RSS

Category Archives: Gospel of John

‘Soar Like Eagles’ #15 ‘Wasting Your Life’ on Jesus John 12:1-11


This story of Mary anointing our Lord shortly before His death can have a profound influence on our walk with the Lord because of a statement from a sermon by the late Chinese preacher, Watchman Nee. It’s found in the last chapter of his book, The Normal Christian Life titled, “The Goal of the Gospel.”

Nee points out that in the parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) and Luke (7:37-39), all the disciples joined Judas in scolding Mary for wasting this expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

But Jesus defends Mary by replying Matthew 26:13 (ESV)  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Nee says (p. 186) that Jesus “intends that the preaching of the Gospel should issue in something along the very lines of the action of Mary here, namely, that “people should come to Him and ‘waste themselves’ on Him.’” Or, to state it another way (p. 187), the gospel is “to bring each one of us to a true estimate of His worth.”

If Jesus is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field, then it’s not a waste to sell everything you have to buy that pearl or buy that field. Jesus is worthy for you to devote all you are and all you have to Him.

So this is a story about how not to waste your life.

It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation.

Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him.

The truest motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

But John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is: A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

This story illustrates Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-36 (ESV)  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Jesus repeats this idea (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”

What does Mary show us? She denied herself and “hated her life” for Jesus’ sake by her extravagant act of devotion to Him, and she gained that which would not be taken from her.

Judas greedily wished that he could have pocketed some of Mary’s gift. In a few days, he would sell Jesus for a paltry sum of 30 pieces of silver, which he would eventually throw to the ground and leave. But he forfeited his soul.

1. You will not waste your life if you spend it in selfless devotion to Jesus.

To put it another way, to “waste” your life on Jesus is to save your life. Mary’s act reflects four components of selfless devotion:

A. Selfless devotion is costly.

Mary’s anointing Jesus with this perfume was costly in at least three ways:

1) Selfless devotion costs you financially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my stuff?”

Pure nard was a spice that came from the Himalaya Mountains in the far north of India. It had to be imported to Israel at great cost. We don’t know where Mary got this 12-ounce jar of perfume. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Judas estimates that it could have been sold for 300 denarii, which was equivalent to about 300 days’ pay for a working man (Matt. 20:2).

The Lord rebukes them (John 12:8), “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” He was not saying that we should not help the poor, but He was saying, “I am more worthy of your unselfish devotion than all the world’s poor put together!” He was accepting the worship that Mary gave Him because she rightly saw that He is worthy of all that we can give Him and even more. As Isaac Watts put it (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”): Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Many years ago, a minister went down and watched what each person put in or didn’t put in the offering plate as it was passed. Some of his people were angry, others were embarrassed, but all were surprised.

Then he went to the pulpit and preached on the Lord standing near the treasury in the temple and watching what each person put in, including the widow and her two mites. He reminded them that the Lord watches the collection every Sunday to see what His people give.

So let me ask: Is your devotion to the Lord costing you financially? If others looked at how you spend your money, would they conclude that you must love Jesus a lot?

2) Selfless devotion costs you socially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?”

Matthew and Mark say that Mary anointed Jesus’ head, but John says that she anointed His feet. There is no contradiction if she anointed both. Matthew and Mark mention Jesus’ head because anointing the head signified kingship.

John mentioned her anointing Jesus’ feet because it was the lowly task of a servant to wash a guest’s feet. In the next chapter John tells how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of great humility that we should follow.

But Mary didn’t use a towel. Rather, she wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair. Respectable Jewish women never let down their hair in public. In fact, it was considered a mark of a woman of loose morals (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 577).

But Mary was so caught up with her devotion to Christ that she didn’t stop to consider what others might think about her.

So ask yourself, “Do I treasure Jesus more than my pride?” Or, am I more concerned about what others think about me? People may think you’re a zealot or a religious fanatic. But what matters is what Jesus thinks about your selfless devotion to Him.

3) Selfless devotion costs you some criticism: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my reputation?”

Judas led the attack, but the other disciples echoed his criticism. Matthew 26:8 reports, “But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste?’”

They were only being pragmatic and sensible. The money could have benefitted many poor families. But instead, it was all wasted on Jesus. Or, was it wasted?

B. Selfless devotion stems from personal love and gratitude.

Although the text doesn’t state it directly, Mary’s action obviously stemmed from her love for Jesus and her gratitude for His raising her brother from the dead.

Love for Christ should be the motive in all that we do for Him. Judas postured himself as being concerned for the poor, but even if he had given some of the money to the poor, he would not have been motivated by love for Christ. People can give great sums of money to the Lord’s work, but their real motive may be that they want others to know how generous they are.

But the Lord looks on the hidden motives of our hearts, not on our outward actions.

C. Selfless devotion flows from knowing Jesus personally.

John 12:7 (ESV) Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 

Mary had just poured out the precious perfume, so she couldn’t keep it to anoint Jesus after He died. And, how much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming?

Mary knew more about the infinite worth of Jesus than even the apostles did at this point. Her personal knowledge of Jesus, gained by sitting at His feet, led her to this act of selfless devotion.

If you want to follow Mary’s example of devotion to Jesus, you have to follow her example of sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His word. Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet—first, learning from Him; then, pouring out her sorrow to Him; and now, expressing her love and devotion to Him.

You won’t love the Lord as you should unless you’ve spent much time at His feet. You do that by spending consistent time in the Word and in prayer.

D. Selfless devotion results in action.

Mary didn’t just think about this radical display of love, but then allow reason to prevail and not do it. Rather, she did it! Good intentions are nice, but it takes good actions to produce results. This story highlights three results that flow from selfless devotion: one from Mary, one from Martha, and one from Lazarus:

1) Action results in the fragrance of Christ surrounding your life.

John 12:3 says, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Can people smell the fragrance of Christ on you? You ask, “What does it smell like?” It smells like the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Does your home smell like that? Do others sense from the fragrance of your life that you spend much time at Jesus’ feet, worshiping Him in selfless devotion?

2) Action results in witness for Christ.

Here, we’re looking at Lazarus. The text tells us three things about him:

  1. First, Jesus had raised him from the dead (John 12:1).
  2. Second, he was reclining at the table in fellowship with the Lord who had raised him from the dead (John 12:2).
  3. Third, his resurrected life resulted in many coming to see him and believing in Jesus as a result John 12:9-11 (ESV) When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11  because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
  4. You will totally waste your life if you spend it on yourself.

John tells us about Judas’ greed in verse 6: He really wasn’t concerned about the poor, but he was a thief. He had the money box and used to help himself to the funds. If Mary had given her perfume to sell and give to the poor, some of that money would have ended up in Judas’ pocket!

But now the future looked dim. Jesus kept talking about His death, not His reign. This incident pushed Judas over the top. When Jesus came to Mary’s defense with more talk about His death, Judas decided to go to the authorities and betray Jesus.

Conclusion

Mary’s action reveals the proper basis for evaluating your actions: Did you do what you did because you love and treasure Jesus? She didn’t do this out of duty or pragmatism, but out of sheer devotion for Christ.

Mary did what she did because she had a perception of Christ that even the apostles at this point lacked. She knew that He was worthy of extravagant love. She gained this knowledge of Christ by sitting at His feet. When Jesus is your treasure, you will spend your life in selfless devotion to Him.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

‘Soar Like Eagles’ #14 The Great Act – Lazarus John 11


ThePowerofGod672x378_lg“If Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing”

During a good portion of my lifetime, science has been used to oppose the Bible and the Christian faith. In thousands of classrooms across our country, professors and teachers have asked their students, “Does anyone here believe in the Bible?” or “Is anyone here a Christian?”

For too many years now, unbelieving scholars and teachers have been scoffing at Christians and their faith, hoping to shame us into silence. They wish to convince themselves and others that faith is “believing in what isn’t real or true.”

Is our faith ill-founded? Does our faith hang by an intellectual thread? Is faith required because there is too little evidence to support the claims of the Bible? Not at all!

In this message, I am going to suggest something absolutely amazing, at least in the light of those scholars who are also scoffers. I am going to suggest that faith in Jesus Christ is the only reasonable response to biblical revelation. I will further say that it is unbelief that is unbelievable, and that faith in Jesus Christ is the only “reasonable” response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In our text, Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave with a prayer and a shout. Providentially, a crowd is present at the grave sight, not only to witness this miracle, but to participate in it.

As a result of this amazing miracle, many of those who are there come to a faith in Jesus and the Messiah. Some do not, and these folks report what has happened to the Jewish religious leaders, who set in motion a plan to arrest and kill Jesus.

By their own words, these leaders of Israel reveal that their unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence, but stems from their desire to protect their own selfish interests.

It is the life-threatening illness of Lazarus which results in a desperate message from Martha and Mary, urging Jesus to come back to the little village of Bethany, just a stone’s throw from Jerusalem.

Jesus deliberately delays His journey to Bethany until Lazarus dies. When He finally arrives near the home of the two sisters He loves, Lazarus has already been buried for four days. Both sisters are perplexed by our Lord’s delay, but both nevertheless reaffirm their faith in Him. By the end of verse 37, Jesus has just arrived at the tomb where Lazarus is buried. It is here that we take up the account.

* THE GREAT ACT (11:38-40)

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. {39} “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” {40} Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?””

Lazarus is buried in a cave, with a stone covering the opening. This sounds strikingly similar to the burial sight of our Lord (e.g. Matthew 27:60). The raising of Lazarus almost looks like a dress rehearsal for the resurrection of our Lord in the near future. Jesus orders the stone to be rolled away. We can’t be sure who Jesus orders to move the stone, or who actually does move it. It could be the disciples, of course, but it may just as well be others, such as some of those who have come to mourn with Mary.

