Saturday, December 31, 2011
The human race can sure get ruthless for the sake of tradition. We can even exalt “religion” above kindness and compassion. Our religion is nothing if we aren’t living the Great Commandment of loving God and others.
Jesus and the two criminals were hanging on the cross and the next day was the Sabbath. The Jews didn’t want the bodies hanging around on their holy day, so they asked Pilate to break their legs which would expedite death. The soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals, but when they came to Jesus, He was already dead and they didn’t break his legs. Instead a soldier stabbed Jesus in the side with his sword and blood and water came forth which was proof of Jesus’ death.
This all seems very cruel, but God had a greater plan to prove His omnipotence. The fact that Jesus’ legs were not broken fulfilled the Scripture written in Psalm 34:20 and the piercing fulfilled Zechariah 12:10. God’s plans prevail.
This event should also quiet any skeptics who want to claim that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross and thus didn’t rise from the dead. The reputation and careers of the Roman soldiers were on the line. They were experts in carrying out crucifixion. They were biased participants who could not afford to make a mistake and allow anyone to live.
Jesus was dead. The Jews and the Roman soldiers made certain of it. Then He rose from the dead. God can use the cruelty of our enemies against them and ultimately for His glory.
He is a good God!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Pilate writes “King of the Jews” on the cross in 3 languages. I think Pilate believed it was worth repeating and it was a jab at the Jews. Jesus is crucified and then in v.23, the Roman soldiers “cast lots” (flipped a coin basically) to divide up His clothing. What He wore was important to them than who He was. What is significant about this detail is that it fulfilled prophecy written hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22:18. God knows what’s going to happen today, tomorrow and every nanosecond between now and when Jesus returns.
In v. 28, Jesus says, “I thirst.” He is about to die and He is thirsty. That should encourage us. He was fully human. He thirsted. He felt the same physical needs that we all do. He can be and is empathetic. He is at the right hand of God interceding with God on our behalf. (Romans 8:34). Could you ask for a better advocate? God in flesh is defending your case.
When Jesus said that He was thirsty, He was given sour wine. That’s such a stark contrast to what He gave others and offers us. In John 2 He turned water to wine at a wedding party after the host ran out of wine. The wine was so good that the master of the feast said to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” And Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4 that He could give her living water and she would never thirst again.
Jesus gives us the best. In return He got sour wine. Let’s not be like that. Instead let’s love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength because He is our strength and our defense; He is our salvation, our God, and let’s praise Him and exalt Him. For He is great and worthy of praise. Great is His love, reaching to the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the skies.
That’s what He deserves.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Pilate was in a bad spot. I think he was becoming convinced of who Jesus really was, but he had to contend with an angry mob who made dangerous accusations. In v. 12, the Jewish officials say, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” Treason. They were threatening to go to Caesar and accuse Pilate of treason. Jesus was falsely accused of making Himself the king of the Jews which would have been a threat to Caesar and if Pilate didn’t give Jesus a death sentence it would be considered as joining the rebellion against Caesar. The irony is that many historians believe that the prisoner the Jews asked Pilate to release, Barabbas, really was a revolutionary who fought for the Jew’s freedom from Roman control.
Pilate, as he stated to Jesus, did have the authority to release Him, but he bowed to pressure. It’s understandable. We all often fold under pressure, but the bottom line can be summed up in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Friday, December 9, 2011
Pilate presents a beaten, bloodied and belittled Jesus to the Jewish crowd and says, “…I find no guilt in Him.” He says, “Behold the man!” Behold means to look and see. Look and see the punishment that He has endured. Look and see the humiliation He has suffered. I think Pilate was hoping that the Jewish officials would be satisfied. They were not. They continued to cry, “Crucify!”
It’s easy to get upset at the Jews for their unfair, inhumane treatment of our Savior, but they were only participants in God’s plan to fulfill prophecy and bring salvation to the world.
The Jews said that Jesus deserved to die because He claimed to be the Son of God. I think that Pilate’s own suspicions were confirmed and it scared him. In v.8 he asks Jesus, “Where are You from?” Jesus didn’t answer. When you are confident in who you are and where you are from, you don’t have to defend yourself to your accusers. One day they will have to answer to God for how they treated you, one of his children. In v.10 Pilate asks Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” To which Jesus replies, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” This is a reminder to us that God puts leaders in authority and He has the power to remove them. Jesus had the power to overtake Pilate, but He didn’t. He submitted to his authority, just as we should submit to the authority of our leaders.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.”
