John 11 Going With Jesus

Those who are in the midst of suffering do not know that how it relates to God.

  • Is it possible that a trial I am going through is for the glory of God?

Persevere for His sake, for I do not know the ‘why’ of the trial, but I do know the ‘Who’ that walks with me through it all.

Jesus uses a euphemism as He goes to awaken Lazarus from the ‘sleep’ of death. God, through Jesus, awakens us from the sleep of death.

There is a specific and genuine threat (for Jesus and his disciples returning to Jerusalem) that is held in stark contrast to God being glorified. Jesus speaks to it with these words.

“Are there not 12 hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

dscn5440.jpgWe are to walk in the light of day, with Jesus, so we do not stumble. Going with Jesus is always light. Without Him is darkness. How shall we choose? Jesus disciples chose to follow the Light into what they expected to be death.

If I am not walking with You, Jesus,  I will be walking in darkness no matter the time of day, for You Lord are The Light of this world. With you there is no darkness, for in You is the source of truth and light. Jesus is The Light of the world.  My life is hidden in Him, in His Light.  Strengthen me, remind me, carry me, that I never walk away or sit down in place when you are moving forward Lord!

John 11 Sickness and Death

Do I understand which Mary this is? Who are Jesus’  good family friends? Mary, the one who anointed the feet of Jesus with her hair. She anointed Him for his death with the most valuable perfume for a body of that time, one specially used in burial.   According to Luke 7:38-50, the woman is an immoral woman, a prostitute. Or was, before Jesus. He forgave her her sins, which were many. This is the Mary who was restored whole to her family, her brother Lazarus, her sister Martha. Forgiven much, loved much. Her ministering love toward Jesus preceded her forgiveness from Jesus. Now, in John 11, she trusts and turns to Jesus, in her great sorrow and with this great faith she trusts Him in this also. Jesus will use this moment to openly and publicly  confront death head on and give great glory to God, His Father.DSCN4780

Jesus was close friends with this entire family. Jesus loved them so much He trusted them as He worked through what was to happen next- a sickness, for the glory of The Lord.

When sickness comes, when death is at the door and has entered the rooms of my life, will I trust in His love for me? Will I allow Him to be glorified in this death and sickness? They did not understand the Lords purpose and were hurt and angry that He did not answer their prayer, their request for Him to come and fix it the way they wanted it fixed. Yet even with and through their lack of understanding, God was glorified. Lazarus arose, death did not prevail but the author of life did.

Let me remember that life wins in the end – regardless of my hurt. Jesus prevailed and still does. It may not be to my expectations and desires, but it will glorify Him.

I am trusting You, again, today Lord.

John 11 The Threshold of Belief

If I think of this next scene as a play, there would be a lot of underlying emotions the actors would have to portray. In this scene all the stakes are drastically raised. We have a brief respite from the previous scene where Jews attempt to stone Jesus because they have been challenged for their unbelief. The scene opens in the safety of a place beyond the Jordan where many came to faith.

Jesus, the good shepherd, will not suffer the loss of even one lamb. So upon the news of Lazarus’ sickness, He prepares for His next big sign. This coming sign will bring many more across the threshold of belief. We know the story, but at this moment in the story the disciples do not. What they know is that: sickness can pass, Jesus is not in a hurry and to go to Jerusalem now is to face a mob who will certainly attempt to stone Jesus to death again, thus a risk to themselves.

Why go there? Jesus does not hurry, two days pass and Jesus says time to go.  He says that now? That makes no sense. If Jesus was going to help Lazarus, He should have gone right away? Why go now? “He is sleeping.”  Well let’s raise those stakes of confusion!  Surely the disciples are thinking they should let him sleep! He will wake refreshed! Right? Wrong.

Jesus makes Himself clear. “Lazarus has died.” 2014-12-26 16.13.24Now He must go. As if this made any more sense to them now. Rather what is the point?   Death has done its deed. Too late. Death also awaits Jesus if He goes into that hateful environment.  It is going through their minds that it awaits them also if they go along with him.  Jesus responds with something and we do not get any indication that they understood, only that the group agreed to go with Jesus under the assumption that it would mean their own death as well.

