Archive for June, 2018

John 12:26-34

In John 12:26-34 Jesus begins to make clear what it really means to be a Christ Follower.  “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me”. To be a Christian is to serve Jesus, to follow Him. It doesn’t mean that you stop working your job or caring for your family or studying at school. It means you do all that as a servant of Jesus, a follower of Jesus.  It means that everything we do is done through the lens of serving Christ.  That plays out through serving those in our patch following the example that Jesus set for us through His life of serving mankind.

Spurgeon wrote “All of you who would have Christ as your Savior, you must be willing to serve him. We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service”.  What we do does not save us.  Who we follow does.  But if we choose to follow Jesus, to give our life to Him, the natural outcome is that we’ll be a servant. Jesus described the servant as one who wanted to be where He is. This isn’t forced slavery where the servant wants to be free from the master. This is a chosen, willing service that simply wants to be close to the Master. The reward for serving Jesus is to receive honor from God the Father. This honor is both reward and recognition. What can be better than that?

Jesus knew the crucial hour was rapidly approaching, and He knew what lied ahead and it weighed on Him. “Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’” It’s important to realize that Jesus didn’t have to go to the Cross and pay the penalty for sin.  He chose to do that out of love for the Father and for each of us.  Jesus did not ask to escape the hour, because He knew it was the purpose for which He came. The cross, which had cast a shadow over the entire life and ministry of Jesus, would now become a reality in the experience of Jesus.

Jesus focus was on glorifying the Father’s name and character, not shining the spotlight on himself.  He was about to move into a place where the focus could have totally been on Himself, but He kept the attention on the Father.  “A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”  This was the third audible Divine testimony to Jesus’ status as the Son of God, after the audible voice heard at His baptism and His transfiguration. This was assurance from God the Father. Approaching the cross, the great concern of Jesus was to glorify the Father, and He was assured that He already had and would continue to do so. Are you focused on making God known among those in your patch?  That’s one of our assignments as Christ Followers.  How are you doing?

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John 12:16-25

In John 12:16-25 Jesus begins to come closer to making sure the world knows who He is.  He starts with His own disciples.  “The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him”. Slowly the scales were dropping from their eyes and they were beginning to see Jesus for who He was.  They had witnessed His miracles, but it was when they began to realize that He wasn’t just a miracle worker, but was a fulfillment to the prophecy of scripture that they began to see things more clearly.

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: “It’s out of control. The world’s in a stampede after him.”  The religious leaders have lost control.  People were telling their stories of what Jesus had done, give testimony to His miracles and power.  The leaders were beside themselves as Jesus was getting all the attention they wanted for themselves.

Some of the people wanting to see Jesus were from way out of town.  They had heard though, and wanted to see Him.  “There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?” These strangers find one of the twelve and ask for help in finding Jesus.  They want to see Him.  Philip didn’t know what to do, so he went to get another and together then asked Jesus.  “Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”.

And Jesus says ‘yep, it’s time’.  The plan for His reveal was near.  He gives the example of what’s going on to those around Him.  “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal”.  Just as a seed will never become a plant unless it “dies” and is “buried” so the death and burial of Jesus is necessary to His glorification. Before there can be resurrection power and fruitfulness, there must be death.

John 12:9-15

In John 12:9-15 the word gets out that Jesus is back in town.  “Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him”. The religious leaders couldn’t have Jesus talking to people and drawing a following based on His miracles.  And then there was Lazarus who had been raised from the dead after four days.  This was a real problem so the leaders decide to try and take Lazarus out to remove the testimony of Jesus’ power.

The chief priests were mostly Sadducees, and the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. Lazarus was a living example of life after death, and having him around was an embarrassment to their theological system. For them, there was only one solution to this embarrassing problem – to put Lazarus to death and get rid of the evidence.  But things don’t go well according to their plan. “The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Yes! The King of Israel”!