Let’s stop there…because you just breezed over that part, didn’t you? “…flogged him”; that part. Every Christ follower needs to understand the full ramification of that event. We talk a lot about the crucifixion and the 12” spikes that were hammered into his wrists and ankle, but the torture started earlier.
Read below an excerpt from this article
Interestingly, the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote a special on the crucifixion of Jesus. In just describing the flogging, they stated,
“The usual instrument was a short whip…with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals…the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post… The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged…. The scourging…was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death…. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.”1
Jesus knew it was coming. He knew what He would be facing. In Matthew 20:18-19, He foretold it, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
He knew and He submitted to it anyway…for me and for you.
That is love.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
V.31…The Jews didn’t want to take responsibility for killing Jesus. They wanted to put it on the government to do it. That leads me to think of a couple of things. We can’t abandon personal responsibility and rely on our government to do things for us that we don’t want to do. And secondly, we need to stop and question ourselves about whether something should be done if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves.
Vs.33-38…Pilate is questioning Jesus about who He is. We know from earlier Scripture that Jesus has referred to Himself as the Son of God, the Son of Man and the Way, the Truth and the Life, but when Pilate questions Him, He gives a typical Jesus response. He answers a question with a question. I think that Jesus wants Pilate and all of us to come to our own conclusions. He’s done enough and said enough for us all to be convinced. In v.38 Pilate asks, “What is truth?” The irony is that he was speaking to the “Way, the Truth and the Life”. He just wasn’t strong enough to stand up for the Truth.
Vs.38-40… The Jews had a Passover custom of one prisoner being released each year. I think that Jesus won Pilate over and Pilate wanted to release Him. Instead the Jews demanded the release of Barabbas and Pilate caved to fear of the Jews. We face choices all the time. Many times we choose the lesser things.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Peter denies Jesus 3 times. He must have felt like such a failure. See a blog post that I wrote about this here.
V.17 is the first denial. It seemed so easy. No indication that he hesitated or stuttered. A cold, direct denial. Such a turn of events for a man who said in John 13:37 that he would lay down his life for Jesus. Such a failure of faith for a man who walked on water. If Peter faltered, we are all susceptible. But take heart. Again read my prior post.
V.18…Peter was warming himself around a fire with the officers who brought in Jesus. Sometimes we take comfort in the very things that God opposes…self-pity, gossip, slander, gluttony, over-spending, etc.
V.23…Jesus gives a great answer to everyone who rejects Him. If what I’ve said is wrong, then prove it. This reminds me of Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell, a journalist and a lawyer respectively. They were both atheists who set out to prove the Bible wrong but only became convinced of its Truth.
V.25-27…Peter had a couple more chances to tell the truth and failed. You would think that Peter would be prepared and braced for it; seem it coming. This boggles the mind since Jesus warned Peter. Just confirms that everything Jesus said will come to pass, no matter how astounding.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Judas Betrays Jesus
Judas came with a band of soldiers and some officers of the chief priests and Pharisees to identify and arrest Jesus. A band was 300-600 highly trained soldiers armed with weapons. Seems like overkill, yet when Jesus identified Himself they all fell to the ground. Several hundred armed soldiers fell to the ground at the feet of one unarmed man.
One day every person in the world will fall to the ground as “every knee will bow” (Philippians 2:10) to the name of Jesus no matter how powerful, no matter how highly skilled the person may be.
Then Peter, being Peter swings his sword and cuts off the right ear of a high priest’s servant. The account in Luke states that Jesus put the ear back on the servant and healed it.
Isn’t He always fixing our screw ups?
The amazing thing is that Peter was not arrested. But Jesus had already said in John 17:12, “ …I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction (Judas)…” He was still good to His word.
He is still good to His Word.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
This entire chapter Jesus prays for His followers; that’s anyone who accepts Him as his savior. Jesus is at the right hand of God praying for us. That is a powerful and comforting truth.
In v.4 Jesus makes a remark that one day I hope I can make. “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” I hope that I accomplish all of the work that He wants me to do while I am here and one day receive from him, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). Then in v.5 Jesus says something in which we really need to consider the magnitude. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (Emphasis added). Jesus gave up this glory He had with the Father to come and be born poor in a manger; rejected by His family and neighbors; beaten, spat upon and crucified. He did it for me and for you. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:33). He first laid down his glory filled life in Heaven to walk among us and then He sacrificed his physical body.
