Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jesus Is Anointed - John 12:1-11

Jesus Is Anointed - John 12:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 26, 2015

When we graduate from high school we have a ceremony to commemorate the event; when we are married for a long time, live into very old age or have been at a job for a long time, folks usually commemorate the event; and when a ship is launched the event is commemorated as well. Here in John's gospel we discover Jesus being remembered by those who owed him so much, especially by one gracious lady.

We do not fully understand the idea or the reasoning behind why folks of Jesus' day would anoint him. In fact, I would venture a guess that there are a lot of folks who do not even know what it means to anoint someone. Today we are beginning an entire section that covers the very last days of Jesus' life. Let's discover what it meant for Jesus to be anointed.

READ: John 12:1-11

Good food and good company are two of the wonderful things in life. This is why Thanksgiving is especially important to me, because it also includes patriotic undertones as well, and there is turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie; and did I mention pie? Here we find Jesus with good friends enjoying a dinner. Then…

I. Mary did the unexpected! (Vv. 1-3)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

  1. John gives us a lot of firsthand knowledge in these remaining chapters. Here we see Jesus again enjoying a simple celebration presented by his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It is "six days before the Passover" when the Jewish nation would commemorate the angel of death passing over the Children of Israel after the blood of a lamb was painted on the doorposts and lintel. "Jesus arrived at Bethany" (house of dates) a small town outside of Jerusalem "where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead." Leaving the even smaller town of Ephraim 15 or so miles to the north near the Judean wilderness, Jesus returns to face his enemies. Of course this was unknown to his disciples at the time that Jesus deliberately chose to go into the mouth of the beast, so-to-speak. They just knew he was there enjoying a dinner given in his honor. "Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him." It is a typical household scene from the time of Jesus; friends enjoying one another's company, yet there is one who does something truly beautiful. Mary. Did she know Jesus had come back to face his enemies and die? Could she have sensed something the others had not known nor guessed? I do not believe so, rather, I believe she did this out of respect for Jesus to honor him for what he had done for her family by giving them back their beloved brother Lazarus from the dead. Martha served, Lazarus enjoyed Jesus, and "Mary took about a pint of pure nard", which was a very "expensive perfume." It was probably something she had either bought for herself or someone special had given it to her, it was a very priceless and lovely thing imported from northern India in special sealed alabaster flasks that any woman of that era would have loved to own. Yet Mary uses in an unexpected way, "she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair"!  The whole "house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" of Mary's gracious act! Mary did the unexpected!

  EXAMPLE: When was the last time you did something unexpected that benefitted someone else? What I mean here is when have you done something like Mary? Have you taken that which you value and given it freely away to benefit someone else in order to honor God? I believe Mary now saw Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah, and she was declaring it for everyone to see. Mary's act of course is made even more poignant because it occurred within a few days of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice. But what have you sacrificed in life in order to honor Jesus? Mary did the unexpected!

While Mary did the unexpected, we find someone else who did something that we have seen far too often in life. We see that…

II. Judas did the expected! (Vv. 4-8)

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

  1. However, not everyone saw Mary's act as a wonderful thing. There are always killjoys in the crowd who want to spoil the moment, you know what I mean. You could give someone something you cherished and the naysayer looking on would comment, "They'll never appreciate it." Now least you want to feel sorry for poor old Judas, don't. We have a tendency to root for the underdog, but Judas was just a plain old smelly rotten dog. Jesus would say that "It would be better for him if he had not been born." (Matthew 26:24 NIV) and the King James Bible relates that Jesus prayed concerning his disciples to the Father, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." Son of perdition is a term literally meaning one who is utterly ruined, lost, or damned! Judas made his choices as we all do and would suffer the consequences of those decisions. John relates, "Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 'Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.'" What a contrast to Mary's graciousness! Notice, John pegs Judas' character for what he was, "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." While Mary took that which she treasured and freely gave it away and used her own crown of hair as a towel, Judas can only gripe and grind his teeth at the expensiveness of the gift involved. Interestingly, it is Jesus who immediately comes to her defense, "'Leave her alone,' Jesus replied. 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.'" Ah, there it is, it is a God-ordained moment. It was intended all along that Mary would use her gift for such a purpose. It was always intended that Judas would be Judas. I guess God is in the predestination business after all, isn't he? They would always have the impoverished, but they would not always have the physical presence of Jesus with them. Mary did the unexpected, but Judas did the expected!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a day where far too many are sarcastic or just plain suspicious of everyone and everything. I believe it is because we live in an age where we do not trust other people. We have been disappointed by politicians and their false promises, celebrities and their promiscuous lifestyles, our own families and their broken commitments. We think every business, bureaucrat, or benefactor is waiting to mess us over. We truly live in a jaded age and because of this we do not expect much. We selfishly look out for number one. Judas did as well this is why Judas did the expected!

