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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

John Days 91 to 110

John Day 91 - The Tables Have Been Turned
9:35 "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains."
As soon as Jesus knew the man was thrown out of the synagogue, meaning cut off from the Jewish faith, culture, etc... He went to find him. He had one question: "Do you believe in the Son of God?" No behaviour questions. No standard or performance questions. No theological tests. Remember John 6:29? "This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He has sent".
The man wants to believe but as yet has not knowingly met Him. Jesus introduces Himself and it says the man worshipped him.
Then comes the pivotal verse of the chapter and really of the entire book and by extension of the entire Bible. It is the reality on which the entire controversy between good and evil hinges. Jesus reveals why He came. Jesus reveals the essence of His mission. Jesus came to reveal who is who...
What does that mean? What was Jesus saying when He said He came to give sight to the blind and cause those with sight to become blind?
The answer is revealed by the response of the listening Pharisees who have been part of this conversation all along. They immediately recognize what Jesus is saying by their question "Are we blind also?"
Jesus answers "If you were blind you would be innocent but because you admit you see, your sin remains".
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who would love and believe in and serve Jesus, the True Authentic Jesus, if they could find Him. Like the man in this story they have not been able to see Him but as soon as they find Him they will be all His. The other kind are those who claim they have all the answers and claim they see everything clearly but continually reject Jesus at every opportunity. Often these claim to be the closest to Him and even speak "for Him" but their hearts are far from Him.
Rewind this story back to the beginning. The disciples are walking with Jesus and see a man born blind. In their minds he is curse by God, a lost soul. In the middle of the story the Pharisees enter the scene. The people see them as not only holy but the voice of God on earth. They hold the souls and destinies of the people in their hands.
This was the reality before Jesus came. The men in long robes and beards sat in Moses seat and we're gods on earth while the sick and lame and suffering were counted cursed and lost. Jesus went into the temple and turned the tables. Don't ever miss that point. Jesus came to turn the light on and reveal the reality that had been buried by generations of traditions and lies carefully crafted and protected and perpetuated by bad religion.
To the Pharisees at the end of the story Jesus said "Your problem is that you claim to see. You claim you know everything and gave all the answers. You judge and control others based on your warped reality and lies. If you would be humble like this man and trust Me instead of yourselves you would be innocent. Instead you cling desperately to your bubble wrapped boxes and there is nothing I can do for you except expose you..."
There are none so blind as those who refuse to see...
Jesus came to shine a light in the darkness. The law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus.

John Day 92 - It's Complicated...
10 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them."
It's important to understand that John is not so much concerned with an orderly retelling of everything Jesus did. Rather he is piecing together different events and teachings in such a way that they plainly reveal both the Person of Jesus and the struggle the people had to see Him for who He was. We just ended chapter 9 which was by the way the longest single story in all of John's gospel. Following up the intense back and forth from chapter 8 where Jesus declared that He was the great I Am which lead to an attempted stoning, chapter 9 underscores how blind the people were, especially the leaders.
Now chapter 10 is another teaching or series of teachings by Jesus explaining His identity more and the contrast between Himself and the religious leaders.
He tells a story about sheep in a pen. The pen is fenced with a single gate. The legitimate shepherd who raised the sheep from birth freely goes in and out of the pen through the gate. The relationship between the True Shepherd and His sheep is straight up and transparent. There are no games, no shadows, and no back doors or back rooms. The shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Fear does not exist. Unfamiliarity does not even exist.
Jesus hints that there are other kinds of "shepherds". They don't use the gate. They enter the pen by stealth either over or under or through the fencing. They make the sheep nervous and fearful. They use underhanded tactics and strategies to manipulate the sheep into following.
There are several layers in what Jesus is communicating here which we'll unpackage as this chapter unfolds. Today it's going to be really simple.
Authentic relationships are not complicated. It seems the motto for relationships today is "It's Complicated". If your relationships are in that category you shouldn't be in them. Notice who plays games and Who doesn't. Nicodemus came at night. That's not entering by the gate. The Pharisees huddled in their "bunker" while they sent officers out to do their business. That's not entering by the gate. Jesus on the other hand walked right into the Temple to teach every time He came to Jerusalem. If it was Sabbath He went to the synagogues. If it was another day of the week and He wasn't in Jerusalem He taught in the open air either on a grassy slope or by the beach where anyone and everyone could come. There were no secret meetings. There were no secret handshakes. There was no funny business at all. Fear and control were not used to gather or to keep a crowd. There were no bait and switch tactics and never any false advertising. Jesus was just Jesus, all the time in every place and on every occasion. He was and is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.
Tricks and traps and games were the strategies of the religious leaders. They were of their father the devil. Thieves and robbers is what they were. They were shepherds for profit. The sheep were commodities. The racket of religion was big business.
What about us? Why are we involved in religion? Better yet why are we involved in the relationships we're involved in be they business or personal? How many games do we have to play to maintain these relationships? How many "It's complicated" relationships do we have? How transparent are our lives? Do we legit go in and out the front door always? Would you pass your phone, your browsing history, your text messages to anyone, anytime? Can your life survive the open light of day or do certain pages and chapters need to be hidden in the dark?
"It's Complicated" should not describe our relationships, at least not from our end. Be straight up. Be legit. Be like Jesus.

