Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Death is Not the End (John 11:11-16)

"After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”” (John 11:11–16, ESV)

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” It is not as if Lazarus was worn out from his illness and was finally able to find some rest. It is not as it Lazarus had been so exhausted that he fell asleep. It is not as if Lazarus was asleep and now it was time to wake him up. It was not as if it were any of these things that we might commonly think of when we think of someone sleeping and having to be awakened. His disciples surely thought this is what Jesus was talking about, and to them if Lazarus had fallen asleep as a result of his illness then he surely would awaken and recover. There surely was no need for them to travel into certain danger just to wake Lazarus up. Let him get up when his time is right, and let us stay here where it is safe. After all he is just asleep.

But Jesus was not talking about sleep as we daily know it. He wasn’t even talking about a prolonged sleep as someone might do when recovering from a particularly draining illness. He was talking about something more. He went on to tell His disciples that Lazarus had died. This is what He meant by him having gone to sleep—he died! There are a number of euphamisms or terms used to describe death that may not be as offensive as the word “death” itself. One of those words is “sleep,” and for the believer it is probably a more accurate one because once a believer’s body is laid down the believer continues to live apart from that body in the presence of the Lord. From all outward appearances there is nothing going on but decay, and that is because at the moment of death believers are transferred from their earthly bodies into God’s eternal presence.

In Hebrews 9:27 we read, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27, ESV) Death is a given, but after death there is more. Even for those who have not trusted Christ for eternal life have more, but their more results in eternal judgment and not life. Joshua and David recognized that it was through death that they would see God. They had to pass that “way” in order for this to be accomplished. Joshua as an old man said, “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14, ESV) He may not have died that day, but he knew that day this was the direction he was headed. King David said to his son Solomon near the end of his life, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man,” (1 Kings 2:1–2, ESV) They both knew that this was the way to eternal life. They had to pass through it.

In Luke 16:20-31 we see the account of the rich man and Lazarus who had both gone the way of death with one to life and the other to torment in Hades. For both of them death was the way to what awaited, but what awaited each was vastly different. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we read that as believers our bodies are temples in which His Spirit dwells. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV) Peter wrote, “since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.” (2 Peter 1:14, ESV) The word “body” means tabernacle and is used not only to describe the dwelling place of one’s soul but also that of The Holy Spirit for those who believe. It is a place to house that which does not perish but that goes on after death.

Paul wrote to the believes at Corinth, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–4, ESV) Earlier in the same letter he wrote, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8, ESV)

As we read these passages in Scripture we see death as that time when we put aside this temporary dwelling place for that which is eternal from God. And for men like Paul death was not an end, but a departure. He wrote to Timothy at the end of his life, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6–8, ESV) For him that tension between remaining to serve and leaving to join was being resolved once and for all eternity. The time of his departure was at hand and it was going to be “far better” as he wrote in Philippians 1:23, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23, ESV)

But “Sleep” is far and away to most common euphemism used in the Bible. Aside from its standard usages, it is used in a figurative way to refer to those who have died, and like sleep which is followed by be awakened, death leads to resurrection whether that is to life or judgment. In either case there will be a resurrection. There are some things that “sleep” does not mean. It does not mean that our soul sleeps for a season as some teach. Paul told us that to be absent or away from the body was to be present or at home with the Lord. Jesus Himself said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42).

Jesus had to set his disciples straight. Lazarus had died. But this was not the end of the story. He told His disciples that they indeed needed to continue on, and that He was glad that He was not there to keep Lazarus from dying because what he was going to demonstrate to them was going to shore up their faith in an incredible way—so that they may believe. Having heard this and them knowing what they thought to be their likely fate in returning to Judea, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas may have envisioned their trip as being futile, with the end not only resulting in Lazarus’ death but all of their as well. But his statement also demonstrates his loyalty to following after Christ, knowing that even doing so might lead to his own death. He looked at the cost and decided, even if thinking it not best himself, that he had to stay with His master, teacher, rabbi, and Lord.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Walk in the Light (John 11:7-10)

“Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”” (John 11:7-10, ESV)

Have you ever been tempted to cut things short because you did not like what might happen next? Maybe you were at an event that was about to get unruly and you left before it got such. Maybe there was a perceived danger and because of it you chose not to go. We all make decisions based upon expectations, and many times those expectations are based on nothing more than hunches. But there are times when expectations are based upon repeated experience and a firm assurance that something indeed might come to pass if you follow that certain course.