Now that is a character study.  Not only in what did He say to them, but how did He say it that it created such a powerful reaction.  If you ever act this in a play, you had better dig deep into this very strong contrast.

They will go. They expect death; and they trust Jesus.

  • Do I follow with this heart for Jesus?
  • When I do not comprehend, will I follow anyway trusting in the character and love of the good shepherd?
  • Lord, I do not know how much time is left for me or anyone I know, anyone I love.  I do not know what tomorrow will bring.  Yet I can know You and You have revealed You nature and Your character.  YOU are trustworthy.  Let me use my time wisely and follow You wholeheartedly.

John 10 Think Time

  • Am I struggling myself at times?

Look to what God has done in my own life, and in the lives of those around me and take heart. Believe.

  • Am I longing for another to accept Christ as God?

Tell them of His works. Show the works of God in their lives, in my life and in scripture. Focus attention on the works. They will testify.

clouds.2016-06-10 08.30.48Expect to be misunderstood, as Jesus was. Once more they sought to take hold of Him, but it was not time. He was un-graspable. Jesus left them with those words to contemplate. He left them with time to think before He would return again to the area.

  • Do I give others time to think?

Many came to Jesus because they contemplated these works. Jesus confronted a mob with truth and with their own law. As the book title says, Evidence Demands a Verdict. (Josh McDowell) Jesus receives the new believers and Jesus is about to provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lord, help me to speak words of conviction to seekers of truth who long to act rightly under the law. Let me point out the evidence clearly and let me honor the time needed by each to think and examine the evidence.

John 10 Evidence or Think Before You Throw

Jesus loves these stone holding Jews so much that He will not allow them to have muddled memories or confusion about their action. Exactly why are they doing this? No longer are they able to act as a mob, they must each one of them, think before they throw. They will be held individually accountable.DSCN0697

As a mob they heard ‘I have told you and you do not believe’. And they have heard ‘the works that I do, in my Fathers name, these bear witness of me’. So they have two witnesses. Yet they refuse. Now, when they hear the words plainly, ‘I and My Father are one’, they hear truth and they refuse it and pick up the stones. The gun is cocked and loaded. The threat is imminent.

Jesus makes them think. Which action of Jesus, which deed of His has earned this reflex action? They will not stone Him for a deed but for His words. They must admit that they see Him as only a man. Now Jesus responds by pointing out their own law to them.

Law binds men with consequences for men’s actions. Law sits behind every justification of actions. Scriptural law cannot be broken- it holds these men firmly. The reference is from Psalm 82:6 a psalm of Asaph. “I said you are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High”. Is this a prophetic psalm? It starts “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers”. It seems that this is exactly what is happening as Jesus stands there, in the temple, before the Jewish rulers, plainly declaring Himself.

CaseForChristJesus understands how hard it is for them to accept Him. They cannot see themselves as gods, as sons of God, as being made in His image but they see themselves as sons of man, of Abraham. Does Jesus abandon them to their tradition?  No.  Instead He redirects their thoughts to thinking about the other witness, the works themselves. This is how we overcome our lack of understanding. Look at the works of Jesus, at the works of God. The evidence is all there.

John 10 Jesus Walks and Teaches

In these next verses, we have a new time now, another incident that John has chosen to build his list of signs. We are told the specific feast and time of year. To theatre folk theses are key words of significance that set place and mood: 2016-02-10-11-39-26.jpgwinter; that time of year when life is dormant; when we wait; when days are short. Darkness has more presence and life feels hidden away. Hope must carry us through, and trials weigh us down and threaten to pull us under. Jesus is there. Walking in the temple portico. Available. Ready. Alert. And He teaches the same message. The people who listened before are still struggling with His words. Still confused. Eternal life sits dormant in them waiting for the seed to surrender its coat and respond to the warmth of the author of life, break through the hard shell of unbelief and crack through the soil of sin into the light of eternal day. So Jesus walks and teaches. He calls His sheep who shall hear His voice and thus obey. They shall never perish. No winter, no storm, no threat from this earth, no self doubt, no thief, can remove His sheep from His grasp. Because we are His, we cannot be removed from Him. When we belong to Him, no one can steal us.