John Day 93 - Don't Get Fleeced
7 "Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."
We're the sheep. That is clear. The Psalms are full of references to us as His sheep. The most famous being Psalm 23. So the question is not about who the sheep are but about who the shepherd is. The question is who should the sheep be following. In chapter 9 the parents of the blind man chose the church leadership. The son chose Jesus. The church is an interesting entity. It is made up of sheep who lead sheep. Church leaders are under shepherds. The term pastor, which I along with thousands of others am called for the role I serve in literally means shepherd. However my role as an under shepherd is very different and yet the same in one respect as Jesus' role as the Good Shepherd. Jesus calls the sheep to follow Himself. I do not call people to follow me. I call them to follow Him. That is the role of the pastors and the church.
The messed up part is that when Jesus came the under shepherds were calling the sheep away from Jesus and trying to kill the Shepherd. Why? Because they had another shepherd. In chapter 8 Jesus was clear who their shepherd was: "You are of your father the devil..."
So ultimately there are two shepherds and two churches. One Shepherd dies for His sheep. The other shepherd tries to kill the true Shepherd and any sheep he can't control. "You will know them by their fruit" said Jesus. On the outside everyone looks the same. The churches all have buildings, the pastors all look their part and the sheep all look pretty much the same.
The core fundamental difference is the relationship between the shepherds and the sheep. The shepherds who use the sheep for their own advancement and flee when times are tough are the false shepherds. They appear to care for the sheep but given the right circumstances their true colours shine through. The legitimate human shepherds have one message only: "Follow the Good Shepherd". The tougher things get the more they care and the more urgently they make the message plain. Jesus is not just the Shepherd. He is the Door. He is the only Way to the true pastures. Abraham was raised to believe that the Shepherd required being bought off. He made large demands in order to be appeased yet he sensed this wasn't right. He longed to see and understand what this unseen God was really like. In order to help him "get it" God came to him speaking his language. He essentially said: "Ok Abraham if you really want to see Me and My plan it will cost you! Give Me Isaac and I'll reveal everything."
Abraham was willing to pay because he had been taught by his own father and his culture that the gods must be paid. In the midst of offering payment God stopped him in his tracks. He told Abraham to look beyond his son. There in the thorn bushes was a ram that appeared seemingly from nowhere.
"Take the ram and let Isaac go".
Now Abraham saw and understood. He called the place "The Lord Will Provide."
Abraham saw the True Shepherd and he was glad. He was glad because he realized for the first time that he had it all backwards. We don't buy God off. God pays to rescue us. We are trapped in the sheepfold of a thief and robber. We have no way of escape. We are completely fenced in. Then God sends His Son the True Shepherd. He is the Door by which we are made free. We will know the Truth (Jesus) and we will be made free by Him and we will be free indeed.
Don't be fleeced. Follow the True Shepherd. Find a church and an under shepherd that makes it all about Him and stay there until the Good Shepherd returns for His sheep.

John Day 94 - One Religion?
14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”
21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Humanity is divided. This is not news. We are divided religiously, and politically, and ethnically, and, and, and, ...
Yet Jesus makes a monumental declaration. In the midst of all the fracturing of humanity Jesus states emphatically that among the masses of peoples and nations He has many that will join His fold and become one in Him. What is this fold? Where is this fold? How would a person enter it?
Some believe He speaks of the Jewish faith here. This can't be the case when He is referring to the leaders of the faith as hirelings and thieves and robbers and sons of the devil. Some today say this is their particular church be they Mennonite or Southern Baptist or Seventh-day Adventist. The Catholic Church of course believes they are the true fold. Who is right? Is anyone right? How would we know?
Well first of all the fold is entered by the door. Jesus is the door. The sheep know where to go because they follow the Shepherd's voice. This is also Jesus.
The reality is that the idea that belonging to a church organization makes us inside the fold of Jesus is delusional. Belonging to a church does not mean we are His. The debate could rage forever if there is even a particular church that is more His than the rest. In His day He still went to the synagogue every week not because to was a perfect place or a perfect religion but because under all the added on garbage of man made traditions and rules the truth was still there.
The point Jesus is making is that His voice has no boundaries of religion, political persuasions, or ethnicity etc... It is a Voice every human heart hears. It is a Voice that draws all to Himself. Some hear and resist. Some hear and follow. The one fold is not an organization with membership status. It is all they who hear His voice and come.
That's why the Bible says "Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart as they did in the rebellion..."
My rebellious heart has a voice too. It's for me to choose between the voices. No religion can "get me in" and no religion can keep me from Him. Mankind has always been divided over God and they always will be but through it all every heart is free to choose Him.