In the verses just before this we read, “Again they sought to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there He remained.” (John 10:39–40, ESV) We presume that this is where Jesus had remained until the time when Mary and Martha sent for Him. Having been pleased with to return to Judea His disciples panicked. They remembered their last time in Judea (Jerusalem) when the Jews sought to stone Him and He escaped to where He was. His disciples remembered this and they pled with Him not to return. They had their idea of the likely outcome and they wanted to do all that they could to avoid it.

But Jesus, just as He had all along, knew something more important. He knew the sovereignty of God and the ability of God to bring to completion His plans without anyone being able to thwart them. This even meant when Jesus headed into situations that most people would think to be certain traps. Jesus knew that He had a prescribed time on earth, and that He would not be taken before that time. We saw this in John chapter 7 when the Pharisees and chief priests had sent the temple guard to arrest Him. John told us, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30, ESV)

Going back to Judea was not an issue with Jesus because he knew that God would do exactly as He intends in His right time. Jesus told His disciples, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” It is during the day time that they worked (not having lit factories and such as we do now), and when it got dark they were done. Jesus was sent for a specific period of time in order to accomplish the will of the Father, and He was not going to call His day short so close to the end of His shift. He wasn’t going to clock off early. He was going to be faithful to the task for which he was sent until the end, and He wasn’t going to allow any of these stumbling blocks deter Him from it. He knew they were there, but He also knew that in the light He could proceed safely.

In contrast, there are those who do not have the light in their lives. They have no guiding direction, and for them there is no doubt that they will get tripped up by the darkness. He said, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Jesus had already told the hardhearted Jewish leadership that they did not have the love of God in them, that they did not know God, and that because of that they were going to perish. In John 9, after giving sight to the blind man, Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4–5, ESV) Later He added, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39, ESV) The Pharisees did not like these words and they responded, ““Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:40–41, ESV)

Returning to Judea, Jesus was committed to not letting the actions of those walking in the dark to hinder Him walking in the right timing for which He was sent. He knew Who sent Him. He knew it was for a specific purpose. He knew it had a specific time frame. And He knew that every single detail was fully under control. As such He was not going to fear walking according to how He was sent.

There is a powerful message here. This morning I watched on a national news network a florist from Washington being interviewed concerning her stand against the Attorney General of her state. She was being pursued because she would not act contrary to her beliefs and the Attorney General has threatened not only to shut down her business, but to open her up to civil suits such that people can go after her home and all of her other assets. He even offered to buy her off, allowing her to pay a fine and agree to deny what she believed to be right for her, but she would not bend. And we know that she is not alone in this battle.

Around the world Christians are laying down their lives for their faith as extremists fight to pressure them to deny their faith or face execution. Others still are not even being given the choice, but are being slain in mass because of their association. God has not abandoned any of them, and even in their deaths people are being shown the darkness of this evil while many, many others are being saved. Just as Jesus knew there was a specified time for Him to accomplish what He was sent to do, God is working in the lives of those who suffer to do the same. It does not make these atrocities any less tragic from a humanitarian standpoint, but it does underscore how dark darkness is and remind us of how desperately we need Him who is the Light of the world. Even these people who carry out these evil acts under the mask of darkness will either have to come to the Light themselves or remain in judgment by the Light.

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Ephesians 5:8–14, ESV)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Power Over Life (John 11:1-6)

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:1-6, ESV)

Moving from chapter 10 to chapter 11 of John we see a transition in content. Up to this point John had largely focused on Jesus’ public ministry, but with the beginning of chapter 11 we see that Jesus leaves public ministry and begins to focus on His disciples in preparation for His leaving. The occasion for His leaving is the distress of two women that He loved as a result of their brother being deathly ill.

