16.5 John – Would not

In these final verses of John 12 we get into some deep theological thoughts.  If faith is a gift, then does everyone receive the gift?  If God is in control of everything then why doesn’t everyone come to faith?  Doesn’t God want everyone in heaven and if He has the power to ordain that, then why would there be a hell?

Instead of going into the weeds of that discussion, I think a major answer to all of this is found in John 12:37 when it says that “some would not believe.”  Notice it does not say “did not believe”  or “could not believe”, it says they “would” not believe.  They started with the decision not to believe.  God, in love, gives them this choice and they choose not to believe.  Without choice, we would be robots or slaves.  For God to not honor our choice would be the same as if there were not to be a choice at all.

As we saw earlier in the week in the verse from Isaiah, the proper and logical response to coming into the presence of the holy perfect creator God is to immediately recognize the undoing within ourselves and to see our own sin.  Think about this in any other context, it would be sheer lunacy to come into the presence of such a supreme being and not recognize our own inadequacy.

But, coming face-to-face with God is not faith.  Faith is an unseen quality.  It is a step, not a push.

For those who “would not believe” to have been forced then to see, in full light, the works of Jesus and the full meaning of the actions of the Lord as the Son of God and Son of Man, would have been to force them to do something they had chosen not to do.  That would not be faith, but nor would it have been free will.  In grace, God allows their eyes to be blind and their hearts calloused to honor the choice they choose to make.

My Answers:

Some would not believe.  It isn’t that they could not believe, but they would not.  As a result of their “faith” decision, they were blinded to the full magnitude of the signs because no one could have looked fully at the signs and miracles and not seen that Jesus was the Son of God.  Some recognized the signs, but in fear or pride or for other reasons chose not to acknowledge what they were believing in their heart but, instead, wanting to hold on to old ways.  They will be judged @end

Isaiah sees the throne room of God and receives the same message that Jesus provides.  Because they refused to bend their hearts to the Lord, it has been turned calloused and they will be unable to see the signs that would result in them falling on their face in awe and wonder of the living God, just as Isaiah did.

I look for clues and hints of the belief of one I’m talking to and I’m more open and direct with fellow believers.  To those who have a calloused heart and closed mind, I do not press them but am respectful.  I don’t know that respect is the right response and if that is being kind to them or harmful to them.

16.4 John – Stewards and Lieutenants

I appreciate the question in today’s study about “lose your life”.  I completely get the reference to vs. 25 and I understand and am humbled by the teaching about this principle by Jesus and throughout the epistles.

I think, as sinful man, we, however, distort this whole “die to self” concept.  We take pride in the sacrifices we make.  We carry guilt that we aren’t sacrificing enough.  We almost make a show of it, if not to others in words at least to ourselves in our thoughts.

But I think the heart of this teaching is not to feel bad when God has entrusted us with things.  Jesus had been friends with Mary and Martha and Lazarus for a very long time and not once do we see Mary be in trouble for owning a bottle of perfume worth a year’s wages.   Nor was she burdened every day with trying to figure out who needed this more than she did.

Instead, I think the better translation of this would be to tie it to the principle of being a good steward or, if the title is more comfortable, a lieutenant, of ourselves.  We are to be trained up.  We are to be prayerful.  We are to be listening and taking care of ourselves physically and mentally.  We are to practice and build our talents.  We are to give thanks both for our blessings and our trials.  But, most importantly, we are to recognize that we do all of this not for ourselves, but to be at the ready for the command of our commander.

A lieutenant does not feel guilty for the troops under his authority.  He prepares them and builds them.  He doesn’t shun food or proper clothing or shelter or rest or work for them.  He recognizes the importance of investing in those in his ranks so that they can perform, at a moment’s notice, when the command comes from above to deploy.  He also does not jump ahead of those orders, sending them out so they are not at the ready when the true orders come.

