Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bread Eating Betrayer Prophesied (John 13:18-20)

"I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the one who sent Me.”  (John 13:18-20, ESV)

Jesus told His disciples in advance that He had chosen them and that He was sending them out into the world. He said that whoever received them received Him, and whoever received Him received the One who sent Him (who is the Father). In essence, they were being sent by the Father by the authority of the Son and that those who received them received the Father.

Jesus was preparing His disciples to be sent into the world after His leaving, and He wanted them to know that this was His intention from the beginning. It was God’s plan and not an afterthought or an in-course adjustment. He told them this knowing that they would not really understand until after His death, burial, and resurrection, but He wanted them to hear these words in advance, so that when the time came they would remember and be reassured to go forward with confidence.

But this was not true of all of them. The statement begins with the words, “I am not speaking of all of you, I know whom I have chosen.” There was one who was not a part of this plan. Jesus knew who was chosen and He knew who wasn’t. There was one in the group who was going to betray Him, and who in fact had already taken steps to do so. Jesus said that this one had already lifted his heal against Him.

Psalm 41 is a psalm of David written about the person who is down. It is about those who despise him and rejoice in his failings and his weakness. In the midst of the psalm we find that even the man’s friend turned on him, saying, "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9, ESV) It is these words of David that Jesus used to speak of one among them that was going to turn on Him. In the context of Psalm 41 this close friend had turned on the individual, even kicking him when he was down. It was not a casual acquaintance or a come and go associate, but a close friend, one who he had shared everything with. And now this person had thrown in with his enemies.

in speaking to His disciples Jesus told them that there was one who He had shared His bread with who had already taken steps to turn against Him, and in the verses that follow He will even make it more dramatic by offering that person a piece of bread before sending him out.

The incredible thing is that Jesus could deal with Judas so discretely at this point. But when we consider that He already knew and that there was no intention by the Father that this plan would change or be altered in any way, it is also reasonable to understand that Jesus could move forward with confidence knowing that His welfare is not in the hands of the betrayer but in the One who sent Him.

Returning to the same psalm that Jesus quoted we read, “By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 41:11–13, ESV) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

No Servant Above –No Service Below (John 13:12-17)

“When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12–17, ESV)

Jesus set an example for His disciples, and this example is one that He then went on to tell them that they are to follow with one another. He was not putting in place a new ordinance of foot washing, though many have done so as a meaningful reminder. What He did was to demonstrate to them with His own hands that they are to humble themselves to one another in freely serving them. There are to be no followers of His who are too big to serve. The Son of God became man to serve, and as their Teacher and Lord He proved His servant heart by His freely and faithfully serving. If service is not below God, it surely could not be below any man, and any man who thinks he is too good to serve is surely not of God.

Jesus, knowing from Whom He was sent, willingly subjected Himself to the will of the Father. He did not look to Himself being equal with God be cause for Him to act on His own. As the Son sent by the Father, Jesus called His disciples to respond in the same way to Him. As we lovingly submit to Him we honor Christ, and in honoring Him we glorify the Father.

There are many religious systems out there which base their concept on salvation on the works of its adherents. Being a Christian is more than service. Service is an outward working of inward change. Because of what God has done for us we reach out to others. This is what God did for us and it is what we are called to do for others. Service does not save anyone, but it does demonstrate that something significant has happened in those who are saved.

What saves a person is faith in Christ as the Son sent by the Father to save. Salvation is a free gift from God and it is received by faith. Then at the moment we believe we are declared righteous with the perfect righteousness of Christ. We become a new creation. We are made spiritually alive with the Holy Spirit being given at that moment to all believers to remain without leaving. From that point everything changes. Following, as we grow in Christ, we are made in our thoughts and actions to resemble more and more who we are eternally declared to be. It is this growing or sanctification process that evidences itself not only in our heart attitudes but in our life actions. As we hide God’s Word in our hearts and we live according to what we learn as His Spirit makes it alive for us we then become vessels of light through which rivers of living water flow (John chapters 7 and 8).  

In a nutshell, our lives are to affect others because His life changed ours. All that we say and do is to be done in such a way that it points people to Christ and God is glorified in the process. This is the objective of a life lived in the power of Christ according to the work of the Spirit. Speaking of our special spiritual enablement Peter wrote, “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11, ESV)

There is no servant above his master and there is no service below the servant. Having said this Jesus added, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

11/12’s Completely Clean (John 13:6-11)

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “Not all of you are clean.”” (John 13:6–11, ESV)

Misunderstood once again. This is exactly what Peter evidenced by his words. He and probably the rest of the disciples with him could not fathom Jesus stooping to the role of washing their feet. Peter asked Him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” as if to say “Why you? Why do you do what a servant should do? Someone should be washing your feet, and not you washing ours!” Jesus responded to Peter acknowledging the obvious truth which was that they clearly did not understand the significance of what He was doing. He went on to tell them that while they did not understand this now there would be a time that they would.

Peter would not relent. Understanding Jesus or not, Peter was not willing to let Jesus wash his feet now or ever. This was not something that Peter would stoop to let Him do as he saw things. Jesus continued His response to Peter telling Him that if He would not let Jesus wash him that he would have no future with Him. And in having no future he would not share in any portion of the glory which awaited Jesus and all who are cleansed not by water but by His blood. The symbol here was a little bit of water being used to cleanse their feet, but just a few hours away Jesus would shed His blood for the forgiveness of His disciples’ sins and of all who believed. By His blood they will have been made clean, and through His resurrection power they would all be made alive.

All who believe will be totally washed once and for all. They will not have any need to have their sins re-forgiven, as Jesus’ work to do this is absolutely perfect and complete once and for all time. The reality is that while totally cleaned and in no need of having been re-cleansed, there is the sense that we do continue to sin. While those sins have been forgiven, there is a responsibility on our part to admit those sins before God and to move forward from them committed to walking right before Him in the power of His Spirit. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)

Jesus knew the heart and the future of every one of His disciples. He knew those who believed and were to be totally cleaned and in no future need of being cleaned again, and He knew the one who was unclean and who would betray Him. John tells us this in pointing to Jesus’ own words, “Not all of you are clean.” Here Jesus spoke of Judas who had already set his plan of betrayal into motion.