John Day 95 - Safe No Matter What
10:22-31 "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter". And Jesus walked into the temple in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and did to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt and suspense? If you are the Christ tell us plainly."
Jesus answered them "I told you but you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep as I already told you. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish; neither will anyone snatched them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatched them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are One."
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
Frost has already struck our garden. The nights are getting cold. Winter is coming when everything die. Everything except those things that God has designed to survive winter.
Our passage today begins with the announcement that it is winter. John's addition of the phrase 'and it was winter' is crazy. It doesn't need to be there. It's like saying "It was the Canada Day Celebration and it was summer" or "It was Thanksgiving and it was fall". Of course it's winter. Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication is always in winter. So why does John add this phrase? He adds it because it is a statement about the ministry of Jesus. Winter has come. First in the spring He was unknown and for a while many followed at a distance and in the shadows just like things begin to grow in the spring often out of sight, sometimes even below the snow. Then summer came. Nicodemus broke open the barrier of silence and many began to discuss and believe in Him openly even among the Pharisees. However the winds of change have been blowing. Jesus is not turning out to be what they had hoped. He talks about strange things like eating blood and do flesh and He refuses to keep the Sabbath or work together with the leaders. Worst of all He isn't delivering on the expectation of power and fortune that the Messiah was supposed to provide even though He clearly has the ability. Yes the cool winds of Fall have blown and many who followed in the summer of His ministry have now turned back. Their attraction to what Jesus could do for them has now turned to cold indifference and selfish frustration. It is winter...
Surrounding Him in the temple they demand He either "pee or get off the he pot". They want to know once and for all if He is the One.
His response is a pained one. It's one of the saddest passages in the Gospels. He looks at them and then at those who still love Him and are truly following Him and He says "You are not Mine. If you were mine you would follow My voice. I have told you in words and no shown you with actions who I Am. The fact you keep asking shows that you know but you refuse to believe." Pointing to His followers He says "These and see my sheep and My Father has given them to Me and no one can take them from Me."
Over the course of history those who have chosen to oppose God have systematically attempted to make others do the same. It started with Cain killing Able and has been going on ever since. World history drips in the blood bad religion has shed in an attempt to control what and who people believe in. Guess what? It didn't work. It never has and never will. Every grave of every martyr is marked. No one can snuff out the belief in the heart of any man, woman, or child.
"No one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" - Jesus
Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee...

John Day 96 - Winter Gardening
10:31 "Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them,“Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”
33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” 39 Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand."
This is the first time that confronted with stones Jesus doesn't immediately leave. He stays and confronts their intentions and motives. His questions are designed not to be confrontational as much as to have them think about what they are doing and why.
When winter comes harvest is over. John said it was winter yet Jesus appears to still be harvesting. He is still looking for believers. He is still appealing. He is still speaking their language (old testament Scriptures) in an attempt to help them hear His language. (Belief in the Lamb of God).
Harvesting in winter. It seems crazy, illogical, unproductive.
In the summer of 2014 my dad planted potatoes. It was way late to be planting. Crazy. Illogical. They grew but when we dug them up they had produced almost nothing. This year we planted corn where those potatoes had been. However as we watched the corn grow we saw something else. Potatoes. Those potatoes that were planted out of season and seemed like they had amounted to nothing were not a complete loss. Under the soil some that we either missed or ignored because of their size survived the winter. Soon we'll see what they managed to produce against all odds.
Some with stones in hand in the dead of winter as they surrounded Jesus were still not fully committed to the task. Jesus couldn't and wouldn't risk not trying to soften their hard hearts one more time. Perhaps they too against all odds would survive the winter and produce new life in the spring.
However it's possible there is another reason why Jesus is still trying to harvest in the winter. Love never quits. It just doesn't. Jesus loves those with stones in their hands as passionately as He loves those with palm branches in their hands.
It's a crazy mental picture: Combines driving through snow. A man digging through snow and the hardened soil hoping to find something of worth to rescue from the cold grip of winter.
Tell the parent who's child has gone missing to call off the search...
Love never quits and Jesus IS love.

