John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 11

john11_25

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…

Philippians: Live (Or Die) for Christ

Back from vacation and ready with a new lesson.  As a recap, we have studied the greetings of the Philippian letter and are now ready to get into the “meat” of the letter.  Today, we are in chapter 1 verses 21-29 and we are going to address the question “which is better, to live or to die?”.  You might think you have the answer, but after today’s study, you might change your mind.  We’ll start with the first section of this Scripture:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:21-26 NASB)

Remember Paul was talking about his deliverance glorifying Christ whether by death or life (verse 18-20).  In these verses, he elaborates on this topic.  Paul fully expects to be delivered from prison so that he can continue to live boldly for Christ.  However, he states that both life AND death have their good points.

First, “to live is Christ”.  To live for Paul means that can continue living his life for Christ’s glory.  He can continue to produce fruitful work for the kingdom as well as encourage the saints in the Church.  How many of us measure the worth of our life by how much we are able to accomplish for God’s kingdom and His children?  So, if Paul lives, he can continue to do much more good for Christ and the Philippians may be encouraged by him and have their confidence in Christ strengthened.  Paul believes this to be necessary right now and is confident that he will continue living.

On the other hand, “to die is gain”.  Paul says dying is much better.  You might be thinking, “Well, this Paul guy must be pretty depressed to want to just die”.  On the contrary, Paul is just excited about getting to join Christ in Heaven.  He has earned his reward and looking forward to collecting.  Paul references this in another of his letters:

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8 NASB).

In death, Paul’s deliverance from captivity is complete.  To explain what I mean by that, I want to point you to the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Found in Daniel 3).  Go ahead and read the whole story if you would like, it’s pretty cool.  To sum up though, the 3 men were serving under King Nebuchadnezzar and he made a law that stated when music was played in the city, everyone was to bow down to and worship his statue.  As followers of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obviously refused.  This made the king furious.  He ordered his soldiers to have them thrown into a furnace filled with fire and made very, very hot.  Their reply to him just before they were thrown in, was this:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up’.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NASB)

Their point?  The same as Paul’s: No matter if we live or die, our victory is complete in God.  If Paul dies, he goes to be with Christ and many will be encouraged by his boldness in his faith to the end.

I was going to continue onto the second half of our section, but I think I will save that for the next post.  It deserves to have a little more focus.

Discussion question for today:  Are you torn, like Paul, between living or dying?  Which do you think you would prefer, and why?

Have a blessed day and hope you will join us for the next post when we discuss “living in a manner worthy of the gospel”. 🙂