But for the rest, Jesus spoke with full assurance that His act of washing their feet as a humble servant would was a small foreshadowing of what He was soon to do as the Son of God who “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8, ESV)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Servant Love (John 13:1-5)

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” (John 13:1–5, ESV)

There are a lot of reasons that today’s passage is very special to me. There is the common reason shared by all who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior which is that He was faithful to the end to do that which He was sent to do. As His time was at an end John tells us that Jesus loved His own here in the world and that He did this to the end. His love did not quit when people quit on Him. He even knew who it was within their number who was going to betray Him, and still we see every indication that He loved Judas as well. He did this knowing that everything given to Him was given to Him by the Father, that He had come from the Father and that He was returning to the Father. There was no reason to resent or regret. He was totally faithful, and because of that we know His faithfulness today.

In order to demonstrate that love He got up from dinner, laying aside His own outer garments and tied a towel around His waist in order to bend down and wash His disciples’ feet. These men who had called Him master were now experiencing the deep love of their master as He personally humbled Himself to do something as seemingly demeaning as washing their feet like a servant. In this act Jesus demonstrated the power of the servant. As He humbled Himself in service He proved to be an incredible blessing while also demonstrating an important principle which is to mark all believers.

In Mark 10 when James and John approached Jesus with the request that one of them sit on His left and the other on His right in glory, Jesus told them that they did not know what they were asking. But even in this He also told them that this was not His decision to make. A lot was going to be demanded of them and they were going to suffer and even then be glorified with Him, but He could not grant this request. We also read that when the others heard this they became indignant. “Imagine the nerve of James and John asking such a thing” they must have thought (my words, not theirs). “What about us?” Responding to all of them Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45, ESV)
At this Passover meal it was their last time together before His arrest and crucifixion, and Jesus was demonstrating this teaching about becoming a servant for their benefit. It is this teaching that holds special meaning for me. In 2007 we were looking for a way to recognize people in the congregation at Crossroads for their faithful service over the long haul. The result was that we decided to give away a towel in remembrance of Jesus’ servant example for us. On the towel we had embroidered John 13:5. At our annual promotion Sunday in June that year we began giving away a few towels and continued doing so each year while I was on staff. In addition our Women’s Ministry started giving one towel each year to a special woman at their annual Ladies’ Tea. This past year I was overjoyed to see my wife, Robin, be gifted with one of those towels. As I looked back over the list of towels given away over those years I was greatly encouraged to remember each of them and their different ways of service. It was also a bit of a tug on my heart to know that several of them have left this place for the presence of our Lord where I know that they have received far more abundantly than we could ever give them. It also was a tug to realize how deep the relationships are that we built together, knowing that God is in the process of moving us elsewhere.

Jesus was washing His disciples’ feet as a last act of love and a last demonstration of humble service on the last night they had together. As I thought on this I could not help but think of the words from a simple song, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God.” The heart that led Jesus to wash our feet is the heart that led Him to give His life so that we could become adopted into the family of God, and the way we show our love toward one another is to model that love through our service.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reality Restated—Believe (John 12:44-50)

“And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”” (John 12:44–50, NASB95)

These are the last words recorded for us by John before Jesus joins His disciples for their last meal and their last night together, the events of which he covers over the next several chapters (13-17). In relation to today’s passage we read previously that Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd and hid Himself knowing that as prophecy was being fulfilled that men were seeking to have him put to death. Having done this we don’t know, other than His disciples, who His audience was when He said these words, but it is an incredible summary of the unity shared between Him and the Father in His coming.

Jesus had said numerous times that He did not come of His own accord or to forward His own agenda. He came to do the will of the Father and the things He did were from the Father. He had spoken of how He was the perfect embodiment of the Father in Him they could know the Father because they were one.  In Him becoming man He brought with Him the light of God in such a way that man could truly see and know God. He came as the Light of the world in order to move us from darkness to light, and what was required for this to happen was that we are to believe in Him and in believing in Him believe that the Father had sent Him. He did nothing of His own accord.

There is nothing new here. It is a summary of things that He had said repeatedly and which He was soon to bring to their full completion. His reason for coming was not to judge the world. The reality is that the word of God already given was the judge. Jesus came to seek and to save that which already was lost to judgment. He came to bring man back from his certain end which was already settled apart from being saved, and He is that only means of salvation.

Rejecting Him is not just rejecting a messenger, but it is rejecting the Father and standing in opposition to all that He had said. Accepting or rejecting Jesus really comes down to accepting or rejecting God Himself. There is not difference. There is no splitting of hairs. They is no way around one to the other. This is simply how it is, and the only way to be saved is to accept both—to accept that the Son is sent by the Father and that what the Son said and did perfectly represents the will and the words of the Father. To do otherwise is to stand judged.

We are getting closer and closer to Easter. Easter is more than chocolates, new dresses, and eggs. It is a time when Christians around the world remember in a special way that what Jesus came to do He actually did do. It is simply stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, NASB95)

Because He lives we can live also. Jesus said, “believe.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Blinded and Hardened (John 12:37-43)

“Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:37–43, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God: Father, Son, and Spirit)

When we look at the issue of predestination and God’s calling we look at the issues of God’s sovereignty over salvation set alongside the choice of man. We read in Romans 8, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30, ESV) Scripture says that God foreknows, predestines, and calls. It also says that all who He calls come to Him and that none of them are lost. And we learn from Scripture that as man’s heart is softened he comes to understand, believe and is saved. It speaks of both God’s sovereignty and man’s belief in response, and somehow we know that God works both together for a person to be saved.

Conversely we know that God is sovereign over those who aren’t saved. This does not make Him unloving or unjust. None of us deserves anything from God. We have all sinned and are judged guilty without any possibility of ourselves paying any acceptable restitution in order to satisfy our redemption. Having said this there is also the truth that man’s heart is hard. Just as God foreknows those who are saved He also foreknows those who aren’t. He foreknows the hardness of hearts, and while being able to overrule that hardness, in His sovereign scheme and wisdom He deals with each person according to His perfect will. In today’s passage we read that the prophet Isaiah prophesied how the hardness of heart of the people of Israel would be used by God such that He blinded their eyes so that they would not see Jesus for who He truly is such that they would be used by God to bring Him to the cross. In order for God’s plan to be fulfilled hard-hearted men were willingly complicit.