Why are there those who think that their meager little selfish plans far outweigh those of God? Often they only think of what is best for them and for the here and now. This is true for the Jewish leadership. We discover that…

III. The Jewish leadership did the ungodly! (Vv. 9-11)

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

  1. Unbeknown to Jesus and the rest, "a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came." Perhaps there were those who wanted to see for themselves the man who raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps they could see Lazarus himself, or just maybe they could see what would happen when the authorities found out that Jesus had returned. In fact, John notes that that they came "not only because of him (Jesus) but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead." Lazarus was a celebrity and he was gaining notoriety as well as Jesus was! So much so in fact that "the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well"! I find this kind of humorous in a way. Not the killing part so much but that they were plotting to kill someone for simply being raised from the dead in the first place! It is kind of ironic to be threatened with death because you were raised from the dead! Either these people were dense or they were kind of slow in their thought processes. However, notice exactly why they wanted Lazarus dead, far too "many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him." Wow, simply because of the miracle of raising Lazarus! A God miracle is done and all they want to do is snuff out the miracle worker, Jesus, and the one whom the miracle was worked on, Lazarus! If you can't beat them, beat them again and again and then kill them! But those who desire the death of Jesus do so at their own peril. Their nation, temple, and their own priesthood and Sanhedrin would be totally destroyed because of their rejection and murder of Jesus. The Jewish leadership did the ungodly!

  EXAMPLE: We were getting onto the State highway when a car darted out in front of me, causing me to step on my brakes. The three adults in the vehicle were sprawled all over the inside of the car and none were using seatbelts. The TV reporter announced that a man recently caught by police "was a bad man who likes doing bad things." In California, home of the quintessential tree-hugger, the illegal pot growers who can now legally grow their crop still use illegal methods by chain-sawing old-growth groves and diverting streams to water their crops causing them to dry up. Bad people usually do rotten things, but how surprising to learn that those who considered themselves the most righteous, holy, and spiritually pure purposely did the ungodly; the Jewish leadership did the ungodly!

Conclusion:

Some folks do the unexpected like Mary, some do the expected like Judas, and then some do the ungodly like the Jewish leadership -- which will you do?

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Isaiah 30:21-- This is the way, walk in it!

Isaiah 30:21-- This is the way, walk in it!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 19, 2015

During the time of Isaiah the Prophet, the Israelites had continually turned from following God. When they did, they suffered the consequences of their disobedience. God reminded them through Isaiah that if they would remain in him, he would stay close to them. In our world today we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we trust Jesus as our Savior and Lord. He remains with us no matter what, and because of this we often take following God for granted. We begin to think that it does not matter what we do in our lives since God loves us there will be no consequences. Nothing could be further from the truth.

LifeWay's VBS 2015, Journey Off The Map™, is based on Isaiah 30:21. Children will explore uncharted territory where they will begin to understand that obedience to God can lead them beyond the expected. So, toss the map, stick close to your guide, and prepare to listen for God's direction on this journey that is unknown to us, but known to him as this morning we take a closer look at our journey with God. This is the way, walk in it! God tells Isaiah…

READ: Isaiah 30:21

One of the most wonderful stories is one of a missionary whose mother loved him so much that she was almost convinced not to allow him to go to the mission field. This was a time before phones, Internet, Skype or other such things. In fact it took weeks if not months to get even a letter. Her heart was changed when she realized that no matter where her son was, not only would she be there in prayer and in her love of him, but God would go before him. The one beautiful truth found throughout Scripture is the fact that…