I am inclined to think that Jesus deliberately employs those other than His disciples to remove the stone. Doing this would seem to require some measure of faith on their part. Today, we must go through a very strict legal process to gain access to a body once it has been buried. In Judaism, contact with a dead body is defiling. Besides that, it is disgusting, especially after four days. I suspect those who removed the stone received a good whiff of the smell of decaying flesh. These witnesses will not easily be persuaded by a “swoon theory” or any attempt to explain away the literal death (and raising) of Lazarus. Such personal involvement in this process makes these participants even better witnesses to the miracle which is about to occur.

It is Martha, however, who objects to our Lord’s instruction to remove the stone. She protests that too much time has passed. The body will certainly smell very bad, she explains. But beyond this, it just seems to reopen a very painful wound.

It seems quite obvious that Martha is not expecting Jesus to perform any miracle here, and certainly not the raising of one who has been dead for several days. Earlier, Jesus assures her that if she believes, she will see the glory of God (verse 40). By calling this to her attention once again, Jesus is seeking to stretch her faith. Martha relents, and the stone is removed.

Our Lord then lifts His eyes to heaven and begins to pray to His heavenly Father. Having prayed in this manner, Jesus now cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43).

It has quite often been observed that if Jesus had not specified “Lazarus,” every dead body in the region would have arisen from the dead. In shouting with a loud voice, Jesus reveals His confidence that the Father will hear Him, and that Lazarus will rise from the dead.

The witnesses to this resurrection are very much involved in the outworking of the miracle. They see and hear Jesus calling Lazarus out of his tomb. They help roll the stone away from the tomb, and they remove the cloth that has been wrapped around the body of Lazarus.

Of all the “signs” recorded in the Gospel of John, none was greater than what happened at Lazarus’ tomb. Three times in chapter 11 Jesus claimed that these events took place so that people might see “the glory of God” (11:4, 15, 40). Each step of the way we have seen the glory of God in Jesus’ teachings and miracles; but up to this point in the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus is where the glory of God–the presence of God in Christ–shines most brilliantly.

* THE JEWS (11:41-57)

   The emphasis from this point on was on the faith of the spectators, the people who had come to comfort Mary and Martha. Jesus paused to pray: “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. {42} I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

He thanked the Father that the prayer had already been heard…but when had He prayed? It’s likely that it was when He was told that His friend was sick (11:4). The plan was likely revealed to Him, and He obeyed His Father’s will. His purpose now was clear: He wanted the unbelieving spectators to know that His Father had sent Him.

He called out His name and he came out: “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” {44} The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Everything Jesus did was due to the power of God and designed for the glory of God. 

If this Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing.

The same thought is Biblical in nature: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” 1 Cor. 15:19. Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), but Jesus has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.

It  was an unquestioned miracle that even the most hostile spectator could not deny!  “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.”

As with previous miracles, the people were divided in their response. “But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. {47} Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. {48} If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The Pharisees are informed about the miracle at Bethany and quickly call for a meeting of the Sanhedrin. Up to this point, they have not been able to come to a united stand (see 7:45-53), but all that ends here. Up till now, they have been eager to arrest and kill Jesus, but have been unable to do so (see 5:18; 7:11, 30; 8:40, 59; 10:31, 39). They now resolve to change that, and very soon.

John’s account allows the reader to be a “fly on the wall,” overhearing the private conversation that takes place in this emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. The words that they speak are incredible, almost beyond belief. They express no doubt about the power of our Lord, or the legitimacy of the signs He has performed. They do not deny that the evidence in support of His claims is piling up. In fact, they virtually admit that it is all true.

But in spite of all this evidence, they refuse to bow the knee to Jesus as the Son of God. They refuse to repent of their sins and seek His forgiveness and salvation. They refuse to give up their positions and power.

They acknowledge that if Jesus is not put to death, the entire nation will believe in Him. This may be hyperbole, but they know they are rapidly losing ground. They must act decisively, and they must act soon. If not, they can kiss life as they have known it goodbye. They fear that if the entire nation acknowledges Jesus as the King of Israel, this will precipitate a strong reaction from Rome, which will end the “good times” for them. Ironically, it is not the nation’s acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah which brings about the downfall of the nation, but their rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah. In but a few years, Rome will march on this nation, capture Jerusalem, destroy the temple, and kill countless Jews. And all this is because Israel rejects her Messiah.

Caiaphas is the High Priest this year, and as the High Priest, he now lays out the course of action which seems necessary: Jesus must die. Far better to sacrifice one person than the entire nation, he reasons. Our Lord’s death seems to spell life (as it is presently) for the rest. What Caiaphas doesn’t realize is that at the very moment he is proposing the death of our Lord, He is being used of God to utter (as the High Priest) a profound prophetic truth. It was God’s plan and purpose that one man—Jesus Christ—should die for the entire nation, and that out of His death many will find eternal life. Caiaphas is speaking for God in spite of his unbelief and rejection of Jesus. Note the arrogance of this man, even as he speaks prophetically. You don’t have to be a believer to be used as God’s mouthpiece. Ask Balaam (or his beast of burden—see Numbers 22–24). And so it is that from this day forward, this very diverse group of Jews is united in its one common purpose of killing Jesus.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! {50} You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” {51} He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, {52} and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. {53} So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

The official decision that day was that Jesus must die (see Matt.12:14; Luke 19:47; John 5:18; 7:1, 19-20, 25). The leaders thought that they were in control of the situation, but it was God who was working out His predetermined plan. Originally, they wanted to wait until after the Passover, but God had decreed otherwise.

Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. {55} When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.” {56} They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” {57} But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Now the Passover Feast of the Jews was near; and many from the country areas went up to Jerusalem before the Passover Feast to purify themselves.  So they were looking for Jesus; and, as they stood in the Temple precincts, they were talking with each other and saying:  “What do you think?  Surely it is impossible that he should come to the Feast?” Now the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he should lodge information with them, that they might seize him.

Jesus did not unnecessarily court danger.  He was willing to lay down his life, but not so foolishly reckless as to throw it away before his work was done.  So he retired to a town called Ephraim, which was near Bethel in the mountainous country north of Jerusalem (cp. 2 Chronicles 13:19).

By this time Jerusalem was beginning to fill up with people.  Before the Jew could attend any feast he had to be ceremonially clean; and uncleanness could be contracted by touching a vast number of things and people.  Many of the Jews, therefore, came up to the city early to make the necessary offerings and go through the necessary washings in order to ensure ceremonial cleanness.  The law had it:  “Every man is bound to purify himself before the Feast.”

These purifications were carried out in the Temple.  They took time, and in the time of waiting the Jews gathered in excited little groups.  They knew what was going on.  They knew about this mortal contest of wills between Jesus and the authorities; and people are always interested in the man who gallantly faces fearful odds.  They wondered if he would appear at the feast; and concluded that he could not possible come.  This Galilean carpenter could not take on the whole might of Jewish ecclesiastical and political officialdom.

A point we need to make here: the rich man in hades had argued that “if one went to them  from the dead, they will repent.” (Luke 16:30). Lazarus came back from the dead, and the officials wanted  to kill Him!

   And what about today? Jesus, too, has come back from the dead! The stage has been set for the greatest drama in history, during which man would do his worst and God would give His best!

————————————————

   While this passage contains some wonderfully good news, it requires that we first face something we may not want to face.

   The painful truth is that we will all die! Life is fatal. However young, strong, and healthy we may be at this moment, someday we will die! It may be today or tomorrow or eighty years from now, but we all will die.

   We try in many ways to avoid having to face this terrible truth. We try to convince ourselves that if we exercise enough, eat the right foods, wear our seat belts, drink purified water, and put on sunscreen when we go outside, then we will be protected from death. In the end, nothing can protect us from the fact that the death rate in this world is 100 percent!

   You are probably thinking, “I do not want to hear this today! I have had a hard week, and now I am being reminded that I will die!” I would not bring up such a painful, distressing subject if the gospel did not provide the answer to it. Jesus, in the marvelous story in John 11, proclaims to people of all time, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is wonderful news, but we had to be reminded of the bad news first in order to appreciate it.

  The story of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb helps us to confront our own fears of death. Because of what Jesus did then and still does today, we do not have to deny the reality of death in order to be happy in this life.

   As Christians, we do not run from death; we face it. We do not pretend that it will not happen to us; we proclaim to the world that we have an answer to it. This new attitude is seen in the following two examples from the writings of Paul:  (Rom. 8:38-39)  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {39} neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(1 Cor. 15:54-55)  “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” {55} “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

‘Soar Like Eagles’ #13 The Teacher’s Tears – John 11:28-37


Several years ago a young couple wanted to talk with their minister after the morning service. They had moved  in from out of state because the wife had landed a good job. But after a short time on the job, she was terminated, from her perspective, without cause. She was angry and bitter towards God because they thought that they had followed Him in moving here. Now they were without work and without funds to move back home.

The minister shared with them that the Lord was in control of their difficult situation and that He had many lessons to teach them if they would trust Him. The husband had a good attitude and seemed teachable, but the wife wouldn’t listen. She kept insisting that God had let them down. Later the husband came for further counsel because she angrily left him to return to their former location.

That woman was a sad example of how we as Christians should not respond when sudden trials come into our lives. The Bible gives us another option: Rather than growing angry and withdrawing from the Lord, we can draw near to Him in submission to His sovereign hand, knowing that He cares for us.

It’s okay to draw near to Him with tears of grief and confusion. The main thing is to draw near with a sub-missive heart, trusting in His sovereign love and care for you.