The nation of Israel had repeatedly turned away from God in their hardness of heart. He had come to them time and time again, and each time they turned. There was a regular cycle of them dong this, and God intervening. At this perfectly chosen time God did not intervene, and He hardened their hearts. While this was not universally true in that it included every single individual, it was nationally true as it included the larger number of the people and their leadership. The people that God has set apart as His own would be the people who God also would use to bring about their own restoration and bring salvation to all mankind. Just as Judas was chosen as one of the disciples knowing from eternity past that He would betray Jesus, so God loved, chose, and established the nation of Israel knowing that they would be the ones who hung Him on the cross.

Of course these verses are not all gloom and doom for the nation of Israel. John wrote that if their eyes were opened they would see and believe. And it was John who was later given the revelation by God about how this would end which included all of Israel being saved when Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation. Even in this passage John said that many believed including some among the leadership who believed and yet were unknown by the others for their belief. At that time they were fearful of losing their position, and so they kept the secret. Among them may have been Nicodemus who spoke up on Jesus behalf in John 7:50-51 and who later would help bury Jesus with Joseph of Arimathea.

And of Joseph we read, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:38–42, ESV)

So it was, while the nation of Israel demanded His crucifixion there were many among the Jews who loved Him and believed in Him. Even among the leadership there were secret believers who would later expose themselves as they cared for His body after His death. These secret believers had not seen the risen Christ. They did not know His resurrection power. Yet.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we read, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as Your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:3–6, ESV)

Friday, March 20, 2015

No More Objections (John 12:34-36)

“So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” (John 12:34–36, ESV)

Objections, objections, objections. When someone doesn’t want to see something then showing them more proofs rarely does the trick of getting them to understand. Years ago in some evangelism training I was taught when I keep getting one objection after another from people, to ask something to the effect of, “Let’s say that all of the objections you’ve given me so far are no longer objections, is there any other objection that you have not mentioned?” In other words, what aren’t you telling me? There is a deeper issue than what has been presented that really is the issue. In counseling it is a common thing to see that the presenting problem is often not the real problem.

Sure, there may have been those in the crowd who had some real questions and were truly seeking to have them answered such that they would believe when those questions are answered. But this is not the case for most. These are the ones that were constantly seeking for one way after another to disqualify Jesus and prove Him not to be who He said He was. For them there was not going to be enough proof. There was going to continue to be another objection.

This time the objection was about Him saying that He was leaving. It was their expectation that the Christ would come and remain as their king. But Jesus had told them that He was leaving. These two did not add up for them. What they did not grasp was that He had come and that He was going to come again. The first time He came was to satisfy the wrath of God by giving Himself as the sacrificial Lamb. They did not grasp that He would be buried, rise again, and ascend to the right hand of the Father where He would remain until He comes at the end of the Great Tribulation to set up His millennial kingdom and then bring in the eternal one.

He told them that they had to make a choice. They either were to believe Him and walk in the light as sons of light or they would reject Him and remain in darkness and judgment. The time was ticking and they had to make a choice. He was not going to be around much longer, and not giving them any more opportunity to raise another objection we read that Jesus then removed Himself from them such that they could not find Him.

Faith is an amazing gift. The ability to believe when we don’t have all of the answers flows from trusting that there is someone who does have those answers. These people could have kept asking one question after another just as we can today. But at some point we have to make a decision to trust. We have to make a decision to trust that God really did send His Son to give us life and having believed that by faith we also have to trust Him to direct our steps every day after that. Walking without answers and without any trust in one who does have the answers is the epitome of walking in darkness. Man can devise all kinds of things, but in the end he really has so much that he simply cannot explain. God created everything and there is nothing beyond His knowledge. He has made Himself known to us. His Son has made us alive through faith, and the Spirit is given to work and flow within. There are many things that I do not know, but I know Him and I trust Him to guide me in those things.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lifted Up For Us (John 12:31-33)

““Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die.” (John 12:31-33, ESV)

Jesus had come to the time when His death was less than a week away. By this time in the next week He would have been turned on in mass by the people. They would have demanded His crucifixion. He would have been tried multiple times, whipped, beaten, ridiculed, and sentenced to death on a cross. He would have carried that cross part way through Jerusalem while an onlooker was conscripted to carry it the rest of the way. He would have been nailed in place and then He would be lifted up on that cross and abruptly dropped into the hole dug on the hill where He would remain between two criminals until His death.

All of this was to happen while people looked on. Most of them would have been cheering the happenings as the anticipated His death. They truly would have cheered this Lamb going to the slaughter without any idea as to what He really was about to accomplish by being subject not to their plan, but the eternal plan of God in which they were willing pawns.

As I read these verses and I think about Jesus’ words speaking of Him being lifted up before the people on a cross, and as I think about even the sign posted above His head on the cross reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” (Matthew 27:37, ESV) I can’t also but think about two other lifting up’s which would follow. The first of those would be when He took His own life back up again. Jesus had said that He had the authority to lay it down and He had the authority to take it up again. Then there is that other lifting up, the one that would come many days later when we read in acts chapter 1, “And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:9–11, ESV)

All of their efforts to squash Him would prove futile. And all of the efforts of the evil one to thwart the plan of God and to keep man from Him would only result in the finalization of judgment and separation for him and all disbelieved. What Satan might have seen as his victory only sealed his failure. What they world might have cheered really only resulted it its judgment. But this is not the case for all who believe. We have been given the firm and unfailing promise of God that all who accept the One sent by Him—Jesus the Christ—will be saved. For us there is salvation at the cross, and the world’s darkest day brought about our greatest hope. Jesus truly was lifted up for us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Believe It or Not (John 12:29-30)

“The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:29–30, ESV)

Jesus had just said how His soul troubled as He looked ahead to the hour which had arrived—the time for which He had come, the time for which man’s hands were previously restrained from taking action against Him. He had arrived in Jerusalem to an overwhelming reception, and now He was in the final week. Having gone this far He knew that even at this point He was not about to turn away, but was committed to doing that for which He was sent. As He spoke about how he was troubled he also reiterated His desire that the Father would be glorified in Him.

