John 11:33-57 has Jesus with Mary and Martha outside their home. He has just arrived there after Lazarus has died, and both women had stated that they knew their brother would still be alive if Jesus had only come sooner. Jesus walks into a place filled with sorrow where the sisters and friends of their family were all sobbing. And Jesus gets emotional – “a deep anger welled up within him….Jesus wept”. The human side of Jesus leaks out, and His love for Lazarus, Martha and Mary comes to the surface.
Of course, there are always those in the crowd who choose to look at things through a different set of negative eyes. “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man”. How often we respond to circumstances with no real understanding of the situation. There are always multiple ways to see the truth, and in this case, as well as everything that happens each day in your patch, people can view it in a number of different ways. Some will always take the negative approach, as these Jewish leaders did.
Jesus just ignores what those people were saying and went as His anger continued to well up to the tomb which was “a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it”. Then He took action. He didn’t touch the stone. He spoke the words: “remove the stone” and Marta quickly reminds Jesus that Lazarus has been dead four days and it going to stink things up. She hadn’t yet put two and two together. Jesus looks her in the eye and says “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God”?
So some in the crowd removed the stone and then Jesus does what only He can do, He took action and says “Lazarus, come out”. He spoke the words and Lazarus walks out. Jesus tells the people there to unwrap him from the wrappings that were on him and set him free. This all makes quite an impression. “They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him”. But the Pharisees saw it differently and got together to talk about how to protect the “power and privilege” they still had. They were focused on protecting their turf. So “from that day on, they plotted to kill him”. Jesus does a miracle. Some respond with joy and believe in Him receiving salvation. Others, who saw the same exact thing, saw it through their own dim eyes and could only focus on taking care of their own interests. Which camp do you sit in? Are you a believer, or one who is plotting His death?
John 11:1-32 has the familiar story of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus along with his sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters sent word to Jesus that they needed Him to come. “When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son”. Jesus has things well in hand. He knows the situation, and He knows His power. So even though He had been asked to come, “oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days”.
Why would Jesus do that? A friend is sick and He has the power to heal. It was because Jesus wanted to take this opportunity to show His power beyond merely healing. Jesus told His disciples “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up”. They took Him literally and didn’t understand that Lazarus was dead. They were worried about the fact that the Jewish leaders were out to kill Jesus and they would be part of that. Thomas says “Come along. We might as well die with him”. The disciples are ready to go with Jesus and He tells them “You’re about to be given new grounds for believing”. It’s going to be a sight to behold.
By now, “Lazarus was already four days dead”. Jesus not only didn’t rush, He made sure there was plenty of time for everyone to know the situation. Martha hears that Jesus is approaching and runs out to meet him saying “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died”. She knew Jesus could have healed her brother. Mary a few verses later says almost the exact same words. But they hadn’t yet figured out that Jesus was still able to raise him. Jesus tells her “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live”. That is a promise that applies to you and me. If we believe in Him, we will have life, eternal life.
But Jesus goes on to make it even clearer. “Everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all”. Not only do we have the opportunity to believe in Christ and receive eternal life, but we don’t have to experience spiritual death at all. We will die physically, but we will enter into eternity with God and His Son when we die. Then Jesus asks the 64 million dollar question: “Do you believe this”? Eternal life is an offer from Jesus, but we have to take the step of belief. We have to make it our own. We have to receive His gift of grace and believe. Our parents can’t do it for us, our spouse or kids can’t, our church can’t. Salvation is between you and Jesus. What have you done with Jesus? Have you received His gift? Do you believe?
John 10:22-42 has Jesus back in Jerusalem during the celebration of Hanukkah. The Jews were asking “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out”. Jesus had told them before, and they obviously wanted to hear more than His answer. Many people today are also asking the same question. Is Jesus the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord? And while Scripture is clear, the testimony of many who have a personal relationship is abundant, people keep asking the same question.
It isn’t that Jesus hasn’t made the answer clear. It is that people have a crisis of believing and struggle to accept Him for who He is. Jesus told the Jews then “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don’t believe because you’re not my sheep”. Jesus is about as clear as He can be that He was sent by God and has shown them more than enough proof. The problem is not in the message, but in the receiving.
Jesus then goes on to give us an amazing promise. “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand”. Jesus gives us the promise here of eternal security and salvation. When we receive Him as Savior and Lord, we are His forever. We can’t lose our salvation. We can’t slip away from His protection. We are His and saved forever. We are protected and secure forever. His promise is amazing and something to cling to!
Can Jesus really do what He promises? “The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him”. It isn’t just about His Word, but the very power of God. God is able, more than able, to take us and keep us safe. Even when the enemy puts us in his sight to take us out, God will protect us. The Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus and picked up rocks to throw at Him. But Jesus confronts them with the truth of Scripture, and calls them out. They come after Him to arrest Him but he slipped through their fingers and went back across the Jordan. “Many believed in him then and there”. Even while running, people are drawn to His truth!
John 10:1-21 has Jesus telling a story in an attempt to help people understand who He was. He related Himself to being a sheep herder. The shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice. Jesus is the Master Shepherd. He knows us as His sheep. And He is “the gate for the sheep”. While it was familiar territory, they still did not understand. So He says it this way a second time: “I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good–sheep stealers, every one of them”.