John Day 97 - Outside the Camp
10:40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed. 41 Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” 42 And many believed in Him there."
The more things change the more they stay the same...
When the Israelites were travelling from Egypt to the promised land in Canaan Moses was their human leader but God made it clear by a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night that He was with them always. It was the cloud that lead them from place to place and not Moses. However when the people had an issue they came to Moses. His tent became the Tent of Meeting. The people gathered there to get instruction or to seek help from God through Moses. It was during this time prior to the building of the sanctuary or temple that the people built the golden calf in rebellion against God's leading. When Moses came back down from the mountain and discovered what they had been doing part of the consequences was that the tent of Moses or the Tent of Meeting was removed from the camp - far from the camp and the visible presence of God went out to the Tent of Meeting. If the people wanted to seek God they had to come out of the camp to the Tent.
Why the history lesson? Because in Jesus' time the Temple in Jerusalem represented God's presence. People literally traveled from all over the world to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Temple. Each temple prior to this one had been "occupied" by the visible presence of God in a pillar of fire and smoke over the mercy seat in the Most Holy place. When this last temple known as the Temple of Herod (because he helped fund and make it's erections possible) was built nothing happened. God never "showed up" yet He promised through His prophet Haggai that the glory of this temple would exceed the glory of the others. It exceeded it by the literal walking/talking presence of God in the form of Jesus. However every time Jesus entered His House He was driven out with the threat of stoning.
Finally here in John 10 He leaves not only His temple but goes out 'of the camp, far from the camp' back across the Jordan which represent the eastern border of the promised land. In other words Jesus literally left the land of His people.
Why? Because they didn't want Him.
Revelation 3 describes what the people of God will be like at the end of time. It describes them as thinking they know everything and have everything and are everything yet God describes them as miserable, poor, naked, wretched, and you guessed it - blind. They think they see but miss the One that really matters. In all their self-importance they have lost the One who is All Important. Revelation 3 tells us where Jesus is. He is outside His church knocking on the door. He is once again outside the camp, far outside the camp, driven there by the cold indifference of His own. It is indeed winter.
Where is the good news in any of this?
It says many went out across the Jordan to find Him and many believed in Him. See it doesn't matter the state of the church or how far away from Jesus you yourself might be. He is findable and wants to be found and as long as there is breath in your lungs and the ability to hear His voice in your ears it's not too late.
"Seek the Lord while He may be found even though He was never far from you..."

John Day 98 - Doubters
11:1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Today's passage reminds me of the story of the little boy who gave blood to his sick sister. The doctor explained he was the only one with the right blood and if she didn't get blood soon she would die.
The little boy laid down bravely on the bed as the nurse rolled up his sleeve. He winced as the needle penetrated his skin. Slowly one vial filled with blood and then another. The boy rested his head back and closed his eyes. A few minutes later he opened them again and asked "When will I die?"
The boy thought he was giving his life, not just some blood and he did it willingly.
Yesterday Jesus was across the Jordan far from "the camp". The people He was trying to save are trying to kill Him. Now He gets word that His friend Lazarus is sick. He doesn't immediately go and the disciples get it. He can't return or they will kill Him. When Jesus announces He is going to return they protest. It's suicide!
Then Thomas speaks. The Thomas who seems only to be remembered as a doubter. He says "Let's go and die with Him." Thomas may doubt they will survive the journey but he has no doubt about where he stands. He stays with Jesus no matter what.
This is the most determined and courageous stand anyone has taken for Jesus so far.
We all have doubts but I want to be like Thomas.

John Day 98 - Mary
11:1 "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
Interesting detail easily missed. Mary - the sister of Martha and Lazarus, is the same Mary that anointed Jesus' feet with oil that cost half a years salary. Why does John make this point? Why bring it up? Here is the story to which John referred:
Luke 7:36
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
When the Bible refers to a woman as a sinner it either means she was a prostitute or was known to sleep around. John wants us to know that the Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus and is more devoted to Him than seemingly anyone else is that woman.
Luke whose gospel is the most detailed and carefully put in chronological order shares this story about Mary 3 chapters after she anoints His feet with oil:
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
A sister or a brother is lived no matter the path their life takes. However when a family who wants to honour and serve God has a member that takes the path Mary had taken into sexual immorality it is both painful and hurtful. When Jesus restored Mary it would have created an instant bond between Him and her entire family and it did. There home became a refuge for Him and He always stayed there when he was in the area.
This second story in Luke demonstrates how close Mary had become to Jesus. Time in the kitchen was time wasted. This doesn't mean we should be reading the Bible 24/7. It means Jesus was not in Bethany every day and when He was she was not going to miss a moment. It speaks not of laziness on her part but priorities. Jesus defended her choice.
Now with all that background information why does John purposely go out of his way to make sure we know who Mary is and who Mary was? Because he is making sure we know how deep and strong the bond was between Jesus and this family before he tells the story of the illness and death of Lazarus.
When really pondered it is a painful and faith maturing story. Believing is not for the faint of heart nor an immunity pill against suffering.
See you tomorrow.

