end game

20181128

John 11:11-16

11 He said these words, and afterwards he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m proceeding to wake him up.”

12 That is why the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be rescued.”

13 But Jesus had been speaking about his death, yet they thought he was speaking about the resting of sleep.

14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus died.

15 I rejoice for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (the one called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”

end game

Thomas’ words are the words of someone who has given up all hope. He discovered that Lazarus has died, and so he now thinks there is no use to travel back to that dangerous territory. He’s gone, and if we go there, we will probably join him. Death is the end game.

Jesus’ words are the words of someone who sees death entirely differently. He does not deny the reality of death. He does not claim that Lazarus is still alive – somewhere nice. No, Jesus rejoices because, unlike Thomas, he sees the possibility of rescue after death. Death is sleep, and someone sleeping can be woken up. The dead can be raised.

Lord, thank you for the promise of rescue we have in you. Thank you that death is not the end.

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the light of this world

20181129

John 11:5-10

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6 So as he heard that he was sick, he stayed in the place where he was two days.

7 Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go into Judea again.”

8 “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re departing for there again?”

9 Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in a day? If someone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not with him.”

the light of this world

It didn’t make sense for the disciples. They had just left Judea because a mob had just been ready to put him to death by stoning. Now, Jesus wants to go back (presumably) to be with a sick friend.

We know now that there was more to the story. That sick friend had already died, and Jesus wanted to return not just to comfort him in his illness, but to raise him from the tomb.

What did Jesus mean by his reference to walking during the day? He had already explained that he, himself, is the light (John 8:12). If the disciples follow him, they need not fear, because he knows what to do and where to do it.

We are always safest in the center of God’s will in Christ. If he tells us to go somewhere and do something, we can be assured he has a plan for his gospel to prevail there through our obedience.

Lord, thank you for being the light of this world.

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resurrection on order

20181128

John 11:1-4

1 Someone got sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who got sick.

3 That was why the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, your friend is sick.”

4 When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness is not to death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

resurrection on order

If you are a Christian, and you are sick today, your sickness is not to death. I’m not saying you will not die. You might. But your death will not be the ultimate result of your sickness. You have a friend, just like Lazarus did. If you die, your friend – Jesus – will weep at your tomb. And some day soon, your friend Jesus will come back and raise you from the dead. Because he is the Resurrection and the Life.

You may recover from your illness or injury, and live for a while longer. But God has determined to glorify his Son ultimately by rescuing you from death permanently. Your resurrection is on order. It will happen. And it will glorify the Son.

Lord, come quickly – your friends are sick.

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Oasis places

20181127

John 10:37-42

37 If I am not doing my Father’s works, don’t be trusting in me.

38 But if I am doing them and you aren’t trusting in me, be trusting in the works. Do this so that you will know and understand that the Father is in me and I in the Father.”

39 They were trying again to take him, but he slipped out of their hand.

40 And he left again beyond the Jordan to the place where John had first been baptizing, and he stayed there.

41 And many came to him and said, “John never performed a sign-miracle, but every detail John said about this man was true.”

42 And many trusted in him there.

Oasis places

After the many conflicts and clashes Jesus had with his antagonists in Jerusalem, he finally leaves the big city and retreats to the place where John’s kingdom revival had started – beyond the Jordan river. He’s still doing all the same things he did in Jerusalem, but the response is different.

As I reflect on my own journey, I see the same thing happening. There are some places where I can do all the same things, and yet meet rejection and worse. But there are some places where my ministry has been accepted and appreciated.

Thank you, LORD, for those oasis places.

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Set apart and sent

20181126

John 10:31-36

31 The Jews picked up rocks again to stone him.

32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many proper works from the Father. Because of which of these works are you stoning me?”

33 The Jews answered, “We aren’t stoning you for a good work,” “but for blasphemy, because you– being a man– make yourself God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, I said, you are gods?

35 If he called those whom the word of God came to ‘gods’– and the Scripture cannot be broken–

36 do you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ to the one the Father set apart and sent into the world, because I said: I am God’s Son?

Set apart and sent

Jesus is not downplaying his Sonship to escape the stoning. He is making a point that even the angelic council had been called θεοί (gods) in the Old Testament, with no charge of blasphemy ensuing (Psalm 82:1,6). Likewise, the apostle Paul referred to Satan as the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).

Jesus claims to have been set apart and sent by God from heaven. His miracles attest to the truth of that claim. Don’t let a stubborn hold on bad theology keep you from accepting God’s gift.

Lord, open the eyes of those who resist believing in who you are.

