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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lazarus’ Resurrection – John 11

          The first miracle Jesus performed in the Gospel of John was transforming water into wine at the wedding at Cana. This showed Jesus’ transforming power. His last miracle, which is His supreme miracle before His own death and resurrection, was raising Lazarus from physical death to physical life. Jesus did in the “natural” what He would do in the “supernatural.” All signs Jesus gave throughout the gospels pointed to the supreme miracle of His own death for the sins of all mankind, and His ultimate resurrection. Lazarus will not only receive restored physical life through Jesus, he will also receive new, spiritual life through His belief in Jesus.
 Being raised from the dead is not a new concept. God heard the prayer of Elijah and restored the life of the son of the widow Zarephath. (see 1 Kings 17:7-24) God also worked through Elisha to restore the life of the son of the Shunammite widow. (2 Kings 4:8-37)  In the gospels,  Jesus resurrected  three persons – Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow at Nain and Lazarus. In other words, resurrection life is for all -- male, female, young or old.
            Jesus is not only the Great Transformer, but also the One who gives spiritual life by dying in His sinless flesh body for all sinners, and then being resurrected and ascending back to His original place with the Father. Followers of Christ are also transformed by the Word/Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. We gain spiritual life by allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to put our fleshly ways to death so we walk in the newness of spiritual life in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is through His transforming power that we are raised from the death of our fleshly ways and sin to new, resurrected, eternal spiritual life in Jesus Christ.

"Let us go to Judea."

          Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He visited their home in Bethany many times when He was in the area. Mary is the one who sat at His feet and anointed Jesus’ feet with precious oil and wiped them with her hair. Mary humbled herself and hungered and thirsted for the wisdom of Jesus. Martha, on the other hand, was the one who kept up the home. She worked diligently and was faithful in serving others. Together, Martha and Mary represent the Bride of Christ who are to love Jesus and seek the wisdom of God as well as love and serve others.
A message comes to Jesus that Lazarus whom Jesus loved is sick. Mary and Martha were grief-stricken that their bother Lazarus was sick, so they reached out to the only One they knew who could help them. However, Jesus didn’t come to them right away. He waited two days and then He set out on a two-day journey to Bethany. So, it was four days before Jesus got to Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In the meantime, Jesus assured His disciples that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death but would instead be used for “God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 God’s delays are not God’s denials. It is easy for followers of Christ to question God’s love when our prayers are not answered right away. Martha and Mary are no different. They too loved Jesus and knew He loved them but were upset and confused about Jesus’ slowness to respond even though He loved them all.
Jesus then says to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” This upset His disciples because the Jewish religious leaders tried to stone Jesus there. Jesus answered them in a rather mysterious way. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” John 11:9-10 Twelve hours in a day is a fixed reality! A Jewish day is from sunrise to sunset. Work and traveling would be done in the light of day, not in darkness. One who traveled in darkness could not see the "way." Jesus walks in Light because He is the Light of the world.and He is the way to eternal life. His light shines even in the darkness and is also the Light of the New Jerusalem in heaven. Because He is the Light, He has no fear. When we walk in the Light of Jesus, the darkness will not consume us and we will have no fear. What is the Light of Jesus? Psalm 119:105 answers this. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Jesus is the Living Word – the entire Word of God brought to life. The Word of God contains all truth and spiritual principles that will help us avoid the darkness and keep us from making wrong decisions and choices. God wants us to gain understanding of His Word and avoid every wrong path.
When the age of grace is completed, Jesus will return to Judea to the city of Jerusalem again and usher in the millennial age of peace. Jesus will reveal Himself to the unbelieving Jews and rule and reign over the earth, just as Jesus is revealing Himself to all who will believe as He walked the earth the first time.The First is Last and the Last is First in Jesus.Again, the First is Last and the Last is First in Jesus. Four times in in Revelation, Jesus is called the First and the Last. (Revelation 1:11; 1:17; 2:8; 22:13) 
After saying "let us go back to Judea," Jesus explains Lazarus’ condition to His disciples. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.” V11 Death in scripture is often called being in a deep sleep. God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep when He cut a wound in Adam’s side to remove the rib that He would use to create Woman. (See Genesis 2:21) God also caused Abram to fall into a deep sleep when God passed through the sacrificial animals affirming that God’s covenant with Abraham was His covenant and He alone will perform it. (see Genesis 15:12) The prophet Daniel was in a deep sleep when God was giving him a vision and touched him. (see Daniel 8:18; 10:9) After all of these deep sleeps, God resurrected these men back to life.
God never intended that humans should die. It was the original sin of Adam and the Woman that brought death. 
Jesus’ disciples thought He was talking about “natural” sleep, but Jesus was talking about both “natural and “spiritual” sleep. Jesus makes it clearer to His disciples. “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” V14-15  Jesus had knowledge that His disciples could not yet see. Lazarus was not only physically dead but also spiritually dead because he had not yet come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus will give Lazarus a spiritual awakening! He will turn Lazarus’ body of corruption into new, spiritual life as He does for each one of us who believe in Him and His sacrifice for our sin. Jesus assures his audience that Lazarus' illness would not lead to death. Lazarus will become a believer in Jesus after Jesus resurrects him. Lazarus did not sit down at table with Jesus until after he was resurrected. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, believed in Jesus before their brother. 
The disciple Thomas was so distraught that Jesus was going near the place where His enemies were plotting to kill him that he said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” V 16 Thomas was willing to die with Jesus.
Jesus was glad that He was not in Bethany because He will use Lazarus’ death to show His power over death and that He is the resurrection and the life. He is also showing those present what is about to happen to Him. He will die and be resurrected. He will demonstrate His resurrection power over death using His powerful Word and the power of the Holy Spirit within Him.
                    Next week: Part 2 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Jesus Answers His Accusers – John 10:39

