Lord of Life

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There are lots of names in the Bible that are popular today, but not Lazarus. You know a Noah and an Elizabeth, but do you know a Lazarus? Probably not.

Lazarus is a name that is associated with life and death. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life at the peak of his ministry. Like all the other signs that Jesus did, this miracle was designed to reveal something about our Savior.

Jesus brought Lazarus back to life in front of three different groups of people. These groups all had there one question for Jesus. These questions help us understand this pivotal event.

Why would you risk your life? (John 11: 1-16)

Jesus had developed a close relationship with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. When Lazarus got sick, the sisters sent word for Jesus to come. This prominent family lived in the village of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem.

When Jesus announced his plans to go to Bethany, his disciples questioned him (v. 8). The Jewish establishment had tried to kill Jesus twice before he escaped to the other side of the Jordan River. The disciples knew that it would be very dangerous for Jesus (and them, v. 16) to go near Jerusalem.

The disciples were also confused about Lazarus’ condition. The message they received only said that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus said that Lazarus was sleeping, which didn’t warrant a life-threatening mission to Jerusalem.

Why did you wait so long? (John 11:17-27)

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha came out to meet Jesus and question him (v. 21). She knew that Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Heavenly Father, but why didn’t he come two days earlier to heal Lazarus.

Jesus revealed that he was more than a healer, he was and still is “the resurrection and the life.” Jesus claimed to have power over life and death and he would soon prove it.

Why didn’t he do something? (John 11: 28-46)

Mary also came out to speak to Jesus followed by a large group of mourners. Mary’s family must have been well known because a large number of people came from Jerusalem to comfort her and her sister after Lazaurus’ death.

Mary took Jesus to the tomb where they laid Lazarus and she wept along with the crowd of comforters. Jesus also wept, overcome with emotion and his disappointment with the brokenness of sin.

As the mourners watched Jesus they questioned him If was a miracle worker, why didn’t he perform a miracle for this man and this family who he clearly loved? If he could help, why didn’t he?

Jesus commanded that the stone be removed from the entrance to the tomb. Martha objected because at that point Lazarus was definitely dead and the smell would be overpowering. Jesus prayed out loud for the benefit of all three groups that were present – his disciples, Martha & Mary, and their comforters –   and called Lazarus out of the tomb. As he stumbled out into the light, they unwrapped him from his grave clothes.

Jesus answered these three questions by defeating death so that…

  1. So that you would love Him. 

    Jesus risked his life to save the life of a friend he loved very much. Will you love him in return? John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

  2. So that you would glorify Him. 

    Jesus waited to visit Lazarus so he could perform a greater miracle. Will you welcome and worship Jesus as God in the flesh? John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

  3. So that you would believe in Him. 

    Jesus’ entire earthly ministry was about one thing – getting people who need to be saved to believe that he was their Savior. Will you accept him or reject him? John 20:31 says, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

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A Trial for the Ages

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Every once in while a court case attracts so much interest and attention it is described as “the trial of the century.” Not only do these high profile cases render a verdict they also shaped our culture. The Scopes Trial in 1925 changed the way many people view the authority of the Bible. The trial of Charles Manson in 1970 made people rethink their basic assumptions about human nature. Even though he was acquitted on all charges, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999 redefined the American presidency.

As important as these trials are, there is one trial in human history that stands head and shoulder above the rest. The trial of Jesus Christ is a “trial for the ages.” While we usually go to the end of the Gospels to read about Christ’s trumped-up trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Apostle John helps us see that Jesus was on trial throughout his public ministry.

John 5:1-47 reads like the notes of a court reporter.  In verses 1-15, we find a description of the “crime” that Jesus committed. In verse 16-18, we see a list of the charges that were filed against Jesus by the Jewish leaders. In rest of the chapter (verses 19-47), we hear testimonies from the key witnesses that Jesus called to his defense.

Jesus is on trial in John 5 and you must decide for yourself if you think he is innocent or guilty. You cannot stay neutral or impartial about Jesus. Just like the various characters that interact with Jesus in John’s Gospel, you have to make a choice about Jesus. If He is guilty then He should be rejected as a fake and a fraud. But if Jesus is innocent then He should be received as your Savior and Lord.

THE CRIME (5:1-15).

Jesus went to Jerusalem for an unnamed feast. While there, Jesus met a man near the pool of Bethesda who had been unable to walk for 38 years. Sick people used to lay near the pool waiting for an angel to stir the waters. Whoever got into the water first after it was stirred was healed from their infirmity.

Jesus asked the man if the man wanted to be healed and then commanded him to get up, take his mat, and go. The mat wasn’t heavy, but it was proof positive that the man was really healed. While the man was carrying his mat he was questioned by the Jewish leaders about violating the Sabbath laws.

