John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 11

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Greater Love Has No Man

The gospel writer John does such a beautiful job painting a picture of the human side of Jesus, the one with whom we can relate, while still maintaining the deity of Christ.  In chapter 11 John gives us a very personal glimpse into Jesus’s life.  On an interesting side note, John is the only one who records this story.

When chapter 11 opens, Jesus receives a message from some close friends of His concerning a man named Lazarus (we know they are close because they are mentioned more than once, Jesus visits them often, and Lazarus is referred to as “he whom you love”).  Lazarus is sick.  We know this isn’t just a simple cold since Mary and Martha found it necessary to seek Jesus out wherever He was in order to tell him of it.

Even though this is a serious illness, Jesus remains where He is for two more days.  We might not understand why Jesus made this decision, but if there is anything we have learned about Him so far it is that Jesus works with purpose.  He is keenly aware of God’s timing and regardless of personal preference, works within that timing and purpose.  This illness of Lazarus, like the blind man’s infirmity in chapter 9, is going to be used for the glory of God.

Now, Jesus had been avoiding Jerusalem and the area surrounding it because of the enmity between Him and the religious rulers in Jerusalem.  However, when He discovers Lazarus is ill, He risks His life to go to be with His friends.  Later on, He makes this statement:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

Jesus constantly puts His life on the line for others.  His love and compassion are so great that there is never a thought for Himself, only for others and the mission of His Father.  What an amazing example for us!

This illness of Lazarus costs him his life when Jesus finally decides to go to Bethany.  Interesting enough, when the disciples are certain that death awaits them all in Jerusalem their attitude is summed up in “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 ESV).  And yet, in the Garden when Christ is arrested and death is coming, they desert Him.

By the time Jesus makes it to Bethany, Lazarus has been buried for four days.  At this point, people have lost all hope.  The consensus held by most is “If You had been here…” things would have been different, but now…

The thing is, it’s never “too late” for God.  Nothing is too far gone, too lost for God to redeem, for Him to restore.  After all, isn’t that the underlying message of the love story of the Bible?  We were a people too far gone, hopeless on our own, yet God breathed new life into all of us through Christ.  And how glorious is that life!

I Am…

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus as He arrives in Bethany.  Jesus explains to Martha that all hope is not lost and that Lazarus will live again.  Her reaction is similar to what our’s might be if we were told something like that:

“Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'” (John 11:24 ESV).

But Jesus has something to teach here:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:15 ESV).

Martha says she believes, but I think she had a similar dilemma we have sometimes, we want to believe, but don’t really know what it is that we are believing.

When Jesus heads to Lazarus’s tomb, there are many people around Him all mourning the death of Lazarus.  Even though Jesus knows what is going to happen, He is overcome with emotion and He weeps.  “Jesus wept” may be the shortest verse in the whole Bible, yet it is so full of meaning, it could fill volumes.  Jesus was not just a detached observer with eyes only for His agenda.  He was (and still is!) a part of the lives around Him and He cared for them just as deeply or more so than the rest of us.  How encouraging to see this side of Jesus, the Savior who not only knows of our hurts but also hurts with us.

All of this culminates in Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb.  Death has no hold over those who are in Christ.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Without Him there is only death.

The Plot Thickens

Raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead for four days was an extremely powerful sign in establishing Jesus’s identity and Who sent Him, which you can probably guess was pretty worrying for religious rulers among the Jews.  This act was one of the final straws that “broke the camel’s back”.  They now fully intend to get rid of this Jesus once and for all.  Because of this, Jesus has to return to out of the way places for a while until the right time for Him to fulfill His mission.  Remember, it’s all about timing…

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John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 10

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The Lord is my Shepherd

When chapter 10 opens, Jesus is still conferring with the Pharisees over the blind man he had just healed.  At the end of chapter 9, Jesus tells these Pharisees that they are all blind, in chapter 10, He begins to explain what they are blind to.

Jesus loved to speak in metaphor and parable, and this time is no different.  Jesus begins to reference God’s people as sheep.  Nowadays, calling someone a sheep has a negative connotation, but here Jesus is not being negative at all.  God’s people are meant to follow Jesus like a sheep follows a shepherd.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1 ESV).