          The Jews are accusing Jesus of blasphemy which carries the sentence of death. Jesus responds to their accusation, “Is it written in your Law, ‘I have called you gods; if He called you gods to whom the work of God came –and the scriptures cannot be broken—what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son.’”
            Again, Jesus is using the Older Testament scriptures to teach His accusers. Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6. By saying “the scriptures cannot be broken,” Jesus is affirming the binding authority of scripture. Jesus didn’t come to break the scriptures but to fulfill them so He could ring in grace and truth through Him. Jesus had to obey all of God’s Law perfectly and completely to fulfill it and set us free to now walk with Jesus willingly through His love, grace and truth. He had to come to earth through the Jews because God gave the Law/Word of God to them. So, the Law could only be fulfilled by a Jew who obeyed it perfectly and completely by doing all that the Law required of the Jews.And, the scriptures had to be fulfilled by a holy Man because the holy Man/Adam along with the Eve were the first to sin against God. 
Psalm 82 was God’s Word through Asaph who was chief of the singers appointed by David, and a poet and prophet. God is speaking through His prophet Asaph in a song/psalm to rebuke the judges of Israel who were the religious leaders and were the moral, spiritual and political authority of the Jews. They judged life and death matters! God wanted these judges to judge righteously according to His Word. Instead these judges were “defending the unjust and showing partiality to the wicked.” V2  Jesus is using this particular psalm to speak to the Jewish religious leaders who are also responsible for judging righteously according to the Word of God. Instead, they are judging unjustly by accusing Jesus of blasphemy.
Jesus is the Word of God (voice of God) who existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit before anything was created and through whom all things were created. Without God, the Word of God (Jesus) and the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit), nothing could have been created. And without them, nothing can be recreated! They are One in character, purpose and power. Jesus, whom God appointed as Judge of the whole earth, judges righteously. As the Truth, Jesus also only speaks the Truth.
Psalm 82:6: “I said, ‘You are gods,” you are all sons of the Most High.”  The Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim. Strong’s H430 says elohim Is used for the true God but also for judges, angels, God-like ones, works and special possessions of God, mighty or godly. The word “gods” didn’t always imply deity. Being called gods does not mean that they are divine. They were called “gods” because they had been given authority and power to rule over God’s people. God wanted them to rule justly. They were not living up to their God-given task. The religious leaders to whom Jesus is addressing understood this. As the judges in Psalm 82 had become arrogant and unjust, so too had the Jewish religious leaders who wanted to stone Jesus to death. They were blind leaders of the blind  Notice Jesus said, “I have said” in this Older Testament scripture. It was Jesus who said it because He is and will always be the `Word of God – the voice of God. When God spoke, it was Jesus. It was God’s Word (Jesus) that brought all things into being in the beginning of Genesis. The Gospel of John begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him (Word/Jesus) all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3 The rulers of Israel and the Israelites were the carriers of the Word of God, but Jesus is far greater. He is the Word Incarnate – the very Word of God brought to life in the flesh and then restored to His original place with the Father in heaven. He is the Living Word of God from beginning through all eternity and therefore the only One who can fulfill scripture and speak pure Truth.
Humans can be so-called “gods (elohim)”in the sense that we are messengers of God and hopefully reflect His ways to others through our own actions, words and deeds. When we walk in obedience to God and His Word, we are godlike. We are nothing except His instruments for His purpose when we walk according to His Word and ways. All else in us is worthless – full of sin and filth. The first Man/Adam was originally made in the image and likeness of the Godhead – holy and without sin. Adam and the woman didn’t know evil until they disobeyed God’s Word and ate of the forbidden fruit. God had to send Jesus who is fully God and fully Man to reverse the curse of the first holy Man’s sin. When the first sin occurred, God said in Genesis 3:22, “Behold, the man has become like us, to know good and evil. All the original Man and Woman knew prior to their sin was the good. Now, like the Godhead, they know both. Evil existed long before Man was created. We are all fallen like Adam and Eve. The Godhead wants to restore us back to our original condition – holy. To be born again, we must be born spiritually by the Father’s will, the Word of God (Jesus) and the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have the power or ability on our own to be recreated and restored to holiness. In His eternal love, God sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to give us the truth and the power to become new creations. You could say we are all in the process of becoming godlike. When we have Jesus (Word) and the Holy Spirit, Divine potential dwells in each of us. We are mighty only in Jesus – the Mighty One of God.