Brittle BrushFor this truth, this declaration of ultimate power and authority, this identification with The Lord of Life and clear declaration, “I and the Father are one”.  This is heard as “of one essence, one and the same” so for this, the ‘sheep who do not belong’, the ‘thieves’, those Jesus has just taught about, pick up stones and are ready to kill Jesus. Why?  because if Jesus is a liar, that is the right thing to do by Mosaic law.

 

John 10 Truth Divides

DSCN4445Four times Jesus declares I lay down My life for the sheep.   How much does our shepherd love us? Let there be no doubt. He lays it down for those who were listening, for those who were Jews, for those from other flocks, the nations, for those yet to be born. The word is ‘lay down’. That means fully in control not taken away by another. Jesus chooses to give His life up. The author of life, made the choice to let go of the life in His human body so that we could follow Him through death into life. Read that again, slowly, phrase by phrase. It’s the whole truth. Jesus clearly lets the listeners know that it is on His own initiative, under His own authority and as a commandment from His Father, that He shall die and rise again. All this in the temple with the Pharisees who preached resurrection, and with those who were hearing Him teach.

Result? Division. Because they understood what Jesus was saying.  Just like when a shepherd calls for His sheep, the flock will divide into those who belong to the shepherd and those who do not. I imagine there is much bleating as they push and shove and are bumped around. “That’s my call! My shepherd, let me pass, time to go, hey you, do I know you? Are you in my way? Are you in this flock?” Ya da ya da ya da. Sounds like common church comparison noises.

Yet it is a fun comparison. We get to ask the question about if someone IS in this flock, and do they want to join our flock by an introduction to the shepherd!

  • How hungry am I?
  • How eager and ready to go?
  • Do I share in the waiting time about the good shepherd who gave His life for all that we may not die?
  • We were all born into this life of looming death. Who will follow Jesus as their shepherd to be born into life where death has no existence?

How do crowds respond to the truth Jesus has to share? They are divided by the truth.

2014-12-26 16.13.24Truth divides.

Truth divides the divided too. Those who do not believe the truth argue about why.

  • Some choose to trust more in their fear of demons and demonic power, as if to excuse their lack of trust in Jesus.
  • Others say He is just crazy.
  • Sounds familiar. When we can’t accept something we church folk often say it’s crazy or demonic.
  • Could it instead be true?
  • Do we get caught up in arguments that are pointless because they miss the point to begin with?

Lord, help me see the truth and ACCEPT IT!

John 10 Thieves

It gets more divisive. Now Jesus speaks of the job of the doorkeeper, the one who guards the entrance to the sheepfold.   Perhaps this is how the Pharisees view their job. Yet if that is so, Jesus is not speaking kind words of their work. Jesus declares that He Himself is the door. He Himself is the protection. When one enters through Jesus, one is safe and well fed and cared for. (Hallelujah!)

DSCF1854Jesus compares all others to thieves. They can be identified by their theft, and the death and destruction left in their wake. They will not fight the enemy who comes to steal and kill, but they run away to protect themselves. So, according to Jesus, they are either the enemy themselves or they are self-preservationists who run.

Jesus knows His own because His own respond to His voice.

  • Am I listening for the voice of my Shepherd today?
  • Will I come when He calls?
  • Have I trusted like a simple lamb, in His call for me; in His safe territory and protection?

Lord, protect my ears from the sheep who listen to the false ones. Keep me in Your word, let me feed on your provision. Thank You for all you have done and continue in doing. Please bring the others from the other folds safely into Your presence. Hold those who suffer the attack of the enemy close to you that they trust in You till the end. Keep me. I am your lamb. In no other place do I want to be then where You would place me. Thank YOU! Thank YOU! Thank YOU!!!

John 10 Called By Name

Jesus’s words have begun to polarize the crowds. However He does not back off. He now raises the stakes by adding another set of ‘truly truly’s’ .

