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Archive for April, 2011

Quick Observations on John 11…

OK, I don’t have much time, but I wanted to give my SHBC readers some “landmarks” to look for in today’s reading of John 11.  Remember as you read, that the purpose of our reading John together is not only to see Jesus presented as the divine Son of God, but also for us to “catch” a little bit of John’s passion for making Christ known!  As you read John’s gospel, you must keep in mind that he had a purpose for writing it, a purpose which he clearly makes known near the end of the book when he writes in 20:30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John wanted first-century readers to know WHO Jesus was (the Christ, Messiah, Son of God) and HOW they could be saved (by believing in HIS name!).  The whole book has an evangelistic undertone.  My prayer is that spending a month reading and meditating on John while praying for the lost, will help to transform your thinking about sharing your faith!

With that in mind, note some quick observations:

1.  In verse 16, it is Thomas who is quick to encourage the other disciples to join him in following Jesus up to Jerusalem.  This is in light of what was already stated in verse 8, namely that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus at this time.  What courage and faith it took for Thomas to be willing to stand by Jesus even if it meant death.  We often refer to Thomas as “doubting Thomas” and remember him only for his confusion following the resurrection (John 20:24-29), but here he demonstrates a boldness and loyalty which is often overlooked in our evaluation of Thomas.

2. Both Martha and Mary (v. 21 and 32) say the same thing concerning Jesus.  They both believed wholeheartedly that if Jesus had been present, he could have performed a miraculous healing.  Both had seen and experienced his power and testified to the fact that they believed in his power to personally change their desperate situation.  What faith they had in Jesus!

3. Martha declares faith in two notable theological truths here.  The first (v. 23) is her professed belief in an eschatological resurrection of all the dead.  This position is in accordance with old testament teaching (Job 19:25-27; Is 26:19; Dan 12:2) and was held by the religious “conservatives” of the day (Pharisees) but denied by the religious “liberals” of the day (Saducees). Martha also testifies in verse 27 to her belief in Jesus’ messianic office using language derived from Ps 118:26.  Clearly, she believed not only in Jesus’ power (see point 2) but also in his claim to be Israel’s messiah.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all use Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus’ divine office as part of their climactic presentation of Jesus, but John chooses to use Martha’s correct profession of Jesus’ identity during this miraculous event, which is John’s climactic miracle in his apologetic presentation of Jesus as the eternal Word incarnate

**(John gives us 7 miraculous events between chapters 2 and 11 to argue for Jesus’ divine nature; this is the seventh and climactic; raising the dead.  Others include water to wine (2:1-11); healing the official’s son (4:46-54); healing the invalid (5:1-15); feeding the multitude (6:5-13); walking on water (6:16-21); healing the blind man (9:1-7).

4.  Jesus uses another “I Am” statement in v. 25, pointing to Himself as the source of resurrection life.  He does not merely bring about a future resurrection, nor does he merely affirm theological belief in a future resurrection.  His words point to something stronger, namely that in HIM is the source of life necessary for the resurrection from the dead, whether this be literal or spiritual death (both are equally true!).  The latter part of v. 25 and all of 26 allows Jesus to expound on this truth by asserting that those who trust in Him, though they may (physically) die, they will know life, both through regeneration by the Spirit and future resurrection.  Further, all who are spiritually made alive (by the Spirit and their trust in Christ), will never truly be in bondage to death, for they live in light of the future hope of resurrection.

5. We are reminded in v. 35 of the deep nature of the personal relationships which Jesus developed with those who loved him.  His weeping over Lazarus’ death demonstrated outwardly the deep internal sorrow that Jesus felt for humanity because of the curse of sin.  He identified with his friends’ pain and wept not just for Lazarus, but for the curse which brought on such a situation of suffering and grief.  Only Jesus fully realized that his own impending substitutionary death and resurrection would soon bring release from this curse, and perhaps the resurrection of Lazarus (which was a temporary release, for Lazarus would eventually die again!) was intended to be a mere shadow, a foretaste, of the greater deliverance which would soon come through Jesus’ own resurrection, which, unlike Lazarus’s, would be to eternal life.

We should be reminded by Jesus’ own sorrow that human relationships are meant to be deep, meaningful, and passionate.  Our love for one another and the lost should move us to such compassion and depth of emotion.  Also, this reminds me that it’s OK to weep at the death of those we love.  It is an outward demonstration of our love for the deceased (note v. 36).  However, when our loved one is a believer in Christ, we weep differently than those who weep with no hope of eternal life (1 Thess 4:13)!  For though we may grieve over our temporary separation from the individual, and though we may grieve that the curse of sin has such an effect on humanity, we grieve at the death of a believer knowing that there is hope in a future resurrection which will be a resurrection unto life eternal!  This is Paul’s hope in 1 Thess 4; it is the hope Jesus offers Mary and Martha, and it is the hope that should define how Christians approach death and grief.