It was then that the voice from heaven was heard, saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Truly His name had been glorified and it would be again. Beyond that the Son Himself to would return to glory with a glorified body forever demonstrating that action that He took for the salvation of man.

As He said these things and the voice from heaven was heard there was a crowd standing around, and the crowd heard the voice as well. The interesting thing is that it is not absolutely clear if any of them actually heard the words of the response, but heard instead the loud thunderous nature of it. We read that some of them might have thought it to be coincidental claps of thunder, while others believed it to be Jesus hearing the voice of an angel.

I’ve not read much commentary on this verse, but it seems reasonable to think that those who did not believe did not hear, while those who were believing did. The reasoning behind this position is what Jesus next had to say, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.” The questions posed in the previous verses were not intended as Jesus’ questioning if the will of the Father had changed or if His own determination to fulfill that will had changed, but were to serve as an affirmation that this was the one and only option and He was still going to see it through to the end. So it is here, that the voice from heaven reaffirms that what Jesus had said He was here to do was indeed the will from heaven, and He was absolutely in step. These words were for the benefit of those who heard them, which would really represent those who believed them. Those who did not believe were very quick to write it all off to some other cause.

Everywhere around us we see signs of God in His handiwork. We see it in nature and its design. We see it in things being held together when otherwise they should fly apart. We see it in the most simple of creatures which in reality reveal the most complex of designs. We see it in the incredible complexity of the human DNA and in the vastness of the universe. We see it in the lives of men. It is everywhere. At the same time there are a vast majority of people who deny what they see. They write it off to the most ludicrous at times of excuses. They do not see, they do not hear, and they do not understand. God has revealed Himself and they deny His very existence.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:19–23, ESV)

This represents those who refuse to acknowledge God, but it does not represent everyone. In the verses just before these Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16–17, ESV)

There are those who have seen and heard His revelation. There are those who believe, and it is those who are saved and who are called to live by faith in God who really is. I am so thankful to be counted in this group.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Trusting in the Tempest (John 12:27-28)

““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”” (John 12:27–28, ESV)

After speaking about His need to lay down His life for the salvation of many, Jesus spoke about how He felt inside at that moment. He said, “Now is My soul troubled.” This term troubled is not a mild disturbance, but can be most equated to a strong stirring or agitation. Some have even said that it was like have a riot going on inside. What Jesus was about to do was to satisfy the wrath of God by taking on the sins of the world.

Man’s condition was truly ugly and his need was extremely great. What Jesus was about to do was of such an extreme nature that He would even say on the cross, “”Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”” (Matthew 27:46, ESV) It was going to be at that moment that the Son took on the full wrath of the Father as He gave up His life for the sins of man. While I do not pretend to understand how even for a moment the infinite, eternal Son of God could feel this separation, I can imagine how the Son of Man would know it at its most extreme intensity. The Father had sent the Son to do this great and horrendous thing in order to bring about the greatest gift that man could ever be given—payment in full for all of his sins.

Jesus knew this time was coming, and being in the last week He felt even more strongly the great burden. This resulted in His soul becoming troubled in a great way. We don’t know for certain why He spoke to the Father with questions. It may have been just to restate the obvious conclusion that there was no other option, or it may have been for some other reason. I can only speculate. But in my speculation I imagine the Son saying to the Father, “What shall I say? Having gone so far and followed the plan so closely are We to change it now? Not a chance.” This is and has been the settled plan. It has not change since it was established and prophesied over and over again throughout time. This is what man had been told will happen, and this is what must happen. Jesus went on to say, “But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” His confidence in the Father would not be shaken by the pressing burden lying ahead. It was at this moment when the plan was reaffirmed and Jesus acknowledged His willingness to carry it through to its completion. Jesus had said all along that He came to do the will of the Father that the Father might be glorified, and He restates that purpose again. The hour for its completion had come and Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.”

Imagine being Philip or Peter or a member of the crowd who observed this interaction between Jesus and God the Father. There they stood as He cried out to heaven in apparent anguish, saying the things that were recorded for us. They stood there watching a one-sided conversation and must have wondered greatly about what was going on before them. They must have known that it was a serious issue that He was dealing with. But not really knowing why He had come to Jerusalem they surely had no idea what He was so troubled over. They had just seen the crowd sing praises to Him as they waived palm leaves, and now He stood before them obviously disturbed.

When Jesus finished speaking the Father responded. We read that as He was praying that God would be glorified by His death, burial, and resurrection, the Father answered. John records for us, “Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”” This is only the third time in Jesus’ ministry that we have recorded for us that a voice was heard from heaven. The first was at His baptism when it was heard, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:17, ESV) The other was at His transfiguration which was witnessed by Peter, James, and John. We read about this in Matthew 17:5, “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5, ESV)

The first two times that the Father spoke from heaven the same words were used, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” At the second one the words “listen to Him” were added. Now Jesus had followed the will of the Father and it was time for Their plan to be completed and the words from heaven affirmed that His name had indeed had been glorified and it will be glorified again. I had to read and reread the passage to see what it was that was going to be glorified. Jesus had prayed, “Father, glorify your name,” and the Father responded the He has and He will again. The obedience of the Son was bringing glory to the name of the Father.

There are so many times in our lives when we have challenges before us that we really don’t want to tackle. Sometimes we actually don’t have to tackle them as there is another more appropriate option, but this is not generally the case. These trials come and we have to decide how we are going to proceed through them. The example of Jesus was that He was committed to doing what God had intended, knowing that it was going to come at a great cost and with intense pain. He knew that He had to do this, and He also knew was that this was what the Father wanted. He committed to doing the will of God, entrusting Himself to Him, and praying that His name would be glorified in the process.