I. It does not matter where you are, God is with you!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)

  1. Jesus comforted his disciples by teaching them, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV) And the Apostle John would reiterate what Jesus said by reminding us, "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:3-4 NIV) Our trust in Christ overcomes anything the world may throw at us! God told Isaiah to remind the people that it did not matter where they turned, left or right, God was with them! Often they forgot this fact and began to depend upon themselves or false gods of the regions they lived in. The early church began to suffer because of their faith and some began to lose confidence in God's ability to keep them, so Paul wrote, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV) Sadly, the Jewish people had lost sight of this spiritual truth and began to depend solely on what they felt, saw, or experienced. In our day we can forget that King David sang, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalms 23:4 NIV) If God is our shepherd, the keeper of our soul, why would we fear anything in this world? God is with those who trust him! It does not matter where you are, God is with you!

  EXAMPLE: Sometimes as believers we begin to think of God as a talisman rather than our Creator Holy God. When we do we reduce him to an idol we bring out only when we think we need him. He is safely tucked away when we want to have our fun, or we want to live our lives our way, or when in fact we are more at home being ungodly rather than the holy people of God he has called us to be. However, we would do well to remember that God is everywhere all the time. He is not bound by time, space, or our own personal pleasure. Rather than a fearful thing, this is a comfort for those who love him and follow him, but for those who are desperately trying to fool others into thinking they are Christian when in fact they are not, it can be a frightening thing. However God is the God of all comfort simply because it does not matter where we are, God is with us!

We can realize God is with us but the knowledge is only knowledge until we use it and absolutely trust him wherever he leads us. And this is the final truth of this promise of Isaiah that…

II. Because God is with us, we can journey anywhere!


Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)

  1. The Prophet Job in the midst of his trials knowingly lamented about the grace of God in his life, "Does he not see my ways and count my every step?" (Job 31:4 NIV) And of course the answer is "Yes he does." Hagar, the slave of Abraham who was tossed out into the wilderness after giving birth to his illegitimate son Ishmael was comforted by God and as a result "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" (Genesis 16:13 NIV) Hagar learned firsthand that it did not matter where she was, God was already there! We are reminded, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a NIV) and David remarked, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." (Psalms 139:1-5 NIV) God hems us in like a mother hen who wraps its wings around her chicks. And in fact we know that "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13 NIV) Before we breathe our first breath or take our first wobbly step God is right there with us! There is nowhere we can go that the Creator of the Universe is not already there with us! One of the very last things Jesus shared with his followers was the fact, "I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20 NIV) It is because of this wonderful truth that missionaries, preachers, disciples, and followers of Jesus have journeyed to the ends of the earth sharing the good news. All you have to do is hear his "voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" It is a testimony to the fact that because God is with us, we can journey anywhere!

  EXAMPLE: One of my favorite books of all time is the journals of Lewis and Clark. Here in their own words are the firsthand accounts of things never seen, animals, natives, and natural wonders no white American had seen before. They are filled with humor, wonder, archaic ideas, and the words of men who depended upon their faith many times to see them through to the next day. They firmly felt that although they were trekking through the wilderness, God was right there with them. Yesterday some of us climbed Beacon Rock, named by the Lewis and Clark Expedition because this stone monolith stood out like a beacon before them. God is our beacon, guiding us through life. As we look and listen to him, we never have to fear where we are. Here in Isaiah we have learned that because God is with us, we can journey anywhere!

Conclusion:
It does not matter where you are, God is with you! Because God is with us, we can journey anywhere!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Fallout -- John 11:45-57

The Fallout -- John 11:45-57
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 12, 2015

People have some strange ideas and then wonder why their lives are so messed up. "I am a god," Kayne West sings on his new album. "I wrote 'I Am a God'... Cause it's like, 'Yo! Nobody can tell me where I can and can't go'," he told W Magazine. "Man, I'm the number one living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix." Michelle Pfeiffer recently revealed that she at one time believed humans could exist on sunlight alone. Fran Drescher reportedly thinks she and her ex-husband were abducted by aliens and implanted with electronic tracking chips. She talks about matching scars they share, noting the marks are from their alien encounters. Shirley MacLaine believes her ex-husband is a clone of the real one, an astronaut named Paul. For years Steve, his real name, conned MacLaine into paying him up to $60,000 a month for “Paul’s space travel expenses.” And then we wonder why so many famous folks have the fallout they do in their lives.