In vs.15-18, Jesus petitions God to protect us in this world. He doesn’t want us taken out of the world, even though we are not of this world, but instead we are sent into the world to present the Gospel. But He knows that it’s going to be a battle with the Enemy who wants the world for himself.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Sometimes the disciples seemed dense. Jesus fed over 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and then a couple of days later another large, hungry crowd gathered around Him. And the disciples asked Him where they could find enough food to feed the crowd. (Matthew 15:33). But here in John 16:16, I would be a bit confused also. Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then when the disciples inquire, Jesus muddies the waters even more by responding about them weeping, the world rejoicing and women having babies. Is it me or did Jesus rarely offer direct answers to His questions? Of course, He is talking about His impending death and resurrection.
Then in v.25-28 Jesus says (paraphrased), “Alright, guys, I know that you don’t get it, but soon I will begin to speak to you in plain talk. Just know that God loves you because you have loved me and soon I will be going home.”
Finally, in vs.29-33, Jesus tells the disciples how near future events will fall out. Troubles will come. They will scatter. They will abandon Him.
But to finish out the chapter, Jesus encourages His disciples and us with one of my favorite verses. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Other versions say “take courage” and “be of good cheer” and “have confidence”. In spite of our troubles, sorrows and problems Jesus has overcome all of them and we have victory in Him.
That’s why the Gospel is Good News.
So cheerfully and courageously enjoy your confidence as an overcomer.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Jesus says that He told us everything in John 15 about the world hating us to keep us from falling away. It’s a warning so we’ll know what to expect; a road sign to prepare for danger ahead. He says in v.2 that when the world kills us it will think it’s doing service to God. Think Saul/Paul. And all of the disciples except John were killed. Rome attempted to kill John by dipping him into a pot of boiling oil but he didn’t die and wasn’t injured according to early historical records. Maybe this is an example of the “greater things” we can do if we believe (John 14:12). So, instead they just shipped John off to an island. What else can you do to a man that you can’t kill?
Jesus goes on to tell us that He is soon leaving and that it’s best that He leave because upon His exit the Holy Spirit will come and the next stage of the game begins. Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it (John 3:17), but He says in vs.8-11 that when the Holy Spirit comes He will convict the world of sin and judge it.
In vs. 13-15, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will guide us into “all the truth”; “all” meaning nothing held back. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8) and the Holy Spirit will teach us all that we need to know. Jesus says that all that God has is His also and that He has authorized the Holy Spirit to give all of that to us. Now that is incomprehensible; just mind boggling! How could we ever get discouraged or worried? We have all that God has. Faith is the key to the treasure box (Matthew 21:22).
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Good news! If you love Jesus, then the world hates you.
It hated Him first and it will hate us also because of Him. Satan is ruler of this world (John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 4:4) but Jesus says in John 15:19 that we are not of this world because He chose us out of it. Thank you, Jesus! You chose me. Now that is great news! And because we aren’t of this world, we shouldn’t conform to it, but instead we should be transformed by renewing our minds to the perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). Jesus tells us later in John 16:33 that we will have troubles in the world but to take heart because He has overcome it. So we may have present troubles because we are living in a world ran by Satan, but ultimately we win because Jesus has won.
As a parent have you ever played a game with your toddler that you know in about 3 moves you could win but you let your child play for a while to have some fun? Then when you are ready to watch the football game again you put the hammer down and end it? That’s how it is in this world. Satan is enjoying his time to play but at some appointed time, Jesus will return and step on his head (Genesis 3:15) and it’s over.
Jesus finishes out the chapter by declaring that He has given the world a chance to believe in Him by the words He has spoken and the works He did. If they don’t choose to believe then it’s their own fault and are guilty of their sins. God chooses us, yet we must also choose Him. His desire is for all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), but out of His love for us, He has given us free will so that we can freely choose Him which demonstrates our love for Him in return. As Sting sang, “If you love someone set them free.”
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
One of my favorite passages. I used to have a license plate with “John 15” as my plate ID. I love the imagery of the vineyard and how Christians are the branches that must “abide” in Jesus, the “vine” as we are tended to by the “vinedresser” God. And as the branches, we must bear fruit, because that’s what branches do.