We don’t know for certain how they met. It may have in Luke 10:38 when Jesus arrived at Bethany (about two miles east of the temple in Jerusalem) when Martha invited Him into her home. It was on this occasion that Jesus began to speak to His disciples while Martha was busy serving them. Her sister Mary was there also, and she pulled close to Jesus’ feet and began to listen. This did not sit well with Martha because she saw herself doing all of the work while Mary did nothing. It was then that Martha went to Jesus for some support saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (John 10:40). This is so familiar, as it is with anyone who has more than one child. One always seems to do more or at least sense that they do more and as such they feel that things are not quite fair leading them to complain.

In our home my tendency is to tell the other child to get up and help, but Jesus knew that His time was drawing close and His response to Martha concerning Mary was different. He told her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40–42, ESV) He told Martha that the kinds of things that she was engaged in even for good reasons are the kinds of things that will always be there. They are here today and they will have to be done again tomorrow. But what Mary was doing was taking the time away to worship. She might also have known the tasks that were before them, but she sensed that the most important thing she could do at that time was to be with her Lord.

It is these two sisters who send word that their brother is dying and they ask Jesus to come to them. John writes again with the benefit of the perspective of time, saying that it was Mary who had anointed Jesus’ feet which was an event that had not yet happened (see chapter 12). But by adding these things John helps to knit these incidents together, which is especially helpful when you look at the number of Mary’s mentioned in the New Testament. In their sending for Jesus they spoke of their dying brother Lazarus as one that He loved, again emphasizing the depth of their existing relationship.

Verse 6 tells us because of Jesus’ great love for the three of them that He stayed two more days were He was. My tendency at that point might have been to drop everything and consider how I might be able to respond, but this is not what Jesus did when He heard about His dear friend and the distress of his sisters. Jesus was not panicked. He knew that He did not have to drop everything, but could finish up the details were He was before He left at the proper time to go see His friend.

Knowing why He was sent He knew that even if Lazarus were to die that He really would not die. We can all know this because of the promises of God’s Word where we read that all who believe are saved and are given eternal life. But Jesus knew more than that. He knew that Lazarus not only would receive eternal life, but He also knew the number of Lazarus’ days. He knew that his life in the body was not finished yet either. It was not his time, and Jesus knew it. He knew that through Lazarus’ illness (and death) that God was going to be glorified. In this sense the last major miracle that John records for us before Jesus went to the cross was demonstrating the power of God to give life to those who had lost it.

It was only in chapter 10 that we read, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17, ESV) Jesus has absolute power over life, and through Lazarus and before many witnesses He was preparing to demonstrate it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Proof Is In The Works (John 10:31-42)

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.” (John 10:31–42, ESV)

Jesus finally told them in words they would accept what they were trying to get Him to say. In verse 30 He did not say that He was the Christ, but He did say, “I and the Father are one.” Now they had what they wanted—the grounds to go after Him for blasphemy or claiming for Himself something that belonged to God. He said that He was one with God, and for them that was enough. So, they picked up stones to stone Him. Having done this, Jesus challenged them in response. He spoke of the many good things He had done, and He asked them which one of them was worthy of being stoned. Which action was so wrong that He was going to be stoned because of it? Of course, He knew it wasn’t the works that He had done but rather that they could not easily dismiss Him because of them.

They responded with what He already knew—it was His claim that He was Himself God. Responding to their accusation Jesus quoted what was probably Psalm 82:6-7, “I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”” These Jews had put themselves in the place of God and stood as gods themselves in judgment of others. According to the psalmist their outcome would be their fall and death just like any other “prince.”  Jesus went on to say that if they, as gods, were making a false claim against the One sent by God then they themselves were the ones who were guilty of blasphemy. He told them if anyone was guilty of blasphemy it was them, and not Himself. He knew from where He came and Who sent Him. There was no ambiguity here, and for them to claim otherwise they were the ones on faulty ground.

