Friday, June 28, 2013

All Glory to God (John 11:38-44)

Today's scripture: John 11:38-44

We reach the end of our story with Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead, and we read so much about how Jesus works.

First, Jesus was "deeply moved." Jesus loves people. He loves us. He loved His friend and He grieved with Lazarus' sisters because He knew they were in pain at the loss of their brother. Jesus raised Lazarus just because He loved His friends so much.

Second, He raised Lazarus from the dead not only because He loved his friends, but also because He knew mankind sometimes needs to have tangible proof. We sometimes need to see a miracle.

Finally—and most importantly—Jesus raised Lazarus because He wanted to point those around Him to the Father to give Him all the glory. No matter what happens, our eyes should look to God. He deserves all glory, honor, and praise.

We have to remember: It's not about us. It's not about the miracles. It's not about healing. It's about God. It's about His will, His plan, His purpose. We may not always understand everything, but we can trust Him.

And even when the healing doesn't happen, we can give Him glory. Just as Job said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:21).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jesus' Love and Compassion (John 11:17-37)

Today's scripture: John 11:17-37

We continue with the familiar story of Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead, and we see Jesus' love and compassion. We also see a wonderful example of trust even through the most painful of circumstances.

I love how the Bible depicts scenes of Jesus interacting with women. Many say the Bible—and therefore Christianity—is anti-women. Perhaps that's true in the Old Testament although many strong women are depicted, such as Sarah, Ruth, and Deborah. Certainly by the time Jesus came to earth, women were treated as second-class. However, Jesus' message was one of equality in the eyes of the Father. And He demonstrated this with how He compassionately and lovingly dealt with women.

Today's verses offer another glimpse into this side of Jesus. When Martha came to greet Him, she was understandably distraught. Her brother had died, and Jesus wasn't there to heal Him. She'd seen Jesus heal others; why hadn't He healed her brother? Jesus didn't rebuke her or immediately begin a sermon. He just promised her Lazarus would live again. Then when He met with Mary, He felt so much compassion for her pain, He wept. Even though He already knew the outcome, He grieved with this woman whom He loved.

Jesus already knows the end of each of our stories. He already knows who will be healed on earth, who will have the joy of going to heaven. He knows what jobs we'll have, where we'll live, what we'll do. Yet, He knows our humanity and our lack of understanding. So He grieves when we do. He loves us through our moments of doubt, and He gently reminds us of whom He is.

Just as He did with Martha and Mary.

These verses also illustrate faith and trust even when one doesn't understand. Martha often gets a bad rap. We're all familiar with the story of when Jesus came to visit. Martha's running around trying to prepare the meal; Mary's sitting at Jesus' feet. "Make Mary come and help," Martha cries. Jesus responds, "Martha, you're worrying about things that don't really matter. Mary has chosen to learn of things that have eternal value." (See Luke 10:38-42.)

Study upon study seems to tell us we should be Marys instead of Marthas. Yet, in today's passage, Martha seems to be the more trusting of the sisters. She had clearly listened to Jesus' teaching. She knew about the "resurrection on the last day." She knew those who followed Jesus would live again. Jesus said some key words to the Christian faith: "
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." He then asked a critical question: "Do you believe this?” Martha answered rightly, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

Her dearly loved brother had died. She was in pain. But even in that pain, she trusted that Jesus was exactly who He said He was.

We'll all experience pain in some way. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we believe in Jesus in spite of the pain. Will we be like Martha? Or will we turn away. Jesus often works in a way contrary to our wants, but we can always trust Him. No matter the circumstance.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jesus' Divinity. Man's Humanity (John 11:1-16)

Today's scripture: John 11:1-16

We're going to spend the next three days focusing on a story that is probably very familiar. Each section of the story illustrates an aspect of who Jesus is ... and who we are.

Today's verses focus on Jesus' divinity and on man's humanity.

Jesus was fully man, yet fully God. While this is a mystery to us, it actually makes sense. If Jesus is God—and He is—He can do and be anything He chooses. So often, He proved His divinity by working miracles that people could see: healing, walking on water, raising people from the dead. Every so often, He did so very subtly.