V.2 in the ESV states that “every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” (Emphasis added). This phrase is a subject of debate. Does “takes away” mean that the person has lost his salvation? I personally don’t believe that a person can lose his salvation and some scholars contend that this person who doesn’t bear fruit wasn’t really abiding in Jesus. They point to the traitor, Judas as an example. Jesus also said in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who called Him Lord would enter His Kingdom, but only those who do the will of the Father…which is to bear fruit. I’m not sure about this interpretation because Jesus states “every branch in me”, so how can a branch be in Him and not be a Christian? I understand that some people claim to be Christian, but aren’t, however Jesus says that these branches are in Him.
Other scholars who study the Greek and Hebrew claim that “takes away” should be interpreted as “lifts up” which also suits the context of this metaphor. Some branches that lie on the ground begin to mold and get covered up and can’t bear fruit, so He lifts them up, tends to them, cares for them until they are healthy enough to bear fruit again. I like this interpretation because it rings true to the God I know.
Circumstances and challenges can knock down even the best Christians at different seasons in their lives and they become unproductive for the Kingdom, but it’s nice to know that our Vinedresser will lift us up and tend to us with His infinite supply of mercy and grace.
Jesus also tells us that bearing fruit will not always be pleasant.
The remaining portion of v.2 states, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” That is why we are on this planet as Christians (other than to praise and worship God); to bear fruit…to love others, to save souls, to do good works and He wants us to be increasingly fruitful. To move from “glory to glory to glory.” We can’t rest on our laurels and past good deeds lest our fruit die on the vine. So now to the unpleasant part…
God will prune us.
Have you pruned a tree? If branches could feel, it would really hurt. Yet God said that He will prune us and it will be for our good. Flashback to many spankings…I never understood how my mom spanking me hurt her worse than me and how it was for my own good.
How does God prune us so that we can be more fruitful? I’ll let James answer that question. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:2-4.
I guess that’s what Mama meant…
Jesus tells us again in v.7, that we can ask whatever we wish and it will be done for us…if we abide in Him and His word abides in us. Jesus made this statement or one similar to it throughout the Gospels. He even repeated it in v.16. We should take Him up on it.
I also find encouragement in v.15. Jesus says, “…for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus isn’t keeping us in the dark about anything He knew and everything He wants us to know is in His Word. That’s why we need to read it and we’ll know everything He knew. I bet that He would have told us the date and time of His return if He knew it, but Matthew 24:35-37 says that He didn’t know.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Is it ironic that in the previous passage that Jesus tells his disciples (and us) three times to love one another and in almost his very next breath He tells Peter that he will deny Him three times? Jesus knows our tendencies. He knew that some of the same people who cried out to Him, “Hosanna!” in John 12:13 would later yell, “Crucify Him” in John 19:15.
He knows that we are often mastered by fear and our emotions instead of being led by love and loyalty.
One of my favorite verses is John 14:12 in which states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, drove out demons, walked on water and prepared the largest buffet lunch in history. He says that if we believe in Him that we will do greater things than these. That is POWER! And I think He expects us to exercise this power because He is with the Father now and His followers are to carry on with His ministry. Then in vs.13-14, He tells us that WHATEVER we ask in His name that He will do for us…ANYTHING in His name (He repeats “His name” because what we ask must not conflict with His nature).
V.31 says “Rise, let us go from here.” Many times we get to a place mentally, emotionally and spiritually that God never intended us to visit. We must “rise” and go from there. Return to Him.
Monday, November 28, 2011
John 12:44-John 13:20 (Sunday’s reading)
In the last few verses of John 12 Jesus establishes God’s authority. The nugget I extracted is in v.49 and the last part of v.50. Jesus says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (Emphasis added).
As followers of Jesus, we should follow the example of Jesus and keep our mouths shut unless we are certain that our words have God’s stamp of approval.
Or as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…take every thought captive to obey Christ…” So, when a thought comes to your mind, grab a hold of it, chain it up, pray about it and then release it if God gives you the green light. If not, cast it out of your mind. This approach is very helpful when:
Engaged in heated debate with your spouse or friend
Correcting or critiquing anyone…is it really necessary?
Hanging out with friends trying to be cool (silly, foolish words)
Tempted to gossip
Giving advice…were you asked for it? Are you getting paid for it? If the answers are no, then keeping it locked up and throwing away the key is usually the best advice for you.
Most importantly, we should read the Word to see what God has said about everything. This is a strong help in giving us wisdom as to what to say and not say.
Enough on that…
John 13:3 says, “that he had come from God and was going back to God” then Jesus proceeds to perform one of the most humbling acts a person can do…He washes the dirty, nasty feet of His disciples.