John Day 99 - When Jesus Doesn't Move
11:1 "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
We spent yesterday establishing the deep bond between Jesus and this family of siblings. John reminds us of the relationship and then says "Therefore the sisters sent for Him..." They did not just send for a stranger hoping to benefit from His abilities as a last hope. They sent for Jesus their friend. This is a critical element of the story as we will see later.
Verse 5 reemphasizes the point. Jesus loved this family. They were His BFF's. He had their numbers in his list of favourites. They had His work number, His personal line, His email address, they were Facebook friends, they texted each other, they were on snap chat together, instagram, you get the point. When Jesus needed a break He didn't have to call ahead, He just headed for their house.
So of course when Lazarus got sick they called for Him and He dropped everything He was doing and came right away...
Now the translation is messed up a bit here. In verse 3 it says 'Therefore' but in verse 6 it says 'So' even though in the Greek text it is the same word. It's a linking conjunction. Paul uses it extensively. It's a word that ties two ideas together with the first leading to or causing the second. For example: "I broke my arm therefore I went immediately to the hospital".
The first conjunction makes perfect sense. John is introducing characters in a story and says "These people were close friends of therefore when one of them got sick they sent for Him". The second conjunction makes no apparent sense which is perhaps why the translators fudged it a little. Jesus gets word that the one he loves is sick therefore He doesn't move for 2 days...?!?
Now we can't forget chapter 5 and the healing of the son of the nobleman. Jesus never went to his house either. He stayed right where He was. However Jesus declared the boy well and that's exactly what happened. Now Jesus gets word from this family that He loves that they need His help and He does everything He can right away... No. John says because of the love He had for them He did nothing for 2 days.
Sometimes love does nothing? Sometimes Jesus doesn't come? Doesn't answer? Doesn't seem moved at all by our need? This is how He treats those close to Him? Perhaps He is like a politician. He helps the ones who will increase His popularity but once He has your vote He feels no urgency to help...
Because He loved them He didn't do anything for 2 days... Are you waiting on Him? Is He not moving? Why?
See you tomorrow...

John Day 100 - What Moves Us Isn't What Moved Jesus
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Because I love you I'm not coming...
This is a challenging concept. It flies in the face of how we typically view love. In the english language we even have a special word to describe our tendency to favour our own:
noun: nepotism
the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.
synonyms: favoritism, preferential treatment, the old boy network, looking after one's own, bias, partiality, partisanship
Jesus had the power to heal and he favoured the family yet He did not move in response to their request. Doesn't God say "Before you call I will answer and while you are still speaking I will hear"? Didn't Jesus preach "Ask and you shall receive"? So Mary and Martha call and Jesus hears but He doesn't respond.
The story then gets weirder. The disciples are ok with Him not going... Two days later He announces He is going to go and for the first time they protest. "You can't go back there, they will kill you! Have you forgotten that already?!!!"
Think about those implications. The disciples didn't protest when He didn't go but protested when He "changed His mind". Can we say 'self-preservation'? Ouch.
In response to their resistance Jesus preaches a mini sermon. Is it really the time? Is it even on topic? Seems out of right field, or is it?
Day and night. Light and darkness. Walking where the light is. Following the light. These are themes not only of the gospel of John but of the Jewish nation. When they were fleeing from Egypt they were lead by a cloud during the day but when they needed to travel in the night the cloud became a pillar of fire, a massive torch that lighted their path. "Thy Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path". "In the beginning was the Word... the Word was the light... the Light shone in the darkness..."
See the Jews did not travel unless the cloud or fire moved first and when it stopped they stopped.
Jesus is telling them that He too travels by the Light: "Without My Father I do nothing". Mary and Martha said "Come right away!" but God said "Don't move." Two days later God said "Move" but the disciples said "No way!"
The sisters were motivated by love for their brother, love for themselves, and fear. The disciples were motivated by love for Jesus, love for themselves, and fear. Jesus was simply following His Father. Always. His relationships with others had no impact on His loyalty to His Father because, and don't miss this: His ability to affect our lives for the good was only possible by walking in the Light always.
Jesus was never reactionary. He was never panicked. He was never moved by circumstances to make decisions. He only ever did what His Father told Him to do. He walked in the Light.
God had a reason for the delay. See you tomorrow...