Jesus suffered all kinds of fallout in his life because of his words and his actions, and so did those around him as well or at least they thought they would suffer fallout because of Jesus. Let's discover what happen…

READ: John 11:45-57

In these last few weeks of Jesus' life we begin to see that there was occurring a greater divide between those who began to believe he was the long-awaited Messiah and those who saw him as a threat to their way of life. These folks…

I. Feared their status fallout!  (Vv. 45-48)


Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

  1. Jesus’ disclosure of who he was always produced two responses. For many of the Jews, the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead was clear proof of Jesus’ claim. In response they trusted Jesus as the Messiah. But others were only hardened in their sin or confused by what had occurred and so like little children wanting to tattle, they went to Jesus' enemies, the Pharisees, and reported what had happened. This miraculous sign was so significant that the chief priests and the Pharisees decided to call an emergency session of the Sanhedrin, the entire spiritual Jewish hierarchy. The Sanhedrin was supposed to make sure that the temple was cared for, the priest were performing their duties correctly, make final judgments for the nation on spiritual matters, and they kept the Law. They were a council or more likely a tribunal. And they were perplexed at Jesus and his miracles. "What are we accomplishing?" they lamented. All of their plots and schemes so far had come to nothing concerning Jesus. They expressed their inability to solve the problem by continuing to do what they had been doing. Official disapproval, excommunication, and counter-teaching were not stopping Jesus' influence. In fact, the fallout they feared would be threefold: people would believe in Jesus, the Romans would get involved and take their positions away and perhaps even the nation! They were only concerned for how the people perceived them and their personal standing and not in whether or not really could actually be the Messiah! These folks feared their status fallout!

  EXAMPLE: Polls can be skewed to mean whatever one wants them to mean. It seems that whenever a particular group wants its identity or injustice to be forefront in the public's mind, they conduct a poll to produce the support they think they need. While the authorities in Jesus' day did not use polls, they were sensitive to the powers that be and how they perceived their ability to keep the public rabble in order. What the public thought was one thing, and they could be manipulated, but what the Romans thought was quite another thing indeed. Those in the Sanhedrin had enjoyed power and prestige. Lots of money was being made and priests were becoming very wealthy after taking office. Sounds like today's Congress, doesn't it? If they continued to let Jesus do his thing, not only would the people believe in him as the Messiah but their Roman masters would come and take away their power and worse their money! They feared status fallout!

Losing one's status is one thing but losing one's nation is something far worse for the Hebrew. They would lose their identity as a people, their temple, and their nation. We discover that…

II. They feared national fallout! (Vv. 49-52)

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

  1. One of them, more embolden than the rest, a man named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." Throughout the ages this is the demonic reasoning that those in control have used to excuse their suppression, abuse, and murder of others they do not like or disagree with. In their convoluted thinking it is better for one person, ethnic group, or opposition to suffer abuse, murder, or extinction in order to preserve their way of life. Jesus would just have to die to protect the Sanhedrin's way of life. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience. Caiaphas had the office from AD 18 to 36. Interestingly their concern over Jesus did not stop the Jewish nation from following false prophets into a revolt against Rome which ended with the complete destruction of the Jewish nation and its temple. Now unbeknownst to Caiaphas, he was uttering prophecy. John writes that Caiaphas "did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one." The socialistic political principle that a public good ought to be preferred to a private one is still being disputed today! Jesus would indeed die for the Jewish nation and for the entire world. As John would later write, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2 NIV) Their problem was a myopic one, they feared national fallout!

  EXAMPLE: National leaders in our day fear their own national fallout if they dare take a stand for righteousness' sake. The recent Supreme Court ruling concerning gay marriage has no precedence in Constitutional law. No one has the right to marry and marriage has always been defined as between one man and one woman, this is why in 1876 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believing that the law unconstitutionally deprived them of their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion, lost before the Supreme Court. Gay marriage has always been seen as anti-societal and anti-familial. While gays make up less than 2 percent of the entire population, political correctness has dominated our political scene and influenced the Supreme Court, where two of the justices are gay themselves. Like the Jews of Jesus' day, few political leaders today will stand for righteousness because they fear the national fallout.