God in flesh washed feet.
I think it’s easier to be humble when you are confident of who you are and to whom you belong.
Pride is insecurity manifesting itself.
Jesus was confident, bold and strong. It didn’t bother Him to lower Himself. In fact, He said in Luke 14:11, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I also think some people read this passage about Jesus washing feet and combined with images of Him carrying a lamb and playing with little kids get an idea that He was timid and weak. That is so far from the Truth. If a mob of angry people carrying rocks was about to kill an adulteress would you risk your life by intervening and defend her? (John 7:53-8:11). If you knew that the government was about to beat you with a broken bone and glass laced whip 39 times pulling the skin off your body, drive 12” spikes in your feet and hands and stab you in the side would a sword, would you surrender to it willingly knowing that you are innocent? But Jesus knew why He was here and who He was.
We as Believers should know who we are and to Whom we belong and this knowledge should give us power, confidence, boldness and let’s not forget humility.
In John 3:21-30, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. John asked Jesus which one and Jesus responds, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” Then He gives the bread to Judas and once Judas takes it “Satan entered into him.” (v.27). It’s interesting to note that Satan had to wait on Jesus’ permission just as he had to do before trying to ruin Job’s life. As a Christ follower, Satan has to obey us also. James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Acts 16:18, “‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.”
The next time you are discouraged, feeling worthless and replaying your failures or inadequacies, tell the devil to get lost in Jesus’ name and he has to go!
Finally in vs. 34-35, Jesus tells us three times to love another. I guess if it was important it was worth threepeating. This is a great place for us to start learning what God has said.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Jesus confesses that His soul is troubled. God in flesh, holy, perfect, powerful and mighty was troubled. That should be encouragement to all of us who struggle at times. We shouldn’t feel guilty about these struggles or be surprised. Jumping ahead, Jesus said in John 16:33 that we would have troubles, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. In fact, He overcame the world through the very thing that troubled Him in John 12, the Cross. And just like Jesus who said in John 12:27-28, “But for this purpose I have come…Father, glorify your name,” we have to submit our lives, our struggles and troubles to God so that His name came be manifested and glorified through us.
V.40 from the prophet, Isaiah, is a strong warning to those who stubbornly and consistently continue to forsake God and not believe in him. Matthew Henry said, “God sometimes in righteous judgment gives men up to blindness of mind because they will not receive the truth in the love of it.”
V.43 is a truth that smacks many of us, even the most ardent Christ followers. “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” We often get addicted to the praise that comes from people. That’s fine when it’s flowing, but when it stops, we start tweaking. Then when the criticism comes, we crumble. We should be people who get our encouragement from God and are oblivious to the praise and criticism from others. Not oblivious in the sense that we don’t appreciate and thank them for kind words or accept the wisdom and correction that could come from their criticism. Emotionally unaffected might be the best way to say it. God created us, knows every hair on our head, every fiber in our being and He’s the only one qualified to shift us one degree emotionally. His encouragement and correction are pure, unbiased, honest, and without any impure motives.
Here are some bonus Scriptures to encourage you. Yes, they all include the word hope. It made it easier for me and ultimately that’s what I’m talking about anyway.
Psalm 71:5, “For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.”
Psalm 119:114, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
Psalm 42:11, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalm 39:7, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”
Psalm 37:9, “For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”
Psalm 33:20, “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.”
Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”
And yes, they are all Psalms. Who better to learn from than a murderer and adulterer? Yet God said that David was a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). If David could still turn to God for encouragement and hope, we certainly can.
Friday, November 25, 2011
An Abundant Life Comes By Being Abandoned to Jesus
Vs. 1-8, Jesus gets invited to the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus for dinner. A dinner party is a nice way for Mary and Martha to say thanks for bringing back their brother from the dead. But Mary overflowed with gratitude as she opened a jar of expensive perform, worth about a year’s wages and poured it on Jesus’ feet. Then she wiped His feet with her hair. Could there have been a more humbling, heartfelt way to thank and praise Jesus for what He did? She didn’t care about the expense and obviously didn’t care about what other’s thought as she performed this service in front of them. Our own outward expression of gratitude to Jesus shouldn’t be limited by what others may think of us.
They can’t save us, they can’t heal us, they can’t resurrect us. But Jesus can.
But you will have your critics. Mary did. The traitor, Judas, questioned her service. But as you will discover, his motives were not pure. As long as you are sure that yours are, don’t worry about others.
