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John, Chapter 13, Part 2

John 13:8 – Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

In our last post we began to look at the narrative of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples shortly before his crucifixion.  This was a shocking turn of events for the twelve, as Jesus was clearly their superior, and this menial task was always performed by servants. 

Peter, the most outspoken of the group, immediately protests.  His refusal is actually an expression of reverence for Jesus; he is reiterating how improper it is for Jesus to perform this task, since Peter is inferior to Jesus in every regard. 

However, as we studied in our last post, Jesus has already stated that there is a purpose behind his actions.  Therefore, if Peter refuses to allow this to happen, he is essentially rebelling against the will of God.  Peter should submit to Jesus, even if he does not fully understand what is happening or the purpose behind it. 

So what was the purpose?  Well, we know that Jesus often used natural things or events to illustrate spiritual principles.  For instance, in John chapter 10 he helped explain the kingdom of heaven by comparing himself to a shepherd and the kingdom to a sheep fold.    

In the present case, Jesus is using the filth on the physical feet of the disciples to illustrate the filth of sin which clings to their souls.  Because Jesus is literally the only one who can cleanse their sin, it is appropriate for him to wash their feet in this scenario.

It is not only appropriate but necessary that each one of us bow before Christ and implore him to wash us from our sin, so that we can ‘have a share’ with Christ or become one of the children of God.  If he does not cleanse us, we are not his.

John 13:9 – Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 

Peter probably still misunderstands the complete meaning of Jesus, but he does know one thing – he will give up anything and everything just to keep Jesus!  I can relate to that – how about you?   

If refusing to have his feet washed will separate him from Christ, then Peter will swing to the other extreme – now he wants Jesus to wash his entire body, from head to foot.

Peter’s motivation was righteous – he was depending on Jesus for his spiritual well being.  He desires for his whole inner man to be spiritually cleansed:

1 Thessalonians 5:22-23 – Abstain from all appearance of evil.  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 As true Christians, we too desire to have our intellects, wills, desires, actions, emotions and decisions all brought under the influence of Christ and consecrated unto God.

John 13:10 – Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.  And you are clean but not every one of you.”

The act of bathing occurs at different intervals in different cultures.  Here in America, people bathe almost daily.  This was not the case back in the times of Christ; bathing was much less frequent.

Nevertheless, it was the custom of the Jews to bathe before partaking of the Passover meal.  Therefore, in the natural sense, they did not need another whole-body cleansing at dinner that day – they only needed to wash their feet, because they would have picked up some dust as they walked to the location of the Passover celebration.  This meant there were two separate cleansings or washings for them on that day (whole body and just the feet).  This is symbolic of what happens in the spiritual realm.

In a spiritual sense, every follower of Christ experiences two cleansings.  The first occurs at the commencement of your Christian life.  As you are washed in the blood of Christ, you are made ‘completely clean’; Jesus absolves you from all of your sins.  You become a new creature in Christ.  You are sealed with Holy Spirit until the final day of redemption:

Ephesians 1:13 – In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise…

(See also Ephesians 4:30).  Like the whole-body washing of the disciples, this cleansing does not need to be repeated. 

However, because we live in a sinful body of flesh in the midst of a fallen world, we still need to be cleansed of the daily sins that touch our life.  This kind of cleansing is represented by the washing of the disciples’ feet.  It is a cleansing that occurs often – as much as you need it.  We are told to ask for this cleansing/forgiveness every time we pray.  This is evident in the model prayer that Jesus gave his disciples while he was still on the earth:

Matthew 6:9, 12 – After this manner therefore pray: Our Father who is in heaven… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Imagine for a moment that you lived back in the time when Christ walked the earth.  Most people wore sandals and walked everywhere they went.  The arid climate created a lot of dust, which was kicked up with every step you took.  You wouldn’t have to go far before you could feel the dirt and grit coating you from the knee down. 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to go into your house after a hard day, sit down and wash that grit off of yourself? 

Again, this reflects the spiritual realm.  As we go through our daily life here on earth, the dust and grit of sin clings to us, no matter where we go or what we do.  It weighs us down spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  It makes us feel awful.  But at the end of the day, we can turn to Jesus and ask him to cleanse us from that sin.  When he does, our soul once again becomes as light as a feather as Jesus washes away the burden of our sin.

Unfortunately, even though Jesus washed the feet of all twelve of the disciples, one of them was not clean.  Sadly, Judas remained in his sin because no amount of external washing can purify the soul.  In other words, he failed to receive the first cleansing; he was not a true believer in Christ.    

John 13:11 – For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

This statement by Jesus is the first reference to his betrayal during the feast.  Jesus knew exactly who was going to betray him (John 6:64).  His statement is a kind of warning to Judas, spoken in love.  Perhaps the possibility for repentance still existed at that point.  If Judas had been open to receiving it, his life would have turned out much differently. 

John 13:12 – When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?”

This question is asked, not to be answered, but to focus their attention on what Jesus had done.  He is about to explain to them why he washed their feet.

John 13:13-14 – “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Teacher (your translation may say Master) – Jesus is our instructor in all the truths and commands of the gospel.  He is a prophet revealing to us the will of God and showing us the way to salvation.

Lord – Jesus is our ruler, our creator, our owner and our King.  He has authority over us in all ways.  As disciples of Christ, it is proper for us to acknowledge him as such not only in word but in deed/action.  There will be instances where our flesh does not want to receive or submit to the instruction/commands he gives us, but it is our duty to bring our flesh under control and obey his commands.

So what is Jesus teaching them?  One important lesson is that of humility.  The washing of their feet was a practical example they would never forget.  Jesus teaches them that they ought to condescend to the most humble actions/offices/positions for the benefit of others, just as he did for them.  They should regard themselves as servants of each other, instead of being proud or vain and having a high opinion of themselves.

Mark 10:42-43 – But Jesus called them to him, and said unto them, You know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their leaders exercise authority over them.  But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever would be great among you, shall be your servant…

This was a valuable lesson for the disciples, since they are soon to be venerated as the founders of the church.  They will be revered and honored by men and women everywhere, which would create a temptation for them to think they were more important than others.  Jesus wanted to give them this important lesson in humility and service before he was crucified. 

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

What did Jesus mean by that?  Should we be washing each other’s feet in church every Sunday?  If so, it might affect attendance!

Doubtless, the instruction of Christ should be taken figuratively, not literally.  Foot washing was not meant as an ordinance of the church like water baptism and communion.

Instead, we find four basic things that Jesus was showing us through this event.  We have mentioned some of these already, but a reminder never hurts!  

One, we must be humble.  We need to remind ourselves that we are sinners, saved by grace alone; we have no reason at all to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  In fact, we are to be meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).   We should not refuse to do anything that promotes the glory of God or the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  (II Samuel 6:20-22). 

Two, we must engage in service for others.  Back in the day, washing the feet of another person was the lowest/most base service you could perform for someone else.  This reflects the mission of Jesus who came to earth to serve, not to be served (even though that was what he deserved). 

We find the same example in the life of the apostle Paul.  He made himself the servant of all so that he could win as many people to Christ as possible. 

1 Corinthians 9:19 – For though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

The principle of service to others also requires that we allow others to serve/assist us.  In our culture, this is often very difficult because we want to do everything for ourselves.  We feel we can handle most things on our own; we don’t need or want help from anyone else.  We often feel that accepting help from others makes us appear weak or inept.  But that is not the case.  Through acts of service, we build working relationships with other believers. 

These kinds of working relationships are vital to the kingdom.  Scripture tells us that one Christian puts a thousand enemies to flight, but two can scatter ten thousand (Deuteronomy 32:30)!  Those kinds of exponential results occur when we partner with each other.  

Three, we should help each other abstain from sin.  If a brother or sister in Christ has fallen into sin, it is our duty/delight to come along side them and help restore them to their proper place in the church (Galatians 6:1).  Obviously, only God can cleanse their sin, but we can assist them in recovery and reinstatement in the body of Christ. 

Or even better, if we see a brother or sister about to fall into sin, we need to have the courage to go to them with a loving warning (I Thessalonians 5:14).

Four, Jesus teaches us by example as well as doctrine.  His actions are always consistent with his commands.  We might say he ‘practices what he preaches’.  We need to do the same thing, especially in our own families/homes.  We need to be godly examples for our children and the lost that surround us. 

Take a moment and examine your own household.  Ask yourself some of these questions:

Do you attend church regularly?  Do you bring your children with you?  Do you place importance/value on prayer and reading the bible?  Have you taught your children how to pray? 

Do you exemplify forgiveness, generosity, fairness, respect and love in your home?  If not, what are you teaching your children?  More importantly, what are you failing to teach your kids (1 John 2:6)?

John 13:16 – Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

This lesson applied to the disciples in a peculiar way.  Remember, all Jews believed that the Messiah was going to appear on earth and immediately establish an earthly kingdom that would last forever.  No doubt, the twelve believed this as well. 

Furthermore, they had reason to believe that they would have a special place in this kingdom (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30).  For this reason, they may have felt that washing someone else’s feet was beneath them.  If this was their thought process, Jesus immediately dispels that notion.

Instead, they are to remember that there is absolutely NO circumstance in which a servant, messenger or ambassador is greater than his master.  In fact, the servant is to represent or imitate the one he/she serves.  This means that the characteristics displayed by the master should be evident in the servant: 

  • If the master is humble, they cannot exhibit pride. 
  • If the master is generous, they cannot be stingy. 
  • If the master is forgiving, they cannot hold a grudge. 
  • If the master forbids sin, they cannot embrace it.

The corollary truth is this:  Because the servant/messenger/ambassador and the master are in complete unity, the servants cannot expect to be treated differently than the master they represent.  The implications for Christians are obvious.  If Jesus experienced rejection and persecution, it is entirely possible that his servants will experience the same thing.  If there are those who love and embrace the master, they will love and embrace his servants as well (John 15:20).

John 13:17 – If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus is revealing two things here.  One, we need to have a knowledge of his ways, commands and doctrines so that we might practice them.  Two, blessing comes as we practice or live out those commands in our everyday lives. 

So if you’re not blessed, whose fault is it?  Yours or God’s?  Instead of blaming our King, perhaps we should change our ways in order to place ourselves under the open windows of heaven (Deuteronomy 28:1-9 – pay special attention to the word ‘if’ in verse 9).     

John 13:18 – I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.  But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

Back in verse 10, Jesus indicated that they were clean, but not all.  Now he goes on to again point out that he would be betrayed.  He assures his true followers that this was not happenstance; nor was it a surprise.  It was predicted hundreds of years before by God through his servant David (Psalms 41:9).

As with most prophesy, Psalms 41 had more than one fulfillment.  It was fulfilled during the time of King David, as his close friend and advisor Ahithophel betrayed him (see II Samuel chapter 15).  It was also fulfilled as Judas betrayed King Jesus. 

However, let me remind you that Judas was not doomed to betray Christ because of an ancient prophesy.  Judas had a free will choice of what to do; the scriptures simply foretold his decision.   

In both cases, the betrayer ‘ate bread’ with the one they claimed to love and follow.  Back in that day to eat with someone was proof of friendship.  In the case of Judas, it affirmed that he had been admitted to all of the privileges of friendship, unity and love that all 12 disciples enjoyed. 

Yet, Judas is described as ‘lifting up his heel against me’.  This is a metaphorical expression that means to attack a person in an unexpected manner; to gain an advantage under the pretence of friendship when a person is not on their guard. 

You expect your enemies to try and harm or kill you, but not your friends.  To betray a friend is one of the most despicable actions a person can take.  Everyone knew that the Jews (for the most part) were the enemies of Christ.  Everyone knew they desired to kill him, so their persecution of Jesus was not a surprise.  But Judas was different.  He was considered a friend and companion of Christ.  So his betrayal greatly aggravated the suffering of Jesus. 

John 13:19 – I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

The upcoming crucifixion of Christ had the potential to crush the faith of the apostles.  Things would not turn out like they dreamed or expected, and one of their own was the catalyst for the death of their beloved Messiah.  Satan would definitely have tortured them with thoughts of hopelessness and fear. 

But Jesus protects and strengthens their faith by telling them in advance what was going to happen.  So when Judas betrays Christ and Jesus lays his life down on the cross, his followers could have confidence that everything was happening according to God’s great plan.  Instead of losing faith, their faith would be increased and strengthened!

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

Jesus says that if we know his commands and keep them, we will be blessed.  But what does that mean?  For some strange reason, many people associate the word ‘blessed’ with money. 

To be fair, ‘bless’ can mean to confer prosperity upon something or someone.  But that is only a very small portion of what the word means.

‘Bless’ also means to be pronounced holy or consecrated; to make happy or joyous, to grant divine favor on a person or thing; to invoke beneficial attributes on something (as on food); to praise, glorify or extol for excellence.

God is all about blessing his people:

  • God is said to bless his people when he bestows upon them a temporal or spiritual gift (Genesis 1:22). 
  • In the Old Testament the priests blessed the entire congregation of Israel (Numbers 6:2-27). 
  • In the New Testament, the apostles often pronounced blessings upon believers in Christ (II Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 6:2-24, Hebrews 13:20-21, etc) when they wrote letters to them.

But notice that these blessings were for grace, peace, the ability to maintain a successful Christian walk, etc. 

While God has (and will continue) to bless his people financially, let’s not make the mistake of limiting God’s blessings to the financial realm.  God blesses us with many, many, many things which no amount of money can buy – like peace, joy, love, good relationships, health, children, provision, his presence in our lives, etc. 

How have you been blessed by God?  

John, Chapter 13, Part 1

John 13:1 – Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Another Passover feast was at hand.  Passover itself had been observed for hundreds and hundreds of years beginning when the Jews first left Egypt.  Ever since that time great multitudes of Jews have participated in the ceremony in which an innocent, unblemished lamb was slain and its blood spread/sprinkled upon the brazen altar for the forgiveness of sin. 

But this particular Passover was going to be different.  In a sense, it would be the last one, because the ultimate purpose/fulfillment of the ritual was about occur – Jesus would die for the sins of the world.  From that moment forward, his blood has purchased atonement for the sin of every man, woman and child who trusts in him as Savior. 

Therefore, mankind no longer needs to participate or observe the Passover by slaying a lamb.  Instead, we can now celebrate each Passover with the utmost rejoicing and joy as we contemplate the new life we have in Christ Jesus.

Many times during his life on earth Jesus declared that his time to die had not yet come (John 2:4, John 7:6, John 17:26).  Now he knows with equal certainty that the appointed time for his great sacrifice was at hand; he would soon leave earth and sit down at the right hand of his Father:

Hebrews 12:2 – Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.        

Yet, even on the very threshold of his suffering, Jesus was not thinking of himself.  He was concerned with the welfare of his followers after his death; this was going to be an extremely difficult time for them.  His concern came from the intense love which he had for them.

There can be no question that Jesus loved not only his disciples, but every person he ever created.  If he didn’t, there wouldn’t have been any reason for him to come to earth, show us God’s love and then die for us.  So we know for a certainty that he loves us (I John 4:9).

But John goes even further.  He stresses that Jesus loved his disciples ‘unto the end’.  This phrase is only used rarely in scripture and the general meaning is ‘to the fullest degree’ or ‘up to the limit’. 

In other words, Jesus couldn’t possibly love us any more than he already does!  He demonstrated that love by dying for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  He continues to love each one of his children completely and fully.  And since Jesus came to show us the Father, we can rest assured that God’s love for us is just as intense and unwavering.  Nothing here on earth can compare with the love of God.

John 13:2 – During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…

Use of the word ‘already’ confirms the details provided by the other gospel writers.  Specifically, Judas allowed Satan to enter his heart before the Passover meal.

Is it possible to surmise the hour in which temptation overcame Judas?  Obviously, we cannot know for sure.  However, it could have occurred shortly after the incident at the house of Simon the leper (in Bethany) when Mary anointed Jesus (see our discussion of John chapter 12).  As you recall, Judas was furious that the money for the ointment was not put in the community collection bag where he had the ability to steal it.  This was an ideal time for Satan to tempt him.

Let’s talk about temptation for just a minute. 

We all have fallen natures; we are all born into sin.  But we are not all affected by it in the same way.  For instance, one person might be grievously tempted by lust, while the next person never bats an eye when confronted with sexual images/thoughts.  Another can be tempted with envy every single time they see something their neighbor owns, but they have absolutely no propensity towards lying at all.  My point is that each one of us has specific areas in which we are more likely to fall into temptation.  Satan knows what those areas are, and he will exploit your weaknesses every time he gets a chance. 

In the case of Judas, greed was one of his main weaknesses; he had an inordinate love for money.  We know that he was stealing from the ministry.  We also know that he felt Mary ‘cheated’ him out of a large sum of money when she anointed Jesus with her expensive oil.  We know he was angry enough about it to accuse her in front of everyone at dinner, and receive a rebuke from Jesus.  This probably angered him even further.