In the same way, I think we are the lieutenant of ourselves, of our bodies, of our thoughts, of our resources and money and relationships and emotions.  But, we serve not for ourselves or our own glory but for that of our commander.  We don’t wear our name on our foreheads, but the name of Jesus Christ. That is giving up this life to a life of service and the promise of that is a better, greater, holier life for all eternity.

My Answers:

The time for Him to come to Jerusalem to die.  The time for Him to take on the sins of the world, die and then rise again

As a human He was human, but through His death He was the first born again.  The warning and promise was that he was going to, very soon, die, and be born again greater.  It was a promise to believers and a warning to the pharisees.

Believing fully in Christ in faith is an “all in” commitment.  We give up ourselves and control over our own life, to the extent that we offer to go where He leads even in harm, pain and possible death of this life, knowing we have eternal life with Him.

16.3 John – In the name of

What does it mean to come in the name of something or someone?  We experience this less today than people have in the past because of the flow and speed of communication.  Today, if a document requires a signature, it can be signed electronically or signed and faxed or over-nighted.  But at a time when transportation was measured in days and weeks instead of milliseconds, this was not the case.  A person of authority, having business or other affairs in different areas would send representatives to those houses or areas.  This representative was not there on their own behalf, but they represented their master or benefactor.  They were there not in their own name but in the name of someone else.

We still see this today in some instances.  In a wedding ceremony it will often be said, by the power vested in me by…  We see the same wording in inductions and sometimes in legal proceedings by a judge or lawyer, especially the attorney speaking for “the state” or “the people.”

But when Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, in the midst of palm branches and cheers, with shouts of praise and jubilation, riding on a donkey (not as one coming in as a conqueror but as a ruler in times of peace), He comes in His own name and the due title accompanying that name, Lord.  He is the promised one.  He is the perfect son of God and He is worthy of all praise.

Why don’t we recognize Jesus this way every day?  When we first believe, we recognize His majesty and we are humbled in His presence.  But, over time, we sometimes become almost too casual.  Yes, Jesus is our brother and friend, but He is also our Lord, our God.  It is right to have a personal relationship with Him, but if our approach to that relationship yields to failing to consider His title and authority, i.e., becoming inconsiderate, then we cross a line.  When we cross that line, we are the ones who lose.  Jesus doesn’t love us less, but we connect just a little less.  But what would it look like if we started each day in true praise and celebration?  What would our days look like if we started the day with a big loud Hosanna?  Would your day be better if it started with a praise song instead of a rush to look at email or facebook?

My Answers:

PS: “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, shouted at His entry with Hosanna
My house will be a house of prayer (but you have made it a den of vipers) = from the house of the Lord we bless you

ZE: King comes, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey

the whole crowd of disciples and those who had seen Jesus with Lazarus, some Greeks, the Pharisees, the Jews there for Passover, the sellers in the temple

With boldness, by following and praising Him, by leading to Him not away from Him by the way I live and teach

16.2 John – Greater/Lesser

As we read our lesson for today I was reminded of a verse from earlier in John, John 3:30 when John the Baptist said, in relation to Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Mary lived out these words as a disciple of Lord Jesus.  She assumed the role of servant to this man whom she loved and who had brought her brother back from 4 days in the grave with a single command.  She recognized Jesus greatness and honored it, she didn’t envy it.  She took probably the most valuable thing she had, a bottle of perfume that came from the root of a plant that only grows in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, and poured out the full contents of it on Jesus’ feet and cleaned them with her hair.  Pause for a moment and let’s think about this.  The full bottle of perfume was not required for this task.  A very little bit of perfume goes a very long way.  She easily could have honored the man Jesus with a gesture and a gift and still had months or years supply of perfume left.  But she poured out all that she had on Lord Jesus.  She wiped his feet with her hair, not because she wanted to coat her hair in the perfume, but because that was what happened when she prostrated herself at His feet, getting into as low of a position as possible to honor His greatness.