How we handle trials tells a great deal about who we trust. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that we will all encounter various trials, tests, and temptations. This is common to all men. There is no way around it. But the verse also tells us that with every single one of those that God is faithful to limit those things to the ability that He gives us to endure them as we trust Him to bring us out on the other side. The key is not the size or intensity of the trial, but the faithfulness of God. Jesus knew this and He knew He could complete the plan because He and the Father are One. There is no one who knows the faithfulness of God the Father more completely than God the Son. He could trust Him and in Christ we can also.

“No temptation [test, trial] has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation [test, trial] He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The People Have Come (John 12:20-26)

“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:20–26, ESV)

Jesus had  just entered Jerusalem to a large and dramatic reception where the streets were lined with people shouting out Hosanna or “save us now.” They had covered the road with their cloaks and they waved palm fronds in His honor. But Jesus knew that His reason for entering was not to take up a throne right there in their midst, but to go to a cross and suffer death so that He might at a later date reign in their presence. His time to be their present King had not yet come, but the reason for His coming had. In the days that were to come the people would change. They would see Him not as their king but as someone to be removed as a fake, an imposter, a threat to what they knew. Sure, this was not universal and there were those who would not take part, but the end result would be what God had intended. At the demand of the people of God—the Jews—the king of the Jews would be mocked and hung on a cross.

While these things were beginning to unfold there were also those who had come to Jerusalem who were likely not born Jews but who were Gentiles of Greece had become Jews as proselytes. Out passage indicates that among those that had come to worship were some Greeks. These Greeks had asked to see Jesus, and their request was forwarded to Jesus. The Greek worshippers had approached Philip and Philip went and found Andrew. Then the two of them went to Jesus to let Him know of their request. We don’t know what they thought about these Greeks asking to see Jesus, but it must have raised some question with Philip as possibly indicated by him going and finding another one of the disciples so that both of them could go to Jesus. From all we see in the text it seems that Jesus did not meet with them.

Rather He responded to Philip and Andrew with others listening on saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

While the disciples might have been surprised that these foreigners wanted to see Jesus, Jesus told them that the time had now come for Him to die—the grain of wheat falling to the earth. But His death was not to be a futile falling. When that gain of wheat falls to the earth it begins to germinate and grow and spring forward with new life, and that new life multiples. From that one grain many grains are given life, and those grains will be the fruit of the one grain and they will resemble that one grain. They will be harvested and go to the same end as that one grain. Speaking of the natural process of wheat which they understood, Jesus told His disciples that His time had come to lay down His life so that He might take it back up again and give life to many. And that many is as many who trust in Him regardless of their nationality.

Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ becomes part of that fruit. If Jesus had loved His own life so much that He did not take this step then no one that followed would know life either. But this was not the case; the Son of God humbled Himself to become man so that we might live. He loved us so much that He considered what He had to do worth the cost.

He went on to add that anyone who serves Him would have to follow Him. But in following Him there was going to be great reward. Where He was going they would go also, and in their going they would find that the Father also honored them in their following.

These Greeks desired to meet the Jesus who they had heard about. Not knowing if they did get to meet Him and thinking that they did not at this time for a very good, God-foreseen reason those of them who would believe in Him would not only get to see Him later, but would be with Him for eternity. Jesus was faithful to His reason for coming, and He calls us to be faithful in following knowing that He is the One who brings us eternally together.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The King Has Come (John 12:12-19)

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”” (John 12:12–19, ESV)

Many of the events leading up to this day are not recorded in all four of the gospels, but Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for this last time is. We find this record also in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; and Luke 19:29-38 where more details are given including the disciples being sent to gather the donkey and the people spreading their cloaks on the road. All of the gospel records speak of the people standing in worship of the Christ as palm branches are waved and they loudly cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” John adds that they proclaimed Him as King of Israel. Matthew points to their recognition that this coming King was of the family of David and would was coming to take up his throne. Mark added their great hope that Jesus was ushering in the kingdom of God, and Luke records them proclaiming their hope that He would bring peace as God is glorified.

The scene must have been amazing as most of the people (as Matthew wrote) laid down their cloaks to spread out a carpet before their coming King. It was truly a royal welcome. The miracle worker, who raised Lazarus from the dead and spoke of Himself as being sent by the Father, was now being welcomed by the people. This miracle worker who slipped away from their grasp on numerous occasions because His time had not yet come was now presenting Himself knowing that His time had indeed come. As this special Passover approached when lambs were being prepared for sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was now presenting Himself as well.

The words that the people were proclaiming are the same words we find in Psalm 118:25-26, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:25–26, ESV) The opening words of verse 25, The word “Hosanna” is a transliteration (or word converted from another language) of the Hebrew words meaning “Save us” or “save us now.” Psalm 118 is one of those strongly messianic Psalms and as such it was regularly quoted at Jewish feasts including the Feast of Dedication and Passover. The people had been holding onto this hope for a long time, and on this day they stood together proclaiming Jesus as that long awaited king and deliverer.

As they chanted Jesus entered Jerusalem before their eyes. He did not do so with a lot of fanfare of His own doing or with fancy clothes riding at the center of an impressive parade. No. He came in riding on the back of a donkey, and even then the colt of a donkey. For those who knew the prophecies of old, this would have been what to expect. In our passage John even quotes this specific prophecy of God through Zechariah found in verse 9 of chapter 9, where see prophesied along with verse 10 both the first coming (here) and the second coming of Jesus which is yet to come. Jesus was the coming righteous, just, and humble King. And in His humility He came into town in the most humble of ways.

There is so much that could be said about any of the aspects of His entering on that day. If you were to take time to read the four gospel accounts you will see how each man was moved by the Spirit of God in cohesive but unique ways to record their cherished thoughts of that day. John adds for us, again writing from the perspective of time gone by, that even the disciples did not understand what was going on before them or what was soon to happen. They did not yet see how quickly the people would turn on Jesus or have any idea of how He would take His life back up and be fully glorified. The crowd knew even less, having either been there when Lazarus was raised from the dead or having heard about it. And the Pharisees who did not believe in Him saw all of this worship as a gross waste of time and effort. From their perspective the people (the world) was chasing after Him, but in the end they would gain nothing from their effort.