John Day 101 - I'm Glad "For Your Sakes"
11:11 "These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Two awkward days have passed. The disciples are both relieved and confused. Relieved that they didn't have to return to what they felt was certain death in Jerusalem but confused by the seemingly callous indifference of Jesus. Now Jesus abruptly announces that He is going to "wake up sleeping Lazarus". The disciples jump on His words to make an excuse for not going. "He needs his rest. He'll get better faster if we don't disturb him."
Strange thing to say to a Man who heals the sick and walks on water...
Then Jesus drops the bombshell. Lazarus is dead. Now as if that wasn't bad enough Jesus adds this gem to it. "I'm glad for your sakes I didn't go..." What?! Excuse me? Why?!! Are you glad because not going two days ago kept us alive for two extra days? Are you glad because you thought we didn't like Lazarus and wanted him to die? Are you glad because now we're left trying to explain to Mary and Martha and everyone else who asks why You didn't show up? Why Jesus? Why exactly are you glad "for our sakes" that you did nothing and it cost Lazarus his life?
Have you ever been so incensed by the first part of what someone said that you didn't even hear the rest?
Jesus was not finished His sentence. He states exactly why He was glad "for their sakes". He was glad so that they would believe.
I wonder if they were offended? Clearly the implication is they didn't yet believe...
OK so we're past waist deep in this story and so far Jesus has ignored the request of Mary and Martha "because He loves them" and now He has waited until Lazarus is dead "for the sake of His disciples"...
If you are following the line of thinking I'm following the conclusion is rather painful. It's beyond uncomfortable. I'd like to be able to pin the blame somewhere but I can't find a spot.
This story, even though we've only gotten waist deep, is clearly saying that the darkest, most difficult, most unexplainable things that are permitted to happen to us by a seemingly all powerful but indifferent God are for our good... Necessary. Done out of love. Jesus is willing to be screamed at, kicked in the shins, have His chest beaten on while we sob and doubt and hurt because we need the experience?
In my culture love is supposed to make everything better. Love smooths things over. Love brings bandaids and ice cream. Love doesn't let bad things happen when they could have been avoided. Lazarus didn't have to die. It was all preventable. Jesus explains His inaction as motivated by love and "for your sakes".
Either I don't understand love or Jesus is crazy...
What is love?
1 Corinthians 13:4 "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
We think we suffer when things go wrong and God gets off easy. Tomorrow we explore "the rest of the story..."

John Day 102 - If You Had Been Here
11:17 "So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died..."
There is a woman in one of my churches that tells great children's stories. The best part about them is that they are all true. Yesterday she told a story about Providence Methodist Church in North Carolina. In the early 1870's the congregation was looking to buy land and build a new church. There was a piece of property they wanted but the man who owned it refused to sell it to them. Thry had been praying and they believed this was the property God wanted them to buy but He said he didn't like Christians and he was keeping the land until he could figure out a way to have it make money for him. They kept saving money and then thought if they showed him they had enough cash to buy the land he might change his mind. He didn't. Finally they settled for a piece of land in a lower lying place that they could buy. It wasn't what they wanted but they wanted to get building so they took it. Shortly after the church was finished and dedicated a huge storm and flood came through the town. The water was 5 feet deep where the new church was. Back then (1876) buildings had no foundations and the water picked up the building and it began to float down the street. Attempts were made to stop it with ropes but it was futile. Soon it came to a side street and turned 90 degrees and went down the side street. A couple of blocks later it turned another corner as if guided by an unseen hand. Eventually it did come to a stop. You guessed it. It stopped right in the middle of the property they had been trying to buy from the beginning. When the owner saw it there he didn't just sell them the property. He gave it to them for free. Ever since the name of the now famous church is Providence Methodist Church.
It's an amazing story. God gave them the exact property he had lead them to. HOWEVER, it wasn't a smooth journey. Twice they were refused. Finally they chose to settle for the wrong piece of property. As a pastor I can imagine there were some discussions, some tension, maybe even some arguments about settling for the wrong piece of property. I know there would have been some doubts about why God would lead them to land they couldn't have. Most of all I can imagine that as the floodwaters rose the naysayers were thinking if not saying out loud "I knew we shouldn't have bought this piece of property. I knew we shouldn't have built here..."
Then before the day was over the church was sitting where God had told them it would be and it remains there to this day.
Martha's words are pain filled and haunting. They are the truth. "Jesus if you had been here my brother would not have died..."
If the man had just sold them the property it wouldn't be called Providence Methodist Church and we wouldn't still be talking about 139 years later. The delays and doubts and tension all had a purpose. It's possible and even likely that the property owner who 'didn't like Christians' died a believer. God has reasons for everything He does.
"Because He loved them He stayed two more days."
"Lazarus is dead and I am glad for your sakes I was not there..."
We love amazing stories with miraculous endings as long as we don't have to live through the tension and doubts and pain in between the problem and the solution.
It's true. If Jesus had come sooner, if He had intervened, if He had followed their instructions, Lazarus would never have died.
But Jesus is glad He didn't intervene.
See you tomorrow...