One Whom the Father Has Set Apart and Sent

         Jesus is God’s ultimate Set Apart and Sent One of God. He is one of kind. He is holy and God even while in the flesh. Israel was God’s messenger nation until Jesus. God even called Israel His firstborn son in Exodus 4:22. The firstborn son is the eldest who will build up the family name.Israel was chosen by God to build the spiritual family of God. God gave His Word to Israel in part until the perfect and complete Word of God came in Jesus. God’s chosen ones – both the Israelites and those who believe in and follow Christ – are mortal, but Jesus is immortal. He died in the flesh but His spiritual being never died. The Eternal Life-giver took on the flesh of humans for us to die in our stead so through Him we could live eternally. Jesus had committed no sin and therefore was not worthy of death for sin and yet He came to do this for us so that we could receive His resurrected life. If not for Jesus, there would be no hope for us. There was no one in Israel or any human who could do this because we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  All –even judges – will stand before Jesus, the Judge of all the earth.
            Jesus said to His accusers, “Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son?” God called all Israel His firstborn son and in Psalm 82 called those who believed in God the sons of the Most High God, so why would the Jewish religious leaders accuse Jesus of blasphemy for saying He is God’s Son. Jesus, the Son of God’s glory, will bring sons and daughters to glory!
            While in the flesh, Jesus bowed to His Heavenly Father’s authority, but the Jewish religious leaders did not. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are One,” He was making a statement that no one else could make. Jesus goes on to say, “Do not believe Me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” John 10:37-38  Jesus and the Father are united as One. No sin has touched them.The miracles that God did attested to His deity.

            Again they tried to seize Him, but He escaped their grasp.

