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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lazarus – Part 4


       In previous teachings, we learned that Lazarus was a Jewish sinner set free and given new, resurrected life from Jesus.When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was speaking of spiritual, eternal life through the death of sin. Jesus did in the “natural” with Lazarus what He would do in the “spiritual.” All humans will experience physical death, but only those who believe in Jesus are resurrected to spiritual, eternal life in the heavenly sanctuary. We are resurrected to a higher life. This higher life begins right here on earth when we listen to and obey God’s Word. This takes us from our corrupted fleshly nature to the higher nature of Jesus.
        Lazarus believed in Jesus after his resurrection even though he knew Jesus because Jesus came to their home when He was in Bethany to see His believing sisters.
      We also learned that everything Jesus did as He walked the earth was done by the power of God (Holy Spirit) and was meant to bring glory to God. Unfortunately, humans tend to do the opposite. A lot of what we do and say is to bring attention and glory to ourselves, and we leave God out. Jesus wants to change this!

Jesus Withdraws from Jerusalem
          Jesus no longer moved publicly among the Jews. Instead He withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where He stayed with His disciples. John 11:54 Jesus walked away from the Jews in God’s holy city of Jerusalem and went into the wilderness to the village of Ephraim with His disciples. Jesus would remain in obscurity until the hour of His death. Jesus who is all-knowing understood God’s timing. At the appropriate time, Jesus will return to Jerusalem.

Time of the Jewish Passover
          When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.  John 11:55  According to the Law, all Jews must come to Jerusalem to celebrate three Feasts – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. So, the city of Jerusalem would be filling up with people. At this Feast, every Jewish male had to offer a lamb without spot or blemish to atone for their sins and the sins of their household. This included gentile servants in the household. God has always wanted both Jews and Gentiles saved and their sins atoned for.
            Jesus will soon become God’s perfect Passover Lamb who will atone for the sins of the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles.

Pharisees: “Is He coming?”
      The Pharisees and the chief priests knew that normally Jesus would come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. What do you think? Isn’t He coming to the Feast at all?” v56 Jesus in the flesh came through the Jews. He must do all that the Law required perfectly to fulfill the Law and open the door for grace and truth through Him. The law could not give eternal salvation. Only One who obeyed the Law perfectly could give eternal salvation, remove the Law’s requirements and usher in God’s grace and truth. Because the religious leaders had threatened Jesus, they thought perhaps He would not come to the Passover Feast. This would give them another reason to condemn Him! 
           These religious leaders misunderstood Jesus’ motives. They feared an uprising would take away their power and authority and steal their followers. The resurrection of Lazarus and Jesus’s other miracles had drawn new converts to Jesus. This threatened them. These 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. John 11:57

Jesus Leaves Ephraim for Bethany
          Six days before Passover, Jesus goes to visit His beloved friends – Martha, Mary and Lazarus – in Bethany. Although Jesus has been to their home many times, Martha and Mary believed in Him, but Lazarus had not yet believed that Jesus is who He says He is. Jesus didn’t reject Lazarus for this. Quite the contrary, He came to Lazarus’ rescue at the request of his believing sisters and brought Lazarus from death to life. The love and esteem with which Jesus held Martha, Mary and Lazarus is shown in the fact that they are the last people He visits before returning to Jerusalem for His crucifixion.
          In biblical times, rabbis would travel with their students (disciples)  from village to village. Being a rabbi was an honorable position. It was an honor to have a rabbi and his disciples come to your home. People would open up their homes to them even though they may come unannounced. Martha was doing what was expected of women in those days. She was preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples..
            Martha, Mary and Lazarus had a different position at Jesus’ visit. Martha is the “lady of the house” and Mary’s name means “wise woman.” Both Martha and Mary will live up to their names.
·        Martha –  Martha as the lady of the house oversaw the running of the house. She had heard or seen that Jesus was coming, so she starts preparing for His visit. She oversees the preparation of a meal to honor Jesus and His disciples. Martha showed Jesus her love through her service and the work of her hands.
·         Lazarus – sat at table with Jesus. This is the first time Lazarus is spoken of as doing this. He is a believer in Jesus now.
·         Mary – On a previous visit, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to learn of Him. She hungered and thirsted for the knowledge of God’s Word out of the mouth of Jesus. She was drinking up His Word and wisdom. Mary stepped out of the traditional role of women during biblical times and sat at the feet of Jesus like the men did. She too was His disciple. Even though, only the Jewish men were taught the Word, Jesus never told Mary that she could not be His disciple. Martha was serving physical food, but Jesus was serving spiritual, eternal food!
       Each time Mary is mentioned in the Bible, she is at the feet of Jesus. She sat at His feet to learn of Him. She sat at His feet to share her sorrow over the death of her brother Lazarus. (see Luke 10:39) Now she is at His feet pouring her perfume – her most costly possession – over His feet in humble love and submission. Sitting at the feet of a rabbi is the place of love, honor, humility, submission to authority and respect.  Mary showed us that we must hunger and thirst for the knowledge of Jesus, and we must serve Him in loving submission and humility.
        Mary stayed close to Jesus. She “sought first the Kingdom of God….” She listened to His Word about His Kingdom. The  Eternal Word and wisdom that Mary received from Jesus couldn’t be taken away from her. It is eternal. Martha prepared physical food but Mary received spiritual, eternal food from Jesus. Jesus told His disciples to “Learn of Me” in Matthew 11:29. Mary did just that! Mary had listened and understood Jesus’ words about dying and being raised again. She knew that He would die and be resurrected. After all, she had seen Him resurrect her dead brother. Jesus had given her revelation knowledge and a deep understanding of His Word. She would anoint Him with her precious, fragrant perfume for burial and wipe His feet with her hair. A woman’s hair was her crowning glory. Mary was giving her glory and precious gift to Jesus. He alone is worthy of all honor, and glory and praise.
           And the house was filled with the sweet fragrance of perfume. John 12:3 Her great sacrifice filled the house! Not only did the scent of her perfume fill the house, as Jesus was being whipped and beaten, the sweet smell of Mary’s sacrifice permeated the air. Her sacrifice was lasting.  Mary loved Jesus in Spirit and in Truth. Her sacrifice lives on eternally, as the righteous acts of the saints live on eternally. (see Revelation 19:8)

Conclusion
         Being a disciple (student) of Jesus, the Word, is more important than the work of our hands. Mary ate the spiritual food of Jesus’ Word while Martha was serving physical food. Jesus said that Mary had the “better part.” Mary understood that service comes from a Christ-centered life. Service cannot produce a Christ-centered life. The Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit produces a Christ-centered life. Then, we will serve with His ways and heart. We must first “know Him,” and then we can serve Him reflecting His words, actions and deeds.

                                                                          (to be continued)                  

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