The man blamed the man who had healed him, but he said he didn’t know that man’s name. Later, Jesus met up with the man who was healed in the temple and revealed himself to the man. Jesus also urged the man to repent of his sins so that he would not suffer worse situation in the future.

THE CHARGES (5:16-18)

Up to that point, the Jewish leaders tolerated Jesus. When they learned that it was Jesus who healed the man, they began to persecute him outright. They persecuted Jesus for two reasons. One reason the Jewish persecuted Jesus was because He violated the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the basis for all the Jewish festivals. The laws that accompanied the Sabbath “rest” were so ingrained in Jewish society that the Jewish could not tolerate Jesus and rebellion.

Another reason why the Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus was that He made Himself out to be equal with God. The Jews had a very high view of God. They couldn’t see how a carpenter for Nazareth, or anyone for that matter, could be on equal footing with God. They viewed His claims and actions as blasphemy.

THE HEARING (5:19-47)

Jesus began His own defense with a confession, but not the kind of confession his opponents were looking for. Jesus confessed His complete dependence on the Heavenly Father (vv. 19-24). The Son only does what He sees His Heavenly Father doing. The Son loves the Heavenly Father because the Heavenly Father loves Him. The Heavenly Father gives the Son the authority to give life and judge all people as He also gives life and judges all people.

Jesus continued by calling four witnesses to his defense (vv. 33-47). Jesus told the Jewish leaders that John the Baptist, who they respected, told the truth about Him when John called Jesus “the Lamb of God.” Jesus also pointed to his teaching and miracles as proof that He came from God. Jesus challenged the unbelief around Him as a byproduct of not listening to the Word of God. Jesus also claimed that Scriptures all pointed towards Him as the Messiah.

John 5 is more than a story, it’s a description of the trial that happens every time someone comes in contact with Jesus Christ – its a trial for the ages. So what will you do with Jesus? Is He innocent or guilty as charged?

In John 1:11-12 we read, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

Save the Best for Last

daniel-christie-1137189-unsplash.jpgIn the first half of his Gospel, the Apostle John describes a series of signs that Jesus performed in order to show his true identity. These were more than just miracles, they were powerful acts done for a specific purpose: to show that the God of the Old Testament had come in all his glory. John is careful to only include signs that Jesus performed at or near Jewish festivals or institutions like the temple, a well, the Sabbath, and the Passover.

The first sign appears in John 2:1-12, where Jesus attended a Jewish wedding. Jesus showed the unsuspecting wedding guests and his disciples that God had saved the best for last. The first-century Jews believed in God and honored the Scriptures. They took time out for God at least once a week and observed the Sabbath. But God had something better for them.

Jesus attended a wedding on “the third day,” which is a clue that something special was about to happen. At some point in the celebration, the wine ran out. Jesus’ mother, Mary, had some sort of responsibility for the refreshments at the wedding feast so she asked Jesus for help. At first, Jesus seemed hesitant to help, stating that his “hour has not come yet.” Then Mary instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus asked them to do.

There were six stone water pots at the wedding, each with the capacity to hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. Clay pots were more common and affordable, but they could become “unclean,” so the Jews used stone pots for ceremonial washings. The Jews had a complex set of rituals and traditions when it came eating and preparing food (Mark 7:1-4).  They would not eat without washing their hands in a special way. This wasn’t about hygiene, but about proving their standing before God.

Jesus told the servants to fill the pots with water and take it to the head waiter. Somewhere between the water pot and the headwaiters’ lips, the water became wine. The head waiter was so impressed that he spoke to the bridegroom saying, “Most people serve the good wine first when people are most thirsty and can appreciate the high quality. But you’ve surprised us, you’ve saved the best for last.”

Contrary to popular opinion, this story is not about alcohol. The use of the stone washing pots and the words of the head waiter in verse 10 tell us the reason for Jesus’ first sign and the point of this story: Jesus as better than the religious rituals or traditions of the Jews. The coming of the Messiah was more important for God’s people than following a set of restrictive practices.

Like the ancient Jews, we have our own set of religious rituals and traditions that have a limited basis in Scripture and little bearing on our relationship with God. Unfortunately, like the Jews, we sometimes enjoy looking down on others because they do not follow our rituals or traditions. When we do we need to personalize this story – Jesus is better than our religious rituals or traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than what we wear to church, how many times we go to church, or how many times we “walk the aisle.” That doesn’t mean our rituals or traditions are worthless, it means they are a means to a greater end – faith in Jesus Christ.

Maybe you need to reevaluate your spiritual life in light of Gospel? Maybe you need to trust in Jesus, instead of some experience or practice? Maybe you need to follow Jesus and his leadership in your life. When you do, will know that God saved the best for last.

Photo by Daniel Christie on Unsplash