Not one of them knew what was going to happen, but all of them at that moment saw this One man arriving before the people. Some of them would believe and for them this moment of worship without understanding would later turn to worship resulting from salvation. For the others, this moment of worship of a man or observing that worship would result in one day having to bow before Him as the one true King who they turned their backs on and in whom they did not believe.

Worship is truly an amazing thing when the object of your worship is worthy. But when the object of your worship is temporary or limited in some way, that worship will eventually turn to disappointment and disillusionment. Whether these people saw Jesus as the temporary answer to their oppression and the solution to their national hopes or they saw Him as the long awaited Messiah who was bringing salvation and life to man made all of the difference. It makes that same difference today. If Jesus is nothing more than a hopeful solution to a problem or a cry in an emergency and that’s all He is to a person, then that person is no different than those who sang His praises in Jerusalem and then stood by as He was crucified. God loves us so much, and He proved it in the most incredible way by God the Son at the will of God the Father taking on the form of man to give Himself up for us as the perfect sacrifice for our sins leading to perfect forgiveness. And beyond that He took His life back up again giving to all who believe the promise and for many now the actual realization of eternal life.

The next time He comes it won't be on a donkey.

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”” (Revelation 5:11–13, ESV)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Killing Two Burrs with One Stone (John 12:9-11)

“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. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of Him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” (John 12:9–11, ESV)

While Jesus had not yet returned to Jerusalem, He was very close. He had returned to the site of His greatest work—the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It was this even that seemed to have tipped the scales and captured to belief of more of the Jews than any other He had done, and it was one that happened very close to home. In fact, for the chief priests and the Pharisees it happened much too close to home, and now hearing that both men were gathered together in one place they saw it as a prime opportunity to eliminate not only the miracle worker but the miracle, the One who came to declare the Word of God and the one who was given back his life to demonstrate its power.

I thought about including this passage into the next several or adding it to the last, but sitting on it a bit I realized that these brief verses which contain none of the words of Jesus do contain a heart attitude which Christians have faced throughout history and are facing in many ways today. The world cannot lay hands on Jesus. He has already gone to the cross, been buried, and raised from the dead just as the Scriptures had foretold (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He has already ascended to heaven and has sat down again at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). These things are done, and He will not return fully to this place until He returns at the end of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21). The big and significant interruption is that He will one day, and hopefully very soon, return in the clouds to take His church up to Himself (Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Just as His religious persecutors could not touch Him until His time had come, now that His time has come no one can ever touch Him again.

But this is not true of us. When Jesus went to the cross, Lazarus remained. We don’t know if they ever laid hands of Him because this is the last we hear of Him. With Jesus’ crucifixion they may have taken their sights off of Lazarus thinking they had cut the head off of the movement. But we know that no one touched Him unless God let Him be touched, and because He was touched we all have been given life and stand firmly planted in eternity. This is true regardless of what man may do to us now. There is nothing the enemy can do to rip us from God’s hands. We are firmly in His grasp. There is no one who can separate us from His love. Jesus is our intercessor and our advocate.

Having said this, however, we also know that God has not yet removed us from this place and while we remain we will have to endure trials of all sorts. But in enduring these trials we know first and foremost that Christ endured much more for us, and because of what He did we have been guaranteed life. When man thinks he wins by striking us down, what really happens is that his efforts are proven futile as we step into the presence of God. Man cannot do what God does not allow. We live in a world that is racked with the ravages of sin and death. There is much evil rampant around us, and God knows this very well. It was because of man’s lost-ness that Christ came. And it is because of man’s salvation that God endures and restrains the evil one without fully removing us. We may not understand all of this, and we truly grieve at the atrocities around us, but even in this we do so as ones who have hope.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, just before He stopped to pray He told His disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV) Later on in life John wrote, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, ESV) The world’s plans are already doomed. That’s just the way it is.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Time Is At Hand (John 11:55-12:8)

“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That He will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest Him.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”” (John 11:55–12:8, ESV)

We are now into the last week. Passover was coming close. The people had begun the pilgrimage from their homes to Jerusalem in order to purify themselves before the Passover. The whole nation was readying itself for this special time of their year. And with that preparation came the expectation that Jesus would again return to Jerusalem with all of the other Jewish males. They were on the watch for Him. The people were instructed to be on the alert and notify them if anyone saw Him. Truly the time for the big clash was about to happen, and anticipation was high.

Sure enough, six days before the Passover Jesus left the wilderness area of Ephraim in order to return to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ home in Bethany just a couple of miles from Jerusalem. This sixth day was most likely Saturday, the day before we read that He triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Happy to see Him they gave a dinner for Him there. Again, Martha was busy serving them while Lazarus reclined with Him at the table. This was a last moment of rest before everything would quickly change. This was the last night before Jesus made His public entrance and was recognized by the whole nation. It was the last night before people would go from bowing before Him to turning on Him and demanding His crucifixion. It was a time with friends, and they were enjoying one another. The sisters who so deeply loved him along with their brother who He had previously raised from the dead all embraced Him fully on that night.

It was as they were reclining that several pieces of the final plan were put into motion. The first piece unfolded when Mary took a pound of a very expensive ointment which we read was from pure nard and began to anoint His feet and then wipe them with her own hair. Imagine the scene as she lovingly massaged this ointment into His feet that had traveled so far for this time and then as she tenderly wiped His feet with her own hair. Everyone there must have had their eyes fixed on this and they all were taking in the scene. Mary had taken this expensive and special ointment and freely and delicately rubbed the feet of her Lord. This is what “anoint” means and this is what she did. It was a special act done by her showing her regard for Him, and there was no cost that she would not gladly pay in order to do this. The expense of the nard was not a barrier, nor did it give her pause to think what better might have been done with the money. This was truly a high tribute flowing from her love and devotion.