Truly truly I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. When he puts forth his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10 :1-5

I have cats and have had dogs. 2014-10-21 23.29.16Cats will respond to their name being called by me, but not by strangers. Dogs will come to just about anyone especially if called by name. Sheep only trust the one whose voice they know. I had a cat, an indoor/outdoor cat, who would follow me as I walked through my neighborhood with the dog on a leash. The point is I have an example that reminds me a bit of sheep, which I have never owned.

credit AP.TELEMMGLPICT000135763068-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpVlberWd9EgFPZtcLiMQfyf2A9a6I9YchsjMeADBa08
Credit AP

I do know that sheep were kept in a safe place at night in a larger flock guarded by a shepherd at the door, his own body as the door. When the individual shepherd came to collect their sheep from the flock, they would go to the gatekeeper shepherd and he would of course let him in.   He would then call the names of his sheep and they responded by flocking to the door, ready to go out and graze with their personal shepherd. If a thief came, of course he would not go to the gatekeeper, but would sneak in over the walls to steal away a sheep.

Jesus entered the temple in the midst of the Pharisees, also a place that was enclosed and also had guards.  He was never hiding His teaching nor His healings but declaring himself openly to all the “sheep” in the temple, the safe place at the time. He has come to call out His own sheep. They are responding. They know his voice. How lovely the reminder that each of us, His sheep, are given a new name, and that Jesus knows us, not as a flock, not like at a cattle call by a number, but when Jesus calls us, He calls us by name.2015-04-03 19.34.41

  • Am I listening today for His call of me by name?
  • Am I responding to His offer to graze in fields where He knows the good places are; where the good food is and the waters are still and safe to drink from?

John 9 Who is Blind?

What is it to be blind? Who is the blind man in this story? What an amazing clinging to traditional belief, traditional understanding and routine, so powerful that truth cannot be ascertained because the truth is expected to fit into the presupposed framework of the tradition. This can be seen in the story where the fact that a man born blind was healed is challenged time and time again. It can’t be true. IMG_5889The Pharisees ask where is he? How did He do this? How can this be true if the healer broke the Sabbath rule and did this work on the Sabbath? Here is the sticking point. The Pharisees cannot see the Sabbath rule as their own creation. What does it mean when Moses brought the law saying to keep the Sabbath day holy? Jewish rabbinical tradition had defined it and tradition had created a monster. Jesus broke mans version but kept Mosaic law, for as Jesus said, the Sabbath was created for man. The work of God is ongoing. Think on how much holier it is to do this work of healing on this particular day- a Sabbath day, holy and set apart for the Lord. Jesus, in His healing process, did not have to make clay (the work) but He did so deliberately to use this healing to challenge the Pharisees.

The questions continued. So they ask the opinion of the man who received his sight, about Jesus. They had decided his healing was a lie, so they asked his parents, they were doing their research. He was blind from birth. They had no choice now but to accept a miraculous healing had indeed occurred.  How do you suppose that made them feel?

Damage control! Call the man back! He is ordered to glorify God not Jesus. They repeated “what did He do to you,?” Now, by this time the healed man is frustrated. He has said all this before. They don’t like what they hear, they are rejecting the truth, what else can he say? The formerly blind beggar understands the real issue where the preachers and teachers of law are stuck.

The Pharisees see the issue as a choice between Jesus and Moses. What is obvious to the healed man is impossible for the Pharisees; Jesus is from God. The Sabbath tradition is the stumbling block for the Pharisees.

After the man was kicked out of the temple, he was found by Jesus, sought after by Jesus. Jesus made sure the man knew he had a place in the true kingdom. The man was followed still by the Pharisees. And once again Jesus challenges them.

This is a story if how unbelief and habitual authority is challenged and overcome by Jesus.  This is also an example of how to handle persecution when doing good.DSCN0886

  • Who is at fault?
  • What hang ups do I have or expectations that I need to let go of that make me blind to truth?
  • Have I found truth and been rejected by those who hold to tradition?  Know that Jesus seeks me and I belong to Him.
  • Am I willing for the work of a God to be displayed in me?
  • Or would I rather seek to cast blame? Work is for “the day” not “the night”.

There is obedience here. Jesus is obedient to the One who sent Him. The blind man was obedient to Jesus who sent him to the pool to wash. I wonder what he thought as he walked to that pool? And on his return?

  • Where is Jesus sending me so that His work can be displayed in me? In this story, the display was to the man’s hometown.
  • Who does God hear? Those who fear God and do His will.

Trust and obey.

Check out Carlene Davis, singing Trust and Obey.  You can buy this song for 99 cents on Amazon