The Spirit and the Spectacle–John 12 Final

Once Jesus raised Lazarus, the entire mission changed.  For the Jewish leadership  Jesus was no longer an annoyance, but a genuine threat.  For the disciples, it was like the early days—big crowds lots of fanfare and they were able to bask in the glory of following Jesus.  For Jesus, this was the final preparation for the real mission.  The crowds were pleasant, but, he knew short lived, Lazarus was alive, but now in danger. He was focused upon following the plan and finishing well.

Clearly the spirit was moving and many were following Jesus.  The question was why? Were they chasing a rock star or submitting to their savior. The Jewish leadership was sure it was the former, not the latter.  They were unable to discredit him so they had to eliminate him. They, should have been the ones clambering to follow him.  They had tried for years to show him as a fake—but could not.  They should have grasped the enormity of the coming of the Messiah—but they didn’t.

Still today, after thousands of years of proof, lives changed, nations rising and falling—still we look at the spectacle and fail to follow as the spirit leads.  There simply is no other way to experience peace and freedom apart from following Jesus. In our time, people are literally trying anything to gain the peace and freedom only Christ can provide. As the world literally comes apart at the seams, Christ still stands arms open wide—ready to receive all that are willing to follow him.  He says—forget the spectacle, I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except by me!

God Bless You

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna![d]

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;     see, your king is coming,     seated on a donkey’s colt.”[f]

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

You Will Always Have the Poor–John 12 Part 1

Priorities–even during the course of Jesus ministry, the disciples watched as Jesus constantly weighed the importance of priorities. As Jesus was being anointed by Mary, most of the disciples watched without making a judgment. Judas, however, was quick to minimize the importance of the event as compared to the value of the money spent. 

Jesus is quick to help the disciples, not Judas, understand that walking with him was even more important than assisting those in need. As he said, “You will always have the poor among you.” Each day Jesus met more sick, more poor, more hungry–with no end in sight. Still, Jesus never lost his vision for what was important. 

In today’s ministry world, we are faced with the same dilemma. Whether a professional minister or a lay person ministering as a volunteer, one has to constantly evaluate ministry from a strategic perspective as well as from a personal perspective.  Jesus cared for the sick, the hungry, and the poor until his arrest. Jesus sought to save the world until his final ascension. We can never stop helping those in need, but, we must never stop drawing men into a personal relationship with our Lord.

 If it is true, that we will always have the poor among us, then we must serve the poor and serve our Lord with equal vigor. Our ultimate goal, however, must be bringing glory to God.

God Bless You

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.

You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Right Prophecy, Wrong Perspective–John 11 Final

As high priest, Caiaphas made a prophecy that few discuss.  Ciaiphas was Jesus sworn enemy and part of the religious elite that wanted him discredited, dead and gone. In his role, he saw Jesus as a menace to Israel and a threat to their ongoing lives under Roman rule. Yet, with the animosity and bitterness he felt for Jesus, he spoke this prophecy, “Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”

 Ciaiphas was so right, but, he had no idea that his very plots and acts would bring about the prophecy. His perspective was that Jesus was a menace, not a Messiah. His acts and plots were to destroy an enemy not to assist in the implementation of God’s plan.  Still, even after making the right prediction, he rejected the one man that could change his world.

 Simply knowing the truth, does not save us.  It says in James 2– that even the demons know Jesus is God and it scares them to death.  In order to enjoy the eternal life Jesus provides, one not only needs to know the truth, but he needs to believe Jesus is lord and follow him. That was a step the Jewish leadership were unwilling to take—even to the extent they were willing to kill our Lord. 

 We also need to do more than know the truth, we need to submit to the truth and allow his truth to set us free! That is simply trusting Jesus to walk with us and transform us into the free people that he wants to follow him—Thank You Lord for this amazing gift and this amazing journey!