Judas, on the other hand, shows the exact opposite.  Instead of lowering himself in Jesus’ greatness, his view is on how to ride the Jesus train up to Judas’ own greatness.  He sees the act of Mary as a waste.  Not only does he monetize the gift, but he sees what it could have bought.  Good deeds for the poor done with sufficient self-promotion bring the honor and recognition of other, powerful people.  It buys goodwill in the community and it is totally in line with the teaching of the Pharisees.  His after the fact rebuke tears down Mary and sends a message to others.  It is not delivered as a brother or peer or co-disciple, it is delivered as from one in authority to a servant.

But, Jesus settles the dispute not by sending them to their corners or making them shake hands.  Instead, He rebukes Judas, as He would rebuke the devil (no coincidence there since it was likely the influence of Satan’s presence in Judas heart that caused him to suddenly speak so boldly).  He praises Mary, not for what she did, but for what had long ago been set into motion and ordained for her to do and then He elevates the conversation from the pettiness of Judas’ words to the announcement that Jesus would soon die.

Can you imagine the hush that must have fallen on the room at this point?  Mary still at Jesus’ feet.  Judas commanded into quiet.  The rest of the guests looking on with wide eyed expressions.  Jesus’ has spoken about death before, but this group that is still rejoicing about the resurrection of Lazarus would have been very alert to the words of death for the one who brought him back to life.

My Answers:

caring, generous, honoring of God, self-sacrificing.  She wasn’t prompted, she didn’t wait, she was bold and giving and gave from her heart.  I want to be generous without concern, not for others.

Jesus rebuked Judas.  Jesus also pointed out that this had be reserved for the day of His death to prepare Him for His burial.  It also revealed Judas heart – He was concerned about money, not honoring Jesus.  He saw it as waste and that the poor were more valuable than Jesus and that other people were more deserving of the perfume.

He rebuked and chastised Judas and recognized and honored Mary’s actions.  He explained that this had been ordained by God and saved for the time of His death.  It made it clear that it was time for Jesus to die and that He knew He would die.

15.5 John – There is always a “better” with God

In these verses in Chapter 11 we finally get to the heart of the Pharisees’ issue with Jesus.  They had been beaten down, forced into submission to the Roman government.  They had little control, little say and little hope.  In their eyes, things were either going to stay the same or get worse.  There was no third door.  If Jesus didn’t stop, wasn’t stopped, then things would only go from bad to worse.  It is a tale that had followed the people of God over and over again.  Remember the Hebrews after leaving bondage in Egypt.  Within days, they were grumbling and wanting to go back to the way things were before.  Restore the status quo.

This mindset can happen to us, too, today.  When we are beaten down by life’s events, by trials and tribulation and problems all around us, it is easy to begin to believe things either stay the same or get worse.  We lose hope in promises of improvement and we are not surprised when our leaders stand in the way of those who call for a different path.  With our head hanging low, we can only see a downward path.

But, with God, there is always a better.  Even when we can’t imagine what better looks like, God already knows and has it ready.  Even when we feel things are hopeless, God says, put your hope in me.  When all we see are attackers and battles, God says be not afraid.  When we cannot take another step, God sweeps us into His arms. When darkness closes in, His is the light of the world.

There is always a better.  That isn’t a wish or a dream, it is a fact.  When we can’t imagine what it might be, that is OK.  It isn’t our job to imagine it, it is our job to put our faith in Christ.  When we turn our eyes to the Lord, we look up.  Our focus is no longer on the valley, but on the mountaintop.  Our journey is not more of the same but a destination of holiness and purity and perfection and peace.

My Answers:

Many believed.  Others went and reported to the Pharisees who called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

What are we accomplishing.  He is performing many signs. If let him go on, everyone will believe in him, then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.

The status quo.  The temple. Themselves and their position and role in the temple. They saw only a worse, not a better.

14.You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.  As high priest he was, (probably) unknowingly to himself, prophesying of Jesus’ sacrificial death to take on the death of all to defeat sin and death that we may be redeemed.

15.4 John – Take off the grave clothes

Jesus gives three commands. 1. Take away the stone.  2. Lazarus, come out. 3. Take off the grave clothes and let him go.