Mary, the sister of Martha, did that when Jesus came to Bethany after the death of their brother, Lazarus. Martha first went to the Lord as He came into their village, but Mary stayed in the house. Then after her interview with Jesus, Martha came and whispered to Mary (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

Mary did not say, “I’m too angry right now even to talk to Him!” Rather, she did what we should do in our times of trouble: She got up quickly and went to Jesus (11:29). She fell at His feet weeping and repeated what Martha had said (11:32), “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The significant thing is that Jesus did not rebuke her for her tears or her lack of faith. Rather, we read in the shortest verse in the English Bible (11:35), “Jesus wept.”

While commentators differ in interpreting Jesus’ emotions here, as I’ll explain, I believe that John wants us to see Christ’s compassion for these sisters in their loss.

This story pictures what Hebrews 4:15-16 declares, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Our text teaches us that …

The call and compassion of the Teacher should cause us to draw near to Him in our trials.

In difficult times, John wants us personally to apply Martha’s words (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

  1. Christ is the Teacher and He calls us to come to Him and learn from Him in our trials.
  2. We learn the most in the school of Christ when we draw near to Him in our trials.

Martha did not say, as she easily could have, “Jesus is here and is calling for you.” Rather, she calls Him, “The Teacher.” Jesus is the Teacher par excellence and His most effective lessons are often when we’re hurting the most.

We all tend to be rather self-sufficient. Many years ago there was a TV commercial (I can’t remember what it was advertising) where mother was trying to give advice to her young adult daughter and the daughter would reply in frustration, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”

We’re often like that with the Lord—we think that we can do it by ourselves, without His help.

But then trials hit and we realize the truth of Jesus’ words (John 15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

It’s at these overwhelming times that we can learn the most about Christ’s all-sufficiency, if we draw near to Him.

Anonymous poem speaks here: Until I learned to trust, I never learned to pray; And I did not learn to fully trust ’til sorrows came my way. Until I felt my weakness, His strength I never knew; Nor dreamed ’til I was stricken that He could see me through. Who deepest drinks of sorrow, drinks deepest, too, of grace; He sends the storm so He Himself can be our hiding place. His heart that seeks our highest good, knows well when things annoy; We would not long for heaven if earth held only joy.

And so, in a time of trials or grief, realize that you’re enrolled in the school of Christ and He has just given you a great opportunity to learn more about His all-sufficiency.

  1. Christ tailors His lessons for each student according to the student’s needs.

Martha was the take-charge, get things done, sister. She was the one (Luke 10:38-42) who was busy getting the meal prepared when Jesus visited their home, while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. She scolded the Lord on that occasion because He didn’t tell Mary to get up and help her. But the Lord gently rebuked Martha for being worried and bothered about so many things, while Mary had chosen the better part.

In John 11, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up and went to Him. Jesus dealt with her on a doctrinal level, claiming to be the resurrection and the life, and then challenging her (11:26), “Do you believe this?” He knew that she needed this doctrinal foundation so that she would glorify Him in this trial.

But when Mary fell at Jesus’ feet in tears, He sympathized with her and wept, without any discussion of biblical truth. He knew that she needed to feel His compassion and that she later would glorify Him because He entered into her sorrow.

Two applications: First, recognize that the Lord always deals with you according to your personality to teach you what you need to grow in every trial. All parents who have more than one child know that each child is different. You can’t deal with them in exactly the same way because they are wired differently and they learn differently. The Teacher does that with His children. He tutors you individually, in a way that you can best learn the lessons. But you need to try to understand, through prayer and the Word, “What does the Teacher want me to learn through this trial?”

Second, we should be sensitive to the unique personalities of others when we try to comfort or help them in difficult situations. Some may need a word of encouragement, whereas others don’t need any words, but just for you to be with them and cry with them. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to helping others in their time of need. So pray for sensitivity and wisdom as you try to help.

But for us to trust Jesus as our Teacher in times of trial, we have to know Him. The more we know who He is, the easier it is to trust Him. Thus John shows us that…

  1. The Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials.

This chapter shows us both Jesus’ humanity and His deity. We see His humanity very plainly in 11:34-35, where Jesus asks the location of the tomb and then He weeps. But we see His deity earlier in the chapter, when He knows that Lazarus is dead and that He is going to raise him from the dead (11:11, 14); and when He tells Martha that He is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in Him will live even if he dies and will never die (11:25-26).

Many years ago, I read this paragraph by Alfred Edersheim, (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans] 1:198), and I’ve always remembered it as I read the gospels: “It has been observed, that by the side of every humiliation connected with the Humanity of the Messiah, the glory of His Divinity was also made to shine forth. The coincidences are manifestly undesigned on the part of the Evangelic writers, and hence all the more striking. Thus, if he was born of the humble Maiden of Nazareth, an Angel announced His birth; if the Infant-Saviour was cradled in a manger, the shining host of heaven hymned His Advent. And so afterwards—if He hungered and was tempted in the wilderness, Angels ministered to Him, even as an Angel strengthened Him in the agony of the garden. If He submitted to baptism, the Voice and vision from heaven attested His Sonship; if enemies threatened, He could miraculously pass through them; if the Jews assailed, there was the Voice of God to glorify Him; if He was nailed to the cross, the sun craped his brightness, and earth quaked; if He was laid in the tomb, Angels kept its watches, and heralded His rising.”

The fact that Jesus is fully man means that He can identify and sympathize with our problems. The fact that He is fully God means that He is sovereign over and can help with them. (Of course, the God who made us completely understands us and is full of compassion towards us: Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV) As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

 But Jesus’ humanity especially qualifies Him to sympathize with us: Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  

Three aspects of Jesus’ humanity shine from our text (I’m drawing these headings from James Boice, John [Zondervan], one-vol. ed., pp. 749-753, who seems to be following C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 35:338-346):

  1. Jesus experienced grief and deep feelings, just as we do.

Isaiah (53:3) prophesied that Jesus would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The fact that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus shows that whatever our grief may be, Jesus knows it and He enters into it with us.

But at this point, we encounter some difficult interpretive matters. The world translated “deeply moved” (11:33 & 38, NASB, ESV, NIV; “groaned, NJKV) is difficult to understand. It’s only used three other times in the New Testament and in those places it has a meaning that does not seem to fit here.

In Matthew 9:30 & Mark 1:43, it means, “strictly charged” or “sternly warned.” In Mark 14:5, it refers to the scolding of the woman (Mary) who anointed Christ with expensive ointment. The parallel (Matt. 26:8) uses a different word to say that they were indignant with her. In the LXX, the word refers to anger or being indignant (Dan. 11:30; noun in Lam. 2:6). Thus many commentators think that in John 11:33 & 38, Jesus was angry or indignant (The New Living Translation). Some think that He was indignant with the unbelief expressed by Mary and the others (11:32, 37); or He was angry with the death that God decreed because of man’s fall into sin.

But S. Lewis Johnson (sermon on this text, online at sljinstitute.net) mentions a Professor Black from the University of St. Andrews who studied this word thoroughly and concluded that it does not have the nuance of anger. And since anger does not seem to fit the context here, some argue that the word can refer to being deeply moved (as the NASB, ESV, & NIV translate it). The word was used in extra-biblical Greek to refer to the snorting of a horse preparing for battle. Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 442) views it as Jesus gearing up for the conflict as our champion in the battle against sin and death.

One other suggestion is worth considering. F. Godet (Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan], 2:184) questions why Jesus didn’t feel the same emotion towards death at the other two resurrections that He performed. He says that here Jesus realizes that raising Lazarus will precipitate the hostility of His enemies that will lead to His own death on the cross. The accompanying verb (11:33, “troubled Himself”) is also used as Jesus contemplates His impending death in John 12:27 & 13:21. Thus perhaps Jesus is deeply moved both by the sisters’ grief and by what He knows will happen after He raises Lazarus. R. H. Lightfoot (cited by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 557, n. 69) commented, “The expression used here implies that He now voluntarily and deliberately accepts and makes His own the emotion and the experience from which it is His purpose to deliver men.”

So while we cannot be certain of the exact meaning of John’s word, we can know that our Savior was not a Stoic. Even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus, it didn’t prevent Him from entering into the sisters’ grief. He experienced deep feelings and grief, just as we do. And even though He knows that one day He will wipe away all of our tears (Rev. 21:4) He still sympathizes with us in all of our sorrows.

  1. Jesus was not ashamed to display human emotions.

Jesus could have restrained His tears. After all, He knew that He would soon raise Lazarus. Besides, His tears could be misinterpreted as weakness or frustration on His part, as some of the Jews surmised (11:37). But Jesus did not worry about that. He was completely human (without a sin nature) and His tears show that it’s not wrong to express our feelings as long as our hearts are submissive to God. The NT states three times that Jesus wept (here; Luke 19:41, over Jerusalem’s unbelief; and Heb. 5:7, in the Garden of Gethsemane), but never that He laughed (but, see Luke 10:21).

It’s worth noting that John uses a different word (11:33) for weeping to describe the loud wailing of Mary and the mourners than the word in 11:35, which could be translated, “Jesus burst into tears.” Jesus wept, but He was not wailing in despair. In the words of Paul (1 Thess. 4:13), believers are to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. It’s interesting, also, that while the shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Greek NT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always!” Those verses are not contradictory! As Paul put it (Rom. 12:15), “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus entered into the sorrow of these sisters. As we become more like our Savior, we should not become more stoical, but rather people who express godly emotions.