The next piece that began to fall into place was the response of one of the observers—one of the twelve, one of Jesus’ chosen disciples. Judas responded to this with revolt. He criticized the action pointing to how this very expensive nard could have been sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor. Three hundred denarii was a big deal to them. For many of the common laborers it would have amounted to a whole year’s wages, and here Mary was wasting it on feet. What a noble thought? How thoughtful Judas was toward the poor? Hogwash!! Judas did not care about the poor. Judas cared about his own pocketbook. We read in this passage that Judas was the keeper of the money bag and he had been embezzling from it. He had been stealing from it for his own gain, and if Mary had sold the nard and given the money to them to distribute to the needy then he would have had access to that money as well. Of course, this was no surprise to Jesus. He already knew this as we read earlier in John. But in the Father’s timing Judas rebellion had not yet been revealed and maybe not even come to a head until this moment when his true colors began to surface before everyone else.

Jesus told Judas to back off, to leave her alone. He said that what she had left was to serve another purpose. Mary was to be able to keep the ointment until it was used again at His burial. We already know that when Jesus called for Lazarus’ tomb to be opened that they were reluctant because of the stench that would burst out. It was not uncommon to cover bodies in expensive perfumes at the time of their burial in order to mask these smells.

These ointments were a key part aspect pointing to the real reason that Jesus came. Even in Matthew chapter 2 when the wise men came to see him they brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). When Jesus hung on the cross a drink of wine and myrrh was offered to Him in order to deaden the pain (Mark 15:23). And when Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea to prepare Him for burial, Nicodemus brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.” (John 19:39, ESV) Jesus told them to let Mary keep the ointment, setting it aside for the time when it would be prepared for use on His body at His burial.

While this Mary was not specifically identified as going to the tomb on the Sunday of His resurrection (the first day of the week), we read in Luke that the ladies had indeed prepared ointments for Him. “It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” (Luke 23:54–24:1, ESV)

Truly, as Jesus had said the time of His death was close. The poor were going to be around for as long as man exists in this place, but He was here for a specific period of time and that time was at hand. And without Christ neither the poor nor the rich had any hope for life. Mary, and Martha, and Nicodemus cherished the time they had with Him, and I don’t think they took a single day for granted.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The End Is Near (John 11:45-54)

“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there He stayed with the disciples.” (John 11:45–54, ESV)

You would think that in the face of the overwhelming work done before the people that all of them would fall to their knees in worship of God and the One He had sent. And sure enough many of them did. But there were still some in the crowd that did not believe. Though they were amazed at what they had seen, they still did not accept Jesus as being sent by the Father. It was this group that went back to the Pharisees and told them what He had done. It seems like this really rattled their foundation. Taking that news they gathered with the council, asking as a whole, “What are we to do?” The council that John spoke of is the Sanhedrin which comprised seventy members from the Pharisees and former High-Priests and family members of the High-Priests. This group represented the religious hierarchy and they are the ones that had whatever power was granted to them by their Roman oppressors. This group was not an entirely cohesive group as they had their “theological” differences which at times could become quite intense. But they were the ones who set the religious tone for the people of Jerusalem. They were the highest religious judicial body in the country and they had a large amount of power, with the greatest power resting in the Chief Priests who were nearly all Sadducees.

It was this group who set aside their mutual disregard for each other to unite against their common enemy, Jesus. Jesus represented to them a threat to their entire system. All that they had built up was in danger of crumbling right in front of them as more and more people believed. They were granted power by the Roman government because of their influence over the people and their ability to maintain order, but if that influence were to wane then they would be in danger of having their power taken away and their whole system dismantled. Jesus was a threat to all that they built up and knew, and they knew that they could not let Him continue to draw people away from their influence.

It was in the face of these discussions that the high priest that year, Caiaphas, spoke up saying, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” John added commentary to this statement writing, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”  While Caiaphas may have been speaking about the threat that Jesus posed to their system and their existence as a unique people, and his willingness that they should kill Jesus in order to preserve this, the reality was that it was actually by His death that this same people would be saved. Not grasping the reality of why Jesus had come and the result of His death, Caiaphas said that Jesus needed to die in order to preserve what he saw as their fragile existence. His speaking out against Christ was in actuality an unwitting prophecy about what God was going to accomplish as these Jews brought their own plan to completion. Through their actions to kill Jesus God would preserve His people and bring salvation to all of the nations. And through their actions God would eventually bring all of His people back to Himself such that the nation of Israel is saved. This group that was so focused on their own self-preservation was proving themselves to be unwitting pawns in God’s eternal plan. And as John wrote this he did so from the vantage point of having seen what God did to bring it to completion.

Their resolve from that day forward was to put Him to death. In their minds they had let Him go long enough. Jesus knowing this kept His distance. He “no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there He stayed with the disciples.” Jesus did not run for His life out of fear of what they were going to do, nonetheless He went away knowing their resolve and knowing that His time had not yet come. He went away to a place probably about 12 miles away from Jerusalem where He was removed enough from their presence to wait and yet close enough that when His time soon came that He could easily make His return. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

“Unbound” (John 11:23-44)

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for He has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”” (John 11:38–44, ESV)

Hosea wrote about the judgment of Israel, how they were afflicted in numerous ways because of their rebellion. But he also wrote about the redemption that was to come to this people and this nation. Paul quoted Hosea in 1 Corinthians 15, which is an entire chapter on the resurrection. He wrote in verses 53-57, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:53–57, ESV)

In the middle of this incredible statement regarding the power of death being removed through being given life and immortality as we pass from death to life, He used the words of Hosea, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” These people had gathered to mourn the loss of Lazarus, and for most of them all they saw was the power of death. For them Lazarus had lost the battle for life to death through illness. To them death had won. But Jesus knew different. He was about to show them in a very visible and tangible way that death did not have to be the winner. There is victory over death. Though the religious elite had argued over the reality of a resurrection, and Martha had proclaimed her belief in the resurrection, none of them could really comprehend just how real and present the power of the resurrection really was. Even as Jesus had spoken of His own leaving, none of them grasped yet what it was He was talking about.

Jesus still being moved by the intensity of the situation approached Lazarus’ tomb, and rather than kneeling with them outside to the tomb to join in their mourning and continued weeping Jesus took action. He said, “Take away the stone.” This was an unheard of thing. Lazarus was dead, and as Martha said everyone and else knew the process of death had begun its decay. Four days later they knew that Lazarus was in no condition to be seen. The stench of his rotting would be overwhelming. None of them had the desire to move away the stone and open the cave for the reality of death to fill their senses.