There is a lot we could discuss about the fact that Jesus did not enter the tomb, he didn’t touch Lazarus, he didn’t give him medicine or a shock or anything else.  He simply commanded him to come out.

But the part that I think has an application to us are the grave clothes.  Lazarus was bound up.  His hands were bound, a cloth covered his face so he couldn’t see.  At this point, he was alive but he wasn’t free.  Jesus’ command to Lazarus and to us is not only to believe and live, but to be alive, free of the baggage of the tomb, and to go.

Our sins are forgiven when we turn them over to Christ, but many of us carry them around with us.  We are bound up by our past transgressions, by our sins, our failures, our faults.  The bind us and blind us.  But, when Jesus gives us new life, when we commit to Him, we are commanded to take off these grave clothes and go, to be let go.

Our grave clothes do not define us.  Lazarus death does not define him, Jesus’ love does.

Are you ready for some new clothes?  What binding is still holding you to the grave?

My Answers:

That people would see this was God and “that they may believe that you sent me.”

Lazarus, come out – Take off the grave clothes and let him go.

We are dead in sin, but Jesus has the power and authority to bring us out of that death into life.  The gift of spiritual life is greater than even the gift to Lazarus because Laz would physically die again, but his and our spiritual life is eternal.  We will be able to enter with God and the Spirit will move in us, we will be free and resurrected with Christ

j10: Thief comes only to steal and kill, come so they may have life to full – Jesus gives full life, filled w/spirit

j17: at cross – glorify son that may glorify you, authority over all people to give eternal life to all give Jesus

e2: We have all been dead in our transgressions, God in mercy made us alive in Christ even while dead

c3: raised in Christ, set eyes on the eternal.  Old life hidden in Christ.

1t4: For the Lord himself will come down and call the dead in Christ to rise first

15.3 John – X’s and O’s, a Foundation of Faith

Jesus comes on the scene to raise Lazarus from the dead.  So why is he doesn’t he get right to it?  Why is he engaging in these dialogues with Martha and Mary?  I think it shows a difference between our priorities and God’s priorities.  To us, the big thing is Lazarus’ life.  This is a big deal, a huge miracle, something that just doesn’t happen.  The guy has been dead for 4+ days.  It is one thing to resurrect someone who had a heart attack 30 seconds ago and another altogether for someone dead for over 4 days.  This isn’t a near death, this is dead dead.

But, to Jesus, Lazarus resurrection wasn’t the most important thing.  Jesus was going to raise Lazarus back to life, demonstrating His authority over life and death and His divinity.  But, later, Lazarus was going to die again.  The bigger thing, for Jesus, was faith, bringing it and building it in others. And the path of faith can be very different.

Martha is an X, straight line, connect the dots person.  Jesus meets her and asking questions, brings her along her path of increased faith.  Step by step, we see her grow.

Mary, on the other hand, is an O.  She is emotional.  She needs to wrap her arms around her faith, to feel it, to experience it.  She doesn’t walk her faith, she breathes it and wears it.  Jesus connects with her to build her faith where she is.  He is moved and compassionate and He moves to relieve and remove her distress.

When we think of God’s power and authority it is difficult to understand His desire to be compassionate and connect personally with each and every one of us.  As John says in 3:16, the reason Jesus came was because God loves the world.

Instead of prayers for God to take action, maybe we should pray for God to help us increase our faith.

My Answers:

1. “Lord if you had been here”, she had faith that Jesus could have healed Laz
2. “I know he will rise in resurrection” she had faith in everlasting life
3. “I believe you are the Messiah, Son of God” she knew and believed in Jesus’ diety
4. she went and called Mary to come to Jesus, too

These words explain the gift of eternal life.  Even though a believer experiences a physical death, they still will live and those who believe live even through death (i.e., they stay themselves in a new body, not just a metaphor that our elements rejoin the universe or that we are reincarnated into something/someone else).

He loves Mary, Martha and he felt for them and their grief.  He is a compassionate, loving and caring God.