  1. Jesus’ love underlies all His actions.

In 11:36 we read in response to Jesus’ weeping, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!” And they were right, because John has previously underscored Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:3, 5). In fact, Jesus’ love for these dear friends was the reason He stayed two days longer where He was, allowing Lazarus to die (11:6). Love always seeks the highest good for the one loved, and the highest good for anyone is that he or she gets a greater vision of God’s glory and thus grows in faith. Both of these aims were behind Jesus’ delay in going to Bethany (11:4, 15, 40).

But some of the Jews questioned both Jesus’ love and His power when they said (11:37), “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” They couldn’t reconcile Jesus’ love and power with Lazarus’ death. And in a time of severe trials, the enemy may whisper to you, “God must not love you or He isn’t able to prevent trials like you’re going through. You shouldn’t trust Him!”

But at such times, never interpret God’s love by your difficult circumstances, but rather interpret your circumstances by His love (modified from, C. H. Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Writings [Loizeaux Brothers], vol. 6, “Bethany,” pp. 17-18). He could have prevented your trial. But as H. E. Hayhoe wrote (“Sentence Sermons,” exact source unknown), “He will never allow a trial in your life without a needs be on your part and a purpose of love on His part.”

Thus, Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials. And, the Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials. Finally,

  1. In your trials, come to the Teacher just as you are, quickly and submissively.

Martha’s words to Mary (11:28) are the Lord’s words for us when we’re hurting: “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

  1. Jesus is always present and is waiting for you to come to Him in your trials.

Jesus was there, but Mary had to get up and go to Him. And even though you may not feel His presence, He is always present and available to give grace if you go to Him in your trials.

  1. Come to Jesus just as you are and share your feelings with Him.

Mary went immediately when she heard that the Teacher was there and calling for her. She didn’t say, “I’ve been crying for four days. My mascara is streaked, my eyes are red and swollen. I can’t go to Jesus like this! I need to go and make myself presentable!”

But we often do that with the Lord. We’re in the midst of a trial or problem and we think, “I can’t go to the Lord until I get myself more together. I’ll wait until I’m calmer and more in control of my emotions.” But grace is for the undeserving, not for the deserving. Go to Jesus with your tears and He will weep with you.

If you’ve never come to Christ for salvation, the only way that you can come is just as you are. If you try to clean up your life or make yourself more presentable to Him, you don’t understand His grace. As the old hymn (by Charlotte Elliott) goes,

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come.!

  1. Come to Jesus quickly.

Mary “got up quickly and was coming to Him” (11:29). She had friends at her side who were consoling her. She could have thought, “What will they think if I leave them and go to Jesus?” Or, she could have thought that their consolations were enough. But as comforting as our friends may be, they are no substitute for the Teacher who calls us to Himself. Don’t delay: Go to Jesus quickly! The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll experience His comfort and compassion.

  1. Come to Jesus’ feet.

Mary went and fell at Jesus’ feet (11:32). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10:39, she was “seated at The Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” In our text, she pours out her grief at Jesus’ feet. In John 12:3, she anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive ointment and dried them with her hair, as she prepared Him for His burial. In this, she is an example for us: First, learn God’s word about Jesus. Then you’ll know Him so that you can take your sorrows to Him in a time of grief. That will lead you to worship Him as the one who died for your sins.

Conclusion

A mission executive from the United States was visiting a school in Kenya where he was listening as teenage girls shared how they had been blessed by hearing the Bible in their own language. One girl testified that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Another said that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” She said that when she wept in the night, she knew that Jesus was weeping with her.

The mission executive wondered why these two girls were mourning and weeping. He thought that maybe they had chosen these verses to share because they were short and easy to remember. But the school’s teacher leaned over and whispered to him that both of these girls had lost their parents to AIDS.

Jesus’ compassion comforted them in their losses. In the same way, the Teacher calls us to come to Him with our tears. He cares for us and He will cry with us. Come to Him!

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

‘Soar Like Eagles’ #12 The Last Miracle and Last Enemy (part 1) – John 11:1-45


lazarus-raisedThe 1993 movie “Shadowlands” tells the bittersweet love story involving the writer C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. At the beginning of the film, Lewis was lecturing on the subject of pain in a hall full of people. He told them, Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. … We are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel which hurt us so much are what make us perfect.

In the course of the movie, Lewis met Joy Gresham, and she began to fall in love with him. Lewis, a confirmed bachelor, was at first interested only in a friendship with Joy. One day, as the two were sitting down for afternoon tea in his apartment, Joy exploded in frustration at Lewis. She shouted, I have only now just seen it–how you have arranged a life for yourself where no one  can touch you. Everyone that’s close to you is either younger than you or weaker than you or under your control.

Slowly, Lewis came to realize that Joy was right about the way he had insulated his life from feelings and pain. Later, when Joy was in the hospital with cancer, Lewis proposed marriage to her; and in 1956 they became husband and wife. The next four years were wonderful years for them, in spite of the ever-present cloud of cancer that hung over their bliss.

During this time they took a late honeymoon trip to see a beautiful valley which was depicted in a painting on their wall. Rain began to fall as they were walking in the field, so they sought shelter in a shed where hay was stored. While they sat there, Joy insisted on discussing her coming death. In a steady voice, she said, Let me just say it before this rain stops and we go back…. That I am going to die and I want to be with you then too. The only way I can do that is if I’m able to talk to you now…. I think it can be better than just managing. What I’m trying to say is the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.

—————————————————

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha

No man can have a greater gift to offer his fellowmen than rest for weary feet; and that is the gift which Jesus found in the house in Bethany, where Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Frank Viola has written a book that calls Bethany our Lord’s favorite city. Lazarus fell ill, and the sisters sent to Jesus a message that it was so. 

Mary and Martha and Lazarus appear here for the first time in John’s Gospel.[1] They will appear once again in chapter 12, a fact to which John calls our attention in verse 2 of our text. It seems that Jesus has come to know Lazarus and his two sisters quite well, and that they have been privileged to enjoy the company of Jesus whenever He traveled to Jerusalem. Their home in Bethany, a couple of miles from Jerusalem, may have been just far enough from Jerusalem for Him to safely spend the night, out of the grasp of those who wanted to kill Him.

{2} This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. {3} So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

It is lovely to note that the sisters’ message included no request to Jesus to come to Bethany.  They knew that was unnecessary; they knew that the simple statement that they were in need would bring him to them.  Augustine said it was sufficient that Jesus should know… for it is not possible that any man should at one and the same time love a friend and desert him. 

  1. F. Andrews tells of two friends who served together in the First World War. One of them was wounded and left lying helpless and in pain in no-man’s-land. The other, at peril of his life, crawled out to help his friend; and, when he reached him, the wounded man looked up and said simply:  “I knew you would come.” 

{4} When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

When Jesus came to Bethany he knew that whatever was wrong with Lazarus he had power to deal with it.  But he went on to say that his sickness had happened for God’s glory and for his. 

If this Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing.

The same thought is Biblical in nature: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” 1 Cor. 15:19. Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), but Jesus has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.

In what Jesus said and did, He sought to strengthen the faith of three groups of people:

  1. THE DISCIPLES (11:1-12).

{5} Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. {6} Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. {7} Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” {8} “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” {9} Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. {10} It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” {11} After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” {12} His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.””

Just recently Jesus has been in Jerusalem, but He left when the Jews sought to kill Him (10:31, 39-42). It is hard to believe they would not know that returning to Bethany would put Jesus in grave danger. Nevertheless, they inform Jesus in a way that lets Him know they expect Him to return to them immediately: “Take note, Lord! The one You love is sick.”

I am convinced in my own mind that they assume Jesus will immediately respond, so as to save the life of Lazarus. After all, as they remind Him, Lazarus is a man whom He loves[2] (verse 3). The sisters of Lazarus must expect one of two things. Either they expect to see Jesus coming as quickly as He can get there, or they expect Him to send word by the messenger that He is coming shortly. Notice our Lord’s words to Martha later in this same account:

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?” (11:39-40, emphasis mine)

Our Lord’s words are very carefully chosen. Jesus is not assuring these women that Lazarus won’t die. He is assuring them that even though Lazarus will die, this will not be the end of the matter. He is also informing them that this crisis has a divinely-intended purpose—to bring glory to God the Father through the glorification of the Son of God.

As we come to verse 6, we have a real tension with which we must grapple.[3] John makes a point of telling us that Jesus deeply loves Lazarus and his sisters. His love for Lazarus is mentioned by Martha and Mary in verse 3, and John then repeats it even more emphatically in verse 5.

In spite of this, and the urgency of the situation, Jesus deliberately delays His return to Bethany. He waits two full days, so that when He does arrive in Bethany, Lazarus is “good and dead.” How can Jesus love these people so much and yet speak and act in a way that causes them such pain? That is the tension with which John leaves us for a while, as he moves on to the discussion between Jesus and His disciples in verses 7-16.

We may find it strange that John shows us Jesus staying two whole days where he was when he received the news about Lazarus.  Reasons to explain this delay. 

  • It has been suggested that Jesus waited so that when he arrived Lazarus would be indisputably dead.
  • It has therefore been suggested that Jesus waited because the delay would make the miracle he proposed to perform all the more impressive. The wonder of raising to life a man who had been dead for four days would be all the greater.
  • The real reason why John tells the story in this way is that he always shows us Jesus taking action entirely on his own initiative and not on the persuasion of anyone else.

When Jesus finally announced that he was going to Judaea, his disciples were shocked and staggered.  They remembered that the last time he was there the Jews had tried to find a way to kill him.  To go to Judaea at that time seemed to them-as indeed humanly speaking it was-the surest way to commit suicide.