John Day 103 - Contradictory Christ?
11:20 "Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Unfortunately because of one story where Martha is busy in the kitchen while Mary is spending time with Jesus Martha gets judged as the less devoted of the two. It's true that Jesus defended Mary in that instance but that doesn't give us the right to judge her level of devotion to Jesus.
Now we see Martha coming to Jesus. As we saw yesterday she greets Him with a raw, pain filled statement that doubles as an accusation - "If you had been here my brother would not have died..." however in fairness to Martha she does not stop there. She continues "but even now I know that whatever you ask of God, He will give you."
What is Martha saying? What is she hoping Jesus will ask for?
Jesus responds boldly: "Your brother will rise again."
"I know he will at the last day" she says. What she doesn't say but implies is "but that doesn't help us right now."
Like we talked about yesterday with the floating church, we don't like living in between the promise and the reality yet the truth is that is exactly where we are living. There is tension, doubt, pain, suffering, conflict and strife in between the promise and the reality. So much so that some days the promises feel like mockers or like an elusive oasis mirage in a parched desert.
When you understand the culture Martha and Mary didn't just lose the brother they loved. They lost their home because women couldn't own property. They lost the financial means on which they likely survived. They literally lost everything.
In the midst of all that loss Martha was left with an elusive promise that existed on a far horizon. What about today? What about now? What about tomorrow and the next day and the day after that?
"He will rise Martha."
"I know he will but it's so far away..."
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Heavy stuff. What is Jesus saying? Do true believers never die? Was Lazarus not a true believer? Or was Lazarus not dead? Verses 25 and 26 seem contradictory. Are they? Could Jesus be so crazy that in two back to back sentences He says two opposite things or are we missing something?
We'll explore this more tomorrow but in the meantime I want you to consider Martha. Never again can we doubt her faith. Lazarus has been in a tomb for 4 days. Martha says to Jesus "Of you had been here this never would have happened BUT even now, even when it's passed too late, I know that whatever You ask of God, He will give it to you."
Then after Jesus speaks those oft quoted but confusing verses she responds with "I do believe that You are the One, the Christ, the Son of God..."
We judge Thomas but I want to be like Thomas. We judge Martha but I want to believe as much as she believed.
See you tomorrow...
John Day 104 - So Many Questions
11:28 "And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
There are few passages in all the Scriptures as raw and revealing as this one. It reveals our pain when things go wrong, it reveals His reaction to our pain, and it reveals how different people react in opposite ways to the same event.
Mary now comes just as Martha had. She meets Jesus in the same place and says the same thing. "Jesus if you had been here..."
This time Jesus does not respond verbally. This time the sight of Mary overcome with grief and the others with her also crying is too much for Him. Rather than words the Greek text says He snorted like an angry horse. That's what it says. Then He asks where they laid him and as they lead Jesus to the tomb the snorting turns to weeping.
The scene takes the mourners off guard. They have never seen Jesus like this. This is the Man who sleeps through storms and walks on water. He tells the weather what to do and banishes blindness with mud and spit. He stands up to men seeking to stone Him fearlessly. Now here He is snorting like a horse and weeping uncontrollably.
The scene elicits two different responses. Some are moved and say "see how much He loved him". The rest almost mockingly say "couldn't He who supposedly cures blindness have prevented all this?"
It's a great question and a profound conundrum. Why did One who loves so much do so little? Why did He drag His feet? Why is the Man who so confidently delayed now acting likes it's a disaster? Why is He snorting like an angry horse? Why is He weeping when He was "glad for their sakes that He didn't come" to Lazarus' rescue?
If Jesus is so burdened by our grief and pain why doesn't He just fix everything?
So many questions but answers are on the way.
See you tomorrow...