And just like today when a politician is cornered on a specific subject, they try to defer their response or blame others for their problems. This was the case with Jesus and the Sanhedrin. We discover…

III. They wanted Jesus' personal fallout! (Vv. 53-57)


So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.

  1. The only answer these ungodly folks could come up with was to scheme and plot to take Jesus' life! Wow, they approved of murder! This is just as true today as it was then. When ungodliness comes face-to-face with Jesus it seeks to destroy Jesus and his followers rather than consider its own ungodliness. It can't be our problem; it must be your fault for our ungodliness! In today's world folks can't get away with murder so instead they sue you into oblivion and claim personal persecution while they discriminate against your beliefs! The result was that "Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples." This out of the way place allowed for quiet and a place where they could leave if the threat to Jesus became too great. John tells us that "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover." Here we find that Jesus' time was coming closer to its finality and interestingly the time for personal cleansing had come because of the Passover. Jewish pilgrims went up to the Passover feast at Jerusalem and looked for Jesus. He had often attended the festivals before. Knowing that a hit, so-to-speak, had been given on Jesus, the people asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" We also discover that the authorities wanted someone to betray Jesus and John writes that "the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him." They wanted Jesus' personal fallout!

  EXAMPLE: When people ignore God they will suffer the consequences of their disrespect. For thousands of years the Hebrew people were warned over and over again about the consequences of ignoring God. They continually suffered as a nation and people because of their disobedience. They wanted Jesus' personal fallout! God warned his people early on, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse--the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known." (Deuteronomy 11:26-28 NIV) People who place themselves before God will not be remembered. Jesus declared, "Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it." (Luke 11:43-44 NIV) They would suffer for wanting Jesus' personal fallout!

Conclusion:
These folks feared their status fallout! The problem was a myopic one, they feared national fallout! They would suffer for wanting Jesus' personal fallout!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Lazarus! Part Two -- John 11:17-44

Lazarus! Part Two -- John 11:17-44
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 7, 2015

The death of a loved one affects folks differently. No one's grief is the same nor is their emotional healing. I know my mother's death affected me as has the death of my father. I still have a tough time going into hospitals and often have to fight panic attacks, especially since my mother's death. However, one thing that helps me is when I remember that this life is but momentary. Death holds no fear for those who know the giver of life, Jesus Christ.

Here in John's gospel we find a wonderful account of Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus had gotten ill and died. Sadly, this was often more common than it is nowadays and what occurs when Jesus finally arrives teaches us in graphic detail exactly what eternal life is all about and exactly why Jesus came. Let's discover what this means for us today…

READ: John 11:17-44

It is sad when we hear that someone we love is dying and especially so when we are unable to say our last "good-byes", except here we discover that Jesus had no such intentions. Instead we find…

I. Jesus is the resurrection and the life! (Vv. 17-27)


On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

  1. John tells us that "On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days." We learn Jesus was far too late to help his friend, or so it seemed. Lazarus was a well-known person that a lot of folks liked. "Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother." Things like births, marriages, and even deaths were something that was commemorated by folks and we see that many came to mourn with Mary and Martha. And now they hear Jesus had finally arrived. In fact, "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home." Perhaps Mary was disgusted or disappointed in Jesus' late arrival, but whatever the reason Martha tells Jesus that "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." She isn't sure why Jesus shows up late, but now that he has, she is confident in him being able to do whatever he needs to do. Was she asking that Jesus bring Lazarus back from the grave? If Jesus had been there sooner, Lazarus would not have died, of that Martha was sure. So Jesus makes certain of what Martha means by telling her, "Your brother will rise again." Now Martha was confident that Lazarus would "rise again in the resurrection at the last day." The Jews were divided about the doctrine of the resurrection, the Sadducees denied it, the Pharisees asserted it; and on this latter side was Martha. Jesus makes a bold statement and asks her a pointed question: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" This is the question every man, woman, and child must answer in the affirmative in order to experience eternal life that God promises. "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