Then Jesus said something which contains a great and permanent truth.  “Are there not,” he asked, “twelve hours in the day?” There are three great truths implied in that question.

(i)  A day cannot finish before it ends.  There are twelve hours in the day, and they will be played out no matter what happens.  The day’s period is fixed, and nothing will shorten or lengthen it.  In God’s economy of time a man has his day, whether it be short or long.

(ii)  If there are twelve hours in the day there is time enough for everything a man should do.  There is no need for a rushed haste.

(iii)  But, even if there are twelve hours in the day, there are only twelve hours.  They cannot be extended; and therefore, time cannot be wasted.  There is time enough, but not too much; the time we have must be used to the utmost.

Jesus goes on to develop what he has just said about time.  He says that if a man walks in the light, he will not stumble; but if he tries to walk in the night, he will stumble.

Jesus is saying that a man must finish the day’s work within the day, for the night comes when work is ended.  If a man had one wish it might well be that he might come to the end of each day with its work completed.  The unrest and the hurry of life are so often simply due to the fact that we are trying to catch up on work which should have been done before. 

No doubt the disciples were perplexed about several matters:

– If Jesus loved Lazarus, why did He permit him to get sick?

– Why did Jesus delay to go to the sisters?

– For that matter, why didn’t He heal Lazarus at a distance, as He did the nobleman’s son (4:43-54)

– The record makes it clear that there was a strong love relationship between Jesus and this family (11:3, 5, 36)

– Yet our Lord’s behavior seems to contradict this love?!

To appreciate what these three meant to Jesus, ask yourself a simple question: if you had an emergency at 2:00 a.m., whom would you call? Jesus would have called these three close friends.

{13}“Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. {14} So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, {15} and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” {16} Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.””

Jesus then tells His disciples that Lazarus has “fallen asleep,” and that He is going up to Bethany to “awaken” him. They eagerly take Jesus literally. They jump on this statement: “Well, if he’s asleep, then he’ll be okay, so we don’t have to go up to Bethany after all.”

For these men, who have no desire to risk their lives by going back to Judea, our Lord’s words are indeed welcome. John parenthetically informs us that this is not at all what Jesus means; it is just what they hear.

I should probably pause here momentarily to point out that the raising of Lazarus is not a “first” in the Gospels. Jesus had already raised the dead son of the “widow of Nain,” as recorded in Luke 7:11-16. This was followed by the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43).

Jesus finds it necessary to speak plainly to His disciples, so He tells them that Lazarus is dead (verse 14). He adds that He rejoices in the fact that He is not at Bethany. His absence, He tells them, is for their benefit. His delay has been by divine design, so that they might believe. It is apparent that the faith of the disciples continues to grow, the more the person and work of our Lord becomes evident to them.

At that moment the disciples might well have refused to follow Jesus; then one lonely voice spoke up.  They were all feeling that to go to Jerusalem was to go to their deaths, and they were hanging back.  Then came the voice of Thomas:  “Let us, too, go that we may die with him.”

At this moment Thomas displayed the highest kind of courage.  In his heart, as R. H. Strachan said, “There was not expectant faith, but loyal despair.”  But upon one thing Thomas was determined-come what may, he would not quit.

   He calmed their fears by reminding them that He was on the Father’s schedule, and that nothing could harm them. They felt Lazarus was still alive, so Jesus makes it very plain! “He is dead.”

  1. THE SISTERS: MARY AND MARTHA (11:17-37).

   “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. {18} Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, {19} and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. {20} When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

   In order to visualize this scene we must first see what a Jewish house of mourning was like.  Normally in Palestine, because of the climate, burial followed death as quickly as possible.  There was a time when a funeral was an exceedingly costly thing.  The finest spices and ointments were used to anoint the body; the body itself was clothed in the most magnificent robes; all kinds of valuables were buried in the tomb along with the body. 

By midway through the first century all this had become a ruinous expenditure.  Naturally no one wished on such an occasion to be outdone by his neighbor, and the wrappings and robes with which the body was covered, and the treasures left in the tomb, became ever more expensive. 

The matter had become almost an intolerable burden which no one liked to alter-until the advent of a famous Rabbi called Gamaliel the Second.  He gave orders that he was to be buried in the simplest possible linen robe, and so broke the extravagance of funeral customs. 

To this day at Jewish funerals a cup is drunk to Rabbi Gamaliel who rescued the Jews from their own extravagance.  From his time on the body was wrapped in a simple linen dress which was sometimes called by the very beautiful name of the travelling-dress.

In the house of mourning there were set customs.  So long as the body was in the house they were forbidden to eat meat or to drink wine, to wear phylacteries or to engage in any kind of study.  No food was to be prepared in the house, and such food as was eaten must not be eaten in the presence of the dead.  As soon as the body was carried out all furniture was reversed, and the mourners sat on the ground or on low stools.

On the return from the tomb a meal was served, which had been prepared by the friends of the family.  It consisted of bread, hard-boiled eggs and lentils; the round eggs and lentils symbolized life which was always rolling to death.

Deep mourning lasted for seven days, of which the first three were days of weeping.  During these seven days it was forbidden to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to engage in any kind of study or business, and even to wash.  The week of deep mourning was followed by thirty days of lighter mourning.

So when Jesus found a crowd in the house at Bethany, he found what anyone would expect to find in a Jewish house of mourning.  It was a sacred duty to come to express loving sympathy with the sorrowing friends and relations of one who had died. 

The Talmud says that whoever visits the sick shall deliver his soul from Gehenna; and Maimonides, the medieval Jewish scholar, declared that to visit the sick takes precedence of all other good works.  Visits of sympathy to the sick, and to the sorrowing, were an essential part of Jewish religion. 

As the mourners left the tomb, they turned and said:  “Depart in peace,” and they never mentioned the name of the one who had died without invoking a blessing on it. 

It would be to a household crowded with sympathizers that Jesus came that day.

Without question, these two friends had said one thing over and over: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. {22} But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” here was likely a tinge of disappointment but also some evidence of faith.

When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. This is likely something she had thought and now says out loud! We can almost hear the sting of disappointment in her words. “If only” may be the saddest sentiment in any language. Martha must have been hurt by Jesus’ delay in coming to them…Jesus stood there ‘and took it’ as she expressed her pain, her confusion, and her disappointment.

Martha possibly would have liked to say:  “When you got our message, why didn’t you come at once?  And now you have left it too late.”  No sooner are the words out than there follow the words of faith, faith which defied the facts and defied experience:  “Even yet,” she said with a kind of desperate hope, “even yet, I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

When Jesus gave them a response, Martha was quick to think of a solution in the future, in the last days:   Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” {24} Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.””

The response by Jesus is the fifth of the “I Am” statements. It is important to note that Jesus did not deny what Martha said about the future resurrection.

He has declared once for all that death is real, that there is life after death, and that the body will one day be raised by the power of God. But He went one step further: He transformed this doctrine, taking it out of a book and putting it into a person: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; {26} and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha’s next words reflect a tremendous faith and a deep understanding of spiritual matters. When Jesus asked her if she believed Him, she replied, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (11:27). Even before witnessing the marvelous miracle that was about to take place, Martha demonstrated the kind of faith the Gospel of John was written to create!’

The events of Luke 10:38-42 makes it clear that these two sisters were quite different in their personalities. Martha was the worker, the active one, while Mary was the contemplative one who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word.

Note the contrasts between the two sisters:

– Martha was active. She met Jesus at the outskirts of town…Mary remained in the house, lost in mournful contemplation.   

Because of this, we would expect Martha to rush out to meet Jesus while Mary sat in the house, weeping with her friends.

– Martha’s greeting laid emphasis on my brother, a hint of her agressive and possessive personality. Mary’s statement emphasized her brother. This emphasized her tender nature. (Note to teachers: the difference aappears in the word order of the Greek text, in which the last word is the most emphatic. Martha’s words end with the possessive pronoun “my” (vs. 21) while Mary’s words with the noun “brother” (vs. 32).

– Martha expressed a general assent to the hope of the resurrection; Mary prostrated herself before Jesus in adoration and said nothing concerning her expectations.

– Martha was vocal; Mary was tearful.

Both had personal faith in Jesus as a man and a friend, though it is obvious from Martha’s response to Jesus’ command to remove the stone showed that she did not anticipate any immediate restortion of her brother.

When Jesus responded to Martha, saying, “Your brother shall rise again” (11:23), we have no way of knowing how that statement sounded to her. Was it painful? Did it sound like so many of the empty, hollow words one sometimes hears at a funeral home? Could it have sounded like a rebuke for her lack of faith? Whatever her first reaction to Jesus’ words might have been, Martha spiritualized them and replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (11:24).

By proclaiming Himself as the resurrection, Jesus was not promising that His followers would never face physical death, nor was He promising that He would never face death Himself.

Instead, He was claiming that because He would die and rise again, breaking the power of death, His followers would never again have the same relationship to death. Resurrection for them would be much more than a miraculous, one-time event; it would be a new reality about life!

   Martha did not hesitate to affirm her faith:  {27} “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” The words “I believe” are in the perfect tense, indicating a fixed and settled faith. And she immediately went and found her sister: {28} “And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” {29} When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.”

{30}”Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. {31} When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.”

When she met Jesus, she fell at His feet and repeated her sister’s painful words: {32}“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died”.

Mary and Martha were weeping, and her friends joined in the weeping, as Jewish people are accustomed to do. The response of Jesus is quite graphic in the original language: {33} “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

The word used was to groan within and “be moved with indignation.” Jesus became angry! Why? Because of what sin and death was doing to the people. Death is an enemy, and Satan uses the fear of death as a terrible weapon.