God Bless You

 

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Lazarus Come Forth–John 11 Continued

Probably, the most awesome characteristic of our Lord is his ability to take the impossible and change it to the incontrovertible. In the midst of the confusion, the grief and the utter hopelessness of the death of Lazarus, Jesus utters three words that make his claims incontrovertible—Lazarus Come Forth!

 The timing could not have been more perfect—the Jews that had questioned his claims for years–looked at him with a mixture of disbelief and pity.  His disciples stood in awe and silence–both doubting and hoping that his confidence had not exceeded his abilities.  Mary and Martha were grieving and fearing not only the loss of their brother; but also their faith. Jesus was resolute and resigned that the next minutes would start a new chapter in his friends’ lives and open the last chapter of his ministry on earth.

Lazarus came forth and was restored to life—no question.  Four days dead and now completely restored. His critics stood silent, his disciples jubilant and his friends in shock, enraptured and now ever sure he is the Messiah.

God remains the master of the miraculous.  If any of us would simply sit down and list the prayers we have personally seen answered, we would have to admit his deity and power are incontrovertible. The enemy, however continuously deflects and distracts us—his goal is to change our focus back to ourselves and see our circumstances as impossible.  When we live there, I am sure Jesus sees our pain.  Then, as with Mary, I am sure he weeps with us in our grief—not because he is powerless to help, but, because he hates to see us hurt.  But, the joyful message is—God is God and we are not!!! His Power, His Authority and His Plan are each and all incontrovertible!

 God Bless You

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

I am the Resurrection–John 11 Continued

Time and again, God demonstrates that it is not the size of the miracle that matters, it is the size of our God. When Jesus arrived to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days.  What that means in burial speak is–that decomposition had begun in earnest and the thought of some lingering illness was over—the inhabitant was dead and gone.

Jesus arrived and Martha the dutiful sister, met him, comforted him and even encouraged him regarding her faith. While her life was shaken, clearly her faith was not. She did not doubt his deity or authenticity, she was a bit unsure about his ability to restore her brother—but she still believed he was the Messiah, so maybe…That is faith in the Lord.  We may not understand fully what the plan is, but we trust the maker and executor of the plan.  Martha did not have to know whether Jesus was going to raise Lazarus, she simply needed to believe he could. 

In our lives, we have our own Lazarus type issues. We see no way even for God to fix them.  But if we, like Martha, still believe that God is big enough to do what he chooses, then we can be at peace and amazed at the level of power he truly wields. Four days dead, marriage over, unsaved family member and financial upheaval are all well within his ability to resolve. We, like Martha, must not focus on the hopelessness of our problem, but on the greatness of our God!

God Bless You

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

Our Friend is Dead–John 11 Part 1

Lazarus’ death was a turning point for Jesus ministry.  He was quickly coming to the end of his time on earth and had to establish once and for all the purpose and validity of his ministry.  As seen with other cases, he could have simply sent Mary and Martha back to Bethany to find their brother perfectly healthy He had done it with lepers, centurions and Jewish religious leaders.  But, he knew this miracle was to be the one to end discussion among the disciples and believers on whether what he claimed was actual truth.  So, Jesus painfully and peacefully waited for the time to be right.

The harsh reality of God’s plan is that only he knows the entire story.  Things that seem senseless to us often make possible much greater accomplishments, simply because they have been allowed to happen as they should.  It is important to note in these verses the reaction of the ones involved.  On that note, remember that the Jewish religious leadership would see the same miracle as the rest, but their reaction would be notably different.  Those who reject God’s message—well no number of miracles and confirmations will ever be sufficient to change their hardened heart. 

The Spirit moves in those that would set aside their self absorption and independence to follow Christ–as he is and has always been.  We who are in that number long for his freedom and redemption more than for control of our own destiny.  It has been and is a matter of simple submission –to his leadership, as well as faith in his deity and love for us.  Thanks Lord for leading me on this Amazing Journey

God Bless You

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Eternal Security–John 10 Final

It would have been so much easier to simply not have discussions with the religious leaders.  They were trying to trap Jesus at every turn.  He neither avoided the conflict nor couched his statements.  He answered plain questions with straight answers. Still, in the midst of the banter, Jesus showed the rest of the crowd and us the character of God. 