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safety in the Son

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John 10:26-30

26 But you aren’t believing because you are not from my sheep.

27 My sheep are listening to my voice, I know them, and they follow me.

28 I am also giving them permanent life, and they will certainly not be destroyed permanently. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

30 I and the Father are one.”

safety in the Son

Jesus claimed a special relationship with God – a status never held by any other human being. On the basis of his Sonship, he could promise a new kind of safety for the sheep of his fold. He offered more than a mere good life. He promised a permanent life. We do not experience that permanent life today. We believe in Christ’s promise for a permanent life in the future, when he returns.

Death is still a reality for believers. But we have Christ’s promise of safety in Him, so that even though we die, we will not be destroyed permanently (οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα). Destruction by death still happens because of Adam’s sin. But resurrection to permanent life will happen because of the Son of God.

Lord, thank you for the safety we have in you.

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Hanukkah hotheads

20181124

John 10:22-25

22 Then the dedication festival happened among the Jerusalemites. It was winter,

23 and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s Porch.

24 That was why the Jews surrounded him and said, “Until when are you going to keep lifting up our souls? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I did tell you and you are not believing; the works that I do in my Father’s name keep testifying about me.

Hanukkah hotheads

The mob that accosted Jesus at this Hanukkah celebration had already heard the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus taught. They had all the information that they needed to make a rational decision to accept him as Messiah. Jesus admitted that he had told them who he was, and that his works continued to testify about him. So, why did they not believe? They chose to not believe. They told themselves that Jesus was lifting up their souls – keeping them in suspense about his true identity. They kept insisting that he publicly proclaim that he was the proper king. That time would come. But now Jesus insists that the mob has all the evidence they need.

Lord, we join your word and your works to bear witness to who you really are.

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not a mere teacher

20181123

John 10:19-21

19 A schism again happened among the Jews because of these words.

20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why are you listening to him?”

21 Others were saying, “These aren’t the words of someone who is demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind can it?”

not a mere teacher

Jesus is not someone who can be brushed aside as a mere good teacher. He demands much more of us than that. It was very right that a schism developed among the Jews of his day. He demanded much more of them than any rabbi would have dared. He claimed to be the Father’s Son, gate of God’s sheep. He spoke of his own impending death on the cross as a decision he had made – even before it happened. He even claimed to have the right to come out of the tomb.

If Jesus was not who he said he was, he was just what these skeptical Jews were claiming he was, a possessed lunatic. But if the cross was God’s idea, and the tomb is empty – he can only be the Lord of all.

Lord of all, we submit to your authority. We surrender to your right to decide our future.

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his right to die

20181122

John 10:14-18

14 “I am the proper shepherd. I know the ones who are mine, and the ones who are mine know me,

15 just as the Father knows me, I also know the Father, and I lay down my soul for the sheep.

16 But I have other sheep who are not from this sheep pen; I must lead them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will become one flock, one shepherd.

17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my soul so that I may take it up again.

18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

his right to die

In this interesting continuation of the gate/shepherd/sheep parable, Jesus carries the allegory out. There is still a connection with the parable, because three characters still remain: the owner, the proper shepherd, and the sheep.

Jesus repeats and augments his statement about laying down his soul. The soul is the life on loan from God. To lay her down (ψυχή is a feminine noun, so all the pronouns are actually “her”) is to die willingly, to take her up again is to be raised to life again. Jesus was not talking about the so-called immortal soul. If it were immortal, he could not lay it down. He is talking about his part of divine plan for our salvation – his voluntary death on the cross.

Jesus also shows the Father’s part in the plan, in loving the Son, but also in giving him the right (ἐξουσία) to die and be resurrected.

Jesus also talks about the other sheep that he must lead (ἄγω). He’s talking about all those who will become part of God’s flock after his resurrection. That is us.

Lord, thank you for your love and grace that brought salvation to the rest of us.

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Qualified and caring

20181120

John 10:11-13

11 “I am the proper shepherd. The proper shepherd lays down his soul for the sheep.

12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he notices a wolf coming. The wolf then seizes and scatters them —

13 because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.

Qualified and caring

How can Jesus be a gate and a shepherd? He hasn’t changed metaphors. The gate is the shepherd who watches the sheep when they are enclosed in the pen. Only the most trusted shepherd is qualified to perform this task. Jesus explains here that he qualifies because he is not a mere hired hand. He does not desert his post when he notices a wolf. He cares about God’s people. They are his people too.

I used the word proper for καλός here because Jesus was stressing his suitability for this special task. He will go on to give another reason for his qualification – his relationship to the Father.

Lord, thank you for caring for us.

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