  EXAMPLE: The resurrection is something we often cannot grasp because we are so overwhelmed by our lives and death. In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul addresses this issue head on. There were those who were trying to subvert early Christianity by telling believers there was no resurrection, Paul bluntly tells them, "For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:16-20 NIV) When Jesus comforted Martha with the fact of the resurrection it was not some mystical concept, it was and is a reality. Jesus proved it to be so because Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

Something wonderful and totally unexpected was going to happen. Perhaps Martha thought so as well, especially after Jesus' affirmation. Here we see that Jesus does not always do what we desire when we want him to. In fact, we discover that…

II. Jesus did the unexpected! (Vv. 28-37)

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

  1. Right after Martha confesses her belief that Jesus is the Messiah, God's Son, who has come in human flesh into the world she heads back to their home to find her sister Mary. She tells her, "The Teacher is here and is asking for you." While some try to make excuses for Martha's words, it gives us insight to her personality. She was often blunt and exasperated with her sister Mary. If she went out to meet Jesus, then Mary should as well, even if it meant she stretched the truth. Jesus had not asked for her, but "When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him." The crowd seeing Mary hurry away follow her thinking she was headed back to mourn at her brother's tomb. However, Mary went to where Martha had greeted Jesus. These weren't bad folks; they were just misguided folks. John relates so many intimate details and here we find that "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'" Mary had perhaps seen Jesus do his miracles of healing the blind and such. Weeping she cries out to Jesus in her distress over her lost brother whom she loved. Jesus displays his compassion, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." The wording can mean that Jesus snorted in contempt over the crowd's forced weeping or that it was misplaced because of his presence! The NIV says Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled", others try to infer his heart was touched. I believe this is the case when he asks the sisters, "Where have you laid him?" With their simple response of "Come and see, Lord," Jesus weeps. Even with this display of compassion over a friend the Jews were divided over Jesus' motives. Some say, "See how he loved him!" While others derided Jesus' tardiness by complaining, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Yet this is who Jesus is, he often does the unexpected!

  EXAMPLE: Life is full of surprises, some of which take us on emotional upheavals that are unwelcome. I was fifteen when my father passed away. It left our family with a giant vacuum that instantly made my mother a single mom and the rest of us having to work to meet the family's bills. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about this, "Now listen to me, you that say, 'Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money.' You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: 'If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:13-15 GNB) Martha and Mary did not expect life to take them where it did, but then Jesus did the unexpected. He often does.

It is one thing to say you believe something but quite another thing to actually experience it and watch it firsthand come true. We can say we think Jesus is the resurrection and the life but quite another thing to see it occur. Here we discover that…

III. Jesus has power over death! (Vv. 38-44)


Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

  1. John writes that "Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance." The Jews would lay the bodies of their dead in carved out tombs from rock or a hillside or completely manmade ones until the flesh rotted off the bones, then they placed the bones in a stone ossuary. This is why when Jesus tells them to "Take away the stone" that covered the entrance, they protested. "'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'" We often see with our human eyes and not with the eyes of God. Jesus reminds them, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone! I am sure those who had come to mourn were shocked because no one would ever have asked to remove a stone of a person dead for four days! Yet, Jesus does what we often read him doing, he looks to heaven and prays, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." Jesus knew, being God and knowing how God works, that God is always intimately aware of our needs but in our nearsightedness and our myopic spirituality we often cannot see past our emotional needs of the moment. Jesus prayed out loud for the benefit of those listening so they would have no doubt who and why this miracle would be performed! When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" I do not know what the crowd or the sisters expected to happen when the stone was moved but what occurred next was awesome! John simply states, "The dead man came out." In fact, "His hands and feet" were still "wrapped with strips of linen" with "a cloth around his face." Alive and completely whole, Lazarus walked out of the dark tomb of his burial and into the light of life! Wow! With common sense, "Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'" Jesus has power over death!

  EXAMPLE: When I was younger I owned an old 1932 Model "A" Ford I had bought. It was a restoration in progress and with a lot of love and care I was able to get it running again. It took hard work and a lot of elbow grease to get the engine to finally turn over and fire up. While we can restore old cars, furniture, houses, or other things; we cannot resurrect someone who has been dead four days! Here at the tomb of Lazarus we discover Jesus has power over death!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the resurrection and the life! Jesus did the unexpected! Jesus has power over death!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.