I’ve always been intrigued by v.8 when Jesus tells Judas, “For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” We can’t debate the fact that Jesus wants us to feed, care and clothe the poor. And we shouldn’t grow weary in doing good. (Galatians 6:9). I think Jesus may have been saying that He is and should be above all of our pursuits, no matter how worthy and noble they are. We may say that we are serving the poor out of devotion to Jesus and that may be true, but even the unsaved, unbelieving world gives and establishes charities to care for the poor. Our motives need to remain pure and kept in check so that our works don’t become more important than our worship of Him.
Oswald Chamber said, “Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain.”
In vs.9-11, the chief priests plot to kill Lazarus because many people are starting to believe in Jesus on account of that miracle. These religious leaders, these meticulous law abiding citizens were so scared that their system was in danger of being dismantled, that they planned to kill two innocent men. That’s just horrible isn’t it?
But what are we clinging to so tightly, so afraid it may get upended if we fully surrender to God, that it is in fact killing our relationship with Him?
Unforgiveness towards a spouse, a friend, a parent?
A relationship with someone who doesn’t honor God or you?
A relationship that doesn’t honor God?
An attitude? A prejudice?
Finally, in v.25, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it forever.” Another way to interpret this and it was what Jesus was teaching throughout this entire passage, an abundant life only comes to us by completely and wholeheartedly placing Him and His purposes first in our lives and unequivocally abandoning on own lives and plans. To take no care or thought as to spending an entire year’s wages to honor Him.
To be so utterly surrendered to Him, forsaking our own pride and esteem as to bow down and wash someone’s feet if He asked us to.
What we do for others, is what we do for Jesus. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Thursday, November 24, 2011 Thanksgiving Day
This is the well-known story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead; a great reminder that Jesus can heal dead things…relationships, attitudes, marriages, finances, businesses, etc.
The first verse that really grabs my attention is v.4, “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” I can speak with some authority as to validity of this Truth. Almost 15 years ago, Sandra was pregnant with our first child. At her first ultrasound, the doctor told her that our baby would die in the womb within 2 weeks due to cysts filling her chest cavity where lungs should be but were not. The next day a neonatal specialist confirmed this diagnosis and recommended that we abort.
We didn’t and that illness did not lead to death. It was for the glory of God so that Jesus could be glorified through it. Keely turned 14 in August. Praise God!
Vs. 5-6 are also interesting, yet strange. “5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus[a] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” This doesn’t look like love does it? When a loved one is on his death bed, wouldn’t you race to be by his side? Yet Jesus waited a couple of days.
Now we know that Jesus didn’t need to go to heal Lazarus. He could have healed him where He sat miles away. In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus healed a centurion’s servant from a distance and in John 4:46-54, Jesus healed an official’s son via long distance. But Jesus didn’t heal and He didn’t go. Why?
I think the answer is back in v. 4, “…It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” I think that Jesus wanted His loved ones to see the glory of God more than anything else. This is more important than anything in the world, even more important than the lives of our closest loved ones.
Would God get the greater glory by healing a sick man or by breathing life back into a man who has been dead for 4 days?
V.35 is one of the shortest verses in the Bible, yet one of the most intriguing. “Jesus wept.” Did He weep because Lazarus was dead? I heard a preacher say that Jesus didn’t weep because of Lazarus’ death because He knew that Lazarus was about to be raised. Jesus was saddened by the lack of faith and disbelief of His loved ones. They had seen Him perform many signs, miracles and wonders by this point, but still they chastised Him for not coming to heal an ill Lazarus. I’m not sure if this preacher’s interpretation is correct, but I do think our lack of faith does sadden God. He has rescued us countless times and we still worry when we get a bad doctor’s report or there’s more month left than money. “Your faith has healed you,” Jesus said in Mark 10:52.
Skipping down to vs.45-57, some of the Jews who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead went to the chief priests and Pharisees to tattletale. At this point, after Jesus, in front of many witnesses, raises to life a man 4 days dead and smelling bad, you would think that the Pharisees would submit and surrender and acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, they remain stubborn and selfish and become more convinced that they have to kill Him. Amazing!
Hopefully, after we have witnessed the work of God in our own lives, we won’t remain stubborn and selfish. Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s believe. If we continue to pursue our own plans as the Pharisees did, then we will miss seeing the glory of God manifest itself in our lives. (v.40).