It was in response to this that Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Did He not tell them that He was going to show them so amazing that they would know that it could be from none other than God Himself? Had He not told them that what He was about to do before them would loudly declare the glory of God? Jesus had told His disciples when they questioned His deciding to go see Lazarus after his death, “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.” (John 11:14–15, ESV) Jesus asked Martha if she believed in John 11:26. Having reminded them of His words that they would see the glory of God, He was now ready to do the most amazing thing ever seen by man.

But before doing this, and in front of all who gathered, Jesus prayed. All along Jesus had said that He did not come to be glorified in His works, but to bring glory to the Father such that they knew He truly was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father. And even now as we read His prayer we see this clearly forefront in His mind. He prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent Me.” Before doing this last and most amazing work, Jesus prayed with the full assurance that He was heard as He always was heart from the beginning and because of that He could pray with confidence knowing that the request He made would be answered. He even said in His prayer that the reason for praying this way was not to bolster up His own faith, but rather to demonstrate to others the reality that He indeed was sent by the Father. Just before doing what He was going to do, He took the time to point people to the One who sent Him to do it.
Having now prayed, Jesus said in a very loud voice—a voice that clearly would be heard by all and even shake (I imagine) the foundations of all that existed—“Lazarus, come forth.” (John 11:43, NAS95) He did not need to be so loud for Lazarus to respond, but with this great act Jesus demonstrated in an unquestionable way the greatest authority—the power over death. Death would have no hold on Lazarus and would not prevent God from giving life to whomever He chose.

Again, imagine the scene…. The next thing the people saw was a man bound in burial linens walked out of the tomb. Bound hand and foot, his face wrapped like the images we see of mummies in our movies, Lazarus comes out of the tomb—ALIVE. He was not the image of the walking dead. No. He was one was dead who is now alive. Death no longer had a hold on him. To this Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

I love these last words—“Unbind him, and let him go.” When God gives life there is no power which can restrain anyone. When we are set free we are free indeed. Back in chapter 8, Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV) Just as Jesus had demonstrated to this gathered crowd the power of God to set people free from death, we know that all who have placed their trust in Him likewise have been set free from the power of death and firmly placed into life.

This miracle was the last one recorded that Jesus was to demonstrate prior to His own death, burial, and resurrection.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

“Jesus Wept.” (John 11:28-37)

"When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid Him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (37) But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”” (John 11:28–37, ESV)

Martha had gone out to meet Jesus and spoken to Him about her confidence that if He had been there then her brother, Lazarus, would not have died. Jesus replied to her that He was the resurrection and the life and that her brother would indeed live. Martha acknowledged that she also believed that he would at the resurrection. When Jesus asked her if she believed the things He had said, Martha responded strongly that she did because she knew Him to be the Christ, the Son of God, sent into the world. It was after saying this that Martha sent for her sister Mary, who in private was told that “the Teacher” who they knew as Jesus was there and calling for her.

Mary quickly got up and went out to meet Him. Imagine the scene. Many Jews had come out to console Mary and Martha at the death of their brother. Martha had previously gone out to meet Jesus, and now Mary had left. The two people that they had come to see and comfort had left, and what were they now to do. So, they also got up and followed her not knowing where she was going, but supposing that she was going to Lazarus’ tomb to continue the weeping that she had been doing. Imagine their surprise when she did not go there, but instead went out and fell at Jesus feet, saying “Lord, it you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The emotions at that moment must have been very intense. John records for us that not only was Mary weeping but so also were the Jews who had come along with her.

Mary’s broken heart cried out, and our passage goes on to tell us that He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. As I’ve read this without digging any deeper I imagined that Jesus felt the extent of their grief and He felt extreme compassion and was disturbed by the loss that they were feeling. The reason for thinking this way is simply because that is how I have thought. But there is more to this. It appears that some if not most of the Jews who were there to mourn may not have been there as much to mourn out of a sense of loss, but rather out of a sense of tradition. According to Jewish oral traditions they were to hire some to play the flute and others to mourn. This was part of the program, and this family being well off may have had the ability to amass a larger crowd than others. What may, as some commentators have written, have really moved Jesus was the extent of the hopelessness of those gathered before Him.

At the same time, however, Jesus was also moved by the hurt that His dear friends were experiencing. He went on to ask where they had laid Him. Mary and Martha then took Jesus to the location. As they did this they told Him to come and see. It was then that we have a simple yet very well know two-word verse recorded for us in John 11:35—“Jesus wept.” Jesus wept. These are incredible words. For any who have suffered loss in one way or another they provide a connection between our God who we know knows absolutely everything including the very depth of our emotions and our Lord who as the God-man personally experienced them. In Christ we know that He knows and understands. But also in Christ we know that He knows what lies beyond the grief. While He could weep with Mary and Martha, He also holds the results of eternity in His hands.

Isaiah wrote of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV) Jesus had already been rejected numerous times. Numerous times people had tried to have Him arrested and put to death. He has repeatedly stood up to and confronted those who were lost in their own religious “goodness” and not knowing the incredible love of God. He was even at this time preparing to head into Jerusalem for one last time on His way to the cross. Jesus understood sorrow and grief, and in our passage today He demonstrated that He could even mourn with those who are going through it.

At the same time, He did not mourn as those without hope as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, ESV) No. He understood hope in its fullness and He is able to bring comfort in the midst of despair. We read in 2 Corinthians 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)

Jesus understood grief and He brought comfort. Our passage goes on to record that when the crowd saw Jesus weeping they remarked about how deeply He must have loved Lazarus as well. While some scoffed or questioned if He really was who people said He was then why would He cry. Why wouldn’t He just have prevented Lazarus death? After all, if He could give sight to a blind man He clearly could have prevented Lazarus dying. Though they may not have believed Him to be the Christ there is great truth in their words. Jesus easily could have prevented Lazarus’ death, but Jesus knew that through Lazarus death God was going to demonstrate something even more remarkable than that act of giving sight. While they did not understand why Lazarus had to die if Jesus really did have that power, Jesus did and He knew that He was about to demonstrate the most amazing truth of all—the power to give life to those who are dead.