One writer put it this way: “The words denote indignation rather than sorrow. As He looked upon the cemetery at Bethany, a silent memorial to the devastation that death had wrought on the human race, He was angered against man’s great enemy. Death to Him was not an impassable enemy, but a call to battle.”

The identical Greek root word is used in the following ways: Matthew 9:30: “..and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”

Mark 1:43: “…Jesus sent him away at once with a strong  warning…”

This concept also gives us an image of the extend of His care for us: Hebrews 2:14-18: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– {15} and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. {16} For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. {17} For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. {18} Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

The next two responses by Jesus are interesting: one is surprising and the other expected:  {34} “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. {35} Jesus wept.”

“Jesus wept” is a short statement but very deep in nature. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners.

But why did He weep at all? He had known for some time that Lazarus was dead…and He knew He was about to raise him up!

It reveals to us the humanity of Jesus; He was entering into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven.

Some have suggested that perhaps He was weeping because He was about to call Lazarus back into a wicked world.

The friends saw His tears as an evidence of His love: “Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

[1] Their only other appearance is the well-known account of Luke 10:38-42, where Martha was distressed because Mary was not helping her prepare the meal.

[2] The New English Bible calls Lazarus “your friend,” which is not a bad way of rendering the term filew, one of the biblical terms employed for love. This distinguishes between this term for “love” and agapaw, which occurs in verse 5.

[3] This same tension is repeated in verses 36 and 37.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

Soar Like Eagles #11 “I Am the Son of God!” John 10:22-42


“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter (23) and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade ‘The Jews gathered around him, saying “How long will vou keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The origin of the Festival of Dedication lies in one of the greatest times of ordeal and heroism in Jewish history.  There was a king of Syria called Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 164 B.C.  He was a lover of all things Greek.  He decided that he would eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, and introduce Greek ways and thoughts, Greek religion and gods into Palestine.  At first he tried to do so by peaceful penetration of ideas.  Some of the Jews welcomed the new ways, but most were stubbornly loyal to their ancestral faith.

It was in 170 B.C. that the deluge really came.  In that year Antiochus attacked Jerusalem.  It was said that 80,000 Jews perished, and as many were sold into slavery.  It became a capital offence to possess a copy of the law, or to circumcise a child; and mothers who did circumcise their children were crucified with their children hanging round their necks.

The Temple courts were profaned; the Temple chambers were turned into brothels; and finally Antiochus took the dreadful step of turning the great altar of the burnt-offering into an altar to Olympian Zeus, and on it proceeded to offer swine’s flesh to the pagan gods.

It was then that Judas Maccabaeus and his brother arose to fight their epic fight for freedom.  In 164 B.C. the struggle was finally won; and in that year the Temple was cleansed and purified.  The altar was rebuilt and the robes and the utensils were replaced, after three years of pollution.

It was to commemorate that purification of the Temple that the Feast of the Dedication was instituted.  Judas Maccabaeus enacted that “the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year, by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Chislew, with gladness and joy” (1 Maccabees 4:59).

For that reason the festival was sometimes called the Festival of the Dedication of the Altar, and sometimes the Memorial of the Purification of the Temple.

But as we have already seen, it had still another name.  It was often called the Festival of Lights.  There were great illuminations in the Temple; and there were also illuminations in every Jewish home.  In the window of every Jewish house there were set lights.

According to Rabbi Shammai, eight lights were set in the window, and they were reduced each day by one until on the last day only one was left burning.  According to Rabbi Hillel, one light was kindled on the first day, and one was added each day until on the last day eight were burning.  We can see these lights in the windows of every devout Jewish home to this day.

These lights had two significances.  First, they were a reminder that at the first celebrating of the festival the light of freedom had come back to Israel.  Second, they were traced back to a very old legend.  It was told that when the Temple had been purified and the great seven branched candlestick relit, only one little cruse of unpolluted oil could be found.  This cruse was still intact, and still sealed with the impress of the ring of the High Priest.

By all normal measures, there was only oil enough in that cruse to light the lamps for one single day.  But by a miracle it lasted for eight days, until new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula and had been consecrated for its sacred use.  So for eight days the lights burned in the Temple and in the homes of the people in memory of the cruse which God had made to last for eight days instead of one.

It is not without significance that it must have been very close to this time of illumination that Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world.”  When all the lights were being kindled in memory of the freedom won to worship God in the true way, Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world; I alone can light men into the knowledge and the presence of God.”

“Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, {26} but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. {27} My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. {28} I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. {29} My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. {30} I and the Father are one.””

Jesus’s answer was that he had already told them who he was.  Jesus’s two great claims had been made in private.  To the Samaritan woman he had revealed himself as the Messiah (John 4:26) and to the man born blind he had claimed to be the Son of God (John 9:37).  But there are some claims which do not need to be made in words, especially to an audience well-qualified to perceive them.

This passage shows at one and the same time the tremendous trust and the tremendous claim of Jesus.

In Jesus’ day, people had different understandings of what “the Christ” would be. If Jesus said, “Yes, I am the Christ,” He would be terribly misunderstood by the people who expected “the Christ” to be a powerful, earthly king like David or Solomon.

If He said, “No,” then He would be denying the truth about Himself.

Jesus promised three things.

(i)  He promised eternal life.  He promised that if they accepted him as Master and Lord, if they became members of his flock, all the littleness of earthly life would be gone and they would know the splendor and the magnificence of the life of God.

(ii)  He promised a life that would know no end.  Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of indestructible life.

(iii)  He promised a life that was secure.  Nothing could snatch them from his hand.  This would not mean that they would be saved from sorrow, from suffering and from death; but that in the sorest moment and the darkest hour they would still be conscious of the everlasting arms underneath and about them.  Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

He also described the nature of the true believers:

Sensitivity. They hear my voice (vs. 27)

Fellowship. I know them (vs. 27)

Obedience. They follow me (vs. 27)

Life. I gave them eternal life (vs. 28)

Assurance. They shall never perish (vs. 28)

Security. No one shall snatch them out of my hand (vs. 28)

Do these verses teach eternal security, with no possibility of “falling from grace?” The verses clearly indicate that this promise is to those who hear the voice and follow the voice.  Those who fall do so on their own volition; it is not because of any failure of the Lord nor because temptation is irresistible. Before all men is the choice of good and evil; some choose good and some choose evil.

The Jewish leaders understood clearly what He was saying: “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, {32} but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” {33} “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.””

To the Jews Jesus’s statement that he and the Father were one was blasphemy.  It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone.  The Jewish law laid down the penalty of stoning for blasphemy.  “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him” (Leviticus 24:16).

He told them that he had spent all his days doing lovely things, healing the sick feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing, deeds so full of help and power and beauty that they obviously came from God.  For which of these deeds did they wish to stone him?  Their answer was that it was not for anything he had done that they wished to stone him, but for the claim he was making.

Our Lord used Psalm 82:6 to refute their accusation and halt their actions: “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? {35} If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken– {36} what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? {37} Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. {38} But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.””

The picture in Psalm 82 is that of a court, where God has assembled the judges of the earth, to warn them that they too will one day be judged. These Jewish leaders certainly knew their own language and they knew that Jesus was speaking the truth. If God called human judges ‘gods,’ then why should they stone Him for applying the same title to Himself?

Verse 36 is critical because it gives a double affirmation of the deity of Christ:

– the Father sanctified (set apart) the Son and sent Him into the world

– Jesus states boldly that He was the Son of God (5:25)

What was their response? “Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. {40} Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed {41} and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” {42} And in that place many believed in Jesus.”

This was apparently a place which would provide a safe retreat; the Jewish leaders were not likely to follow Him there. Also it was a good place to prepare for His final week of public ministry when He would lay down His life for the sheep.

The place to which Jesus went is most significant.  He went to the place where John had been accustomed to baptize, the place where he himself had been baptized.  It was there that the voice of God had come to him and assured him that he had taken the right decision and was on the right way.  There is everything to be said for a man returning every now and then to the place where he had the supreme experience of his life.

Even on the far side of Jordan the Jews came to Jesus, and they too thought of John.  They remembered that he had spoken with the words of a prophet; but had done no mighty deeds.  They saw that there was a difference between Jesus and John.  To John’s proclamation Jesus added God’s power.  John could diagnose the situation; Jesus brought the power to deal with the situation.  These Jews had looked on John as a prophet; now they saw that what John had foretold of Jesus was true, and many of them believed.

At the Jordan many people came to Him. This was an act of faith on their part. They said, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true” (10:41).

Their words implied that John had not performed any signs, in contrast to Jesus, who had performed many signs. Significantly, the special word John used for “sign” appears in verse 41 for the first time in chapter 10.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus’ miracles were called only “works,” because they had not produced faith in the hearts of those who had seen them. However, where faith in Jesus is described in verse 41, the word “sign” reappears.

The conclusion of all the events in chapter 10 is that “many believed in Him there” (10:42).  

By this point in the Gospel of John, those who believed in Jesus had come to understand that the content of true belief is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

They had also come to understand that the cost of this belief could be conflict, division, and even the threat of death. After all, we see them at the end of the chapter with a band of outcasts in the wilderness, following the One in whom they had come to believe.

Even though John presented a tough message about how costly faith can be, his message is, at the same time, one of encouragement. He wanted us to understand that we will be opposed as believers in Christ.

However, it should not surprise us or crush our spirits. Furthermore, the example of Jesus is to stand firm on the truth we believe—even when we are persecuted. His consistent response to violent opposition was to speak truth, and we should do the same.

Jesus is the Door: Have I ‘entered’ in by faith so I can be saved?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd: Have I heard His voice and trusted Him?