The story of Jesus’ miracles had preceded Him, and the people were looking and watching for Him.  So as He approached the city, they rushed to the road and we have Palm Sunday – the day the King rode into town on a donkey and was cheered on by the people.  This had to cause the religious leaders to fume all the more.  The cry Hosanna! meant “save now,” and on this day the crowd received Jesus as a triumphant Messiah. This was a patriotic rally, and the crowds looked to Jesus as a political and national savior, but not a spiritual savior. They didn’t understand what His purpose truly was – to be a sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.

The crowds adored Jesus because they believed that the raising of Lazarus from the dead established Jesus’ credentials as a conquering Messiah. There was also a significant part of this experience that related to prophecy.  “Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it: No fear, Daughter Zion: See how your king comes, riding a donkey’s colt”. The popularity of Jesus was offensive to His enemies. It made them feel that they were accomplishing nothing. He was upsetting all they had worked for for centuries.  They had to stop Him.  And they focused on doing exactly that.

John 12:1-8

In John 12:1-8  Jesus is hanging out with the disciples in Bethany where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived.  He has raised His good friend from the dead, and it staying under the radar as the religious leaders want Him dead.  “Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them”.  We’re a week before Passover and Jesus knows all too well that His time on earth is short.  So He relaxes with His dear friends by joining them for a meal.

Things are going along nicely when Mary does something that is way out of the ordinary.  “Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house”.  In the midst of the supper, Mary gave a remarkable gift to Jesus. It wasn’t unusual to wash the feet of a guest, but it was unusual to use very costly oil of to do it, and even more remarkable to wipe the feet with her hair. She considered her precious ointment only good enough for His feet. She used a lot (likely a pound) of a very costly oil.

What seems like a humble and personal gift quickly draws fire from one of Jesus’ disciples.  “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them”. Judas was the money guy of the 12, and knew well and good what the value was of the oil Mary dumped on Jesus’ feet.  In fact, it was worth a year’s wages for a working man.  Judas thinks it is a waste, as he is already disenfranchised with the way Jesus is doing things.

Judas indirectly attacks Mary for what he considers a very bad investment. But “Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” Mary has show deep devotion to Jesus.  And she let down her hair in public, something a Jewish woman would rarely (if ever) do.  She understands the importance of worshiping the Savior.  Mary knew something that the disciples didn’t understand. She knew that Jesus was going to die, and she was compelled to offer this extravagant gift of devotion to Jesus. Mary had more insight than others because she spent time at the feet of Jesus. Are you doing that – sitting and learning at the feet of Jesus?

John 11:45-57

In John 11:45-57 Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.  It changed the opinions of some.  “That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him”. But not everyone was on board.  Some took the approach of continuing to cause issues.  “But some went back to the Pharisees and told on Jesus. The high priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish ruling body. “What do we do now?” they asked. “This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have”.”

Jesus is continuing to cause problems to the established leadership.  They don’t know what to do with Him but know something has to change.  And they certainly don’t want to have the Romans get involved.  “Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, “Don’t you know anything? Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people”. Here’s where one of the central figures in Christ’s crucifixion gets involved.  Caiaphas gives an unconscious and involuntary prophecy, but it is attributed to the office, not the man.

But the Pharisees decided they had to get rid of this threat. “From that day on, they plotted to kill him. So Jesus no longer went out in public among the Jews. He withdrew into the country bordering the desert to a town called Ephraim and secluded himself there with his disciples”. Before, it was mostly lesser religious officials who wanted Jesus dead. But now, the men with real political power have decided to murder Jesus.  Contrary to what some might think, Jesus did not do this out of fear, but because His hour had not yet come.  It was not yet time for God’s plan of redemption through His death on the Cross to happen, but it is drawing near.