Anyone who is not the Shepherd (Christ) who sneaks into the fold is only there to harm the sheep and lead them away from the Shepherd.  Anyone who does indeed follow such a person does so at their own peril.

Christ lists attributes that we can follow to know our Shepherd:

  1. The sheep hear His voice.  Not only do they hear, but they heed His voice: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22 ESV).
  2. He knows the sheep by name.  They are precious to them, each of them, that He calls each by name.
  3. The sheep follow Him: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24 ESV).
  4. He willingly lays down His life for the sheep: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16 ESV).

Jesus eludes here to “other sheep”.  Even here He refers to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.  Our Shepherd isn’t picky about what type of sheep follow Him, He only asks that we do.  One flock, one Shepherd.

Just Tell Us Plainly

A little later, Jesus has another conversation with the Jews.  Although the Jews would have been used to metaphor and parables since they were a popular form of teaching at that time, they often get tired of Jesus’s way of speaking.  Here they demand:

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24 ESV).

Many times the Jews would get fed up with Jesus’s way of teaching, but when Jesus did actually give a straight answer, they rarely liked it.  How like humans! We only want to hear what we want to hear, not always what we need to hear.

When Jesus gives them their answer this time: “I and the Father are one“, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him (John 10:30 ESV). Is it any wonder why Jesus would choose to speak in metaphors in the first place?  I know I would be reluctant to speak plain truth if I knew it would get me killed.  But even though Jesus knows that what He will say will not be accepted by these people, He gives them what they ask for anyway.  God’s truths are always there for us, it is up to us whether or not we choose to accept them.

Once again, Jesus riles up the people and once again He escapes them.  Why?  His time has not yet come.  With God, timing is everything.  I’d love to know how He did escape though…

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 9

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Who Sinned?

Interesting question.  Haven’t all sinned?  Yet, that is not what the disciples had in mind when they asked this question of Jesus after encountering a man who had been blind from birth in John 9:2.  The disciples were of the common Jewish belief that suffering was a direct result of sin against God.  They weren’t entirely off-base on this assumption since the reason we have suffering at all is because of sin in the world.  There are also many verses in the Old Testament that pronounce people with diseases or maladies such as blindness as “unclean” and unworthy to approach God and such maladies were often punishments from God for sin.

However, there are examples in Scripture of suffering that was not a direct result of any sin on the part of the sufferer.  Remember Job?  He lost everything he owned including his health, not because he was sinning, but because he was doing something right!

Or how about Jesus Himself?  He suffered much being blameless of sin Himself.  What is the point of such suffering?

Verse 3 of chapter 9 gives us a hint:

“Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’.” – John 9:3 ESV

Sometimes, God allows hardship and suffering so that He can reveal His greater glory and mercy in our lives.  Without the suffering of the blind man, he would have never felt the mercy of God in his life or been an example as he was able to do when Christ healed him.  Without the suffering of Christ, none of us would have been saved.

Who is Really Blind Here?

Once again, the Pharisees have an objection to the healing that Christ brings to this man, their excuse again being that Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  Really, what better day to receive the blessings of God than on the day devoted to Him?

Because the Pharisees object, they begin to give the “third degree” to the poor formerly-blind man.  They weren’t interested in learning more about Jesus because they liked him, they were looking for “dirt” to use against Him.

This can happen to us sometimes when we are sharing our faith.  People ask us questions not because they want to learn, but because they want to trap us or make us stumble.  These kinds of questions or people can discourage us but in spite of such opposition, we are urged to:

“always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” – 1 Peter 3:15 ESV

I love the final testimony that the man finally gives the Pharisees:

“The man answered, ‘Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing’.” John 9:30-33 ESV

True healing doesn’t come from Satan.  True and pure healing only comes from God.

The Pharisees insisted that they knew what they were talking about.  Anyone who opposed them must be wrong (according to them).  Jesus responds with what becomes not only a warning for these Pharisees, but for us also centuries later.

“Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains’.” – John 9:41 ESV

We have to be careful to not let what we think we know get the way of what Christ is trying to teach us.  He is a light in the darkness, but we have to seek Him, be humble enough to admit we have something to learn, and trust in His light if it is to do us any good.