seemed able and doubt crept into their hearts …
Their chief taunts were variants of this: “If You are the Christ, save Yourself from the cross …”
They wanted to see what else He could do.
And if He did not perform according to their expectation- then He was not the Christ they were looking for.
The people weren’t seeking God, they were seeking an idol- one to perform miracles to meet their needs.
They weren’t seeking God, to know His will and bend themselves to follow His will.
They were seeking to find a ‘god’ who would bend to their will. That’s idolatry. That is why their loyalty to Jesus was so fickle.
They did not see nor understand the significance of the cross.
That by choosing to remain on the Cross- Jesus saved us from our greatest bondage – our bondage to sin, and He liberated us from our greatest prison – not the prison of an ailing body alone, but from the prison of an eternity in Hell that awaits each human soul.
by Rev Joel Yong
“As Moses lifted up the snake on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son.
Jesus referred to a story in the Old Testament of when the people were writhing, poisoned and God instructed Moses to lift up a pole with a bronze snake crafted onto it. All who looked up and saw the snake were healed as a result.
He likened His impending death on the Cross to that Old Testament event – all who are without hope of being cured and saved, will be saved when they look to Jesus.
They ‘look to’ Jesus by believing in Him.
More than just beholding Him with their eyes, they behold Him in their hearts.
He saves and He cures us from our sinful condition and promises us new life- eternal life, in Him.
Those who do not turn to Him, are like those who are bitten by a poisonous snake in the Old Testament story, but refuse to accept that they are in need of an antidote and in need of healing. They will perish from the poison.
Then Jesus goes on to elaborate, that it’s not God’s intention to let us perish- rather He desires that all of us get healed and be given life rather than die.
by Rev Joel Yong
He told them, “You brought me this man as someone who turns the people against the government. I’ve questioned him in front of you and haven’t found this man guilty of the crimes of which you accuse him. Neither could Herod. So he sent this man back to us. This man hasn’t done anything to deserve the death penalty. So I’m going to have him whipped and set free.” The whole crowd then shouted, “Take him away! Free Barabbas for us.” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for his involvement in a riot that had taken place in the city and for murder.) But because Pilate wanted to free Jesus, he spoke to the people again. They began yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” A third time Pilate spoke to them. He asked, “Why? What has he done wrong? I haven’t found this man deserving of the death penalty. So I’m going to have him whipped and set free.” But the crowd pressured Pilate. They shouted that Jesus had to be crucified, and they finally won. Pilate decided to give in to their demand. He freed Barabbas, who had been put in prison for rioting and murdering, because that’s what they wanted. But he let them do what they wanted to Jesus.
What tragic words – “Pilate decided to give in to their demand”
He found nothing wrong.
He knew Jesus shouldn’t die.
But because Pilate was pressured, he did what he knew was wrong.
Ever done that? Do something you know, to be wrong- because of pressure?
In seeking to be approved by the world, we declare that we are willing to lose the approval of God- by going against His truth and His way.
But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
Nothing is worth more than the approval of God.
That is why Jesus died- so that we could stand righteous before the judgment seat.
by Rev Jason Phua
Readings: Acts 7:1-29; Proverbs 9:7-8
READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Proverbs 9:7-8 “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”
The book of Proverbs provide practical wisdom to daily living. Proverbs are also called “general truths” where spoken proverbs are generally true in most situations but there will be exceptions. Proverbs 9:7-8 is found in the midst of how “Wisdom” (personified as a “she”) is inviting people to come in to her house to gain insights. This is contrasted to “Folly”, also personified as a lady, who also invites (or rather seduces) people into her house. Those who are seduced by the seemingly “sweet” stolen water of “Folly” will find themselves deep in death and destruction; while those who follow “Wisdom” shall be blessed.
Hence, Proverbs 9:7-8 is a practical piece of advice that flowed from “Wisdom”; where it is said that to rebuke scoffers (or mockers) will only invite insult or even injury. However, the wise will learn even more when rebuked. On hindsight, we know that in Acts 7, Stephen’s proclamation of the Gospel (as well as a firm rebuke in verses 49-53) fell on foolish hearts. The result was that they stoned a faithful servant of the Lord to death. Ironically, the foolish ones didn’t realize that they have also stoned their own hearts to death in the face of truth.
I believe many of us can relate to Proverbs 9:7-8. We could have rebuked someone and dependent on the person’s wisdom or foolishness; they either learn in humility or reject the truth or even insult due to pride and foolishness. Today, I reflect on myself. Have I been constantly seduced by Folly or rather follow Wisdom when it comes to being rebuked by others? I can recall that there are once or twice where I could have reacted better in the face of rebuke. Even if I feel that the rebuke could have been given in a more godly manner; I can definitely grow to receive the rebuke in a more God-fearing posture and love the person more.
Lord God, may You help me to reject the door of “Folly” and readily march into the house of “Wisdom”. This is so I can grow in the fear of the Lord to serve You better. Amen.
by Rev Joel Yong
Jesus also used this illustration with some who were sure that God approved of them while they looked down on everyone else. He said, “Two men went into the temple courtyard to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people! I’m not a robber or a dishonest person. I haven’t committed adultery. I’m not even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my entire income.’ “But the tax collector was standing at a distance. He wouldn’t even look up to heaven. Instead, he became very upset, and he said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ “I can guarantee that this tax collector went home with God’s approval, but the Pharisee didn’t. Everyone who honors himself will be humbled, but the person who humbles himself will be honored.”
The Pharisee missed an important point.
Going to a place of worship, does not necessarily make us, the people of God.
No. It is my prayer that as the year unfolds, we will not just go to church- rather, that we would become the Church.
The tax collector, on the other hand, saw things as they were. God is holy and he was but a sinful man. He knew his place and he knew the only way he could stand before God, was by grace.
He understood the truth of the gospel. And according to Jesus, obtained God’s approval.
Rather than rush through the year, take time to reflect – on God’s grace and love for you and all of mankind. Then take time during the year, to live this truth out so others might see His Word come alive and draw near to Him too.
Don’t just read the Bible- live it.