He reaffirmed that they were making these accusation because He claimed He was the Son of God, and then we restated that the works He had done were adequate proof. He told them again, “believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” He did not back down one bit, but rather pushed ahead in affirming that He was exactly who He claimed to be and nothing less. Of course, this did not satisfy them. They did not listen to His words, nor did they believe in His works. They were intent on one things which was to bring Him down, so again they sought to arrest Him. Our passage records for us that they were unable to do so because Jesus “escaped from their hands.”

From there He returned to the place where His ministry began, where John had been baptizing. We read in John chapter 4 that Jesus had left Judea so as not to take away from the ministry given to John by the Father. Now that John had been beheaded Jesus returned to where John had ministered. Upon His return the people came to realize that while John had not performed any miraculous signs himself, he did speak of One who would. And as they looked to Jesus they saw that He was every bit the One that John said He was. The result was that many of these disciples of John had now come to know Jesus for themselves. They had seen the works, and John chapter 10 concludes with, “…many believed in Him there.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clearly “the Christ” (John 10:22-30)

“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”” (John 10:22-30, ESV)

The Jewish leadership had been pushing Jesus to answer one question, “Are you the Christ?” Here they asked Him how much longer He was going to keep them in suspense in answering this question. Every time they asked He spoke about the Father, His relationship with the Father, His place of origin and return, the reason for His coming, the things He was going to do and more. Jesus said a lot of things about Himself, and all of them pointed to Him being the Christ. But in the presence of the Jewish leadership He did not say the four words they wanted to hear, the four words that they would try to use to accuse Him of some form of blasphemy and put Him to death. He did not say directly to them “I am the Christ.”

Back in chapter 1 John the Baptist clearly said that he was not the Christ (1:20), and then in chapter 3 he said again that he was not the Christ, but that he had been sent before Him (3:28). And of course we read in John 1:29 and 30 he identified Jesus as the one that he had been sent before. In John chapter 4 the woman at the well asked Jesus about the Messiah (the Christ) who was to come, and in verse 26 we read, “Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”” (John 4:26, ESV)

The Jews demanded that He tell them plainly. Jesus was not trying to be evasive, but He also knew His audience and He told them exactly what He needed to say and what they needed to hear such that those who could hear would hear and those whose ears were deafened would not. He responded to them saying, “I told you, and you do not believe Me.” Simply reading backwards in John as I did tonight it was easy for me to see how many times and in how many ways He had told them. But the difference between my reading backwards and their considering the words they had heard is very basic. I believe and they didn’t.

Jesus pointed to the works that He had done repeatedly (and again here) as proof of Him being sent by the Father. Many who believed, believed because of the signs. They knew that only One sent by God could do those things, and as such Jesus must be that One. These are the ones that Jesus refers to as His sheep. They heard His voice and they knew Him to be their Shepherd. These are the ones who have been given eternal life, who would never perish, and who would never be snatched out of Jesus' hand. These are the ones who are secure in the eternal promise.

Jesus went on to say, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Without saying the words they wanted Him to say Jesus said exactly who He was and they clearly (as we will see) knew what He meant. He is the Christ and He has made it quite clear what this means and why Him being such is so important to us. Life is only found in Him. There is no other name in heaven and on earth by which man can be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Door of the sheep, the Good Shepherd. He is the Christ.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

No Greater Love (John 10:17-21)

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”” (John 10:17–21, ESV)

It is not as if Jesus could do anything to increase the Father’s love for the Son, but actions can certainly demonstrate why the One is so loved by the Other. Jesus said a few chapters later in John 15;12-13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (ESV) Jesus demonstrated the love of the Father through His action of laying down His life for us. Jesus Himself said that there was no greater love than this. It is the highest way that one can love another by giving himself fully for that person in order to meet their incredible need. Jesus did this out of His love for us and in so doing also demonstrated for us the kind of love that the Father and the Son had for each other. Both being fully God, the Son loved the Father so much that He willing came to give His life in full and agreeable accord with the will of the Father. Because the Father loved us so much He gave us His Son so that we might have life. This is exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB95)