You see, we do have a very real enemy that is out to destroy us. Jesus defines Satan’s goal for our lives. “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy”. Three things the enemy desires for each of us – he wants to steal from us, he wants to kill us, and he wants to destroy our eternity. Satan never has good in mind when he is calling us, and he does through temptation all the time. That is where we have to learn to hear the voice of our Savior, and the Holy Spirit within us, that will help point out the temptations and attacks of the enemy if we only listen for His voice.
Jesus contrasts what He came for this way. “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. Jesus came to give us the abundant life, as some translations have it. He didn’t come so we could squeak by. He came that we might have more than we even dreamed of – more than we deserve certainly – but so much better than expected. And it is real and eternal, not some short lived sensation. Jesus came to give us abundant and eternal life.
There is a big difference between Satan who is out to kill, steal and destroy, and our Lord Jesus Christ. He said “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary”. That is the big difference. Jesus is all about self-sacrifice. He took our sin and carried it on His head as He went to the cross. He sacrificed Himself as a necessary part of buying our freedom from sin. The enemy is all about self and causing us to focus on self and justify sin as something we do for self. We must not listen to the enemy voice. We much only respond to the voice of our Savior!
John 9 has Jesus walking down the street and “Jesus saw a man blind from birth”. His disciples saw the man too and “asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind”? There was an attempt to define a cause and effect to the man’s blindness. Someone had to do some serious sinning to cause this, right? Not so according to Jesus. “He said, You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here”. All bad things don’t result from sin.
Jesus told them to “Look instead for what God can do”. Some things God allows so He can be glorified by them. In this case, God’s plan was for a man blind from birth to be healed by the Savior. Jesus comes to him and “rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam. The man went and washed–and saw”. Jesus didn’t speak healing here, He required the man to do something and participate in it. That makes it more memorable and gave the man some details to talk with the Pharisees about, who were really mad because the healing happened on the Sabbath.
So the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being bad because “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath”. Others differed and said evil would not do good like this, so “There was a split in their ranks”. The Pharisees grab the formerly blind man and drag him in for questioning. They grill him over and over about how his sight was restored, and each time He told them that it was Jesus who had healed him. They even called in his parents to see if this was in fact the man who had been blind from birth. They were afraid, and said it was their son who had been blind, but they didn’t know how he came to see.
The man says it plainly for the third or fourth time. “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see”. Jesus has changed his life forever, just like He will change your life and mine. We will have the same experience when we believe. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man”? Jesus wanted to be sure He knew how to connect His healing to God’s love and salvation. The man said “Master, I believe and worshiped him”. Jesus will change us if we only believe!
John 8:38-59 has a confrontation happening between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. They cannot understand what Jesus is saying. “If God was your father,” said Jesus, “you would love me, for I came from God and arrived here. I didn’t come on my own. He sent me”. He continues to speak truth to them that He is in fact the Son of God, although they cannot comprehend it. They don’t believe, nor understand, what Jesus is telling them. And they are scholars and students of the Law, yet somehow forget all the prophecy related to Jesus coming.
Jesus really gets irritated with them and goes over the line in accusing them of being from the enemy. “Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him”. Not exactly how you win friends and influence people, or stay under the radar. He calls them liars and evil and from the devil. This is getting under their skin. But Jesus presses them and asks “Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act”?
The Jewish leaders are beside themselves. They say “We were right all along when we called you a Samaritan and said you were crazy–demon-possessed”. They believe Jesus is off His rocker and is talking about being with Abraham and from God and they can’t understand it at all. But Jesus reminds them of “Abraham–your “father’–with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming”. Jesus coming was not a surprise. It had been prophesied often in scripture. They conveniently choose to forget all that.
But Jesus doesn’t back down, He continues to speak truth. “Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything”. This really sets the Jewish leaders off. Jesus has put Himself above and before Abraham. He placed Himself where He rightfully belongs – at the right hand of the Father. But “That did it–pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple”. They want to kill Him right there, but the time was not right yet, and Jesus walked away without so much as a stone thrown. But the showdown is coming. Jesus has pushed their buttons and they will take action against Him soon.
John 8:21-37 has Jesus taking another run at trying to explain what the truth was about salvation. Jesus tells them once again that they need to believe that He is who He says He is – the Son of God. The fact is they were missing God in all of His teaching. “I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives”. That is the problem we all have. Sin separates us from God. It prevents us from being able to spend eternity with the Father.
Jesus is the only way for us to deal with our sin. The Jews were asking “Just who are you anyway”? They knew He spoke with authority and had performed many signs and miracles. But they just couldn’t connect the dots that He was the very Son of God. Jesus again tried to tell them the story. But they didn’t accept what He said as coming from God. And Jesus made it clear that He only spoke what God told him. “When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am–that I’m not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me”.
Jesus continues to explain. “The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn’t abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him. “When he put it in these terms, many people decided to believe”. The dots began to connect and people began to understand who Jesus was. But Jesus tells them there is more to the life of a Christ Follower than believing. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure”. It is about living a life of obedience to His words. It is about following the Scripture as our guide. Being a Christ Follower means action – living a life based on what we have been taught through the Word.
Then Jesus says some of the most important words He spoke. As a Christ Follower “you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you”. That didn’t compute to the Jews. They thought having to live a life of obedience was more like being a slave. But Jesus is clear that the freedom offered through following Him as a Christ Follower is much better. “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through”. When Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed. Free from the ravaging sin that will destroy us and keep us from God. Free from the penalty and price that sin demands. Jesus sets us free, and that freedom lasts forever!