Now consider this for a minute: Satan is not stupid.  He is not going to bait you with a sin you aren’t interested in; it would be a waste of his time and effort.  In this case, Satan was well aware of Judas’ weakness in the area of greed.  Hence, as Judas left the house of Simon burning with anger over being ‘cheated’ out of some money, Satan saw his opportunity.  He baited/tempted Judas to indulge in his greed.  As an added bonus, Judas could be the tool Satan needed to kill the Son of God (or so he thought). 

He may have introduced thoughts like these into Judas’ mind:

I am being treated so unfairly!  Who is Mary anyway?  She had no right to waste that oil.  I deserved to have that money; it should have been mine.  I wanted to use it for ___.  I’ll show them.  I can get even.  I know the Pharisees will pay me good money just to find out where Jesus is.  I can probably name any price and they will pay it…

Here is something else to consider:  Judas can’t control what Satan does.  He can’t stop the evil one from tempting him by putting evil thoughts/pictures/ideas into his mind. 

But Judas CAN control himself.  He has a choice to make.  He can listen to the lies of Satan, which encourage him to indulge in the sin that already burns within his heart.  If he does, he will be hooked by Satan just like we would hook a fish: 

James 1:14 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.   

Or, Judas can decide to deny his lust for money, submit himself to God and resist the devil.  He can choose to reject his feelings of anger/injustice and concentrate on loving others just as Christ loved him.  He can choose to let go of his greed by reminding himself that God sent his Son into the world to give him a gift that no amount of money could ever buy – eternal life with God.  If Judas makes this choice, the devil will run away from him:

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

What can we learn from this?

  • Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses.  I know the areas in which I am most likely to sin, and you know yours.  Do not mess around with these sins.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can play with them, or keep them ‘under control’.  You can’t.  If you touch them, you will get burnt!
  • Decide in advance how you will handle temptation.  As we mentioned, we cannot control what Satan does; he is going to tempt you.  You could be going about your daily life when all of a sudden a temptation comes out of nowhere and catches you off guard.  If you are prepared, you will be more likely to overcome the temptation.  For instance, you could memorize scriptures that deal with your temptation, and quote them as the need arises.   
  • Avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable place.  For example, if you have a tendency toward lust, make sure you are not alone with a person of the opposite sex.  If you have a propensity to steal, don’t to shopping alone; take a friend along with you.  If you can’t stop gossiping, avoid associating with others who also have that problem.     

Remember, Satan is ready to destroy us through temptation, just as he did to Judas.

John 13:3-4 – Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  

Jesus is coming to the end of his earthly race.  He is on schedule to complete the work of grace/redemption within the next few days. 

  • He knew that he had come from God and that his Father had given him supreme authority over all things (Ephesians 1:22, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:9-10, etc). 
  • He knew that he was about to be honored by his Father. 
  • He knew that he was returning to the splendor and glory that were his before the world was made. 
  • He knew that all power in heaven and earth had been given to him (Matthew 28:18).

And yet, one of the very last things he did was an act of utter humility – he washed the feet of his disciples.  The one who deserved to be served was serving others.     

If we didn’t know any better, we would be astonished that Jesus would engage in such an act of humility.  However, we are not surprised by this; scripture reveals that Jesus exemplified the heart of a servant during his entire time on earth.  He truly ‘practiced what he preached’.    

Luke 22:27 – For who is greater, he that sits at table, or he that serves?  Is not he that sits at table?  But I [Jesus] am among you as he that serves.

As we just noted, Jesus is about to return to heaven and the unimaginable glory that is rightfully his.  So why would he abase himself by washing the dirty, stinking feet of these working class men?

For one thing, the action testifies to the love that he had for his disciples.  When you love someone and your entire heart belongs to them, you can endlessly give of yourself to them.  You can be tender, patient and forgiving even on the tenth or hundredth time they mess up. This describes the relationship Jesus had with the twelve.

The disciples made lots and lots of mistakes, but once Jesus called them into fellowship with himself, he always took care of them.  Because of his intense love for them, he never cast them aside, no matter what.  He patiently put up with their child-like thoughts and actions.  He corrected their mistakes and helped them grow in their faith.  He laughed with them, cried with them and scolded them when they needed it.  I like to think that Jesus pictured them as the perfect people he knew they would become in the next age. 

The intense and complete love that Jesus (and hence the Father) exemplified for the twelve did not stop there; God loves all of his true children (including you) in the same way.  We can rest assured that despite all of our failures and short comings, Jesus still loves us just as completely as he did the twelve.  In fact, Jeremiah assures us that his love for us is everlasting:

Jeremiah 31:3 – The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.

In fact, the apostle Paul assures us that absolutely nothing can separate a believer from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). 

John 13:5 – Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Many scholars consider Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet to be a representation or picture of his whole mission on earth.  He was equal to God; all things were his.  But he rose from his table in glory, laid aside his robes of light, girded himself with our nature, took upon himself the form of a servant and ministered to us by pouring out his blood, which washes away our sin. 

Thus, we see the washing of the disciples’ feet was not just an act of love, it was an example of humble service/ministry.  What about us?  Are we humble servants to others?  Do we minister to those we consider ‘beneath’ us?  Or just to those we think deserve it?

You don’t have to read the Bible very much to realize that God hates pride.  That message is prevalent in both the Old and New Testaments (Proverbs 16:18).   If you still haven’t conquered pride in your life, you need to consult Holy Spirit about this issue immediately. 

The truth is none of us have any reason/basis to be proud.  ALL of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  ALL of us are sinners saved by grace.  None of us have reached perfection.   In the light of Jesus’ example of pure humility, how can we hold on to even a small amount of pride?

Remember, all twelve of the disciples were at dinner that day, including Judas Iscariot.  That’s right – Jesus even served the one who betrayed him. 

If we are going to effectively share the gospel, we must be willing to meet and interact with people where they are at – spiritually, physically, socially and even politically.  This is going to require us to relate to people who don’t think, look, or act like we do.  It requires us to rub shoulders with people actively steeped in sin, without passing judgment on them.  Can we humbly minister to them as lost souls without condemning them?  If not, how can we minister the love of Christ and/or the gospel message to them? 

John 13:6 – He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

According to our way of thinking, we would never expect a person of high rank to serve someone of a lower rank.  We consider it beneath their dignity and station in life to do so. 

In the relationship between Jesus and the disciples, Jesus was the person of high rank.  The disciples loved, respected and believed in him as their Messiah.  They acknowledged that he was the Son of God.  They considered Jesus their teacher and master.  They knew Jesus was sinless while they themselves were certainly not (Luke 5:8). 

Accordingly, it never even crossed their minds that it would be proper for Jesus to wash their feet.  The very thought was shocking and confusing to them, as confirmed by Peter’s question. 

What Peter didn’t know (but was about to find out), was that the act of foot washing was an earthly picture of spiritual washing/cleansing from sin.  Therefore, it was most proper for Jesus to wash their feet.  In fact, spiritually speaking, he was the only one that could!

John 13:7 – Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

What are the implications of Jesus’ reply to Peter?  Clearly, Jesus wants Peter to obey him, even though he does not fully understand what is happening.  Wow!  We could produce a whole series of lessons just on this concept alone!

Consider your own life.  Has there ever been a time that you did not understand the circumstances that God called you to walk through?  Or a time when you did not understand why you were subjected to a fiery trial?  Or a time when you did not see anything good result from your ordeal? 

In such cases, we must heed the command of Christ.  We must accept and submit to the will of God, even though we don’t see the whole picture.  Remember, God knows all things; he knows how things will end before they even start:

Isaiah 46:9-10 – Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Not only does God know all things, he is in control of all things.  As we discussed in our earlier posts, your suffering will have an eternal purpose.  God fully loves you.  He would not make you endure suffering unless there was a purpose behind it. 

Also, God will make absolutely certain that you make it through that trial because he will be right there with you in the midst of it!

Isaiah 43:1-2 – But now thus says the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame scorch you.

If you stop and think for a moment, you will conclude that the Christian walk has always been a matter of faith, not sight.  For example, Abraham obeyed the command of God to leave his home land and wander around like a pilgrim, with no permanent dwelling place.  

Hebrews 11:8-9 – By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise…

Although he did not understand it at the time, he was walking what would later be known as the Promised Land or the nation of Israel! 

At some point in your life, you will have to obey the voice of God even though you don’t understand what he is doing in your life (just like Peter or Abraham).  The only thing I can tell you is that in the end, you will see what God accomplished through your obedience, and it will be something amazing!

Let me offer you some relief:

Our love for one another can wax or wane depending on how we feel at any given moment.  It can change depending on how someone else treats us.  Plus, the intensity of our love often varies when people don’t meet our expectations.  Clearly, our love can be fickle and undependable.  

But let me offer you some relief – that is not the case with Jesus.  He loves his followers ‘to the end’ or to the fullest possible degree.  His love for you is not based on the kind of ‘day’ that he is having.  His love for you does not change if you fall into sin or fail him in some way.  So when you do mess up, run back to Jesus with confidence.  There is no sin he won’t forgive.

Let me offer you some encouragement and strength:

There is a very common and vulgar saying in the world today: ‘Life is a bxxxh, then you die’.  That may be a true saying for unbelievers but not for those of us in Christ. 

Yes, we will experience fiery trials and intense temptations.  Yes, we will walk through some difficult circumstances, which we may or may not fully understand.  But we can be encouraged and strengthened knowing that the end result of these difficulties is the most precious gift of all – salvation for ourselves and others (I Peter 1:1-9). 

 

John, Chapter 12, Part 4

John 12:37 – Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,

After a very intense interaction in the temple, Jesus left Jerusalem to give the Jews time to consider the truths he had revealed to them.  They were still very hard-hearted; they continued to be skeptical of his claim to be the Messiah.

As John points out, that was a hard position to defend given the many miracles Jesus had done.  John is not referring to any miracle done at the temple that day, but to the myriad of proofs the Jews had already seen – the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind saw, food was multiplied, demons were cast out and even the dead were raised to life. 

The miracles of Jesus were many in number, mighty in nature, and literally performed right in front of their eyes.  They even heard the voice of God affirming the ministry of his Son, yet they refused to acknowledge the truth.  What more proof did the Jews need, especially in light of their own belief that only God could perform miracles?

John 12:38 – … so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

The unbelief of the Jews had been predicted long before by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1). 

Who’ refers to the Jewish people.

Who has believed’ is a rhetorical question – Isaiah is saying that very few have believed and accepted the message of God as delivered by his messengers the prophets.

What he heard from us’ (your translation may say ‘our report’), generally refers to all of the teachings and doctrines of God, but specifically those related to the suffering, humiliation and rejection of the Messiah.

The arm of the Lord’ is a common symbol of power, by which someone executes their purposes.  Simply put, it refers to the power of God (Isaiah 51:9, 52:10, Psalms 77:15 etc) in defending his people, overcoming his enemies and bringing his plans/purposes to fruition.  In this specific case, it refers to God’s power in producing salvation for mankind through the Redeemer.

Revealed’ means understood or perceived.

So let’s put this all together. 

Back in the day, Isaiah was prophesying that the future Redeemer would be mighty in power and greatly exalted:

Isaiah 52:13 – Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.  

But he then pauses and details the depth of the humiliation, suffering and sorrow that the Messiah would endure on the earth.  He reveals that the Messiah will actually be despised and rejected by the Jews prior to his exaltation.  This idea of the humiliation of the Messiah was so astonishing and unexpected, the Jews back in the day of Isaiah did not believe it.  Many chose to ignore it, and concentrate only on prophesies that spoke of the Messiah’s victorious reign. 

What was true back in the day of Isaiah was also true during the life of Christ – the vast majority of the Jews refused to believe that the Messiah would suffer and die before being exalted/glorified. Yet, this had been disclosed to them on numerous occasions:

  • Jesus testified many times during his ministry that he would be put to death for the sins of the people (Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12, Luke 9:22, John 3:14, etc). 
  • It was prophesied by the high priest Caiaphas (John 11:49-52). 
  • Jesus has just confirmed that truth once again, with his example of the seed which must die so that the plant can grow and bear fruit (John 12:24). 

The Jews, however, hardened their hearts to the doctrine/message of God.  Essentially, they formed a false picture of the Messiah – one who is exalted in glory and power but without any suffering; one who will set up a magnificent earthly kingdom. 

Based on the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament scriptures, they should have recognized their false beliefs and rejected them.  But instead, they held on to their illusions and rejected Christ, exactly as Isaiah had predicted.

It should be noted that the Jews did not reject Christ so that this prophesy could be fulfilled; Jesus deems the prophesy fulfilled because they have rejected him.  The rejection was the consequence of the Jews own choice to remain in unbelief.   

John 12:39-40 – Therefore they could not believe.  For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:9-10.  The word ‘therefore’ refers to the cause of their unbelief which is found in the prior verse.  Namely, since they did not believe the word of God given through the prophets concerning Christ, they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Having resisted the word of the prophets and the evidence of Christ’s miracles, God gave them up to the darkness and hardness of their own hearts (Romans 1). 

Look at the words of Isaiah again.  They indicate that back in Isaiah’s day, if Israel had turned to God in repentance and submitted to his ways, he would have healed their nation.  But since they didn’t, their nation was headed for destruction.  Sure enough, in 586 BC Judah was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and the Jews were forced from their land.

A similar circumstance occurred during the time of Christ.  The Jews refused to believe the gospel message given by Jesus and later the apostles.  As a result, their hearts were hardened against the truth and they refused to turn to God.  In 71 AD the holy city of Jerusalem, their beloved temple and their nation were all destroyed by the Romans.  Intense persecution caused them to once again flee the land.    

Let us once more remind ourselves that God did not blind them first so they were forced to reject the truth and harden their hearts.  They first chose to reject the truth and as a direct result they became spiritually blind.  Their blindness was the result of their unbelief, not the other way around.

Interestingly, a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:9-10 actually occurs six times in the New Testament – Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, Acts 28:6-27 and Romans 11:8.

John 12:41 – Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

This reference is to Isaiah 6:1-5, where Isaiah describes his vision of Jehovah, seated on a throne in the temple surrounded with seraphim. (If you haven’t read this recently, you should take a minute and do so.  It is very powerful.)

During that vision, Isaiah saw God’s glory which is referred to as the Shechinah glory or the visible cloud in which God manifested himself over the mercy seat.  This was regarded as the equivalent to seeing God. 

Now remember that here in John chapter 12, the apostle John expressly applies this (seeing God’s glory) to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In other words, it was the glory of Jesus that Isaiah saw that day.

Since Isaiah’s vision and prophesy were of Jesus, then his description of hard-hearted unbelievers (Isaiah 6:9-10) must describe the Jews who were present during the incarnation of Christ.   

And that is exactly what is recorded by all four of the gospel writers.

John 12:42-43 – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed on him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

The fierce opposition of the Jews had reached such a fever pitch, that someone in our day might assume that all of the Jews, without exception, had rejected Jesus as the Christ. 

But John assures us that was not the case.  Even though the bulk of the nation had gone mad, there were still some with a sound mind.  There were members of the Sanhedrin who were convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah.  Nicodemus and Joseph were among that group (John 19:38-42).

While these leaders had a secret belief that Jesus was the expected Messiah, their conviction was not strong enough for them to openly confess and assert him to be such.  At that point, they were weak in their faith.  They were afraid of the consequences they would suffer at the hands of their colleagues, the Pharisees.  As we know, the Pharisees had decreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ would be banned from the synagogue (John 9:22), and they did not want to be excluded from the church or lose their positions of authority (not to mention their jobs).    

John tells us that that these men preferred the honor and praise of men more than the honor and approval of God. 

John 12:44 –And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.”

John does not tell us exactly where or when Jesus spoke these words.  The assumption is that it is a continuation of the discourse in verses 30-36 of this chapter.  He gives them to strengthen the faith of those who believed on him and to give them the courage to confess him. 

Having said that, it is also possible that the teaching in these last few verses of chapter 12 were spoken at a different time, but John groups them here because they are relevant to the topic of this chapter.  In any case, these last few verses present us with the consequences of belief or rejection of the words of Christ. 

Notice how Jesus delivers these last few verses – he cried out.  He spoke in a loud and forceful voice, showing his earnest desire that they heed his words.  After all, there is a lot at stake – if they will listen to him, they will find salvation. 

Jesus speaks of the relationship between himself and the Father.  We know that God is a trinity or triune being – Father, Son and Spirit.  As we discussed in earlier posts, the three are separate distinct personalities, yet they are also intertwined in one; there is complete unity and agreement among them.  The will of the Father is also the will of Jesus and Holy Spirit.

In this verse, Jesus explains that because of the indivisible nature of the Trinity, belief in him is tantamount to belief in the Father (and Spirit).  Likewise, seeing Jesus is the same as seeing the Father.  Honoring Jesus is the same as honoring the Father (Mark 9:37).

So when people believe in Jesus, they are not placing their faith in a mere man, but in the one who is also the true God, equal in power, authority and glory to the Father.  Believing in Jesus was also a belief that Father God (and Holy Spirit) had sent him to be the Messiah.  

John 12:45 – “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.”

And again, because of the nature of the Trinity, Christians can know the Father by examining and observing the life of Jesus.  Because they are essentially the same, anyone who knows Jesus also knows the Father. 

If Jesus is love, so is the Father.  If Jesus is merciful, so is the Father.  The works that Jesus does are the works of the Father.  The words Jesus speaks are the words of the Father, etc.

Think of it this way:  Let’s suppose you applied for a job at a national firm.  You get a call to meet with someone from the Human Resources department.  When they meet with you, they are representing the company.  If they offer you a job, it is the same as being offered a job from the company itself.  Any job they offer you will be in absolute compliance with the rules of the firm, because the HR person represents the company, not themselves.  The representative and the company are essentially one in the same.

So it is with Jesus and the Father.  Jesus does not operate independently of Father God; he represents the Father on earth.  Whatever is true of Jesus is also true of the Father who sent him.   

John 12:46 – “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

To walk in darkness is to walk in error or sin (John 3:19, I John 1:5).  Darkness can also describe the state of living without the comforts of true religion.  Individuals as well as entire nations can walk in darkness (Joel 2:2, Isaiah 8:22, John 8:12).  

Jesus is the light that has come into the world to deliver it from this darkness (John 1:5).   He came to dispel ignorance, superstition and wickedness.  He came to reveal the will of the Father.  He came to clearly show the way to eternal life.  He came to be the payment for our sin.

In order to acquire this great benefit (deliverance from sin and error), a person must believe in Jesus as the Messiah, sent by God.

Those who do will find that Holy Spirit leads/directs them in the paths of righteousness, reveals divine truth to them, and instructs them in the ways of holiness.  He assists the believer in every single aspect of spiritual and physical life.  

Furthermore, the light of Christ shines so that all men can see it; it is available to anyone who wants to enjoy it:

Isaiah 55:1 – Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

John 6:35 – And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.    

While God makes the blood of Christ available to all people, he does not force them to partake of his salvation.  There will be some people who die in their sin/darkness, by their own choice.

John 12:47 – “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Jesus has been very clear that during his incarnation, he was not on earth to judge/condemn mankind, but to save them (John 3:17).  Obviously, that is exactly what Jesus did by purchasing our salvation through the cross.  This is why he is referred to as the ‘Lamb of God’ during his incarnation – because he was the true Passover lamb who was slain for our sin (John 1:29).

For the past 2000 years, Jesus has laid aside the office of judge in order to offer salvation to all without reserve.  He stretches out his nail scarred hands to embrace ‘whosoever will’ (John 3:16).  He actively pursues/draws all men unto himself through the work of Holy Spirit.      

Nevertheless, scripture is also clear that at some future date Jesus will return to earth.  Only this time, he does not come as a meek and mild lamb, but as a ferocious, dominant, powerful, roaring lion – the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Those who rejected his kind and merciful offer of salvation will not go unpunished.  They will face his judgment and condemnation at the end of this age (Revelation 19:11-21, Daniel 7:9-10). 

John 12:48 – The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

The first point to be made here is that the one who is judged by the word is the one who has both heard it and rejected it.  It then follows that those who have not heard the gospel will be judged by whatever measure of light/truth they were under:

Romans 2:12 – For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Obviously, God is not going to judge you by the gospel if you never heard it.  I have no idea how God will deal with that issue, but we can be sure that he is completely righteous and just.  We don’t really need to worry about it, and we certainly don’t have to explain it.

Secondly, there is no neutral ground.  Those who have heard the gospel must make a choice.  They are either with Christ as a brother/sister or they are against Christ as an enemy.  There are no other options.  Failing to make a decision is the same as a rejection of the gospel message.  

Third, the wicked may reject Christ’s salvation, but they will not escape judgment.  There is no need for Jesus to accuse them; the gospel of Christ, which these sinners despise and reject, is enough to condemn them on the last day.  The word itself will judge them. 

John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak.”

The word, which will be the ultimate judge of sinners, did not proceed from the flesh-and-blood man standing before the Jews.  It originated with Father God:

John 7:16 – Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

When delivering the word, Jesus said only what the Father commanded him to say.  Therefore, divine authority rests upon the Holy Scriptures.    

John 12:50 – “And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

The words that the Father speaks are the cause or source of everlasting life.  Simply put, God’s command to Jesus was to preach salvation to the lost world, and to give himself as a ransom for all.  God’s command to us is to believe on his Son, because everyone who does will have eternal life:

1 John 5:11-12 – And this is the witness that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.  

Since eternal life depends on the faithful preaching of the gospel message, Jesus proclaimed it in the face of all opposition, contempt and persecution. 

This is a principle that we too must keep in mind.  The message that we share with the lost is not just a religious ritual, but a life giving message connected to the eternal welfare of the hearer.  Therefore, we should fearlessly deliver the message even in the face of persecution and contempt, just as Jesus did.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

The Jews are not the only people to hold onto false pictures of God.  For instance, some people believe that ‘God is love’ and he would never condemn anyone to hell.  While it is true that God is love, scripture is very, very clear that he is also a God of justice.  The price for sin must be paid and any person who does not allow Christ to pay that debt will answer for it themselves at the end of the age.  This is true whether you believe it or not.

So let’s ask ourselves a difficult question:  Are we holding onto any false pictures of God?  When something occurs in our life that does not match up with our perception of God, what do we do?  Do we become angry and blame God?  Or can we search the scriptures, seek him in prayer and admit we are wrong? 

If you are ever tempted to be mad at God for something, I encourage you stop and look at your perception of him.  If it doesn’t match up with scripture, you need to admit you are wrong and change your view of God.

Let me offer you some relief:

While most Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, there were some who believed in him.  However, they were weak in their faith; they were afraid to openly confess Jesus as the Christ. 

Perhaps you and I can relate to that.  Was there ever a time when you were afraid or embarrassed to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior?   Maybe you even denied him, like Peter did just before the crucifixion. 

If so, let me offer you some relief – there is nothing you can do that the blood of Christ cannot forgive.  So don’t let Satan continue to condemn you.  Confess your sin and your shortcomings.  If you do, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  

Let me offer you some strength:

Do you need to make things right with God today?  Perhaps you have never actually given him control of your life or perhaps you did long ago, but you have abandoned your faith. 

That’s why I want to give you a chance to accept salvation and/or rededicate your life to Christ right now.  It is simple.  The epistle of Romans tells us that if we confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God has raised him from the dead, we can be saved (Romans 10:9).  If that is you, then go ahead and pray this simple prayer:

Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 

  

John, Chapter 12, Part 3

John 12:27 – “Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

In our last post, Jesus assured his followers that his kingdom was about to be established.  However, it would not occur with the power and splendor they were expecting.  Rather, it would come about through his suffering and death.

Jesus used the analogy of a seed to help them understand his point.  A seed cannot grow into a plant and produce a harvest unless it first dies.  This is a reflection of what will occur in the spiritual realm.  Through the death/resurrection of Jesus, the souls of both Jews and Gentiles will be harvested for the kingdom of heaven.    

Jesus encourages his followers to be strong in their faith, because they too may be called upon to suffer or even die for the kingdom of heaven (John 15:20).  Here is a comforting thought: Jesus does not call upon us to do something that he himself would not do!

‘Now is my soul troubled’ – This teaching leads Jesus to the reality of his own upcoming suffering and death.  The thought of these imminent events filled him with dread and troubles his heart/soul.  Contrary to what we may think, it was not the excruciating physical pain that distressed Jesus the most.   

In order to make atonement for our sin and appease the wrath of God, he had to take upon himself all of the sin/guilt of the entire human race.  Think about that – the wrath of God that resulted from the sin of billions and billions and billions of people was laid upon Jesus.  By taking our sin upon himself, Jesus experienced the dreadful judgment of God; he was completely separated from his Father.  The torment he endured in this respect was much more severe than any physical pain he experienced.

‘And what shall I say? Father save me from this hour?’ – It is perfectly natural for a human to cry out ‘Father save me’ when he experiences horror/fear due to a sudden or violent calamity.  For instance, if you were in a car going 75 mph and you saw that a collision with another vehicle was going to happen, it would be natural for you to cry out ‘Father save me’ because you would want God to spare you from pain and death.  

But ‘Father save me’ would not be a proper request if it came from Jesus.  The whole purpose of his life on earth was to bear the wrath of God for the sin of mankind by dying on the cross.

Romans 5:8-9 – But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Therefore, to ask the Father to spare/release him from his appointment with death and torment would have been against the will of the Father; and Jesus never did anything that was contrary to his Father’s desires.  This is confirmed in the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Matthew 26:39 – And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.

What a powerful example!  Our weak human nature will automatically shrink/draw back at the possibility of suffering, but Jesus tells us not to yield to the flesh.  In fact, he leads us by example, fully accepting the suffering that the cross held for him.  We too should submit ourselves to the will of God, knowing that if we suffer it will not be in vain.  God will do a mighty work through our suffering.

John 12:28 – “Father, glorify your name.”  Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

In this passage, Jesus is teaching us the lesson of humble, willing submission to God’s divine will.

Let me ask you this:  Is it possible to unwillingly and/or haughtily submit to authority?  If so, how might that present itself?  Consider this example:

Suppose you were employed in a business that didn’t work holidays.  But all of a sudden, without any notice, your boss scheduled you to work on Thanksgiving and the Friday afterward.  The last thing you wanted to do was work those two days, but since you didn’t really have a choice, you did it. 

What would your attitude be on that day?  If it were me, I would start the day angry.  I would be complaining on my way there.  I might snap at the customers, or answer the phone rudely.  I would definitely do the least amount of work possible.  And I would grumble about the boss and the unfairness of the situation for weeks to come. 

In this scenario, it’s true that I submitted to the authority of the boss, however, you might say I was unwillingly obedient.  I also disrespected the boss and bad-mouthed the company.  Obviously, it is possible to stubbornly or unwillingly submit to authority.  We’ve probably all done it at one time or another.

But this was not the case with Christ.  In fact, his statement (Father, glorify your name) expresses the opposite of an angry, unwilling, stubborn surrender to the will of God.  Instead, he fully and completely consecrated his suffering to the glory of God; he was willing to endure any trial and submit to all suffering so that the name of his Father could be honored above all else.        

In response, God declares two things to be true:  He had glorified his name, and he would glorify it again.  What did he mean by that?

In a broad sense, these words are without limit; they refer to the entire past and the whole future of God’s revelation of himself to mankind.  But more specifically, God has been glorified in the life of Christ, through his doctrine and his miracles.  His earthly life exemplified God’s wisdom, power, truth, holiness and goodness.    

And that’s not all… God will finish what he started.  He will again glorify his name in the future through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.  These actions glorify both the justice and mercy of God.  They fulfill the demands of the broken law and they satisfy the insult and offense of sin to God’s government while purchasing forgiveness for mankind.  

Hallelujah!  We could sing of the glory of God and the work of Jesus for all of eternity!

John 12:29 – The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.  Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

When Jesus said, ‘Father, glorify your name’ it was a cry or a petition to his Father.  We should not be surprised at all when the Father answers his beloved Son; God always answers prayer (Psalms 65:2, Proverbs 15:29). 

But notice that those who heard it heard different things.

There were surely some among the multitude that were spiritually awake and able to receive this divine revelation of God.  They heard what God said.  It strengthened their faith.  They were able to testify/witness to it later on, after Jesus rose from the grave.  

Others chose to ignore the message of God and focus on the sound of the thunder.  Thunder and even lightning are frequently associated with the voice of God (Exodus 19:16-19, Revelation 4:5, Revelation 8:5, etc).  However, the way the message is delivered is secondary to the message itself.  Those who focused on the thunder were deaf to the message it delivered.   

Still others found the voice articulate, even though they did not understand what was said.  These people attributed the voice to an angel; it was the general opinion of the Jews that when God spoke directly to his people he always used an angel to deliver the message. 

Despite their differences, they all agreed on one thing – the sound was real, and it came from heaven.  And whether they wanted to admit it or not, the answer was a confirmation of the work, ministry and office of Jesus.  There was simply no basis for the Jews to continue to deny that Jesus was the Messiah.

Here is an interesting fact: Scholars have noted that a voice from heaven testified/confirmed/endorsed Jesus on three separate occasions:

  • When he began his public ministry as the high priest of the new covenant – Matthew 3:17
  • When a command was given for his disciples to listen to him as the great Prophet of the church – Matthew 17:5
  • When he enters Jerusalem and is identified as our King – John 12:28-29

Thus, God (with his own voice) confirmed Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King. 

Let me ask you this:  If God spoke to unbelievers/scoffers in an audible voice today, would the results be any different?  Personally, I don’t think so.  In my opinion, there would still be some people who received his word, some who would hear yet ignore it, and some who would miss the point completely.  What do you think?

Fortunately for us, God is still speaking to his children, using dreams, visions, inner confirmations, his written word and other ways as well (John 10:16,27).  How does he communicate with you? 

John 12:30 – Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.”

If Father God wanted to give an encouraging word directly to his Son, he could have done it privately.  He could have come to him in a vision or a dream.  He could even have whispered something directly in Jesus’ ear.  But he didn’t – because God was speaking to the Jews and Greeks, not to his Son.   

As Jesus explains, the only reason for the audible voice of God was as a witness/testimony to the people who were present in the temple that day.

The audible voice of God confirmed the office and ministry of Jesus.  Regardless of what the religious leaders claimed, there could be no doubt that God had sent Jesus into the world as the long awaited Messiah.  Therefore, the Jews and Greeks should accept Jesus, submit to his teachings and then rest in the assurance that he was their Redeemer and Savior.

This word from Father God was also intended to strengthen and confirm the faith of the people.  The crucifixion was going to occur in a matter of days; the faith of the people would be tested and shaken.  So God graciously sent them his word as an assurance that Jesus was the true Messiah – no matter how it looked at that moment. 

John 12:31 – “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”

Jesus now goes on to expound on the manner in which his death will glorify God. It is the will of God for everyone to be a part of his eternal kingdom; he does not want anyone to be lost.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

But in order for people to come into his kingdom, the price of sin must be paid and the power of Satan must be broken.

The phrase ‘ruler of this world’ (your translation may say ‘prince of this world’) was the normal Rabbinic title for Satan.

Satan gained dominion/authority over mankind by the fall of Adam (Romans 5:12).  Ever since, he has kept all men under the slavery and tyranny of sin.   He is a usurper who acts like a prince, operating in a kingdom of darkness and evil.  He opposes the kingdom of heaven at all times, blinding the eyes of mankind to the truth of the gospel (II Corinthians 4:4) and tempting them to do evil.  He spreads lies and wickedness through his servants, the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).  He has a firm grip on this world, seeking to destroy or devour any righteous person (I Peter 5:8). 

And as we know, mankind had no hope of ever escaping from the shackles of sin.

But the time had come for scripture to be fulfilled; the judgment decreed for Satan was about to be carried out. 

Genesis 3:15 – And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.     

When Jesus died and rose again, the power and authority of Satan was destroyed.  Mankind could be free from the burden of sin through the blood of Christ; he could now choose to be part of the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14).   He could be reinstated into fellowship with the Creator.

Because the actions of Jesus made this possible, his death and subsequent resurrection glorify Father God.

Although the power of Satan was broken by Jesus 2000 years ago, his reign over mankind did not instantly cease (obviously).  But know this – Satan was vanquished at that time and his kingdom has been in decline ever since.  Eventually, when the appointed time comes, Jesus will return to earth and put a final end to his kingdom forever.  

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.

If Jesus glorified God by doing his will, we can glorify God in the same way.  What is God’s will for your life?  Are you willing to pursue that course even if suffering is involved? 

John 12:32-33 – “And I, when I am lifted up, from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

The Jews understood the phrase ‘lifted up from the earth’ to mean death (specifically, to die or be put to death).  John plainly tells us that this was the correct interpretation of the phrase.

The Jews (and Satan) believed that crucifying Jesus would not only shut him up, it would result in everlasting shame and contempt of his name and life (Deuteronomy 21:23). 

Little did they know that Christ crucified is the ‘hope of glory’ for the world (Colossians 1:27).  Hanging Jesus on a cross between heaven and earth only further promoted the glory of the Father.  Through the cross, the preaching of the gospel and the power of Holy Spirit, Jesus has drawn innumerable multitudes of men and women to himself.  Jesus used the shame of the cross to bring eternal life/salvation to all who put their faith in him.    

What did Jesus mean when he said he would draw ‘all people’ to himself?

In order to fully understand the meaning, we must remember the context of the statement.  Jesus is in the temple, teaching.  He can see the stone wall of separation between the Jews and the Greeks/Gentiles and he knows the Gentiles greatly desire to meet him.  He is very aware of his upcoming sacrifice on Passover; his time of suffering was drawing near.  But he was also acutely aware that his suffering would not be in vain.  Through it, ‘all people’ – Jews and Greeks/Gentiles – could be free from the curse of the law. 

Galatians 3:13 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:

Freedom from the curse of the law was not limited to the Jewish people; God had something much, much greater in mind.  The door of salvation was blown wide open by the sacrifice of Christ and Gentiles were also admitted to the kingdom of heaven.

As we previously mentioned, God will certainly be glorified by the sacrifice of Christ.  At the same time, he will glorify his Son, giving him a name above all others:  

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God will also glorify Jesus by making him the head of all things, including the church (Ephesians 1:15-23).   

John 12:34 – So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever.  How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?  Who is this Son of Man?”

The Jews in the temple that day were contrary and hostile.  Despite having heard the audible voice of God, they immediately looked for ways to dismiss Jesus as the Messiah.  Their excuse for rejecting him was based on teaching by the religious leaders. 

Specifically, the religious leaders taught them to believe that the Messiah (the Christ) would not die; he would reign forever. These teachings were based on many Old Testament passages including Psalms 110:4, Micah 4:7, Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44 and others.  This teaching wasn’t wrong (Jesus will reign forever), but it was definitely an incomplete picture of what was prophesied about the Messiah.   

It seems that the teachers of the law had overlooked other important Old Testament texts that spoke of the suffering and death of the Messiah, like Isaiah 53.

The argument of the Jews went something like this:  If Jesus was the Messiah, and the Messiah would rule forever/never die, then how could Jesus be ‘lifted up’?  In other words, they did not believe that the death of Jesus could be reconciled with the idea of his eternal reign.

The problem is that they did not understand (or they refused to understand) the true nature of the Messiah and his kingdom.  Jesus was both divine and human.  Though his human body died, his Spirit/divine nature did not.  After his suffering and death, his spirit and body were once again united during his resurrection and from that point onward he would rule/reign forever.  In short, death of the body does not mean death of the spirit.

The same thing is essentially true for us.  One day, our body will die.  But physical death does not kill our spirit, it merely frees it from our sinful flesh.  At some point, God will give each of us a new body fit for eternity in his kingdom.  Our spirit and new body will be united and endure forever.   

John 12:35 – So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.  The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

Jesus reproves the unbelieving crowd for their frivolous reasoning.  In truth, they already knew the answers to the questions they asked.  They were well aware that man dies yet his immortal soul continues to live on.  So Jesus warns them not to shut their eyes against the spiritual/gospel light he is bringing them (John 9:5). 

At that very moment, the Jews were definitely walking in the light.  They had Christ’s bodily presence, they heard his preaching, they saw his miracles and they heard his Father speak.  If there was ever a time for them to commit to the gospel in faith, it was right then!

As Jesus warned, that light would soon seem to vanish away.  Jesus was going to be crucified.  Spiritual blindness and hardness of heart would fall upon the Jews (Romans 11); the kingdom of God would be given to the Gentiles/Greeks.  In a few short years the temple would be destroyed and the Jewish nation dissolved.  For the people present in the temple that day, time was short and it was imperative that they walk in the light/truth of the message of grace.

If they don’t walk in the light, the only other choice is to walk in spiritual darkness.  Those who do have no idea where they are going, or what they are doing.  They no longer recognize the difference between good and evil.  They endlessly wander the paths of life living in sin and error.  They are on the way to destruction and hell without even realizing it.

John 12:36 – “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”  When Jesus had said these things, he departed and him himself from them.

After this conversation, Jesus withdrew outside of Jerusalem.  He most likely went to the Mount of Olives or the gardens at its base where he spent the night on many occasions. 

It was his custom to spend the night there, and return to Jerusalem in the mornings to teach and preach.

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

Jesus tells us that his life can be compared to a seed.  A seed must be buried and die before it can bring life to the plant and produce a harvest.  In the same way, Jesus must die and be buried so that he can bring the church to life and bring an abundance of believers into the kingdom of heaven.

Death is a requirement of every Christian as well.  We must die to sin and to our own selfish nature, taking up the cross of Christ and following wherever he may lead.   

Mark 8:34 – And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Just like Jesus, we have the assurance that any suffering we endure will not be in vain.  God will reward it when he reconciles all things at the end of this age.  So let me end by speaking a word of blessing over your life – the same one given by the author of Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:20-21 – Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

      

John, Chapter 12, Part 2

John 12:12 – The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

At the close of John chapter 11, we found many of the Jews wondering if Jesus was going to come to Jerusalem for the Passover or not.  On the one hand, it was a requirement of all Jewish males.  On the other hand, the religious leaders had put a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert for Jesus.  If anyone saw him, they were to report it immediately so that he could be arrested.  Those who failed to comply would be punished. 

So there was a general buzz or excitement on the minds of all the Jews.  Eventually, word spread that Jesus was definitely coming to Jerusalem. 

These events are recorded in all of the gospels (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19).  The other gospel writers give specific details which John does not mention, so you might want to review all of the accounts to get a fuller picture of what actually occurred.

As he came into the city, Jesus was acknowledged by a great crowd of people.  Specifically, these were common people who ‘had come to the feast’, indicating they were country people who traveled from the more remote parts of the known world for the Passover.  Many of them heard Jesus teach/preach (and saw him work miracles) as he traveled throughout the towns and villages of the region.   These unbiased listeners were glad to see him again.  They were delighted to demonstrate their respect for him in Jerusalem.

This is the exact opposite of the religious rulers and Jerusalem Jews.  For the most part, they despised and rejected Christ. 

This is not surprising; scripture tells us that God has chosen the weak and foolish things of this world to confound those who think they are wise:

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

God values the hearts/souls of men, not the titles or honors which society bestows upon them. 

John 12:13 – So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel!”

We can’t help but notice that the crowd didn’t just casually wait for Jesus to appear at the temple – they went out of their way to seek him out.  Why do you suppose they went to meet him with palm branches?

Historically, palm branches/leaves were used in marches or processions as emblems of rejoicing and victory.  They were also used in ceremonies where kingly power was bestowed upon a person or on occasions where people rejoiced while receiving a new king. 

The crowd also shouted as they welcomed Jesus into the city.  They are actually quoting from Psalms 118, which is a Messianic psalm. 

Psalm 118:24-26 – This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.  Save now, I beseech you, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech you, send now prosperity.  Blessed be he that comes in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

This particular psalm was designed to produce a continual longing for the Messiah in the hearts of the Jewish people.  It speaks of a desire for the kingdom of Christ to flourish and prosper.  The Jews frequently used it as a prayer.  That being the case, they knew it by heart.

We should not be surprised that Holy Spirit put this psalm into the hearts and minds of his people on that day.  By shouting this out, the crowd acknowledges Jesus to be the Messiah, the long awaited source of redemption and salvation.  In fact, the word ‘hosanna’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘save, now, we pray’.  It is an exclamation of praise to the Lord as well as an invocation of blessings.

Now we understand what was happening in Jerusalem all those years ago.  The common Jews acted as heralds or messengers proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and asking that God would bless and prosper his kingdom.   

What does this mean for our generation? 

Do we long to see the kingdom of God flourish and prosper here on earth?  To ‘long’ means to earnestly and intently desire.  It means you can’t think about anything else.  It means that you talk about it, all the time.  It means you would give up anything or do anything in order to achieve your desire.  So let me ask you again:  do you long for the kingdom of heaven to prosper here on earth?

If so, your prayer life should reflect it:

Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.    

Often times our prayers are very self centered and immature.  We pray only for our own comfort and prosperity.   But what about praying for God to manifest his kingdom here on earth?  What about praying for people to be healed, delivered and saved?  When those things happen, the kingdom of God is definitely being manifested on earth. 

I recently received a newsletter from the ministry founded by Brother Andrew, who smuggled bibles into foreign countries at the cost of life and limb.  He lived an extraordinary life trusting in God for miracles so that the kingdom of God might be spread throughout the world.  Here is a quote of his, as noted in the newsletter:  

“If we understood the potential power of our prayers, we would be on our knees a hundred times a day asking Him for things that would turn the world upside down”.  

Brother Andrew prayed for the kingdom of God to be manifested here on earth.  What about us?   What are we praying and believing for? 

John 12:14-15 – And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

This was a fulfillment of prophesy given hundreds of years before by the prophet Zechariah:

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes unto you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey.  

All Jews, including the religious leaders, agreed that this prophesy spoke of the coming Messiah. 

Zechariah prophesied to the Jews, particularly those in Jerusalem, that their spiritual King would shortly come to them, bringing salvation.  His kingdom was not physical, but spiritual.  This King would be very easy to recognize – he would come in a spirit of meekness, without pomp or accolades, sitting upon a donkey. 

His coming would be to their profit/advantage.  Once he arrived, there would be no more reason to fear; the yoke of bondage caused by sin would be broken and they would be truly free (John 8:36).  This news should give them reason for great rejoicing (hence the palm branches).

Let’s talk about the donkey for a minute.  In ancient times, donkeys were ridden by men of great honor or authority (Judges 10:4, 12:14).  But during the reign of Solomon, horses were imported into Israel in great numbers.  After that, everyone rode horses except the poorest people.  However, donkeys were still used as beasts of burden, carrying heavy loads whenever needed.

Any natural/earthly king who was being presented to his subjects during this time period would never have ridden a donkey.  Therefore, Jesus riding on the donkey was not just a coincidence or an accident.  He did it on purpose; it was an obvious fulfillment of prophesy.  It was also appropriate – he would soon be bearing the full burden of sin for the human race. 

This should have been clear to the religious leaders, who were already very familiar with Old Testament prophesy, but they did not see it due to their self-induced spiritual blindness.

What about the people of God (the church) in this generation?  We too are told to rejoice and fear not, for our King has already defeated the enemy (Colossians 2:13-15) and broken the chains of sin and darkness.  We are encouraged to enforce the reign of Christ upon the earth, sharing peace and salvation with those who are still lost. 

We too have the assurance that our King is coming yet again!  The first time he came as a lamb, meek and lowly bringing salvation, but the next time he will come as the Lion of the tribe of Judah!  He will come as a mighty warrior defeating his enemies and bringing all things under subjection to himself.  He will reign upon this earth for a thousand years and every knee will bow to him.  This is great reason to rejoice!     

John 12:16 – His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

The Jews who were present on that day waving palm branches and shouting ‘hosanna’ were doing so because they were prompted by Holy Spirit.  The probably did not fully understand that prophesy was being fulfilled through them. 

Neither did the twelve understand what they were witnessing.  They heard the shouts of the multitude proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, and they saw him riding on the donkey, but at the time they did not perceive the significance of these events.  

But later, after Jesus ascended to heaven and Holy Spirit came into the world, these things were made clear. 

John 14:26 – But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Notice that two things were necessary for their understanding:

  • They needed to know what Jesus said. 
  • They needed Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds. 

We need those same two things.  We need to read the Bible, even if we don’t fully understand everything we are reading.  Don’t make the mistake that some Christians do by ignoring certain portions of scripture because they don’t fully understand it (Isaiah? The minor prophets?), or they think it’s boring (Leviticus?).  Paul tells us that ALL scripture is profitable to us (II Timothy 3:15). 

And, as we just pointed out, Holy Spirit is willing and able to bring you to a full understanding of the scripture, if you will pray and seek for the answer.   

John 12:17-18 – The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.  The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.

Meanwhile, as these events unfolded, Holy Spirit began to move upon the Jews who had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus.  These were the Jews of Jerusalem.  Many of them were prominent, well respected citizens and/or men of distinction.  They had spent weeks bearing witness of the power of Christ to anyone who would listen. 

Now that Jesus was in town, they began to point him out, reminding people of his resurrection power.  As eyewitnesses, they were reliable sources of information.  Through them, any out-of-town Jews who had not heard of Jesus were being informed of his ministry.  Thus, God turned the minds of all Jerusalem toward Jesus just before his crucifixion. 

John 12:19 – So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing.  Look, the world has gone after him.”

It wasn’t long before the Pharisees either saw or heard about Christ’s public entry into Jerusalem.  When Jesus left the public eye several weeks earlier and retreated into the wilderness with his disciples, the Pharisees erroneously thought they had silenced their enemy.  They vainly hoped they had seen and heard the last of this rogue teacher. 

But they were sorely mistaken.  More and more and more Jews were turning to Jesus.  It seemed like every Jew in Jerusalem was following after him.  The Pharisees describe it as ‘the world’ turning to follow Christ.   

Of course, the phrase ‘the world’ is used not used in a literal sense.  It is a hyperbole used to denote a large number of people.  In the same way, we might say ‘everyone’ was at the football game when in reality everyone in town was not present.  The meaning is that there were a large number of people in attendance.

This show of support for Jesus enraged the religious leaders.  You can sense the bitterness in their words as they watched their enemy be acknowledged as the Messiah.    

Psalm 112:9-10 – He [the Messiah] has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his strength shall be exalted with honor.  The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Despite all of their plans, decrees and threats, more and more people were turning to Christ.  The religious leaders were utterly powerless to stop the spread of the gospel message.  

Their anger and vexation caused them to ‘dig in their heels’ and renew their commitment to bring about the death of Jesus sooner rather than later.

John 12:20 – Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.

Who are the Greeks that John mentions in this verse?  There are several theories:

  • They may have been Jews who lived in Greek or Hellenistic cities and therefore spoke Greek.  At this time, there were large groups of Jews scattered in several places throughout the known world including Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia and Egypt just to name a few. 
  • They may have been proselytes to the Jewish religion.  In other words, they were Gentiles who wanted to convert to Judaism, so they become circumcised and followed the Law. 
  • They may have simply been Gentiles, who heard of the miracles of Jesus and came to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God and worship him according to the manner of the people of the land.

Although each theory has its own devoted followers, for the purposes of this lesson we are going to assume the Greeks were Gentiles.  Here is why:

  1. It was very common for the Jews to use the term ‘Greek’ in place of ‘Gentile’:

Acts 19:10 – And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.   

Other examples are Acts 14:1, Acts 16:1, Romans 1:16, Galatians 3:28, etc. 

2. There is no reason to assume that John meant anything other than Gentile when he used the common term ‘Greek’. 

3. It is clearly evident in scripture that many Greeks/Gentiles came to Jerusalem to worship God.  One example is the Ethiopian eunuch who had an encounter with Philip:

Acts 8:27 – And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,       

Other examples include Cornelius (Acts 10), and various groups of unnamed Gentiles (Acts 17:4). 

4. From the beginning, provision had been made for Gentiles to pray and worship at the temple, as evidenced by King Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple:

1 Kings 8:41-43 – Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of your people Israel, but comes out of a far country for your name’s sake;  (For they shall hear of your great name, and of your strong hand, and of your outstretched arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear you in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calls to you for: that all people of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have built, is called by your name.

 Notice that in his prayer King Solomon predicts that Gentiles will hear about the great name of the Lord and his miraculous deeds and turn towards him.  This is exactly what these Greeks/Gentiles are doing when they ask Philip to introduce them to Christ.

John 12:21-22 – So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

The people who came to Jerusalem for the Passover feast spent a lot of time in the temple, which was subdivided into different courts.  There was a court for Jewish men, a separate court for women, and a third court for Gentiles. 

The court of the Gentiles was divided from the inner square of the temple by a stone fence.  Scholars and historians (Josephus, Antiquities XV 11, 5) tell us that it had pillars placed at regular intervals which were inscribed with the following warning in both Greek and Latin:

‘No alien must pass within the fence round the Temple and the court.  If anyone be caught doing so, he must blame himself for the death that will follow.’

Wow! How welcome do you think the Gentiles felt in the temple?

Jesus often taught in the temple on a daily basis, as he was doing this day.  So picture the scene – throngs of Gentiles diligently seeking spiritual truth, are forced to stay behind a stone retaining wall, straining to see and hear Jesus.   

It is very likely that these men came into contact with Philip as he passed through the Gentile court.  It is possible they knew him personally, as he was from Bethsaida, or they may simply have identified him as one of the disciples.  Either way, they stop him and ask for a chance to see the Lord.

Their request to ‘see’ Jesus probably meant that they wanted to interact with him one-on-one so they could ask him questions and fully understand the new doctrines he was teaching.  Their place in the temple did not give them this kind of opportunity.

John does not reveal to us if this meeting ever took place.  Some scholars believe it did, because Jesus never casts aside those who seek him. 

Others believe that Jesus knew what was in their hearts and addressed their questions in the following discourse.  

John 12:23 – And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “

What did Jesus mean by this?

‘Son of Man’ – This is one of the many phrases used to describe Jesus.  It emphasizes his union with man.  As a man he had been humble, poor and despised, but he was now about to receive the appropriate honor due to him as the Messiah.

‘The hour has come’ – The word ‘hour’ is commonly used to denote a 60 minute block of time, but it has other definitions as well.  In this case, it is used to denote a fixed, definite or predetermined time.  Before the foundation of the world, God had appointed an exact time/hour for Jesus to be glorified and that time had now arrived.

‘Glorified’ – To be glorified is to be honored in an appropriate way.  Take a moment to review the context of this statement, and ask yourself this question:  What would be an appropriate way for Jesus to be honored, given this situation?

Answer – Up until this time, God had an exclusive covenant with the Jewish people.  He dealt with them, and they displayed the love and power of God to all of the other Gentile nations/people of the world.

However, God’s ultimate plan was to bring ALL men into a personal relationship with him through the sacrifice of the Messiah.  As you recall, Jesus plainly told us this in the gospel of John:

John 10:15-16 – As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.   And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Notice that Jesus specifically states to the Jews that he has ‘other sheep’ which he will bring into the fold so that there will be ‘one fold and one shepherd’. The joining of the flock occurs after he ‘lays down his life for the sheep’. 

In other words, Jesus would be appropriately honored by the conversion/salvation of the Gentiles (in addition to the Jews).  The first-fruits of this honor were standing before him in the person of the Greek believers. 

So was the stone dividing wall.

However, the hour/time has arrived for the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile to be removed/broken down and for people of every nation, tribe and tongue to come into the kingdom of heaven.

Ephesians 2:13-14 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us;   

And as Jesus will now explain, the wall of division between Jew and Gentile can only be removed by his own death and resurrection. 

John 12:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “

Keep in mind the Jew are looking for the Messiah to come and immediately establish a temporal kingdom here on earth. 

Jesus assures his followers that his kingdom was about to be established, however, it would not occur with the power and splendor they were expecting.  Rather, it would come about through his suffering and death.  His followers were surprised.  They did not understand how this could be accomplished through his death.

Jesus explains it using the analogy of a seed. 

When a seed is planted in the ground, it actually begins to decompose.  During the decomposition phase, nutrients are released which bring life to the germ and sustain it until the sprout/plant can get its own support entirely from the soil.  Eventually, the plant will bring forth an abundant harvest, which would not have occurred unless the original seed died.

From our perspective, the spiritual application is clear.  Jesus could only establish his kingdom by dying, which provided salvation to mankind.  By his suffering and death (and resurrection), he produced an innumerable harvest of souls.  

Hebrews 2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Thus, we see that Jesus was glorified (honored in an appropriate way) through his death and resurrection, which provided salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

John 12:25 – “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

This statement of Jesus was recorded by all four of the gospel writers (Matthew 10:39 and 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).  It further deals with the suffering that Christians may be called upon to endure.   

There is no comparison between the best of the physical life we have here on earth and the eternal spiritual life we will inherit if we follow Christ.  The best this world has to offer cannot even come close to the benefits we will have in the eternal kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 2:9).

Therefore, as Christians, we need to be willing to sacrifice our earthly comforts for the kingdom.  We need to willingly endure suffering, if God calls upon us to do so.  By forsaking some of the comforts of this life, and embracing suffering for the sake of the gospel, we earn eternal rewards which will endure forever (Matthew 6:19-20).

This principle is noted in various ways all throughout the scriptures.  For example, it is illustrated in the parable of the pearl of great price:

Matthew 13:45-46 – Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking fine pearls:  Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

In this parable, we are told that the kingdom of heaven/eternal life is so valuable, we should be willing to give up/sacrifice anything (and everything) in order to obtain it.  No price is too high to pay, up to and including our own physical lives.  

John 12:26 – “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

To follow Christ is to do what he does, to bear what he bears, to love what he loves.  Jesus is currently discoursing upon the topic of his own suffering and death; the implication is that we too must be willing to suffer or even die for the sake of the gospel.

John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Those who do are assured of being with Jesus in the heavenly realm.  This verse is designed to be a great comfort to all who follow Christ.  Though they may suffer for a short while, eventually the trial will pass and they will find reward in the kingdom of heaven:

Revelation 3:21 – To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.

Thus, Jesus makes it plain to everyone that discipleship includes self-sacrifice on many different levels up to and including martyrdom.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In this passage of scripture, the apostle John briefly mentions the triumphal entry of Christ.  We noted that the Jews who were present didn’t just casually wait for Jesus to appear at the temple – they went out of their way to seek him out.  Then, they lavished him with adoration and honor.

I encourage you to follow their example.  Why not seek out an opportunity to lavish Jesus with honor today?  Pray for someone.  Give to further the gospel.  Help the poor.  Stand up for righteousness.  Encourage the saints.  Spend time in his presence giving him the worship he deserves.

Let me offer you some relief:

In this post we learned that a seed must die in order to produce a harvest.  Spiritually speaking, we must die in order to bring others into the kingdom of heaven.  Are you terrified by this prospect?  If so, let me offer you some relief.   

Dying does not necessarily mean loss of physical life.  It can also mean that we must die to the flesh, or to our own desires. 

For example, you might want to sleep in every Saturday morning.  But if you deny your desire and get up an hour earlier than normal to pray and intercede for the lost, then you are crucifying your flesh/desires for the kingdom of heaven.  If Holy Spirit lays something on your heart in the realm of crucifying your flesh, be sure your respond.   

Let me offer you some strength:

This portion of scripture highlights the gap that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles.  In the natural realm, there was absolutely no way for these two groups to come together into one ‘fold’.  But God accomplished the impossible. 

Do you have a situation in your life that seems hopeless or impossible?  Is there a problem that you can’t solve or a relationship that you feel can’t be mended?  Take that issue before the throne of grace.  Appeal to heaven for what you want/need because God is still in the business of doing the impossible! 

John, Chapter 12, Part 1

John 12:1 – Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

As the last chapter ended, we found Jesus withdrawing from the public eye due to the wicked plans of the enemy.  He spent some time in the wilderness alone with his disciples, no doubt continuing to teach and strengthen them for what was shortly to come – his crucifixion.

It has been estimated that Jesus was with his disciples for about two months following the resurrection of Lazarus.  But now the time had come to fulfill his mission.  His journey to the cross began with a stop at Bethany, six days before the Passover.

By stopping in Bethany, Jesus once again brings the idea of resurrection to the minds of his disciples.  They will spend time in the company of Lazarus; they will be reminded that Jesus has full resurrection power within himself.  They needed this reminder because their faith was soon to be tested with the death of Jesus himself. 

The stop in Bethany fulfills another purpose as well.  Jesus was fully aware that Judas would betray him; he knew the appointed time for victory was at hand and he was ready to lay his life down for the sheep.  This pause at Bethany gives Judas plenty of time to make his pact with the Pharisees and plan the betrayal of Christ (Matthew 26:14-16). 

John 12:2 – So they gave a dinner for him there.  Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

The friends of Jesus decide to organize a dinner party for him.  The event was held in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6).  At the time of the supper he was no longer a leper.  How do we know?  If he was, he wouldn’t be permitted to be in the house.  He would be banished outside of town.  Clearly Jesus had healed him some time in the past. 

Yet people continued to identify him as ‘Simon the leper’.  Thus, the testimony of what Christ did for him continues to live on and bear witness to more and more people.  Even the young people of that community probably knew him as the leper. If so, the testimony of this miracle spanned generations.

I know I have said this before, but if you have a testimony, SHARE IT.  You don’t know who it might impact or how God might use it to further his purposes.

Lazarus’ presence at the party was also a testimony.  His resurrection was no illusion – he was right there living, breathing, eating and enjoying life as any other healthy person would.  

Meanwhile, Martha was heavily involved in planning and serving at the party.

John 12:3 – Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

The product that Mary uses in this instance is not simply an extract from spikenard.  It was an expensive ointment or compound of many different odoriferous substances which was normally kept in a sealed jar or flask.  It is not surprising that the fragrance traveled throughout the entire house once it was opened.

The question is, why anoint Jesus at all? 

While this custom may seem strange to us, it was normal to the Jews.  It was common to pour fragrant oils on the heads of distinguished guests as a sign of respect.  This is probably the custom that was alluded to in Psalms 45:7 and Hebrews 1:8-9.

Hebrews 1:8-9 –But unto the Son he says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

Furthermore, when God established the Hebrew nation, he mandated the anointing of men when they were appointed to high offices (specifically prophets, priests and kings).  When they were anointed, they received a special measure of Holy Spirit to enable them to carry out their office.

Think about that for a minute… Jesus was about to execute the most important office of all time – the Redeemer of mankind.  Given that he was already filled with the Spirit without measure, it would only be fitting for him to be anointed before fulfilling this office.

Mary’s act of love and devotion to Jesus obviously went far beyond the normal custom of honoring a guest.  It reflected the depths of her gratitude and reverence to Christ for all that he had done in her life.  This no doubt included restoring her brother to life.

What feelings rise up in your heart/soul when you consider the depths of your sin and realize that only Christ the Redeemer could set you free?  If you don’t instantly experience gratitude, reverence, love and devotion, then you need to take a second look at your sin.  I assure you, it is far worse than you think – in God’s sight it was more putrid than the rotting flesh of Lazarus.  Without Christ the Redeemer, you would still be spiritually dead in your sin. 

It is plain to see that Mary gave Christ her very best.  Can we do any less?  Are we giving Christ the best we have to offer in every aspect of our lives, or does he get what is left over after we do what we want?

John 12:4-5 – But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 

Various historians maintain that ordinary ointment could be purchased for ten denarii, while the best stuff was selling for 310 denarii.  So, when Judas claims this ointment could have been sold for 300 denarii, he wasn’t exaggerating.  It was really that expensive; it was the best money could buy.  That amount of money would have lasted a poor man’s household for a year.

In essence, Judas is complaining that Mary wasted a vast amount of money by lavishly anointing Jesus.  He maintains that in using this oil, instead of selling it, she has cheated the poor.  In his opinion, she should be reprimanded. 

John 12:6 – He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Have you ever gone on vacation and left home for a week?  How expensive was it to travel?  Can you imagine the expense associated with constantly traveling for three entire years? 

Obviously, the ministry of Jesus required money.  As they traveled, the group carried a specific bag which held donations made by friends and supporters of the ministry.  Scripture tells us that many of the financial supporters were women (Luke 8:1-3).  Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that God allowed everyone to participate in Jesus’ ministry.  Men and women alike were able to support Jesus and his disciples as they proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of heaven.

What role do finances play in the spread of the gospel today?  I would say finances are just as important today as they were back then.  We are fortunate to be able to spread the gospel through radio, TV, streaming services, websites, conferences, churches etc but none of these venues are free.  Neither is the equipment needed to make them function.  What are you doing to support the spread of the gospel? 

Despite his protests, Judas was not interested in the welfare of the poor.  He was interested in the welfare of himself!  It is bad enough that he is stealing from the group, but now he goes a step further.  Judas feels that he personally has been cheated by Mary because she did not put the ointment money into the bag, where he could help himself to it!

It’s hard to fathom such avarice, but it clearly existed in the heart of Judas. 

Here is something to ponder:  Some scholars suggest that Judas’ outrage at being ‘cheated’ out of the $300 was the final straw that caused him to seek out the religious leaders and request money to betray Jesus (See Matthew 26:15). 

They also speculate that Judas knew Jesus was going to die soon, so he was anxious to steal as much from the bag as possible, in case the group disbursed.  Of course, this theory cannot be proved, but psychologically speaking, it is an interesting point of view.

John 12:7 – Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.”

What does Jesus mean by the phrase ‘she may keep it’? 

It means that the ointment was not used frivolously, as Judas alleged.  It had been set aside for a specific use, at a specific time.

Jesus did not delight in having earthly honors or pleasures heaped upon him.  If someone had tried to pour this ointment on him early in his ministry, he probably would have prevented it.  But the appropriate time had come for this event.

As we mentioned, anointing was the spiritual symbol of a God appointed office.  Jesus was about to step into his appointment as the Redeemer of mankind, the first fruits of those who are raised from death:

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 – But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

So besides affirming that Jesus is fulfilling the office of Messiah, this anointing also points once again to the promise of a final resurrection at the end of the age.

Furthermore, this specific anointing was entirely appropriate because of the imminent death and burial of Christ.  According to Jewish custom, corpses were washed, laid out and then anointed with liquid spices prior to burial.  Why should the body of Jesus be treated differently than any other Jewish person?  Did Judas object to the use of costly spices when his friends and family were interred?  Did he insist that their burial perfume be sold and donated to the poor?  I doubt it!  

The actions of Mary raise another question.  Did she fully understand that she was anointing him for burial?  Probably not.  Motivated by intense love, she acted on the direction of Holy Spirit, who knows all things.

John 12:8 – “For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Jesus gives yet another gentile reminder of his approaching departure which contains some long-standing truths. 

First, as long as we live in this fallen world, there will always be poor people.

Deuteronomy 15:11 – For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, you shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land.

This means there will always be opportunities for Christians to show the love of Christ to the poor by assisting them (Proverbs 19:17).  We are not here to judge the situation of the poor, or how they got there.  While we should consider it our duty to assist them, we need to rely on the wisdom of God and the leading of Holy Spirit to determine how best to do that.

Secondly, while there was plenty of time to help the poor, Mary only had a limited amount of time to minister to Jesus while he was in bodily form on earth.  In fact, there were less than six full days at the time of this supper.  This teaches us that opportunities to do something for Christ do not last forever. Whatever you intend to do for God, you need to do it now.

  • If you want to worship Christ, then do it lavishly, and do it now. 
  • If you want to witness for Christ, do it earnestly, and do it now.
  • If you want to fellowship with Christ, do it joyfully, and do it now. 
  • If you want to serve Christ, do it faithfully, and do it now.

John 12:9 – When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

The crowd of Jews was probably large indeed.  Remember, many had come early for the Passover celebration and the population of Jerusalem was significantly increasing every day.  Because Bethany was so close to Jerusalem, it was easy for people to go and check out this miracle for themselves.

It was curiosity which prompted them to see Lazarus.  They wanted to see this miracle for themselves.  They probably wanted to hear a first-hand account of his death and resurrection (I know I would).  They were full of questions about the afterlife.  What was it like?  Who did he see there?  Did he speak to God?  The questions were no doubt endless.

But as remarkable as Lazarus was, people were even more interested to see Jesus, the one who performed this miracle.  The one who taught them with authority.  The one who spoke a new and refreshing doctrine about the kingdom of heaven.  And the one who was at bitter odds with the religious leaders; the one who was on the Pharisees 10 most wanted list. 

There was speculation that Jesus may not come to the Passover as he had in years past, so many took this opportunity to go and see him in Bethany. 

We find that God had arranged for the divinity of Jesus to be recognized by great numbers of witnesses just before his crucifixion.  This miracle strengthened the faith of many believers.  It planted seeds of faith in many others, which would bloom and grow once Jesus had been resurrected. 

John 12:10-11 – So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

The religious leaders have gone mad.  Fueled by their own envy and pride, they have completely rejected the gospel.  And once a person has turned away from the truth, there is no end/limit to the sin and crime they will embrace.

Here is a case in point.  These men are the leaders of the nation.  They are supposed to rule in matters of righteousness and justice.  Lazarus has done absolutely nothing wrong, yet they are plotting to kill him!  Lazarus is singled out to be the object of their special hatred, because he represents the love and power of Christ.

His only crime is being a living witness to the power and divinity of Jesus.  The leaders could not discount, deny or sweep his witness under the rug.  Neither could they stop its effect upon the Jewish nation, which further infuriated them.

The truth is that all their efforts to silence Jesus over the last three years had been in vain.  They had done everything in their power to alienate the Jews from him.  They had stopped at nothing in an effort to discredit Jesus.  Yet more and more people believed in him as the promised Messiah. 

The religious leaders are left in the position of fighting against God himself.  Clearly, it was God’s will that Lazarus was alive.  Without his direct intervention, he would still be in the tomb.  But the leaders won’t accept that.  Their desire to kill Lazarus is nothing less than an act of defiance against God.

We find this principle at work in our world today.  When people are determined to reject the authority of God, there is no evil/sin they will fail to embrace.  There is no limit to the crimes they will commit.  The god of this world is still blinding the hearts and minds of people today, just as he did in the day of Christ. 

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

If you look around, you will find many people who fight against God just as vehemently as the Pharisees did.  They too have been blinded by Satan, the god of this world.  They too will embrace sin and evil without limit.

But remember, God has never lost a war or even a battle.  There is no power on earth or in hell that can stand against him.  Satan is already a defeated foe; Jesus took care of that issue long ago. 

When you look around and see evil in the world, don’t perceive that as a loss.  Don’t be discouraged by it.  See it for what it really is – an opening to shine the light of Christ into the darkness.  An opportunity to do battle for the kingdom of heaven.  A chance to set people free with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A favorable time for God to do the miraculous. 

Jesus is our victorious king, and we are victorious through him:

I Corinthians 15:57-58 – But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

So, let’s prepare ourselves to engage in spiritual warfare.  Let’s get off the sidelines and into the greatest battle of all time.  We will enjoy the victory more if we are a part of the action!

John, Chapter 11, Part 5

John 11:46 – … but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

As we noted at the end of our last post, many of the Jews who were present for the resurrection of Lazarus believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  In hindsight, Mary and Martha were able to see that their suffering was not in vain; it had a purpose. 

In fact, it had more purpose than either of them realized.  This resurrection was irrefutable proof that Jesus has the power to resurrect every person at the end of this age.  Thus, this incident has given reassurance and comfort to Christians throughout all the ages.

But inexplicably, there were other Jews present during the resurrection who hardened their hearts and still refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  We can only assume that their hearts and minds were blinded by Satan, the god of this world:

2 Corinthians 4:4 – In whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

In the midst of their rage and bitterness, these Jews went directly to the Pharisees to report the actions of Jesus as if he were some kind of criminal.  In turn, the equally blind Pharisees will testify at the Sanhedrin and urge the council to issue official orders for the death of Jesus. 

John 11:47 – So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do?  For this man performs many miracles.”

What was the Sanhedrin and what was its purpose?

The Sanhedrin (literally “sitting together”) or council was a group of 71 Jewish members, including chief priests, elders and scribes with the high priest being the president.   

It was the highest court of the Jews and its authority was extensive.  This court ruled in both judicial and ecclesiastical (pertaining to the church) matters.  However, during the time of Christ they did not have civil/government authority; the Romans did.  (They lost this authority when they went into captivity.  They did not gain it back until Israel was declared a nation in 1948).

The headquarters of the court were in Jerusalem.  The group normally met in a specific hall near the temple courts called Gazzith although scripture also indicates they sometimes met at the home of the chief priest (Matthew 26:3).  Once the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Sanhedrin ceased to exist. 

As you would expect, this council was intended for the public good.  It was to uphold/exercise both righteousness and justice, the foundations of God’s own throne.

Psalm 97:2 – Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and justice are the habitation of his throne.

(See also Psalms 89:14 and Isaiah 9:7).  Unfortunately, the council had become corrupt in many ways.  The majority of its members had become full of pride, envy and greed.  They enjoyed their positions of power and they loved exercising authority over their fellow man.

But the worst thing about the council was that most of them were spiritually blind.  As the learned/educated spiritual men of that day, they should have recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, and endorsed him as such.  They should have encouraged all the common Jews to embrace him as well. 

But they didn’t.  In fact, they hated Jesus.  They denied his messianic claims and demanded that the common Jews reject him as well.  Instead of leading their people towards God, they were herding them away from him – straight to hell and destruction.

This was the council that the Pharisees convened for a special meeting to discuss the ‘problem’ of Jesus and how they were going to fight against it.  Their actions were predicted by the psalmist this hundreds of years before:

Psalm 2:2-3 – The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 

Let me ask you this:  Have you ever been part of a group that was ‘infected’ by the anger or bitterness of one person?  I know I have.  The atmosphere in the room can be positive and healthy, but when that individual comes in and starts complaining, their discontentment spreads throughout the entire group like a disease.  The atmosphere changes into something toxic and pretty soon everyone is angry and unhappy. 

I imagine this council meeting was something like that.  A couple or a few Pharisees began to complain about Jesus.  No doubt, they rehearsed for the group all of the reasons why Jesus should be rejected.  Their frustration and anger infected all of the other members.  This was followed up with eye witness testimony about the most recent miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus.  By the time the testimony was finished, they were all seething with rage.

Build Up

Incidentally, you and I have this same power.  We can go into a group of people and influence it for good or for evil, just with our words.  We should avoid allowing ‘corrupt communication’ to come from our mouths at all times (Ephesians 4:29).  If we are frustrated or angry over something, it is best to share it with God or the person who is frustrating us.  Otherwise, our words need to edify and build up those we are with.   

Did you notice that the religious leaders openly admit that Jesus performed multiple miracles?  When they are judged by God, no witnesses will be needed to condemn them; they condemn themselves with their own words by acknowledging Jesus’ credentials but denying his commission.   

John 11:48 – “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

“If we let him go on like this” – What a ridiculous statement!  Clearly, the religious leaders believe that they are capable of shutting down or stopping the work of Jesus if they just try hard enough.

To be fair, if Jesus was a false prophet, then it would be their duty/responsibility to stop him.  But clearly he is NOT a false prophet; they have already acknowledged his many miracles.  

“Everyone will believe in him” – If Jesus continues to work miracles like the last two (curing the blind beggar and raising Lazarus from the dead), he will be universally recognized as the Messiah and the people will proclaim him as king. 

“The Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” – The religious leaders mistakenly believe that the Messiah would immediately set up his earthly kingdom.  They also incorrectly assume that if Jesus attempted to do this, it would result in a war with Rome.  Sadly, the religious leaders didn’t have much faith regarding the outcome of that conflict; they clearly believed that the Jews would be defeated and the Romans would overthrow and destroy both their nation and temple. 

But was that their true fear?  Probably not.  They are hiding their hatred and jealously of Christ under the pretence of public protection/good.  In reality, they were afraid that Jesus was going to destroy their way of life. 

At that time, the religious leaders claimed to be the only people who could correctly interpret the Law.  This resulted in a special prestige and authority.  In addition, they were the temple rulers; until Jesus showed up, no one dared to question what they did. 

But Jesus had already successfully challenged their authority over the Sabbath and many of their doctrines.  If the people followed Jesus, the religious leaders would lose their power, authority, wealth and prestige among the Jews.  This was the real reason they despised Jesus.

It should be noted that there were also just and devout men on the council who truly believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  This may have resulted in some actual discussion about what to do in the matter of Christ.  But as we shall see, the high priest silences any dissenting opinions.

This may be a good time to consider the final outcome of the Sanhedrin.  After the Jews actively participated in the conviction/crucifixion of Christ, all that they claimed to fear happened to them – they entered into a devastating war with Rome in which the temple was destroyed/desecrated and the Jews themselves were slaughtered in vast numbers.  At that point, the Sanhedrin simply ceased to exist. 

Conclusion:  Fighting against God is futile!     

John 11:49 – But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all.”

When the office of high priest was instituted it was for life, unless the man did something that would disqualify him from service (I Kings 2:27).  But once Israel returned from captivity, those who ruled over the Jews claimed and exercised the right of changing the high priest at any time.  It appears that Caiaphas had recently been promoted to this position.

John 11:50 – “Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

Wow!  This is a shocking statement considering that it comes from the high priest – the most revered and (supposedly) wisest man among the Jews.  Caiaphas is plainly saying that it is better (literal translation: profitable) for Jesus to die whether he was guilty or not, than for the wrath of Rome to be stirred up against the Jews and their whole nation destroyed. 

Shocking!

His point is that the ends justify the means.  Evil is okay if it results in what he thinks is best.  Specifically, if the death of an innocent man (Jesus) would make the people safe from Roman retribution, then he was all for it.  His thinking/reasoning is utterly diabolical!  It is scary to think that he was in the highest office of the Jewish nation!  

But no matter how hard he tries, man can never thwart the purposes and plans of God.  Despite his fleshly motives, Caiaphas is going to speak spiritual truth.

John 11:51-2 – He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Doesn’t this just make you rejoice at the power of God?  What the enemy meant for evil, God certainly used for good! 

Caiaphas was busy embracing evil – he was plotting the murder of an innocent man.  But in the midst of that, he was led by Holy Spirit to express his idea in such a way that it had a prophetic interpretation, which had an altogether different meaning from the one he intended to convey.  He actually delivered a most precious truth regarding the atonement of sin through the blood of Jesus!  Read his statement again, and you will see it for yourself!

Let’s remind ourselves that God can do the same thing in our situations.  Wicked people may plot against the righteous, but God has a way of using those plans to accomplish his purposes. 

Joseph is a good example of this.  As you recall, he was the second-to-youngest son of his father Jacob.

Trivia Question: Who was the youngest son of Jacob? The answer is at the bottom of this post.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they plotted evil against him.  They wound up selling him as a slave, splashing blood on his coat-of-many-colors and telling their dad he was killed by a wild beast. 

But as we know, Joseph winds up being second in command in Egypt and God uses him to save the Hebrews (and countless others) from death during a severe famine.  When Joseph is reunited with his brothers they are worried about revenge.  But that was the furthest thing from Joseph’s mind.  Look at what he says to his brothers:

Genesis 50:20 – But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.

In both cases (Caiaphas and Joseph) God uses the words/actions of the wicked in a manner which they do not wish or intend. 

In this situation, we want to be clear that Caiaphas was NOT a true prophet. He was not conscious of, nor did he understand the truth he spoke about the atonement of Jesus.

If that is the case, why does God speak through him? 

The Jews always attached great importance to the opinion of the high priest because of the office he held.  The high priest was the official representative of God to the Jewish people and anyone in this office had the official capacity to convey God’s truth.  So God made him do just that!  He unwittingly steered the Jews in the right direction (toward Christ), when all of his intentions were to do the opposite.

As for his actual words, he predicted that Jesus should die in the place of men – an atonement for sinners.  His atonement was for both Jews (‘the nation’) and Gentiles (‘children of God scattered abroad’) alike.        

John 11:53 – So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

The council is interpreting the words of the high priest as he intended them.  The ‘plans’ mentioned here are specific ways/scenarios in which they could charge Jesus with the death penalty under Roman law.  As we know, they will eventually accuse him of being a king, which put him in opposition to Caesar and ensured he would be crucified for treason.

John 11:54 – Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 

‘Walking openly’ refers to going through the cities and villages of the Jews teaching, preaching and healing the sick. 

So once the Sanhedrin put Jesus on the 10 Most Wanted List (John 11:57), he and the disciples temporarily stopped traveling.  They withdrew into a quiet country place away from the open wrath of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. 

But of course, Jesus was not withdrawing because he was afraid of his enemies.  Nor was he withdrawing from his Father’s will; he fully intended to surrender his life to the Jews at the appointed time.

John 11:55 – Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.

When writing his gospel, why would John use phrases like ‘Passover of the Jews’? Why mention the purification process that we already know took place?   

It shows that John was writing his gospel to include people who were not Jewish and not acquainted with Jewish customs. 

For example, Gentiles might not be aware that Jews were unable to celebrate Passover unless they were ceremonially clean.  Any number of things could make a person unclean (details can be found in Leviticus 22:1-6). 

For instance, touching or being in the presence of a tomb, dead body or human bones automatically made you ceremonially unclean.  In this particular case, the person needed seven days in order to undergo the purification process, take a bath and wash their clothes.  So there would always be Jews who came to the Passover early in order to be purified.

John 11:56 – They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think?  That he will not come to the feast at all?”

We know that all Jewish males, including Jesus, were to appear before the Lord at Passover.  This was not optional, it was required.  So of course, Jesus would be there.  However, due to the hostility between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, some people wondered whether or not he would show up. 

The people asking this question are the Jews who came to the feast early, from far away.  This tells us that even the Jews from the outermost regions of Judea knew about Jesus, about his message and about his friction with the Jewish leaders.  Indeed, they had probably seen the order given by the council:

John 11:57 – Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

This proclamation falsely paints Jesus as a dangerous criminal/outlaw, who was a fugitive from justice.  It no doubt carried a considerable reward for those who were willing to help and stiff penalties for those caught harboring Jesus.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

When Lazarus was resurrected, many people who were witnesses to the fact immediately acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah of the world.  Others did not.  In fact, they ran to the enemies of Christ to report the incident and stir up trouble.

But let me offer you some encouragement:  Even the bitterest of Christ’s enemies can be touched with the gospel and have their lives transformed.  So if you are praying for a friend or loved one who continues to firmly reject the gospel, don’t give up!  Continue to demonstrate the love, patience and goodness of God to them, and let Holy Spirit soften their hearts.   

Let me offer you some relief:

Jesus has sent all of his followers into the world to share the truth of the gospel (Mark 16:15).  Some of us fear to do that because we feel inadequate; we don’t think we know enough about the scriptures to discuss them with someone else.

But let me offer you some relief – you don’t have to know everything.  You can spread the gospel by talking about what you DO know – just share what Jesus has done for you!  Sharing your personal testimony is a very powerful way to witness to those who are desperate for hope.   

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus had many bitter enemies during his time on earth.  His opponents included many influential and wealthy people, as well as many of the leaders at the time.  But as rich, famous and powerful as they were, they could never block the gospel message.  They could not win a fight against God.

The same is true today.  Many rich, famous and powerful people reject the gospel of Christ and mock those who embrace it.  They promote the ways of Satan whenever they get the chance.

But don’t be swayed or embarrassed by them.  They are mere men; they will never over throw the kingdom of God.       

TRIVIA ANSWER: Jacob’s youngest son was Benjamin, son of Rachel and brother of Joseph.

  

 

John, Chapter 11, Part 4

John 11:34 – And he said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Our last post ended with Jesus deeply grieving as he looked upon the sorrow of his friends, Mary and Martha.  He was troubled by the havoc and destruction that sin was wreaking upon his creation – those he made in his own image, those into whom he breathed the breath of life and those whom he deeply loved.   

As he stood there grieving with the family, the other mourners gathered around.  There was probably quite a crowd. 

At that point Jesus asks the sisters to take him to the grave.  It is important to note that this was not really a request for information.  God often asks us questions when he already knows the answer: 

  • When God asked Cain where his brother was, he already knew Abel was dead (Genesis 4:9-10). 
  • When God asked Elijah why he was at Mount Horeb, he already knew Elijah was afraid of Jezebel (I Kings 19:13-14). 
  • When Jesus asked Judas why he had come to the Garden of Gethsemane, he already knew it was to betray him (Matthew 26:46-48). 

In this case, Jesus already knew where the grave was located.  So what was the purpose of the question? 

  • Going straight to the grave would have implied some kind of collusion between him and the family.  The unbelieving Jews would have accused Jesus of perpetrating a false miracle. 
  • By asking to see the grave, Jesus diverts the grief of Mary and Martha while at the same time raising their expectations of a miracle. 
  • Jesus waited until all of the mourners had gathered around Mary and Martha before asking the question.  Thus, it was a natural thing for all of them to accompany Jesus to the grave.  This put all of them (including the influential Jews and unbelievers) in a position to be eye-witnesses to the miracle. 

John 11:35 – Jesus wept.

As we discussed at the beginning of our study, one of the main focuses of the gospel of John is the divinity of Jesus.  This is a point that he stresses over and over.  But at the same time, we know that Jesus was also human.  Before giving proof of his divinity, Jesus allowed himself to experience the intense grief and sorrow that all of us have known at one time or another.   

This is consistent with what the Old Testament prophets said of the Messiah – he would be a man of sorrows/grief:

Isaiah 53:3 – He [the Messiah] is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

His tears are also evidence of the compassion he had for a lost and dying world, enslaved in sin and subject to death.    

John 11:36 – So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

The Jews took the tears of Jesus as evidence of his love for Lazarus.  They were right to do so; Jesus loved him very much.

But at the same time, Jesus demonstrated his love for us in a much more powerful way – he died for us.

John 15:13 – Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

We need never question the love of Christ for us.  God could simply have written us off like a bad debt, or completely destroyed us.  Instead, he left the splendor and glory of heaven, came down to earth, subjected himself to a mortal body, then laid down his life so we could be reconciled to God.  What more could he have done to demonstrate his love for us?

John 11:37 – But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Others interpreted the tears of Jesus in a very different way. 

The death of Lazarus was obviously a source of sorrow to Jesus.  According to some of the Jews, if Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death, he would have.  The fact that Jesus didn’t prevent it, led them to incorrectly assume he couldn’t.

This is similar to the assumption people made when Jesus hung on the cross:

Matthew 27:42 – He [Jesus] saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

People wrongly assumed that Jesus didn’t willingly go to the cross.  They also mistakenly assumed he couldn’t come down from the cross and save himself from physical death. 

They failed to consider that divine power is always directed by divine wisdom.  Furthermore, God’s ways are not our ways.  We cannot make assumptions about the power and authority of God based on the things we see around us.  Christians may be persecuted or afflicted but that does not mean that God does not love us or that he does not have the power to deliver/rescue us.  It means that from God’s perfect eternal perspective, these circumstances are beneficial for us.

These unbelievers thought Jesus had limited power, but he will soon prove them wrong.

John 11:38 – Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

Our translation says that as Jesus arrived at the tomb he was ‘deeply moved’.  The King James Version says Jesus ‘again groaned in himself’.  Why would Jesus be deeply moved/groaning again?

  • The most obvious reason was that as they approached the actual grave, the mourning of Mary and Martha became even more intense and Jesus was touched by their grief.  
  • He was also acutely aware of the misery mankind was experiencing under the bondage of sin and death.  
  • Some think that Jesus was moved because he was going to call Lazarus away from the presence of God and back into this sinful, troublesome world.
  • It is also possible that Jesus was grieved by the unbelief and hardness of heart exhibited by the Jews who were present (Matthew 23:37).  This must have been a source of sorrow to Jesus all throughout his ministry.  The Jews were God’s chosen people.  They had the promises of the first covenant.  God longed to gather them to himself and bring them into the age of grace.  They only thing that prevented that from happening was their unbelief:

Luke 13:34 – O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!

 Is there something that is keeping you in unbelief?  Just because something hasn’t happened until now, doesn’t mean that God won’t or can’t do it.  Someone may have told you that ‘God doesn’t do that today’, but they are wrong.  Nothing is impossible with God. 

John 11:39 – Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Why does Martha raise this objection?  Does she do it out of respect for her brother?  Perhaps she doesn’t want his decaying body to be a stench and a spectacle to her friends.  Is she trying to spare everyone the unpleasant experience of the smell of death?  Or do her words reflect the language of unbelief?

 Look at her answer again – her unbelief is easily evident in her statement.  We could paraphrase her words this way: ‘Jesus, it is too late for you to intervene in his case.  His body is not just dead, it has begun to rot.  It is utterly impossible for something that dead to live again.’  In other words, she has given up this situation as hopeless. 

She wasn’t the only one that thought this way.  The people at the gravesite were well aware that after four days in the heat anything that was dead was going be putrid and the smell of death/decay would be unmistakable.  And that was exactly the point. 

The noses of the witnesses were just as important as their eyes.  While no one physically went into the tomb to see the decaying body, they all knew Lazarus was dead because they could smell him.  You might be able to fake being dead, but you can’t fake the smell of rotting flesh.   

John 11:40 – Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

When Jesus replied to Martha, he could just have easily said ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the resurrection of your brother’, or something similar to that.  But instead he replies in terms that apply to believers in every age.

Stop right now and consider a circumstance in your life that you want God to touch, but at the same time it seems hopeless to you.  I am confident that you have one, because we all do!  Now picture Jesus saying this same phrase to you: “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Jesus saying those words directly to me, it really encourages my faith.  It makes me realize that God is acutely aware of my circumstance, that he has heard every prayer I have prayed, and that he has the situation well under control.  In fact, it even makes me a little embarrassed that I could have doubted his intervention in my situation! 

So let us remember that God is always working in our lives, even when we don’t see it or when we don’t understand his entire plan.  Our faith can rest on the certainty that God never fails; he always keeps his promises:

Jeremiah 1:12 – Then said the LORD unto me, You have well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. 

It is also good to remind ourselves that God works in our lives in proportion to our faith:

Matthew 17:20 – And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove from here to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

So let’s grasp and hold onto the promises God has given us.  Let’s speak them out loud and claim them for our own.

John 11:41 – So they took away the stone.  And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”

Obviously, Martha was in charge of the funeral; the servants were not going to remove the stone without her permission.  So for a brief moment, everything came to a standstill while Martha made a decision.  Would she follow her instincts and prevent the grave from being opened?  Or would she change her mind and allow the stone to be removed? 

In order for God to proceed in her situation, Martha had to change her mind/thinking.  She had to let God do things at his time, in his way regardless of when and how she wanted the situation to unfold. 

In other words, she can’t tell God what she wants, and then proceed to tell him how to do it.  While that makes perfect sense, we have all done that exact thing!  At one time or another, we have all told God specifically how we wanted him to answer our petitions. 

But if you look back, you might just discover that you are glad you didn’t get what you asked for!  Because the truth is that God knows best.  The answer he gives you is far better for you than anything you could have imagined. 

So the stone is rolled away, and Jesus begins to pray.

When you pray, what posture do you normally take?  When I was growing up, we were always taught to close our eyes and bow our heads.  While there is nothing wrong with that, it isn’t the only manner in which to pray. 

When Jesus lifts his eyes to heaven, he is using an outward sign to express what is going on in his heart.  Jesus looks towards heaven, fixing his attention on the Father – the source of all life and help.  By doing so, he overlooks the grave where Lazarus was lying.  In other words, he did not dwell upon the (seemingly) impossible situation before him; he focused his faith on the power of God.

Scripture tells us that Abraham did the same thing as he waited for the impossible to happen in his life (the birth of Isaac).  In fact, we are specifically told that Abraham refused to look at/consider the futility of his situation:

Romans 4:19 – And being not weak in faith, he [Abraham] considered not his own body as now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:

Instead, he kept his attention and faith focused on the promise of God:

Romans 4:18, 21 – Who [Abraham] against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall your descendants be.  And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform. 

When we find ourselves in circumstances that seem insurmountable, we should follow the example of Abraham and Jesus; we should focus on the power of God, not the limits of our situation!

We also find that Jesus had complete confidence in approaching the Father through prayer.  He had no doubts at all.  He was fully convinced that God was listening.

John 11:42 – “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

We too can have the same confidence.  God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121:4); he hears prayer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The writer of Hebrews instructs us to boldly enter the throne room of grace so that we can receive grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Furthermore, the scriptures tell us that when we ask anything according to his will, God hears us:

1 John 5:14 – And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us:

God always hears when his children pray; he heard Jesus and he hears you too.  However, there is a very important detail we need to discuss.  We pray because we need God to intervene in our circumstances, but that was not the case for Jesus.  He didn’t need to ask his Father to raise Lazarus from the dead because he possessed resurrection power within himself. 

Furthermore, the will of Jesus was always in perfect harmony with the will of his Father.  Therefore, God was always ready to grant any request that Jesus made.   And since Jesus knew his Father would always grant his requests, there was really no need for Jesus to even ask. 

That being the case, why did Jesus pray?

The prayer was for the benefit of the people present.  Remember, many of the religious leaders blasphemously claimed that Jesus worked miracles by the power of the devil.  In this instance, he purposely appeals to God through prayer to prove once again that he was commissioned and approved by God.    

John 11:43 – When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

Ancient magicians who worked wonders by the power of Satan did so by whispering, muttering or reciting incantations.  Jesus does the exact opposite of this.  He asserted his resurrection power in a clear, concise, loud voice.  He addresses Lazarus as one would address a friend that he wanted to wake from sleep.   

The power of raising the dead is the highest power we can imagine.  It entails having power and authority in the spiritual realm so that you can recall a departed soul.  Then that soul must be reunited to the body and life restored to it.  Anyone who can do that has to be omnipotent (unlimited in power and ability) and therefore divine. 

Jesus wielded this power through his spoken word; even death is subject to his commands.  Upon hearing the voice of the Son of God, the dead man was instantly turned from a putrefying pile of flesh into a living, breathing healthy human.

Here is the best part:  This is a striking illustration of the general resurrection which will take place at the end of this age.  At that time, all the dead will be raised by the voice/word of Jesus:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Jesus has just demonstrated that he can and will bring about the resurrection of mankind by his own power and authority.  How important it is that each one of us prepare for the moment when we will hear the call of his voice!  

John 11:44 – The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Lazarus came out of the grave in the same manner in which he was laid there – wrapped in a shroud, with his head in a separate cloth.  This gave the witnesses an opportunity to touch Lazarus as they removed his grave clothes.  They could verify that he was not a ghost.  It was really Lazarus in the flesh, restored to life.

So the witnesses have seen, smelled, heard and touched the miracle of resurrection.  What further proof could be given?

John 11:45 – Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him…

Many (not all) of the Jews that were present acknowledged the validity of this miracle.  As a result, they were willing to accept that Jesus was the Messiah.

Sadly, there were some who persisted in unbelief and continued to reject Jesus as Messiah.  We will look at these people and their actions in our next post.   

In the meantime, let’s review a point we made early on in our study of John chapter 11.  Specifically, Jesus will allow us to suffer if that suffering results in our good or his glory.

Mary and Martha definitely suffered at the death of their brother.  We have evidence that, as a result of that suffering, they questioned God’s love for them.  At the time, they did not understand the purpose of their suffering. 

But in time they came to see the unfolding of God’s plan.  God restored Lazarus and used the suffering of this family to bring many Jews into the kingdom of heaven.  God also used it to give us a sure and certain example of his resurrection power; we can have faith that he will keep his word and resurrect all people at the end of this age. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Are you experiencing some suffering right now?  Are you unable to see the purpose behind it?  If so, take heart – you are in good company.  Each one of us has experienced these same feelings.

When you find yourself in that situation, here is an encouraging thought you can hold onto:  your suffering will not be in vain.  God used the suffering of Mary, Martha and Lazarus to bring many people into the kingdom of God.  You can rest assured that there is a purpose in your suffering as well, even though you don’t see it right at this moment.

Let me offer you some relief:

In this post we saw that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus.  His tears reflected the love he had for his friend.  We also noted that Jesus demonstrated his love for us in a much more powerful way – by dying for our sin.

Satan often tries to convince us that God does not love us when we mess up or sin.  But nothing could be further from the truth!  God’s love for us is not dependent upon our performance.  He loves us because he is our Creator and we love his Son.  So if you sin, repent and move on – but don’t EVER allow Satan to convince you that God does not love you!   

Let me offer you some strength:

Sometimes it seems like the pain, suffering and struggles of this life will never end.  But I assure you, they will!  In the meantime, remember that God has made you and I victorious over the world through the power of Jesus Christ.  Amen!

1 John 5:4 – For whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.

John, Chapter 11, Part 3

John 11:23-24 – Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

At the conclusion of our last post, Martha left her house and ran to meet Jesus on the outskirts of town.  There, she reveals her innermost thoughts – if Jesus had not tarried, he could have healed her brother; his death could have been avoided.

We noted that her conversation with Jesus revealed both faith and doubt.  She had an incomplete understanding of Jesus as it relates to resurrection. But by the end of the day, Martha is going to have a full understanding of who Jesus really is, and what he plans to do.

In response to Martha’s passionate and emotional statement, Jesus comforts her with a promise.  He assures Martha that her brother would rise again. 

Martha understood him to mean the future/final resurrection at the end of this age, when Christ returns to earth for judgment (John 5:28-29). 

The doctrine of a general resurrection at the end of this age is not a new concept.  Job, one of the earliest of the Old Testament books, speaks of the general resurrection of the dead as does the prophet Daniel:  

Job 19:25-27 – For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  and though after my skin is thus destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my heart be consumed within me. 

Daniel 12:2 – And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

But was Jesus actually referring to the final resurrection when he said those words?  Or is it possible that his statement could refer to both Lazarus’ imminent resurrection as well as the final resurrection? 

Actually, it is very likely that Jesus chose his words to convey just such a dual meaning. 

Remember, Martha’s unbelief consisted of two main things: 

  • Jesus could only heal her brother if he was bodily present (verse 21). 
  • Jesus did not raise people from the dead; God did.  However, according to Martha, God would do whatever Jesus asked of him (verse 22).

So Jesus begins to draw her out.  He wants to take her from the position of her unbelief into a sure and certain knowledge that he (Jesus) is the source of all life.  And because Jesus is the source of all life, there can be no such thing as death for a Christian.  The separation of our spirit from our flesh is merely our transition from this life to eternal life with God.  This is the spiritual truth he wants Martha (and us) to understand.

The resurrection of Lazarus is a sign to believers in every age.  It demonstrates that the power/life of Christ is well able to conquer death.  Death could not hold him in the grave and because of him, it can’t hold us either!

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live… “

When Jesus says ‘I am the resurrection’, what does he mean? 

He is saying that all power to restore, impart and maintain life is found in him.  Therefore, he is the author or source of resurrection. 

Martha already believes that if Jesus asked the Father he could have anything, but Jesus wants her to understand that by the power and authority of his own word he could do anything.  

Likewise, Martha believes in a general resurrection on the last day, but Jesus wants her to understand that his power/authority to impart life is already present.  While he will eventually raise up an entire world of men that have been dead for ages, he can also raise a single person on any given day of his choosing.  In other words, he could raise her brother to life at any time.  It could (and would) happen on the very day they were having this conversation. It didn’t have to wait until the end of time.  

Here is more good news – those who believe in Jesus will live, even though they are dead.  What does that mean?

All of us are subject to both physical and spiritual death.  It entered the human race hand-in-hand with sin.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

In the physical sense, belief in Jesus will not prevent our flesh from death. Each one of us will experience it (Hebrews 9:27).  But those who believe in Christ will be resurrected and receive a new body, fit for eternal spiritual life in the kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 15).

Stop and think about that for a while – a new body, fit for eternal life.  No pain, no disease, no flaws, no aging, no deformity.  It will be you, just the way God always designed for you to be!    

In the spiritual sense, you were dead the moment you were born, because you were born in sin.  But when you trusted in Christ as your Savior you were passed from death to life (John 5:24).  Your spirit is alive because even now it is in communion with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, the author of life itself.

Stop and think about that for a while – a spirit that is no longer a slave to sin.  A spirit that can stand/live in the presence of God.  A spirit that can experience and explore different facets and depths of God forever and ever, without ever knowing them all!

Those who are safely under the authority of Christ will never spiritually die – we will just pass from abundant life here to a perfect life lived in the presence of God!    

John 11:26 – “… and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”

Why is Jesus concerned about Martha understanding this lesson?

It’s because God can only work in our lives according to our faith (Matthew 9:22, 28, Matthew 13:58, Matthew 17:20).  If Martha doesn’t believe in Jesus as the Redeemer who has power and authority to give life both now and forevermore, how can she receive the miracle of her brother’s immediate resurrection?

When we are in the midst of a time of affliction or trial, it’s a great time to examine our own faith.  Do we believe in the promises of God?  Have we spent enough time in study and prayer to even know and understand what God has promised to us through his word (Romans 10:17)?  

If we study and meditate on his word, our faith will increase and we can be prepared to receive all that God has for us, in every situation.

John 11:27 – She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Now Martha gives a full and complete confession of her faith.  It has often been compared to the statement Peter gave in Matthew 16:16.

She believed Christ to be the Messiah who was promised/prophesied by the Old Testament saints.  She believes he has come to bring redemption and salvation to the world. 

Thus we find that Jesus was successful in helping her to reach a higher level of understanding and faith – she is now fully persuaded of his divine nature. Her faith has risen to the point where she can receive a miracle.

John 11:28 – When she said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

Rather than personally going to the family’s house, Jesus remains where he is and instructs Martha to go home and speak privately with Mary.  Why all the secrecy? 

One reason may have been that Martha wanted to keep Jesus’ presence in Bethany a secret because she feared for his life.  There were most likely some influential people and religious leaders at her house who were still hostile towards Christ. 

For his part, Jesus had no such fear.  We have already seen that Jesus was not afraid to go where Holy Spirit led because he was ‘walking in the light’ and performing the will of his Father.  Nevertheless, he allowed Martha to have her way. 

John 11:29-31 – And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.  When the Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When we last saw Mary, she was sitting on the floor in an inner room of her house, surrounded by others as she mourned and grieved the loss of her brother.  As soon as Martha gives her the news that Jesus is in town, she immediately gets up to go in search of him.

The other mourners who were with her thought she had decided to go to the grave to weep, and in a spirit of compassion they rose and went with her. 

But they did not understand her motivation.  She had heard the call of Jesus; she knew he was near.  The minute she realized Jesus was near, she did everything in her power to connect with him.  She did not ask her friends and neighbors for their opinion.  She did not stay in the house trying to fulfill the social decorum of mourning.  In fact, she didn’t even politely ask to be excused by those around her.  She simply answered the call of Christ.

What can we learn from Mary’s example?  When we hear the voice of Jesus calling to us, let’s do everything possible to connect with him.  This may include skipping some social events, changing our normal routines or even giving up some entertainment.  Some of our friends and family might not understand what we are doing.  They might be critical of our decisions.  But in the end, the only thing that matters is being with Christ.

As Mary pursued Christ, she led/took many other Jews with her.  If we follow her example, we too can expect to lead others to Christ.    

In fact, we cannot help but notice that God is precisely arranging everything and everyone so that the approaching miracle can have its greatest impact – Jesus is waiting near the tomb, Martha’s faith has been increased and Mary is now leading God’s impartial eye witnesses to the scene. 

John 11:32 – Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary’s instinct is to fall at the feet of Jesus and pour out the sorrow in her heart.  It is interesting to note that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to hear about the kingdom of heaven (John 11:33); now in the day of trouble, she is there to receive a different kind of comfort from him.  She is correct in doing so, for all we need is found in Jesus.

She makes a confession of faith in Jesus even though it was different in form from that of her sister.  She is surrounded by Jews who either don’t care about Jesus or despise him.  But in front of them all, without hesitation, she falls prostrate before Jesus just as an ordinary citizen would do for their earthly king.  She was not ashamed to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in front of her community. 

Her cry is word-for-word the same as Martha’s, which shows that they had said this very thing to themselves as they lamented over the death of Lazarus.  Apparently, she says nothing else, but is overcome with emotion and grief.  Her tears said it all and Jesus was able to understand it. 

Psalm 61:2 – From the end of the earth will I cry unto you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Sometimes, we too are overwhelmed with grief or trouble.  In those instances we can follow the leading of Mary and fall at the feet of Jesus.  He is our rock/foundation that will never fail us. 

This is not a guarantee that you will get what you want.  It is a guarantee that Jesus hears you (Psalms 65:2), that he is aware of your situation (Psalms 139:1-3), that he will walk with you through all difficulties (Hebrews 3:15), and that all things will work together for your good and his glory (Romans 8:28). 

Remember, one of the great lessons in this portion of scripture is that God is willing to allow suffering into your life if it is beneficial. 

In the present case, the suffering of Mary and Martha is beneficial because it changes their faith.  Martha grows from a flawed understanding of who Jesus is into a place where she recognizes and acknowledges his divinity.  The suffering of the sisters also benefits all of the Jews who came to comfort them.  They will witness the power of Jesus to resurrect a man dead for four days and it will convince them he is the Messiah.  The suffering of Martha and Mary will result in eternal life for many people.

Let me ask you this soul-searching question:  What would you be willing to suffer if it meant people coming to know Jesus as Savior and Lord?  

John 11:33 – When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

Does this verse seem odd to you in any way?  If Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead (and he undoubtedly knows he is), why would he weep? Why allow himself to experience such profound sadness?

We must remember that while Jesus is God, he voluntarily agreed to take upon himself the form of man (a human body).  As a man he was subject to the same passions as we are.  For example, he experienced temptation, hunger, thirst, weariness, joy, anger and sadness. 

The writer of Hebrews confirms that the Messiah is touched with the feeling of our infirmities:

Hebrews 4:15 – For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Mary and Martha have an infirmity – brutal grief caused by the death of their brother.  So it isn’t surprising that Jesus allows himself to be afflicted with the same distress his friends are experiencing.  If he couldn’t experience the same suffering and grief that we know, then how could he comfort us? 

Some scholars believe that his grief rose to even greater levels than we know.  He may have been contemplating the general misery of mankind; as God he understood the full impact of sin upon the whole human race.  After all, he knew why he had been sent into the world – to break the yoke of sin and free us from all its evil consequences.    

One thing we can be absolutely sure of – Jesus was deeply moved and highly agitated by the results of sin in the lives of those he loved.  And he loves you just as much as anybody!

Let me offer you some encouragement:

We see that Jesus was troubled when he witnessed the weeping of Mary, Martha and their friends.  He had compassion upon them, sharing their sorrow.  Did you know that as Christians, we are to do the same for others? 

This can be a difficult thing to do.  None of us relishes the thought of being sad or experiencing grief and pain.  We often don’t believe that we have the right words to say to our friends who are grieving.  If we are honest, many times we would rather walk away, or just offer some contrite condolences from far away. 

But in Romans 12:15 Paul instructs us to “weep with them that weep”.  By coming alongside those who are suffering, we can offer them comfort and hope.  We can encourage them to trust in the Lord, because he not only walks with them through their situation, he uses it for good! 

So let’s embrace the sorrow of those we know are hurting.  If we do, Jesus will honor that!   

Let me offer you some relief:

Fear often comes as a result of the unknown.  In our society, many people fear death.  In fact, they don’t want to think or talk about it because they are totally unprepared for it.  I am sure Satan just loves that!  If he can keep people in fear, they will continue to bury their heads in the sand and ignore their spiritual state.

Christians, however, do not need to fear death!  Those who trust in Christ have already passed from death to life (John 5:24).  The moment we leave this planet, we will be in the presence of God (II Corinthians 5:1-8).      

Let me offer you some strength:

Sorrow doesn’t last forever.  It is limited to this physical world. 

More than one scholar has commented that Jesus wept at the grave not because Lazarus had passed from this life, but because he had to call him back into a physical body ravaged by sin, sickness and pain. 

The resurrection of Lazarus was good because it forever demonstrated that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  But that resurrection actually resulted many more years of suffering under sin for Lazarus.  He too suffered so that we could be encouraged in the Lord!

So when God allows you to suffer, don’t be discouraged or give up.  Strengthen yourself in the Lord and look for an eternal harvest for the kingdom of heaven.

  

John, Chapter 11, Part 2

John 11:9 – Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?  If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

Jesus has just announced to his disciples that they are going to leave the area beyond the Jordan and return to the house of Lazarus in Bethany.  Because this puts them a mere two miles outside of Jerusalem, the disciples are concerned that the hostile Jewish leaders will try to kill them again.  They question the decision of Jesus to put himself (and them) in harm’s way.

Jesus answers their concerns by using a comparison between Day and Night. 

If a man sets out on a journey (like the one they are about to take), he would naturally set out during the daytime.  This way, he is sure to see any dangers that lie in his path.  It is very unlikely that he will stumble or fall, because he can see the ground clearly.  He would walk in confidence and his progress would be swift.    

The same truth applies in the spiritual realm.  God has prepared a special plan for each one of us.  When we walk by his Spirit, going where he leads/commands, we are walking in the light of his wisdom, grace and protection.  We do not need to fear (Psalms 56:11). 

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.     

There is no doubt that when we tread the paths of God our enemy Satan will put many obstacles, pitfalls and temptations in our way.  However, we can boldly and confidently pursue our journey, and safely navigate around the traps of the enemy, because the Spirit illuminates our way.  He leads us to victory.

John 11:10 – “But if anyone walks in the night he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

By contrast, it would be unnatural for a man to set out on a walking journey during the dead of night (remember, there were no street lights back in that day).  By walking in the darkness, he greatly increases his chances of stumbling and falling over obstacles.  He could seriously hurt himself or lose his way.  His progress would be very slow and tedious. 

In the spiritual realm, those who allow themselves to be guided by their own ideas and suggestions, disregarding the leading of the Spirit, are walking in the dark:

Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

They become an easy target for the enemy who is prowling around seeking anyone he can catch off guard and devour (I Peter 5:8).   

Thus, the disciples do not need to fear going to Bethany (or any other place), as long as they go where the Spirit leads.  The same is true for you and me.  Where is God leading you to go?  What is he calling you to do next?  Don’t be afraid to take that first step of faith; Holy Spirit will clearly mark your path for you, and show you any traps/pitfalls the enemy has laid. 

John 11:11 – After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

Jesus uses the term ‘fallen asleep’ to mean physical death.  This is a euphemism that is frequently used in scripture to describe the death of the saints/children of God (Matthew 9:24, I Corinthians 15:51, I Thessalonians 5:10, Acts 7:60, Deuteronomy 31:16, etc).

This was very common saying among all the Jews.  They often spoke of ‘falling asleep’ or ‘sleeping with the fathers’ to describe death.  In fact, it is kind of surprising that the disciples did not get Jesus’ meaning right away.  

The term ‘sleep’ is good because it removes all of the fear and ugliness associated with death.  Instead, it reassures the reader by calling to mind the idea of calm rest after a life of turmoil.  It also indicates that physical death is not final.  For each saint who dies, there will eventually be an awakening or a resurrection to eternal life.  Hallelujah!   

The fact that Jesus knows Lazarus is dead proves that he is God, for only God is omniscient (having universal knowledge; knowing all things).   And while Jesus uses the group term ‘our friend Lazarus’, it is only he himself who can/will ‘awaken’ him from this sleep.  I don’t know about you, but I am glad that my own resurrection depends on Jesus’ power and authority, not mine! 

John 11:12-13 – The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”   Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.

The disciples understood the words of Jesus in a literal sense.  Since they believed that sleep was beneficial for aiding in the recovery of sickness, they thought ‘sleep’ was a good thing. 

According to their thinking, if Lazarus was sleeping he was past the crisis stage of his illness.  Since he was on the way to a speedy recovery there was no real need for Jesus to put himself in danger by traveling to Bethany. 

John 11:14-15 – Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

Jesus now bluntly informs the disciples that Lazarus is dead.  We can take heart knowing that Jesus is always cognizant of the death of his saints.  In fact, scripture tells us that God finds value in your physical death; it is actually precious in his sight (Psalms 116:15).

When it is your turn to cross over to the spiritual realm and leave this world behind, you can be sure that Jesus is aware of your coming and that he has prepared a place for you in his kingdom (John 14:2-3).  He is looking forward to your arrival!

Ask yourself this question: Why do you suppose Jesus decided to go to the grave of Lazarus in person?  After all, if Jesus is capable of healing at a distance (John 5:40), he could certainly resurrect at a distance too. 

There are several good answers to this question:

  • The purpose of the upcoming miracle was to glorify Jesus, to show people that he was really the divine Son of God, and prove that he had resurrection power.  If he wasn’t present, someone else may have taken credit for what transpired.
  • Although Jesus was divine, he was also human.  His very close friends were suffering greatly; it was natural for him to want to be close to them during this season of pain and suffering.
  • If ‘sleep’ is an analogy for death, then man’s awakening out of sleep is representative of his or her resurrection.  Therefore it is imperative that Jesus be present, since he is the one who will raise us up at the last day with his resurrection power:

John 6:40 – And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.   

In my opinion, this makes it all the more exciting that Jesus uses Lazarus’ own name when he calls him forth from the grave.  Although there is no biblical proof for it, I wonder if God will call each one of us by name on that great day when we rise to meet him in the air!  Perhaps those who are asleep in the grave will hear his voice calling their name, just as Lazarus did!

Jesus makes another somewhat cryptic remark to the disciples – “…for your sake, I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” 

What did Jesus mean by that?

Well, let’s examine the situation.  If Jesus had been present before Lazarus died, he would surely have healed him on the spot and thus prevented his death. While Lazarus’ sisters and friends would have been happy and comforted, it would have done nothing for the faith of the disciples (or the unbelievers present at the funeral).  They had seen Jesus heal hundreds of people already; this would be no different.

But if Jesus raises Lazarus from the death, it not only glorifies God (as we will examine later), it offers a stunning example of the power of Christ to the disciples.  If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead, then he is also capable of raising them from the grave at the end of the age.  Thus, their faith is greatly strengthened – and they were going to need that faith, as most of them died a martyr’s death.

It is comforting to once again see that Jesus uniquely equips each one of us for the race we will run in this life.  He stretches and grows our faith so that we are victorious in life.

Jesus ends by saying ‘Let us go to him’, which is an interesting choice of words.  Most of us would have said, ‘Let us go to Mary and Martha, so we can comfort them’.  This verse shows us that Jesus knew full well what was about to take place.  He is in control of the situation.

Let me repeat that:  Jesus was in complete control of the situation.  It may not have seemed that way to the disciples or to Mary and Martha, but it was true nonetheless.  In the same way, Jesus is in complete control of the events of your life as well – and that is a comforting thought!  

It is also comforting to note that while death separates us from all of our family and friends, it can never separate us from God.  In fact, it does the opposite – it ushers us into his presence.   

John 11:16 – So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas is sometimes called “Didymus”.  Both names mean the same thing (twin); one word is Hebrew while the other is Greek.  The obvious assumption is that Thomas had a twin.

In this situation, Thomas is encouraging his colleagues to stand firm and be willing to die with ‘him’.  There is some debate over who Thomas was referring to. 

  • Some say he was referring to Lazarus.  In this scenario, the meaning is that Lazarus was already dead and if the disciples dared to show their faces so close to Jerusalem, they would shortly be dead too. 
  • Others believe Thomas was referring to Jesus.  In this scenario, Thomas is encouraging his fellow disciples to stand firm in the command they received from Jesus – ‘follow me’ – even if it meant being stoned by the Jews alongside Christ.    

In either case, Thomas once again shows a lack of faith.  Instead of believing that he was walking according to the wisdom of Holy Spirit (walking in the light/day), he seems to be sure that he is going to die in Bethany.     

While Thomas’s faith was certainly not perfect (John 14:5, John 20:25), he was obviously committed to Jesus and his cause; he was willing to die for it.  This was a great encouragement to his fellow disciples.  

John 11:17-19 – Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

As we already noted, Jesus purposely delayed coming to Bethany.  At the time of his arrival, Lazarus had been dead for quite some time.  Although the scriptures record other people being raised from the dead, none were gone as long as Lazarus was.  His body had started to decay by that time.  This delay served to make the miracle of resurrection an even more striking demonstration of the power of God.

So… what were the funeral arrangements? 

Once the person died, the oldest son or the nearest relative present would close the eyes of the deceased.  The mouth was also closed, bound up and covered.  The death is announced by loud shrill wailing.  The deceased was then placed in the tomb within 24 hours, which means there was no time for embalming. 

Kings and prophets were generally buried within the city, while more common people (like Lazarus) were buried outside the city limits in grottoes or caves.  While some of the burial chambers were natural caves, others were simply hewn out of rock.  Multiple people were buried in separate chambers inside each cave.  Graves were generally closed with stones and whitewashed, so people did not make themselves unclean by stumbling upon them.  

The typical time of mourning for both Jews and Gentiles was seven days.  During this time people visited Mary and Martha to offer condolences and to comfort them in their loss.  The number of people coming and going was probably quite large.  In addition to local family and friends, there were no doubt people from Jerusalem, as Bethany was only two miles away.  While there were many common people, the crowd included influential/prominent citizens as well.

Although the intent of the mourners was to console the family, God had an additional purpose in mind for their visit – they were going to be witnesses to the mighty power of God.

It was very important for God to provide influential and impartial witnesses in the crowd, so that the jealous Pharisees did not try to claim this miracle was a collusion between Jesus and his friends.  While the religious leaders could scoff at the testimony of the common people, the miracle would be hard to deny when Jerusalem’s most prominent citizens witnessed it as well.   

John 11:20 – So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

When word reaches Martha that Jesus has arrived in town, she does not waste any time running out to meet him.  This seems to be typical of her character; she had a high level of energy/activity (Luke 10:38-42). 

What was her motivation for running to see him before he arrived at the house?

  • Some scholars feel that she went to give him an urgent word of warning that there were hostile Jews from Jerusalem present in the house. 
  • Others feel that she rushed out to give Christ an affectionate welcome because he was a close and honored friend of the entire family. 
  • Still others feel that she wanted a private audience with Jesus, to ask why he did not come sooner. 

Mary, on the other hand, remained in the house, possibly in an inner room.  This too, seems in character; scripture portrays her as calm and placid.   She is described as ‘sitting’ in the house.  Sitting on or near the ground was a common form of mourning back then.  It reflected an attitude of extreme sorrow or distress in which grief had rendered the mourner immovable or unable to stand.  It was common for all of the visiting mourners to sit down and remain beside the grieving family member.

John 11:21 – Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The words that Martha first speaks to Jesus outside of town are the exact same words her sister speaks to Jesus later on (verse 32).  Obviously, this is not a coincidence.  The sisters must have spoken these same words to each other multiple times over the last few days.  Martha’s words reveal elements of both faith and unbelief.

To begin with, her opening remarks reveal grief at the death of her brother but also some resentment towards Jesus for not arriving in time to save the day.  This shows that Martha had a limited understanding of the power and divinity of Christ; she did not believe he could heal or resurrect from the dead unless he was physically present with the patient.  

It also shows that she had a limited understanding of the plans and purposes of God.  She thinks Jesus arrived too late, but she is wrong.  The death and resurrection of Lazarus were both appointed by God at a specific time, for a specific purpose.  Jesus never has been and never will be late – he is always right on time. 

John 11:22 – “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Here we see Martha’s faith, although it is weak.  She believes (as they probably all did) that no one could be raised from the dead after such an extended period of death.  So she doesn’t even ask Jesus to resurrect him. 

In fact, she doesn’t even acknowledge Jesus as having the power to do so himself.  She relies on his power of intercession – whatever he asks of God, God will do

It will shortly be demonstrated that Jesus is not only the ultimate intercessor, but also that he has the power of life in himself.      

You and I can take comfort in knowing that nothing has changed in the last couple thousand years.  Jesus is still the ultimate intercessor.  When we have a need or problem so great that we cannot articulate it before God, Holy Spirit will intercede for us at the throne of grace.

Romans 8:26 – Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

And Jesus is still in the resurrection business.  He can resurrect our bodies, our marriages/relationships, our finances, our physical/mental/emotional health and anything else in our lives that has died prematurely.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s post we noted that Jesus equips each of his children for their own individual path in life.  Since that is true, we should never complain when we are going through a trial or difficulty.  We can be confident that God allows that situation in our life because it will result in our eternal good and his glory.  It will also benefit others, when they hear our testimony of how God brought us through. 

So if you are facing a difficulty today, be encouraged!  It won’t be for nothing; good will come from it.  And be sure to testify about it, so that others can benefit too!    

Let me offer you some relief:

Nothing about the death of Lazarus caught Jesus off guard.  He knew exactly what was happening, and exactly what he was going to do – bring good out of that situation.

I don’t know about you, but I will confess that I sometimes forget that in the midst of my everyday struggles.  When you see a situation on the horizon that has the potential to cause harm to you and your family, it’s easy to panic.  It’s hard to see how any good could possible come from it. 

But if we stand firm in our faith, God will bring us through.  And when we look back, we will see that he was right there with us, all along.  He always keeps his promises!

Let me offer you some strength:

The enemy has fooled many of us into believing that death is the final authority.  He wants you to believe that when something in your life dies (health, finances, relationships, etc) that no hope remains. 

But that is not true.  With God, nothing is impossible.  Put yourself in his hands, just as Martha did.  You will find that he works all things together for your good and his glory.