Monday, January 22, 2018

MY SHEEP – Part 2

Eternal life – John 10:28
          Jesus said, “I give them (My sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” Our eternal security is promised by the Father and purchased by Christ’s shed, sinless blood. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Christ has us in the grip of His nail-pierced Hand. The Father has our other hand and the power of the Holy Spirit is within us and without us to empower, lead, guide, teach and protect us. David, a man after God’s own heart, understood the security of loving God. He said in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be moved.” The right hand is the place of power, authority and strength. Jesus sits at the right hand of the throne of God in the heavenly throne room. No one can be snatched out of the Hands that created the heavens and the earth and all within! Our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 We are His precious possession. Notice that Jesus said he “gives” eternal life. It is a gift not something that can be earned through works.
            The ability to “know” Christ is also the gift of the Godhead. We cannot manufacture it on our own. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit “keep” us and protect us, and because we love the Godhead, we listen and obey. Following Jesus is a response to believing in Him.
            Jesus said in John 6:39-40 that He would not “lose any of those the Father gave to Him.” The devil and his demonic army will try to snatch us away, but will not succeed because the Godhead is greater and more powerful than any devil. It is important to point out here that our free will can open the door to Satan by going against God’s Word. False teaching can also lead us astray. For this reason, we must “test the spirits” and try to obey God’s Word. God will never tell you to do something contrary to His Word. To be obedient requires the work of the whole Godhead. The Father wills a thing, the Son obeys the Father perfectly and the Holy Spirit teaches us the Truth and empowers us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. This, of course, is a gradual process. Each time the Godhead brings us to understanding and obedience, the new, eternal spiritual life of Jesus comes alive in us. Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”  Following His voice (Word) shows our faith and love for Jesus. Jesus wants us to choose to obey Him out of our love for Him. Commanded or demanded obedience is not love at all because true love can only be given from the heart by choice. Jesus obeyed the Father because of His love for Him and for all humanity.

“I and the Father are One.” John 10:30
          Jesus is the complete revelation of God. To behold Jesus is to behold the Father. He is the fullness of the Godhead and all the attributes of God in completeness. To see Jesus is to truly see the Father. Jesus’ knowledge of the Father is absolute. They are One in Word, purpose and power. Jesus knows the Father thoroughly because He brought the knowledge of the Father from His existence with the Father before anything was created. Jesus had no beginning or end. He was in the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are eternal. Jesus had a “beginning” and “end” in the flesh, but not in the spiritual realm. The position of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will never change. Sin has never touched them as it has humanity. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.  He became Man but did not cease to be God. He remained sinless even though He was confronted with the weakness of flesh. Humanity had sinned and lost the image of God, so God sent His only begotten Son to save humanity and reveal God in all His glory, truth and love. Jesus wanted humans to know the Father as He knew Him. Jesus used His love, His character, His words, His deeds and His life to show us the Father. This is pure love, my friends. Jesus now wants His believers to show others Him in the same way – by our love, character, words, deeds and life.

Unbelieving Jews want to Stone Jesus
Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.” John 10:30 The unbelievers understood what Jesus meant by these words. They were ready to stone Him for the crime of blasphemy. In Jesus’ time, death by stoning was the penalty for professing to be God. (see Mark 14:64) Jesus was claiming the right and authority that belongs to God alone.
Jesus came to earth with a very different revelation of the kingdom of God than these Jewish religious leaders had. Because the Jews had been oppressed, suppressed and in bondage over the years, they wanted God to send the Messiah to set up an earthly, political kingdom for the Jews. They were waiting for their Messiah to come to do this because they were in bondage to the Romans at the time Jesus came.  They wanted their Messiah to come and rescue them from earthly bondage and set up His kingdom of power so they could overtake their earthly enemies. Jesus did come to do this but His was a spiritual kingdom of believers whom He wanted to work through to defeat the spiritual enemy of all people – Satan.

Jesus said to the Jews who wanted to stone Him, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?” John 10:32 In other words, prove that I have sinned! They responded, “We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” The miracles of God that Jesus was doing were the very ones prophesied of in the Older Testament scriptures that these religious leaders knew well.