Jesus spoke to the leaders about his relationship with the Father, but, more importantly, he reminded us of the security we have in Christ.  He told them three things of note–1.I know my sheep, 2. they will not be taken from me and more importantly, 3. they will not be taken from my father. 

The idea of eternal security was novel and drove the religious leaders even more crazy.  But for those that believed, they had a God that wanted them to know they were safe in his hands,

Today, we have to trust in that same security.  We can rest safely in his arms and know that he not only protects and provides for us here; but he has a place prepared for us in heaven for all eternity. As our shepherd, we are safe and can follow him with confidence, knowing that he has us safely in his care.

God Bless You

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

A Difference Between Owners and Hired Hands–John 10 Continued

It is simply inevitable, employees act differently than owners.  It is not an issue of being good or bad, but without ownership interest, there is little reason to risk life and limb to protect the possessions of others.  In the parable, Jesus distinguishes the shepherd from the hired hands by the shepherds willingness to protect and to sacrifice for his sheep.  The Shepherd knows his sheep, cares for his sheep and protects them with his very life.  Hired hands do what they are obligated to do, and NO more.

The religious world was the same way.  The leaders were like the hired help, they did what the law required and no more.  They were proud of it and loved to show that off.  There was little or no concern for the people, only for the rules.  It drove Jesus crazy.

He was the owner.  He created and now was trying to reconnect to the world sin had separated from him. He was picturing for the people what God was really like and describing the measures God was taking to save them from that eternal separation.

He is still doing the same today.  He is not the hired hand that turns at the first sight of trouble in our lives.  He is the shepherd that knows us and will protect us to the death.  We  simply have to trust and follow him.  What an awesome gift…What an Awesome God!!!

God Bless You

 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

We Are the Sheep–John 10 Part 1

sheephomeSheep are interesting animals. As creatures, they are not very self sufficient.  They tend to follow their shepherds and when separated make a horrible mess of things.  When one looks at sheep, he has to see that they are valuable for their wool and for the meat they provide–but they are difficult to manage and require close supervision.

In the spiritual world, people are the same.  While we think we are all that, truth is, people are not that bright. We have thousands of years of historical truth to show us that certain behaviors produce certain results.  Still, like sheep, we wander away from the freedom God offers–into a world  full of briars and predators.

The great news is that if we follow Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, he will safely lead us through the briars and predators of this life. He knows the world wants to attack, destroy and use us up for its personal pleasure–BUT, he came that we could actually have life and have it be full and meaningful–abundant.  His call is unmistakable.  His voice is clear and kind.  Like sheep, we simply need to recognize that voice and follow.  He will do the rest!!!!

God Bless You

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Spiritually Blind–John 9 Final

The blind man in the story had suffered his entire life depending on the kindness of others to live.  Now Jesus had granted him his sight and with it the opportunity to make a life for himself.  Within the day, however, the religious elite had thrown him out of the Synagogue.  In our culture, that would have been the same as being banished from the community. Jesus met the man where he was and confronted his spiritual condition as well.  He asked him if he would believe in the Messiah—and he did. 

The spiritual leaders used that moment to make light of there own condition—“What, are we blind too?? Hahaha” Jesus, as honestly and kindly as he could—laid out the truth…”If you were blind you would have an excuse—but you know the truth—That is what makes you guilty.” Those that knew God and his power, plan and purpose—they were the enemy!

In our lives, we are faced with living for Christ, daily.  Sometimes it can be a challenge.  But, to claim we do not know different, well that would be a sad lie.  We know faith is our answer and following him leads to a life of freedom.  So, when we move to be independent of him, then we are all the more guilty because we know the freedom in following him.  There is no going back.  When we commit to following Christ, then it is a life choice that we can not undo—But who wants to!!!

God Bless You

 

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said,[a] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.