In the familiar story of Lazarus, Jesus did the latter by knowing what was happening with Lazarus without being told. The only thing Jesus was told was that His friend was sick. Because He didn't rush—and because He said Lazarus was "asleep"—His disciples assumed Lazarus would be fine.

Jesus demonstrated His divinity when He knew that Lazarus was dead without being told.

These verses also illustrate man's humanity. Even after following Jesus for a significant period of time and watching Him prove His divinity time and time again, they still demonstrated their humanity when they fretted about Jesus' wanting to return to Judea. He'd left when the Pharisees and company wanted to "seize" Him. His disciples worried they'd return, and Jesus would be stoned. And they might be too. Note Thomas' words: “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

The disciples knew Jesus had divine attributes. He could do anything, yet they didn't believe He could save Himself—and them.

Jesus still proves His divinity with modern-day miracles and changed lives. We still show our humanity when we doubt Him even after seeing His work.

Just as Jesus had patience with and compassion for His disciples' lack of faith, so He has patience with and compassion for us. We'll see this as we meditate on the rest of the story over the next two days.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Believe in What You Hear (John 10:40-42)

Today's scripture: John 10:40-42

After several days of walking through the desert of the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus, today's verses offer the respite of the cool spring of truth.

Jesus returned to the Jordan, the place where John had baptized Him, the place where the Father had affirmed Him as Son (see Matthew 3:16-17). I imagine this to be a time of reconnection for Jesus. He'd just spend hours affirming His divinity to the hard-hearted Pharisees, yet they continued to deny His claim. In fact, yesterday's verses ended with their "seeking again to seize Him."

So, having "eluded their grasp," Jesus now had some quiet moments to remember God's voice of affirmation. Perhaps He spent time in prayer. Perhaps He merely sat and listened to His Father's voice. As He stayed "beyond the Jordan," performing no miracles—or at least none about which we're told—He had significant impact. Unlike the closed-eared Pharisees, we're told, "Many came to Him ... saying ... 'everything John said about the man was true.'"

They "believed in Him there," not because of what they'd seen, but because of what they'd heard.

This has great impact for us today. We don't see Jesus with our eyes or touch Him with our hands. We may never even see a miracle. But because of what we hear of Him, because of the evidence, we can believe that "everything ... about the man [is] true."

The scriptures affirm Him. Extra-biblical sources acknowledge Him. Changed lives point to Him.

He was—and is—God the Son, part of the triune God. He is Savior, Redeemer, Shepherd, and Friend. We can trust Him. We can believe in Him. We can commit our lives to Him.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jesus' Works (John 10:31-39)

Today's scripture: John 10:31-39

Most people don't like to hear things that don't align with their own beliefs. That's human nature, I guess. The Pharisees didn't like that Jesus claimed to be God. It went against their belief that the Messiah would be a warrior, saving them from their oppressors. They, according to that belief, accused Him of blaspheming.

We need to give them a break, initially at least. Think about it. You've been raised to believe a particular "truth." You believe it with all your heart. Then someone comes and refutes everything you've believed to be true. You, too, might make such an accusation.

However, if the refutation offers proof of its veracity, then you might (hopefully) begin to change your beliefs. That's where the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders failed. They didn't let the proof of Jesus' miracles and teachings—that they observed with their own eyes—change their long-held beliefs.

Jesus offered abundant proof of His divinity. We've seen that over and over again as we've studied John's gospel. As one commentator wrote about today's verses:

The works of his Father are those which God only can do. As Jesus did them, it shows that the name “Son of God,” implying equality with God, was properly applied to him. This shows conclusively that he meant to be understood as claiming to be equal with God [v. 37]. [We can therefore] believe the works. [Jesus was saying,] "Though you do not credit me, yet consider my works, for they prove that I came from God. No one could do them unless he was sent of God" [v. 38]. [In verse 39, Jesus' saying that the Father was in Him] denotes a most intimate union—such as can exist in no other case. (Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible)
And as I wrote the other day, we can still see this proof of Jesus' work. One of my online students affirmed this just today as he wrote of a miracle that happened when he was a child. He'd been hit by a car, and initially, the x-rays showed extensive internal injuries. Yet, after a showering of prayer, subsequent x-rays showed no damage. None. A modern-day miracle.

If we observe what Jesus continues to do as He changes lives, we can believe His works. And we can believe His words.