That’s why the Father would so love the Son because the Son would willingly lay down His life knowing He also would take it up again. Though man may have willingly and hatefully sent Him to the cross, this was something that Jesus came to do according to the will of the Father from ages past. He chose to do this of His own accord because of His love for the Father and His love for us. He had all of the authority He needed to do both as He willingly received His charge from the Father.

The Father and the Son were one in their mutual love for each other, their love for man, and the plan which they chose in order to bring man back into a relationship with the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In contrast to this oneness there was division between the hearers of the message. Some of them cried out that Jesus must have a demon, be insane or both. No one in their right mind, no one who isn’t possessed by a demon would claim to be one with God. Many could claim that they had the right to lay down their life, but no one who is totally right in himself would claim that he also had the power to take his own life back up again. This is not something that man can do, and therefore Jesus must be out of his mind. Others, however, clearly objected to their argument. They objected to the concept that Jesus must be demon possessed and crazy. They said that His words were not those of someone possessed. Rather His works clearly proved that He must be sent by God because only God had the power to open the eyes of the blind, and this is clearly what Jesus did.

Clearly for some the power of God was demonstrated in such a way that their hearts softened and their eyes were opened. They heard what Jesus said and they believed. They may not have clearly understood, but they knew that these were the words of one sent by God. Others continued to find problems with His words and they continued to reject His works as substantial proof. For them their hearts remained hardened, their eyes blind, and their ears deafened. Jesus said over and over again that the only way to receive eternal life was to believe in the Son sent by the Father. And as Jesus was preparing the crowd for the quickly approaching time when He indeed would lay down His life for His sheep there were those who were beginning to recognize the voice of their Shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, ESV)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

One Fold—One Flock—One Shepherd (John 10:16)

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16, ESV)

The mystery is unfolding. Jesus had been speaking to the Jews most exclusively. They followed Him as a rabbi, teacher, prophet, miracle worker and tracked Him as a rebel, heretic, and insurrectionist. But they were all Jews with limited exceptions. Here Jesus tells His audience that there were other sheep. There were sheep that those sheep who were in the fold did not expect to see in the fold. He was not only the Shepherd and the Gate for Jews, but He was the Shepherd and the Gate for non-Jews or Gentiles. And for the Jews who were instructed to keep themselves set apart and separate for God had taken this to the extreme of not really accepting any others as worshipers of God unless they became fully Jewish.

But Jesus came to seek and to save the lost in the whole world and not just one portion of it. Sure, God had made a special promise to these people that He called His people and who they were to know Him as their God. He still had their future and even their full return firmly in His hands and His plans. But He also had the rest of man in His hands and His plan as well, and Jesus came for all.

In Ephesians 2 we read a reverse instruction to the Gentiles. It was a reminded that they were once on the outside, but because of Christ they (we, me) were brought in. We were not a part of the promise, but we benefited because the promise was fulfilled. Like the shepherd who goes out and brings in the sheep, the Great Shepherd has brought in lost sheep and adopted them into His flock, placed them securely in His fold, and granted them peace.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:11–14, ESV)

In our world there exists a great amount of hostility. At the center of much of it is a vehement distaste for the nation and people of Israel. Growing along with this is a distaste for outspoken Christians, and in particular those who stand with Israel. This is even true in our own country where there is a growing intolerance for Christians in general and their freedom to live their faith in the reality of their lives. Even though the Jews at large may not recognize Christ as their Savior and Lord, we know Him to be their God. We know that God will keep His promises and so we anticipate their return to the fold. We can pray for them just as we pray for all that they might know that Jesus is the One sent by the Father to give life to all who believe. In Him we are made one and the hostility melts away.

“For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:24, ESV)