Jesus is the Son of God: Do I believe this and is He first in my life?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

“Soar on Wings” The gospel of John #11 – I  Am The Light of the World John 8:12-30



It’s been several years since I first began to notice a word that keeps popping up these days. This word can have several meanings, I guess, but it seems to be used primarily to end discussions.

At first, I thought it was used only by teen-agers, but I have since heard it on the lips of people of all generations. Increasingly, it is used to say, “It doesn’t matter enough to talk about any further.” The word is “whatever.”

A parent says to a child, “You should do this!” and the child replies, “Whatever.”

A teenage girl encourages her friend to “do the right thing” in a situation, and the answer is “Whatever.”

Two adults argue over politics until one of them has had enough, so he shrugs his shoulders and says, “Whatever.”

On a more significant level, “whatever” can mean that truth does not matter to people It can communicate that you are entitled to your view of truth, I am entitled to my view of truth, and we can assume that we are both equally right.

In the United States, “whatever” is more than a cultural fad; it is a one word indicator of the way a nation is thinking.

What do you think about my evaluation of this interesting word? Did I hear you say, “Whatever?”

      John 8:12f (NIV) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

18  I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19  Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

23  But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”

28  So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30  Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

In our text, Jesus challenged the spirit of “whatever.” His message is bold, and His claims cannot be ignored. In the end, you may respond to Him with a joyous “Yes!” or a defiant “No!”–but He will not allow you to answer, “Whatever.”

Light has to bear witness to itself! The only people who cannot see the light are blind people.

Light bears witness to itself; it tells you it is here. 

Can you imagine this? The Jews think they are the authorities, the ones in charge. Yet here stands Jesus, the One they are determined to silence by killing Him. He is there in the temple, teaching the people. And He is doing so literally outside the door of the room where the Sanhedrin meets.

This is indeed ironic, especially in the light of the story of the woman caught in adultery at the beginning of this chapter. The scribes and Pharisees insisted that this woman be stoned, in order to fulfill the Law of Moses. Jesus did not disagree about her guilt or even her punishment under the law. What He did (which caught His adversaries completely off guard) was to appeal to the Law of Moses as to how they should proceed with the stoning. Under the law, there must be two eye witnesses. When Jesus required that the two witnesses be innocent and that they “cast the first stone,” no one was willing to do so, and the case was dropped for lack of any witnesses who would testify against this woman.

The most important thing about any witness is that he or she is, in fact, a witness.

THE “I AM” PHRASE

In this passage Jesus talks of “following” himself. We often speak of following Jesus; we often urge men to do so. What do we mean? It has at least five different but closely meanings:

– It is often used of a soldier following his captain.   

On the long route marches, into battle, in campaigns in strange lands, the soldier follows wherever the captain may lead. The Christian is the soldier whose commander is Christ.

– It is often used of a slave accompanying his master.

Wherever the master goes the slave is in attendance upon him, always ready to spring to his service and to carry out the tasks he gives him to do. He is literally at his master’s beck and call. The Christian is the slave whose joy it is always to serve Christ.

– It is often used of accepting a wise counselor’s opinion.

When a man is in doubt he goes to the expert, and if he is wise he accepts the judgment he receives. The Christian is the man who guides his life and conduct by the counsel of Christ.

– It is often used of giving obedience to the laws of a city or a state.

If a man is to be a useful member of any society or citizen of any community, he must agree to abide by its laws. The Christian, being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, accepts the law of the kingdom and of Christ as the law which governs his life.

– It is often used of following a teacher’s line of argument, or of following the gist of someone’s speech.

The Christian is the man who has understood the meaning of the teaching of Christ. He has not listened in dull incomprehension or with slack inattention. He takes the message into his mind and understands, receives the words into his memory and remembers, and hides them in his heart and obeys.

How does God hear witness to the supreme authority of Jesus?

– The witness of God is in Jesus’ words.

No man could speak with such wisdom unless God had given him knowledge.

– The witness of God in Jesus’ deeds.

No man could do such things unless God was acting through him.

– The witness of God in the effect God had upon men.

He works changes in men which are obviously beyond human power to work. The very fact that Jesus can make bad men good is proof that his power is not simply a man’s power, but God’s.

Jesus never really answered their question, “Where is your Father?” The word father is used 21 times in this chapter, so Jesus did not avoid the issue but faced it honestly. He knew that “their father” was not God–but the devil!

Why would John mention the fact that Jesus was near the Treasury when He said these words? Because the temple treasury was very near the council chambers of the Sanhedrin. (8:22)  “This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?””

This verse implies several things:

– There are certain opportunities which come and do not return. To every man is given the opportunity  to accept Christ; but that opportunity can be refused and lost.

– Truth and life are limited. The time to make a decision is limited–and none of us knows what his limit is. There is every reason for making that time now.

– There is judgment. The greater the opportunity, the more clearly it beckons, the oftener it comes, the greater the judgment if it is refused or missed.

Luke 12:47-48:  “”That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. {48} But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Jesus claimed to possess all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Jesus asserted authority for Himself above the authority of the Scriptures  (Matt. 5:27-28)  “”You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ {28} But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

– Jesus claimed identity with God (John 10:30) and to be a manifestation of God (John 14:9)      

(John 10:30)  “I and the Father are one.””

(John 14:9)  “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

– Jesus professed that no one has access to God except through Him (John 14:6) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– Jesus claimed to have been existent with the Father from all eternity (John 17:5)  “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

– Jesus claimed that His words were the means of obtainaing everlasting life (John 5:24)  “”I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

– Jesus contended that His word would be the basis of judgment of the world (John 12:48)  “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.”

JESUS’ CLAIMS TODAY

What are we to think about Jesus today? Most people are willing to accept that Jesus lived and that He was a good man, but many are not willing to accept that He is, indeed, the Son of God.

Jesus made such a view absurd. He did not claim to be just a good man; He claimed to be “I am.” He did not present Himself as a great philosopher; He presented Himself as the only way to the Father. He did not teach that He had special insight into God; He claimed that He was one with the Father.

His bold claims force us to make a choice to believe or reject His true identity. When it comes to Jesus, “whatever” is not an option. In this matter, the furious Jewish leaders with stones in their hands understood what Jesus was saying better than do unbelievers today who talk about how Jesus was “a good man.”

Concerning this, Josh McDowell wrote: “To Jesus, who men and women believed him to be was of fundamental importance. To say what Jesus said and to claim what he claimed about himself, one couldn’t conclude he was just a good moral man or prophet. That alternative isn’t open to an individual, and Jesus never intended it to be.’

Years earlier, C. S. Lewis came to a similar conclusion: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a manand said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic  on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

CONCLUSION

What does all of this mean for us today? First, for those who have grown up in the Christian faith, it forces us to move beyond the “Jesus was a nice man” phase of our own spiritual development. As our children grow up, I want them to be impressed at an early age by Jesus’ kindness and gentleness toward children and people who are hurting. Having such a picture of Jesus is good.

However, if my children never grow beyond that picture of Jesus, if they never realize that Jesus was not only gentle but also bold and demanding, then their faith will fail to mature. Jesus claimed to be “I am.” The old saying is true: “Either Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all!”

The encounter with Jesus in John 8 hits sleepy, apathetic Christians like a cold slap in the face. Is He who He says He is? If He is not, then why are we still “playing church”? If He is, then why are we not living and working as if nothing else in life matters as much as the Lord Jesus?

To the man or woman who still attends worship services but is not living as a Christian Monday through Saturday, this meeting with Jesus is a call to make a decision. Each of us must stand on the side of faith or on the side of disbelief.

What do you think about Jesus? Was He a blasphemer? Was He a liar? Was He a lunatic? Is He Lord? You must decide!

“Whatever” is not an option!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

“Soar Like Eagles” The gospel of John #10 Not Guilty – Overcoming Shame John 8:1-11  


In a scene from East Auburn Baptist Church production of "The Event," Jesus, portrayed by Shawn DeGraff, writes in the dirt and asks the accusers, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone," when a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before him, portrayed by Lisa Roy.

In a scene from East Auburn Baptist Church production of “The Event,” Jesus, portrayed by Shawn DeGraff, writes in the dirt and asks the accusers, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” when a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before him, portrayed by Lisa Roy.

This chapter may contain many people’s favorite story in the entire Gospel of John. This text gathers into eleven short verses the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry. Although it probably was not originally part of the Gospel of John, it is a powerful passage which leaves us with an unforgettable picture of Jesus.

Like most modern translations, the NASB, ESV, NIV and ASV places 7:53-8:11 in brackets, with the notation that it is not found in most of the ancient manuscripts. This passage appears only in some of the later Greek manuscripts, and, even then, it appears in different places: following John 7:36; 7:44; 7:52; 21:25; and Luke 21:38. In fact, only one Greek manuscript prior to the ninth century has the story.

None of the church fathers who wrote in Greek commented on this passage until the 12th century, although many of them made reference to the passages which immediately precede and follow it. While it is likely that the story actually did occur, it’s also certain that it was not part of John’s original gospel.

Because these verses are known by most Christians, and have often been mistaught and misapplied, we want to take the time in this study to discuss the meaning.

HOW JESUS TREATED A DILEMMA (8:1-9)

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. {2} At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. {3} The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group {4} and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. {5} In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” {6} They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. {7} When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” {8} Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. {9} At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

The story begins with Jesus’ going to the Mount of Olives, something that became His routine during the final week before the Crucifixion. Luke 21:37 indicates that Jesus would teach in Jerusalem during the day and retire to the Mount of Olives at night. This was probably at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany, which was on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

Early the next morning He returned to Jerusalem and entered the temple. As people gathered around Him, He sat down and began to teach. At some point while this was happening, the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.