In fact, it is coming quickly. “The Jewish Passover was coming up. Crowds of people were making their way from the country up to Jerusalem to get themselves ready for the Feast. They were curious about Jesus. There was a lot of talk of him among those standing around in the Temple: “What do you think? Do you think he’ll show up at the Feast or not?”  Jesus was the talk of the town.  He’s done a number of miracles that just can’t be ignored.  Everyone wanted to see Him, but for very different reasons. “Meanwhile, the high priests and Pharisees gave out the word that anyone getting wind of him should inform them. They were all set to arrest him”. The showdown was coming.

John 11:36-44

In John 11:36-44 Jesus is now at the tomb where Lazarus lie.  He has been dead now for four days.  Jesus was noticeably moved by Lazarus death but more so by the way it impacted Mary and Martha.  “The Jews said, Look how deeply he loved him.” We sometimes forget that Jesus was not only God, but also man.  But the Jews didn’t focus on His compassion for long.  They immediately attacked Jesus.  “Others among them said, 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.”

They still haven’t let go of the healing of the blind man, but since that was basically old news, why not spin it into a slam against Jesus.  After all, a miracle is a miracle and He’d done one, so why not keep Lazarus from dying? But Jesus is tired of their continual attacks. “Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it”. He goes to the tomb where Lazarus had been laid four days earlier and tells those there to do something that was pretty drastic given the time that had passed.  Jesus tells them to move the stone.

Jesus said, Remove the stone. The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!” Martha who is the practical one challenges Jesus on that order.  It’s going to stink like crazy if we do that she says.  It’s been four days.  This is a bad plan. “Jesus looked her in the eye. Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” But Jesus knows exactly what will happen.  He knows that a miracle that makes the blind man seeing is about to happen. Jesus is fully capable of this miracle without the belief of Martha or Mary. But if they would not believe, then they would never see the glory of God. So He tells those around the tomb to do it.  “Then, to the others, Go ahead, take away the stone.”

They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” Jesus first talks with God and makes sure He is in alignment with the Father.  “Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Jesus told them, Unwrap him and let him loose.”  Jesus simply calls Lazarus to come out.  No fanfare.  No magic.  No showmanship.  Just a simple direction like He used with the other miracles He performed.  Lazarus was covered in the cloth they wrapped dead bodies with as they put spices and things around them at burial.  But Lazarus is alive and walks out of the tomb!

John 11:27-35

In John 11:27-35 Martha gets it right.  She responds to Jesus question about whether or not there was belief. “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”  Martha has taken the step of faith all of us need to take to receive the grace that came with Christ’s death on the cross.  We have to receive that gift of eternal life by believing in Him. Martha then runs to get her sister. “After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him”.

Mary had stayed back at the house when Martha ran off to find Jesus.  “Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there”. But Mary was headed to find Jesus after Martha told her that He was nearby. Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha has already spoken to Jesus regarding the death of Lazarus, but now Mary speaks for the first time. Her words are remarkably similar to what Martha told Jesus. “Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary too, knows the power of Jesus. This is a significant statement of faith, saying that if Jesus were here they have no doubt at all that He would have healed Lazarus.  Both sisters knew the power of Jesus and believed in Him as Messiah.  Jesus arrives at the tomb and sees a place filled with all sorts of mourning.  “When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him? Master, come and see, they said”. Jesus the man has emotions well up inside Him deeply.  He wants to see where Lazarus is.  He’s ready to show the world His power, and to restore life to His friend.

Jesus responds to the weeping, particularly of Mary.  It captured His emotion. “Now Jesus wept”. Jesus wasn’t so much sad at the scene surrounding the tomb of Lazarus. It’s more accurate to say that Jesus was angry that death was still victorious. Jesus is angry and troubled that death can cause so much pain and sadness. He won’t settle for this domination of death over man much longer. In fact, He’ll soon meet death face to face and have victory over it.  Jesus painful weeping was for the pain He saw in those He loved so much.  Jesus loves us equally as much.  We need to cling tightly to Him in times of trials and trouble.  He is there for us.

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