6.  Finally, the closing words of chapter 11 (v. 55-57) transition us to the pivotal chapter in which Jesus enters into Jerusalem (chapter 12) and begins the final week of his life (chapters 13-20).  John truly arranges his gospel with apologetic intent.  In chapters 2-11, his goal is to present to his readers an argument for who Jesus is (ontologically).  Through using personal encounters, public discourses, and miraculous events, John has argued for Jesus’ divinity and messianic purpose.  Now that the final and climactic miracle has been presented from Jesus’ ministry, John turns his thoughts to the days approaching the final Passover.  It is significant that so much of John’s gospel is given to the final days of Jesus’ life, but this is because of his desire to draw attention to the great significance of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection for sinners.  Having argued for his PERSON, John now turns his attention to the Messiah’s PURPOSE.

Keep reading and let us see what we discover together in the chapters to come.  Press on prayer warriors!

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So SHBC family…how are you doing with your 21-day commitment?  Today marks the just-over-half-way point of your commitment to pray, fast intermittently, and meditate on John’s gospel in preparation for intentionally sharing your faith with (and inviting to church) three people that you believe are unsaved.  Are you beginning to get the sense that constant prayer for the lost is difficult work?  It really is a discipline that must be developed over time!  I dare say that some of you have missed a day or two by this point; I know it’s been a struggle even for me to remember my commitment to this day to day!  First, when you miss, I hope you’ll get back up and recommit, but secondly, I hope this project serves to remind us that kingdom-work and spiritual warfare is actually hard work!  It does require discipline.  It does require time commitment.  It does require sacrifice.  And these reasons are exactly why so many today simply don’t want to get involved!  In a world where time is at a premium and individuals have to prioritize among so many choices, it seems that daily cross-bearing just gets shoved aside for the many other activities that matter more to us.  Personally, I think that says something very sad about our priorities.  But alas…

In reading John 10 yesterday, I hope that you picked up on the “I AM” emphasis once again.  Jesus emphasized this language in chapters 6 and 8 and does so again in chapter 10, where he refers to himself by saying “I am the door,” and “I am the good shepherd” (referencing OT language in Is 40:11, Jer 23:1-4, and Ezekiel 34, among others).  We can characterize the “I Am” statements of Jesus in John into two camps, first, those absolute statements in which he refers to himself as “I Am” (6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 18:5).  In these, Jesus is identifying himself with the self-revelation of YHWH in Exodus 3:14.  Secondly though, there are the metaphorical “I Am” statements which appear throughout the book.  There are a total of 7 different “I Am” metaphorical statements, all of which point to profound spiritual realities about the person and office of Jesus, the Christ (e.g. the bread of life; the light of the world; the door of the sheep; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth and the life; the true vine) and all of which are grounded in old testament language and images which the Jews would have associated directly with the LORD.

Don’t miss these “I Am” statements; they are one of the keys to John’s emphasis, structure and style and they tell us significant information about Jesus and his own self-identity to others.

Did you notice again in chapter 10, the exchange between Jesus and the Jews in verses 22- 42?  Did you pick up on v. 33, in which John tells us that the Jews were ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy because He, being a man, made himself God?  Even though many Jews in this passage didn’t accept Jesus’ words (many did according to 42), it is apparent that they understood him clearly enough.  Through his “I Am” statements and the repeated reference to his intimate relationship with the Father, the Jews picked up on the fact that Jesus was claiming to be divine.  This fact flies in the face of much of modern liberal Christian thinking which claims that “the early church created the divine Jesus” or that “Jesus never himself claimed to be God, but that was added later by others.”  Modern philosophers and students of religion attempt to put Jesus on par with other religious figures throughout history, but the facts just don’t add up.  Here he is claiming to be God and the Jews are ready to stone him over it.  Either he was or he wasn’t or he was just a raving lunatic.  You have to do something with these and other texts though (notably 8:24), because they do say something profound about Jesus’ claims.

I choose to believe that he is the divine Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior.  What do you believe about Jesus’ identity?  What do your lost family and friends believe about Him?  Do they even know who Jesus is?  Do they know about his claims concerning himself?  Do they only believe that Jesus is a good man or  an enlightened teacher?  May God help us to make his true identity known to the world!

More to come later on chapter 11…

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