The educated religious Pharisees and scribes present Jesus with a dilemma. Here is a woman caught in the act. She stands in the midst of a murderous mob. She wonders if she will survive the incident. This all happened so suddenly.

She is publicly disgraced and standing alone without so much as the support of her lover. By the way, where is he? If they were caught in the act, why is he not here to receive his just punishment of stoning. Leviticus 20:10 (NIV) “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

Jesus knew that their motives were wicked (8:6). After all, where was the man? Adultery is not a sin which a person can commit alone, and yet only a woman was brought to Jesus.

They care neither for the sin nor the woman. She is merely a tool to get at Jesus.

In the eyes of the Jewish law adultery was a serious crime. The Rabbis said: “Every Jew must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery.” 

Adultery was one of the three gravest sins and it was punishable by death, although there were certain differences in respect of the way in which the death penalty was to be carried out. 

The dilemma into which they sought to put Jesus was this.  If he said that the woman ought to be stoned to death, two things followed. First, he would lose the name he had gained for love and for mercy and never again would be called the friend of sinners. Second, he would come into collision with the Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone. If he said that the woman should be pardoned, it could immediately be said that he was teaching men to break the law of Moses, and that he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery.

At first Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 

What did He write on the ground? Could He have been reminding them of a passage of warning found in Jeremiah 17:13: “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.”

It was required by Jewish law that the accusers cast the first stones: Deut. 17:7:  “The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.”

One attractive suggestion is that he wrote accusations against the various Sanhedrin members. Another says he wrote a list of their names. Still another supposes that he just doodled to show his disinterest. We’re curious about what he wrote. But apparently it doesn’t matter. The emphasis is on the act of writing, not what was written. While Jesus scribbles in the sand they keep pressing him for an answer. They get more of an answer than they bargain for.

Jesus stands up, adding force to his response. Without disregarding either the law of Moses or this precious person, he simply says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is not saying that her accusers have to be sinless. That would spell the demise of all legal proceedings. He is merely suggesting that they be adequate witnesses.

Deuteronomy 19:16-19 (NIV) If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, 17  the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18  The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19  then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you.

Exodus 23:1-3 (NIV) “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. 2  “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3  and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

Exodus 23:6-8 (NIV) “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7  Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8  “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.

Jesus exposes their devious sting operation. They’re trying to nail Jesus, not this woman. Now they, along with this woman, have been caught in the act. Furthermore, those who would throw the first stone, according to Jewish jurisprudence, must be witnesses of the crime. These guys are at the center of this vicious trap. Bull’s-eye! Jesus, with one sentence identifies, criticizes, and dismantles this whole dirty business. He then stoops down and continues to doodle in the dust.

The older ones leave first, their wisdom and moderation having been forged by time. The others follow reluctantly. By and by this whole inner band of accusers disappears, leaving this woman alone with Jesus in the center

The first duty of authority is to try to understand the force of the temptations which drove the sinner to sin and the seductiveness of the circumstances in which sin became so attractive. No man can pass judgment on another unless he at least tries to understand what the other has come through. 

The second duty of authority is to seek to reclaim the wrongdoer. Any authority which is solely concerned with punishment is wrong; any authority, which, in its exercise, drives a wrongdoer either to despair or to resentment, is a failure. The function of authority is not be banish the sinner from all descent society, still less to wipe him out; it is to make him into a good man. The man set in authority must be like a wise physician; his one desire must be to heal.

This incident shows vividly and cruelly the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees to people.  They were not looking on this woman as a person at all; they were looking on her only as a thing, an instrument whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus.  They were using her, as a man might use a tool, for their own purposes.  To them she had no name, no personality, no feelings; she was simply a pawn in the game whereby they sought to destroy Jesus.

It is extremely unlikely that the scribes and the Pharisees even knew this woman’s name.  To them she was nothing but a case of shameless adultery that could now be used as an instrument to suit their purposes.  The minute people become things the spirit of Christianity is dead.

God uses his authority to love men into goodness; to God no person ever becomes a thing.  We must use such authority as we have always to understand and always at least to try to mend the person who has made the mistake; and we will never even begin to do that unless we remember that every man and woman is a person, not a thing.

Further, this incident tells us a great deal about Jesus and his attitude to the sinner.

Someone has written the lines: “How I wish that there was some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches And all our poor selfish grief Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never put on again.”

In Jesus there is the gospel of the second chance.  He was always intensely interested, not only in what a person had been, but also in what a person could be.  He did not say that what they had done did not matter; broken laws and broken hearts always matter; but he was sure that every man has a future as well as a past.

It involved pity.  The basic difference between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees was that they wished to condemn; he wished to forgive.  If we read between the lines of this story it is quite clear that they wished to stone this woman to death and were going to take pleasure in doing so.  They knew the thrill of exercising the power to condemn; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive.  Jesus regarded the sinner with pity born of love; the scribes and Pharisees regarded him with disgust born of self-righteousness.

It involved challenge.  Jesus confronted this woman with the challenge of the sinless life.  He did not say:  “It’s all right; don’t worry; just go on as you are doing.”  He said:  “It’s all wrong; go out and fight; change your life from top to bottom; go, and sin no more.”  Here was no easy forgiveness; here was a challenge which pointed a sinner to heights of goodness of which she had never dreamed.  Jesus confronts the bad life with the challenge of the good.

It involved belief in human nature.  When we come to think of it, it is a staggering thing that Jesus should say to a woman of loose morals:  “Go, and sin no more.”  The amazing, heart-uplifting thing about him was his belief in men and women.  When he was confronted with someone who had gone wrong, he did not say:  “You are a wretched and a hopeless creature.”  He said:  “Go, and sin no more.”  He believed that with his help the sinner has it in him to become the saint.  His method was not to blast men with the knowledge-which they already possessed-that they were miserable sinners, but to inspire them with the unglimpsed discovery that they were potential saints.

It involved warning, clearly unspoken but implied.  Here we are face to face with the eternal choice.  Jesus confronted the woman with a choice that day-either to go back to her old ways or to reach out to the new way with him.  This story is unfinished, for every life is unfinished until it stands before God.

He Treated Her With Dignity

Have you ever been present when people were talking about you? Perhaps as a child or as a patient in the hospital, you have had the terrible experience of hearing others talk about you as if you were not even there.

It is a dehumanizing experience. That is what the woman had been subjected to at the hands of the scribes and the Pharisees. She had been an object, a problem, nothing more. When Jesus had faced down her accusers, He turned and spoke to her. The fact that He spoke to her instead of about her was perhaps the most precious gift this woman had ever been given.

Jesus did not view her as an embarrassing failure or an irritating difficulty; He saw her as a person, a creation of God who possessed tremendous God-given worth.

He Treated Her With Compassion

Not only did Jesus treat the woman with dignity, but His behavior toward her also demonstrated amazing compassion. His first compassionate act was writing on the ground. Suddenly, no one was looking at the woman. Diverting the stares of the crowd from the woman to Himself was Jesus’ first precious gift of compassion to her.

He Treated Her With Frankness

He was kind but frank in addressing her sin. Her sin had to be confronted. Today we have many ways that we try to avoid confronting our sin. We try to ignore sin (“1 will not think about that”), deny sin (“I did not do anything wrong”), or even justify sin (” I did that because of my parents, my job, or my culture”).

Jesus, by contrast, insisted that the woman face her sin. He called sin “sin.” We are constantly in need of the same treatment today. Jesus does not respond to our sin by saying, “Don’t worry about it! It’s no big deal!” Instead, He says that sin is His greatest concern, a concern as big as the cross!  In order for redemption to take place, we must first face the reality and the guilt of our sins.

Forgiveness is free but it is not cheap! Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law so that no one could justly accuse Him of opposing its teachings or weakening its power. by applying the Law to the woman and not themselves, the Jewish leaders were violating both the letter and the spirit of the law. And they thought they were defending Moses!

He Treated Her With Grace and Hope

Nothing in this passage indicates that Jesus forgave the woman of her sin, but He refused to condemn her to death. In this story we are not told how the woman was influenced by what Jesus had done for her. Did she believe? Was she moved to repent of her sin? We cannot be sure of the answers to these questions.

We can be sure, however, that Jesus offered her hope for the future. The sin all too easily becomes his identity. Jesus’ words to the woman shout the message “There is more to your life than just your sin. You can turn from sin!”

CONCLUSION

Sometimes your shame is private. Pushed over the edge by an abusive spouse. Molested by a perverted parent. Seduced by a compromising superior. No one else knows. But you know. And that’s enough.

Sometimes it’s public. Branded by a divorce you didn’t want. Contaminated by a disease you never expected. Marked by a handicap you didn’t create. And whether it’s actually in their eyes or just in your imagination, you have to deal with it—you are marked: a divorcee, an invalid, an orphan, an AIDS patient.

Whether private or public, shame is always painful. And unless you deal with it, it is permanent. Unless you get help—the dawn will never come.

Jesus says, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore” (vv. 10–11).

If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall. Read them. Ponder them. Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul.

Or better still, take him with you to your canyon of shame. Invite Christ to journey with you. Let him stand beside you as you retell the events of the darkest nights of your soul.

And then listen. Listen carefully. He’s speaking. “I don’t judge you guilty.”

And watch. Watch carefully. He’s writing. He’s leaving a message. Not in the sand, but on a cross. Not with his hand, but with his blood. His message has two words: Not guilty.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Gospel of John

 
 
%d bloggers like this: