The Gospel of John: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

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?” 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. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:4-8)

You can rest assured that whenever somebody does something for the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, there will be those who will sit back and find fault with whatever was accomplished. This does not mean we should not be discerning when certain things are done which are not in keeping with Scripture. However, there are those times when an act of sincere and biblical worship is criticized by those whose worship is questionable at best.

This is where the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” is applicable. The phrase  is a sardonic or sarcastic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, those who help others are doomed to suffer, or be criticized, as a result of their helpful act.

Mary’s anointing of Jesus was an act of a singular and un-pressured worship. No one compelled her to do what she did or forced her to give away this extravagant perfume. It was her way of honoring her Lord. It was her gift to Jesus.

However, Judas Iscariot took issue with what she did. He condemningly asked, apparently within earshot of everybody at the dinner including Mary, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” Remember, this nard belonged to Mary or her family. It was theirs to do with as they pleased. Judas had no particular place or position in which to question her actions. We should note that three hundred demarii was equivalent to a year’s wages.

John, however, comments about the real reason behind Judas’ remark: “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.

Jesus immediately took charge of the situation and commanded Judas to leave Mary alone. Jesus explained that whether Mary realized it or not, her singular act of devotion pointed to His death and burial. Although this type of anointing would normally take place following death, Jesus equated her act as if she had done it while He was still alive.

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “Our Savior responds by noting that Mary’s act is fitting because it anticipates His burial. There is a correct time to help the poor, but in light of what is immediately ahead, it is right for Mary to give a gift to the Savior (vv. 7–8). She is not exercising poor stewardship by honoring Christ instead of using the perfume to help the needy.”

Dr. Sproul concludes by saying, “Scripture repeatedly calls us to help the impoverished. However, this is not all that we are called to do with our resources. It is appropriate to use our resources in other ways that honor Christ and His church, and it is a matter of wisdom for each of us to steward our financial means effectively. Let us ask God to grant us the wisdom to allocate what He has given us in the proper way.

Let’s also resolve that the next time someone does something for the Lord, which is sincere and biblical, we will think twice about finding fault with what was done and how it was done. Just a few words to the wise.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Broken and Spilled Out.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 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.” (John 12:1-3)

It would benefit us greatly, as we look at this familiar and touching story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus for burial, to refer to Matthew and Mark’s Gospel account of the same event.

“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.” (Matthew 26:6-7)

“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.” (Mark 14:3)

Let us begin with the facts surrounding this familiar account. All three gospels in question contribute much in our understanding of what occurred when Mary anointed Jesus.

To begin with, the scene occurs six days before the Passover. The Passover Feast in question would also mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His subsequent burial and resurrection. This most likely was the previous Saturday with Passover coming six days later on Thursday evening through sunset Friday.

Secondly, the incident also occurs in the town of Bethany. As previously noted in our study of John 11, the town of Bethany was on the east side of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem (11:18) along the road leading toward Jericho.

Thirdly, a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. The dinner, Matthew and Mark inform us, was held at the home of Simon the Leper. While not specifically mentioned outside of this occasion, it is generally understood that Simon was almost certainly someone whom Jesus had healed of leprosy, for lepers were deemed unclean and therefore not permitted to socialize or even live in cities.

Fourth, Martha served. This would be in keeping with Martha’s character (Luke 10:38-42). Additionally, Lazarus was present and was one of several who were reclining with Jesus at table. As one commentary explains, One “sat” at normal meals; one “reclined” on couches at special meals like feasts or banquets. Unless the Gospel writers simply adopt Greek language for the meals consistently (Greeks normally reclined), Jesus was invited to many banquets—this one probably in his honor. Early traveling teachers were often invited to lecture at meals in return for free meals and lodging.”

Finally, Mary was also present. It is not only her attendance but also her behavior while at the dinner which takes center stage.

John records that “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.”

Matthew writes that, “a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.”

Mark states that, “a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.”

Matthew and Mark identify the person in question only as a woman. John identifies her as Mary, most likely the sister of Martha and Lazarus. All three gospel writers indicate that Mary took the initiative by taking a pound of expensive ointment and anointed Jesus.

Matthew indicates that it was expensive ointment. Mark and John identify the expensive ointment as pure nard. Both Matthew and Mark indicate that the pure nard was in an alabaster flask. One commentator explains “The pure nard was a fragrant oil prepared from the roots and stems of an aromatic herb from northern India. It was an expensive perfume, imported in sealed alabaster boxes or flasks which were opened only on special occasions.”

Mary then broke the flask of pure nard and poured the ointment on Jesus’ head. At the same time, she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. John alone notes that the house will filled with the fragrance of the perfume. This truly was an expression of her love and devotion for Jesus.

Mary’s act was one of a singular and unpressured worship of Jesus. No one compelled her to do what she did or forced her to give away this extravagant perfume. It was her way of honoring her Lord.

How may we so honor the Lord Jesus? One way we can honor the Lord is not only with our time and talents, but also our resources. Consider what the Lord would have you do in order to display your love for Him.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Reformation Sunday 2018.

Happy Reformation Sunday, 2018. It was five hundred and one years ago this week that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the Castle Church Door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation. We suspend our study in the Gospel of John for a day in order to examination the issues which prompted the Reformation in the first place and which still exist today.

The impasse which occurred between the Reformers of the 16th Century and the Roman Catholic Church remain in full force today. These issues are as critical now as they were then. What key takeaways from the Reformation would we be wise to apply to the context of Christianity in the 21st Century?

The first would be that the sole authority for the Christian is to be the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura. Then, and now, the Roman Catholic Church views Scripture as deferring to the church’s authority and traditions. This was not the view of Luther, Calvin, or the other Reformers. This was the foundational issue in the Protestant Reformation.

However, I am concerned that there are those within Evangelical Protestant churches who do not have the viewpoint that the Scriptures alone are our sole and primary authority in matters of faith and practice. I am concerned that believers opt for their own opinions and attitudes to shape their decisions, rather than obeying God’s Word. It is when these attitudes and opinions run contrary to the Scriptures, the Scriptures are often set aside. This is not becoming the exception, but rather the norm.

For example, when a Christian is unhappy in their marriage, they may feel free to pursue and engage in an extra-marital affair. It doesn’t matter to them what the Bible says about adultery. They want to be happy and woe to the pastor who confronts them about their sin in accordance to Matthew 18:15-20 and Galatians 6:1-2.

Secondly, the commitment to objective truth instead of subjective experience is another lasting benefit from the Reformation. Martin Luther went from one religious experience to another; not only as a child, but also as a young adult. He constantly sought relief from his guilt over his sin by pursuing a religious experience. Whether it was promising to become a monk during a violent thunderstorm, constantly confessing his sins in the monastery, or traveling to Rome and climbing the so-called sacred stairs on his knees while reciting the rosary, his life prior to conversion was a search for the right experience where he would find peace with God.

However, Luther’s peace with God eventually came not from an emotional experience, but rather through the truth of the God’s Word specifically contained in Romans 1:16-17. On the basis of biblical truth, God credited Martin Luther with Christ’s righteousness, which resulted in Martin’s positional, personal and emotional peace with God.

Today, many seek a subjective, religious experience for the sake of a subjective religious experience alone. Their desire for a religious “high” becomes the goal they pursue, rather than the pursuit of objective truth. This is not only true at youth conferences, but also at women’s and men’s conferences. It is also seen in regularly in churches. Few are the worship leaders, pastors and conference speakers who resist this pandering to the crowd for an emotional response. They’re out there, but they’re few and are far between. Style is sought and preferred rather than substantive truth.

Thirdly, there is the commitment to the doctrine of sola fide or faith alone. This is a short-handed slogan which summarizes the doctrines of grace alone and Christ alone within the specific context of the biblical gospel of salvation. For more churches than I would care to estimate, the gospel has become a self-help movement focused on personal peace and financial affluence. Your best life now, so to speak. It may be summarized by one church which has as its slogan, “Join us! Where it’s okay to not be okay.”

The Reformation is far from over. It continues on and is as critical today as it was in Martin Luther’s day when biblical truth was at stake regarding how a sinner becomes righteous before God.

There are those who teach and believe that Scripture plus the church is the believer’s authority. That grace plus human merit saves. That faith plus works is necessary to be made righteous. That Christ’s righteousness along with one’s own is indispensable for salvation. That the glory of salvation is to be shared between God and man.

Today’s children of the Protestant Reformation hold that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone based upon the teachings and truth of the Scriptures alone.

May we continue to hold to these truths as tenaciously as did Martin Luther. It won’t be easy, but “Here we stand; we can do none other. God help us!”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A Time of Preparation.

So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 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. Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 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?” 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. (John 11:53-57)

Throughout his gospel, John gives us points of reference as to the time of year in which we encounter Jesus and His disciples. For example, John 10:22 says, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” John is referring to the Jewish feast known as Hanukkah.

We do not specifically know what time of year it was when Jesus journeyed to the small town of Bethany in order to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead. However, as John 11 comes to a conclusion in vs, 53-57 we read that the Passover of the Jews was at hand. It was coming and soon. That would place us in the spring season of the following year.

What was Jesus doing between the time when He raised Lazarus and the Passover? John 11:53-54 says, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 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.”

The phrase “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death” indicates the resolute perspective of the Pharisees and Sadducees of seeking to put Jesus to death in order to protect their political power in Israel while under the authority of Rome. Because of this settled opposition, and because it was not the Father’s will at that time for Jesus to be crucified, the text says that Jesus deliberately no longer walked openly among the Jewish religious leaders as before. Rather, He went from Bethany to a region near the wilderness. Once there, He settled for a period of time with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. It became of time of preparation for His eventual journey to Jerusalem.

One commentator writes about the town of Ephraim by stating that, “This probably refers to the OT city of Ephron (see 2 Chron. 13:19). Its modern village name is Et-Taiyibeh, and it is located 4 miles northeast of Bethel and about 12 miles from Jerusalem. The location was far enough away for temporary safety until the time of Passover (John 11:55).

When John mentions the Passover, this would be the third time the apostle refers to this Jewish feast (2:13; 6:4). It would be the last Passover of Jesus’ earthly ministry in which He, the spotless Passover Lamb, would be offered (John 18-19). . Detail about Jesus’ eventual arrival into Jerusalem for the Passover can also be found in Luke 17:11 to 19:28; Mark 10:1–52; and Matthew 19:1–20:34. John simply assumes the other gospel’s narrative and gives us a picture of things in and around Jerusalem just before the Passover (11:56 and 57).

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?” 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. The Jews had looked for Jesus prior to the Feast of the Tabernacles (7:11). Now they really mean to arrest and kill Him.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “Jesus’ withdrawal to Ephraim tells us two things. First, it indicates that our Savior did not put His fate in the hands of men. Christ came to die (3:14), but He would die at the time and place of His choosing. Though evil men would put Him to death, ultimately His destiny was in His own hands. He would lay down His life at the appropriate moment, and no one would take it from Him before then (10:18).

Dr. Sproul continues by stating, “Second, Jesus’ retreat to Ephraim helps us think more critically about the issue of martyrdom and being willing to die for Christ. In church history, some people have sought out martyrdom or invited persecution. Certainly, we must be willing to die for our Savior if we are ever called upon to recant our faith, but that does not mean martyrdom is something we should purposefully seek. If even Jesus could seek to escape those who wanted to kill Him, that means we should not think there is inherent virtue in looking for martyrdom. It can be appropriate to flee persecution. In short, we are called to be faithful to Christ and His gospel. If that brings suffering, we must be prepared to endure it, but that does not mean we must go out of our way to find it.

There is no inherent virtue in seeking suffering. Jesus didn’t and neither should we, as His disciples. If suffering comes, then we should trust in God to see us through it but we should never seek it. If life is going well for you at this moment, it may be that God is preparing you for a time of suffering. Pray that you will utilize this time of comfort to prepare for whatever God permits to occur.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: One Man Should Die for the People.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 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.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 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.” 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. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.” (John 11:45-53)

In addressing the Jewish leader’s reactions to the raising of Lazarus from the dead there were several reactions as John notes in today’s text.

The first reaction was frustration grounded in unbelief. The Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin council and asked inquisitively “What are we to do?” For this man performs many signs.” They acknowledged that they were powerless to prevent the news of this new miracle. They could not deny the miracle, but neither could they affirm Jesus as God. In doing so, the Pharisees unknowingly acknowledged the blindness of their hearts towards the God they believed they were serving.

The second reaction was fear of losing political power. “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.” Observe the hubris of the Pharisees comments. They perceived they had the authority to either let Jesus continue His ministry or to prevent it from going on any further. They were not concerned with truth but rather with their power and the possibility of losing it. Their conclusion was that the people would believe in Jesus and then the Roman government would come and take their power away.

Finally, was the resolution to commit pre-meditated murder in order to stop Jesus. “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 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.” 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. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “During the first century, many messianic pretenders led failed uprisings against Rome. The Sanhedrin feared that enthusiasm for Jesus would spark a rebellion among the Jews and that the Romans would come in and punish the Jews, dissolving the Sanhedrin and destroying the temple. Consequently, the Sanhedrin wanted to preserve its position at all costs, and debate ensued regarding whether the best course of action would be to seek the execution of Jesus. Caiaphas, the high priest, said they should seek His death, for it would be better for one man to die than for all the Jews to suffer Roman reprisal (vv. 49–50). Yet, Caiaphas said more than He knew. This unwitting prophet was right that it was better for Jesus to die—not for political redemption as Caiaphas thought but to purchase eternal salvation (vv. 51–53).

Isn’t it interesting that in spite of man’s desires and destructive devices, God remains in sovereign control. What a comfort in the midst of the political climate then, and now.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Some Believe; Some Reject.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 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.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 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.” 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. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.” (John 11:45-53)

In studying the familiar story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, John 11 can be divided into three major categories. The first category is the preparation for the miracle (11:1–16). The second is the arrival of Jesus prior to the miracle (vs. 17–36). The third category is Jesus performing the miracle (vs. 37-44). The fourth and final category are the results of the miracle (vs. 45–57).

We witness two results of Jesus raising Lazarus from dead in today’s text. They are indicative of many responses today to Jesus’ person and work. Responses to Jesus always involve two classes of people. However, these responses also are specifically pertinent to the historical context we find in John 11.

The first response was sincere and true belief. “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him.” We see a class of people who believe in Jesus. Trust, commitment, dependence and worship was the result of Jesus’ miracle. These were people who came to the tomb with Mary, witnessed what Jesus did and by monergistic regeneration of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8) came to saving faith in Christ.

The second response was sincere and true unbelief. “but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” You sense that this second class of people who witnessed the raising of Lazarus ran and told the Pharisees in order to get Jesus into trouble. They did not deny the miracle but they did deny Jesus. Rather than view the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, which they did not deny, they used it rather as an occasion to seek to kill Jesus. This second response is recorded in detail by the Apostle John as he described the ongoing pursuit by the Pharisees and the high priest for Jesus’ execution. How ironic that one of Jesus’ greatest miracles results in great hatred by His enemies.

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that, “No ordinary man can raise the dead, so many of the Jews believed in Jesus when they saw Him resurrect Lazarus (John 11:1–45). However, not all of them came to faith. Some reported to the Pharisees what had happened, and the Pharisees joined with other Jewish leaders in plotting to get rid of Jesus (vv. 46–53). Again we see that it does not matter how much evidence there is regarding Christ’s identity if someone is intent on rejecting Him as Lord and Savior. Those who are unwilling to believe will remain so unless and until God changes their hearts (see 3:1–8). John Calvin comments that “before men can profit by miracles, their hearts must be purified; for they who have no fear of God, and no reverence for him, though they saw heaven and earth mingled, will never cease to reject sound doctrine through obstinate ingratitude.”

What is your response today to the person and work of Jesus Christ? Do you trust in Jesus alone for your salvation from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin? He is the only one who can resurrect your dead soul and eventually your dead body. Trust in Him as Lord and Savior today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Dead. Part Two.

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 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.” (John 11:41-44).

You can discern much from the content of people’s prayers. You can discern much from the content of your own prayers. The questions is what is the basic content of our prayers? Do they contain praise and thanksgiving to God for who He is and what He has done? Or do our prayers contain primarily, or exclusively, requests about what we want to have or want God to do?

Observe Jesus’ prayer immediately prior to raising Lazarus from the dead. Notice that Jesus does not ask God the Father to raise Lazarus. Rather, Jesus thanks God the Father for having already heard Him. Also, Jesus thanks God the Father that the people may believe that He sent Jesus to earth for such a moment as this. It is at this point that Jesus cried out with a loud voice ““Lazarus, come out.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “His prayer indicates that He is not raising Lazarus merely to comfort the man’s family, but that He will call Lazarus forth from the grave in order to prove that He has been sent by God and invested with the authority even over death itself (vv. 41–42). And so, Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of the grave, and Lazarus, though he is dead, cannot help but obey. Just as the Creator spoke life into existence at creation, so does He, in the person of Jesus Christ, speak and restore Lazarus to life (vv. 43–44; see Gen. 1:1–2:3).

Lazarus is a type or illustration of every sinner who God has called unto Himself. Prior to salvation the Bible says we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). However, through the preaching of the gospel God makes us alive by God given faith Christ (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Do you have such a relationship with God? Are you alive in Christ? If not, repent of your sins and place your faith, trust, commitment, dependence and worship in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Discover what it means to have new life in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Dead. Part One.

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:37-40)

In studying the familiar story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, John 11 can be divided into three major categories. The first category is the preparation for the miracle (11:1–16). The second is the arrival of Jesus prior to the miracle (vv. 17–36). The third category is Jesus performing the miracle (vs. 37-44).

Isn’t it interesting that people can acknowledge the truth of something or someone while at the same time expressing skepticism about the very same person of whom they are speaking? Take the Jews for example. While acknowledging that Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind, at the same time they expressed skeptical disappointment that Jesus did not keep Lazarus from dying. It reflected the old adage of “what have you done for me lately?” In other words, the more miracles the people witnessed, the more they wanted but this did not necessarily mean they would believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Seeing did not necessarily translate into believing. Jesus again reacted with strong indignation at the people’s attitude of unreasonable unbelief (see vs. 33).

Jesus then came to the cave tomb which had a stone resting against it. Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, John tells us that the tomb is “a cave, and a stone lay against it” (v. 38b). This type of grave was not uncommon for first-century Jews, and Jews of some wealth and prominence were especially likely to own such a tomb. For example, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent and wealthy Jew, owned the cave tomb in which Jesus was buried (Matt. 27:57–60). That Lazarus was buried in such a grave lends credence to the idea that his family enjoyed a high social standing.”

Jesus commanded that the stone be removed from its place at the entrance of the tomb. Martha, always the careful and meticulous sister, said, ““Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Although Jews used aromatic spices, their custom was not to internally embalm the body but to use the spices outwardly to counteract the repulsive odors from decomposition. They would wrap the body in linen cloth, placing various spices in the layers and folds. By the way, the linen cloths are also known as swaddling clothes. Additionally, the Jews did not wrap the body tightly like Egyptian mummies, but rather loosely with the head wrapped separately. This is why, as we will see, that Lazarus could move out of the tomb before he was unwrapped (v. 44; cf. 20:7).

Jesus graciously reminded Martha what He had previously said to her. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Do we see the glory of God every day? We should. The glory, or weighted significance, of God is not only seen in creation but also in His Word (Psalm 19). It is also seen in the works we do for the kingdom and the King (Matthew 5:13-16). Take time to praise God as you consider His glory.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Arrival of Jesus in Bethany. Part Three.

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 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. 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.” 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. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:28-36)

John 11:28-36 parallels many of the same elements previously seen in vs. 17-27. However, in this new unfolding scene, the principle characters John highlights are not Jesus and Martha but rather Jesus and Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister.

The unfolding scene begins with Martha going to Mary, who has remained thus far in the family’s home, and telling her that Jesus is calling for her. In other words, He wants to speak with her. Mary immediately responds and goes to Jesus. John informs us that Jesus has yet to enter the village of Bethany but is somewhere near.

John adds that the Jews who were in the house consoling Mary followed her. They presumed she was going to Lazarus’ tomb and arriving there would continue her weeping. Dr. John MacArthur states that, “According to Jewish oral tradition, the funeral custom indicated that even a poor family must hire at least two flute players and a professional wailing woman to mourn the dead. Because the family may have been well-to-do, a rather large group appears present.”  

Like Martha before her, when Mary meets with Jesus she said, ““Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It does not appear that Mary spoke these words with bitterness. On the contrary, her words expressed Mary’s confidence in Jesus’ power and an exclamation that she believed He could have solved the problem of Lazarus’ ill health had He come earlier. As one commentator explains, “Since she does not ask Jesus to heal Lazarus now, it may be that she does not yet know His power extends over life and death itself. Soon, however, she will see that death is no impediment to the Son of God.

John then relates Jesus’ response to not only Mary but also the Jews who followed her. “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.” There is some dispute as to exactly what Jesus was feeling at this moment. Some believe that when Jesus was “deeply moved” or “groaned” He was checking His emotions and striving to keep His tears from flowing. However, the phrase “deeply moved” (ἐμβριμάομαι; embrimaomai) means to have an intense and strong feeling of indignation.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The phrase here does not mean merely that Jesus was deeply touched or moved with sympathy at the sight. The Greek term “deeply moved” always suggests anger, outrage, or emotional indignation (see v. 38; cf. Matt. 9:30Mark 1:43; 14:5). Most likely Jesus was angered at the emotional grief of the people because it implicitly revealed unbelief in the resurrection and the temporary nature of death. The group was acting like pagans who had no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). While grief is understandable, the group was acting in despair, thus indicating a tacit denial of the resurrection and the Scripture that promised it. Jesus may also have been angered because he was indignant at the pain and sorrow in death that sin brought into the human condition.”

The Apostle John then records the following: “And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” Jesus’ weeping was caused by His sorrow and grief. His tears were less about Lazarus being dead because Jesus already knew that He would resurrect His friend. Rather, Jesus’ tears were really about His grief for the fallen world entangled in sin-caused sorrow and death. Jesus’ behavior embodied Isaiah’s statement that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that “These emotions reveal our Lord’s humanity. When the Son of God took on a human nature in the incarnation, He took on everything that makes us essentially human, including our emotions. He became acquainted with grief, having entered our world and our suffering.”

John Calvin comments, “The Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted.

While it is certainly appropriate to grieve when a loved one dies (I Thessalonians 4:13), believers are not to grieve or mourn as those who have no hope beyond the grave. Our mourning over the death of a loved one should never turn into despair.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Arrival of Jesus in Bethany. Part Two.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 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.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:21-27)

As we have previously noted, when Martha heard that Jesus had arrived in Bethany, she went and met Him. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha did not rebuke Jesus but only affirmed her absolute trust in Jesus. Her statement was a confession of a sincere faith in Jesus. However, she attributed any resurrection of her brother to be from God the Father at this point in the conversation.

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.” Martha was not expecting an immediate resurrection of her brother but that is what she was going to receive.

It was at this point in Jesus’ dialogue with Martha that not only did He give us His fifth “I AM” statement affirming His deity but in so doing also presented two promises and one significant and heartfelt question.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus’ affirmation of His deity is repeated in John 14:6, acts 3:15 and Hebrews 7:16. He was saying that He is presently and actively the One who possess the power, authority to restore, impart and maintain physical, spiritual and eternal life. In other words, life in all of its forms. While affirming His position as God with His truthful “I AM” statement, Jesus also made two precious promises to Martha and, by extension, to all believers in Christ.

The first promise was “whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” This is a cause and effect statement. The promise of eternal life is predicated by one’s trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord. Life for the believer in Christ does not conclude at the moment of their physical death. On the contrary, they have an eternal fellowship with God because of their union with Christ. The temporary event known as physical death does not interrupt, much less impair, the new life the believer possesses in Christ alone.

The second promise was “and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. It also is a cause and effect statement. Jesus does not contradict Himself when He states in John 11:26 that all who believe in Him will never die. We are all aware of believers in Christ who have physically died. However, Jesus is not speaking of physical death in vs. 26 but rather spiritual and eternal death. While believers in Christ will experience physical death, they will never experience eternal death.

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “The point of Jesus’ announcement is that it is only by means of our union with Christ the risen Lord, through faith alone, that believers come to experience the abundant life of the age to come, which begins now by the Holy Spirit’s power and will reach consummation at the resurrection of our bodies (Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 3:1-3).”

Jesus’ truthful statement of truth, followed by His two precious promises is concluded by one heartfelt question to Martha and, by extension, to all believers: “Do you believe this?” Martha’s response was in the affirmative. “She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Her confession of faith parallels Peter’s in Matthew 16:16 and John’s ultimate purpose for his gospel in the first place.

We know what Martha’s response was to Jesus’ question. What is yours? It truly is a matter of life and death.

Soli deo Gloria!