John Day 105 - He Did It On Purpose
11:38 "Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
Jesus snorts like an angry horse again within Himself. The description of Jesus emotions as He approaches the tomb of Lazarus is a mixture of anger, frustration, and deep sadness. The source of the anger and frustration is two fold. One is the reality that God never intended for our existence to be plagued by disease and death. The second is our unbelief. It was unbelief that opened the way for Satan to gain dominion over our planet and it is our continued unbelief that hampers God's ability to help us through the darkness if this sin sick world.
John tracks Martha through this story. She was the first to seek out Jesus. She was the first to declare that even now, even with Lazarus in the grave, God would do for Jesus whatever He asked. She was the one who boldly confessed her belief that Jesus was the One, the Christ, the Son of God.
However when they get to the tomb and Jesus tells them to open it, Martha is the one who protests. "It's going to smell really bad Jesus! He's been dead for four days!!"
Notice Jesus' quick and firm reply: "Didn't I tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"
Let's hit the pause button right here and talk about our believing. Let's be honest for a moment. Our believing is a lot stronger in words than it is in reality. The truth is we believe the believable and that's about where it stops. Pardon my graphic bluntness but Abraham and Sarah believed as long as all their parts were working and youth was on their side but as soon as menopause came and went and God was still talking babies they both laughed in His face.
The Israelites believed in a God that could supply water from a lake but not from a rock. They believed in a God that could supply food from crops and livestock but not from the sky. They believed in a God that could give them the Promised Land provided it was empty and defenseless.
In short we believe in a God that can do what we can do and when we come to the end of what we can do we believe we've come to the end of what God can do also.
"Jesus I believe you're the ONE but seriously you better leave that stone where it is. There is no need to get ridiculous here. It's too late Jesus. He's dead. He's been dead for 4 days Jesus. It's over..."
"Because He loved them He waited 2 more days..."
"He is dead guys and I'm glad for your sakes..." - Jesus
Why. Why the delays? Why didn't He prevent his death? Why make them go through the agony of seeing him fight for his last breath? Why make them listen to the death rattle as his lungs filled with fluid? Why make them plan and live through a funeral and burial and then saunter in 4 days later and crack open his tomb and 'pull a rabbit from hat'? Why did He do it and why was He glad about it all. How was this an act of love?
Because we don't comprehend the deep unbelief that occupies our hearts. We don't understand that until it's all gone we are still puppets of the devil. We don't understand that this whole life is a war and the war is about who we believe.
Up to that point Jesus was a really nice guy who could do unexplainable things. However those unexplainable things did not extend to issues of life and death. Even His very best friends didn't believe Jesus had power over the grave. There was only one way to conquer their unbelief. He loved them enough to do it. He loved them enough to have them confused and hurt and angry at Him in that dark space of time between the problem and the solution, between the pain and the joy.
This is not the first time God has lead His people into the darkness so they could see the Light. Mark my words. It won't be the last time either.
Believing is everything and believing in a God who can do anything comes by experience. Experience comes by pain.
He loved them so He delayed...
I am no stranger to the darkness, but it is the darkest just before the dawn...

John Day 106 - "Loose Him and Let Him Go"
11:43 "Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did."
The Bible describes Lazarus as he exits the tomb. The picture below shows what he may have looked like. The fascinating thing is what Jesus said as Lazarus walked out very alive but still wrapped like a dead man. He said to the people "Loose him and let him go."
Strange. Jesus just put life back in a dead body. Jesus fed thousands from a single lunch. Jesus opened blind eyes. Jesus calmed storms. Jesus walked on water. Jesus cast out demons. Could not the same Jesus who did all of those things remove the grave cloth Himself? Of course! But He didn't. He asked "us" to do it. Why?
He used a boy's lunch when he didn't have to. He had the blind man wash his own eyes. Why? Come back to the grave cloths. Picture the scene. There are the living ones and dead Lazarus. He went into the grave wrapped tightly in grave cloths. He was essentially bound. The living ones bound him. They couldn't do anything about the fact he was dead but they could bind him in grave cloths to put a barrier between the living and the dead. Jesus puts life back in his lifeless body and then says to those who bound him "Loose him and let him go."
Are you ready? What if Lazarus represents those who are dead in sin? What if the grave cloths represent the barrier we erect between ourselves and hurtful people? What if the tomb represents prisons where we lock away hurtful people so they can't hurt us anymore. We are helpless to heal their condition so we erect barriers instead to protect ourselves. Ironically even though the one who is causing the grief and pain (Lazarus) is wrapped and sealed away the pain he has caused cannot be contained. It is pouring out of their eyes and tearing at their souls. The external measures taken to deal with the situation have really brought no relief. The only hope is that by dealing him away his condition won't spread...
"Loose him and let him go". What if Lazarus represents those who though once dead have returned to us alive but the barriers we erected when they "died" are still there? The pain was too much so we put up walls and separated ourselves from their putrid influence. They went you the "far country" and even though the pain of their leaving remained it was less painful than the presence of their toxic lives. Now they are back and different and new and alive but they look the same and the walls remain and we're afraid to take them down but Jesus says "Loose him and let him go."
While we helplessly mess around with external fixes and band aid solutions is it possible that we don't believe in a God who can change the problems where they really are? And when He steps into the impossible far after it is too late and suddenly changes everything what do we do? How do we react?
The reactions at the tomb of Lazarus are clearly stated. Some believed and some went off to tattle at the headquarters of the unbelieving ones. Where are we in all of this? How will we treat those God has rescued?
"Loose him and let him go."

John Day 107 - Still Two Groups
11:45 "Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad."
Often we tell ourselves that if Jesus revealed Himself in some dramatic way we would believe Him. It can happen. When Lazarus walked out of the tomb alive we're told many believed in Jesus as a result. However it wasn't that way for everyone. Some instead went and reported His actions to the religious leaders.
Two groups. Always two groups.
Last week a dear friend of mine was facing stents or a double bypass surgery because of two arteries that were between 90% and 100% blocked. Monday was the day she had to go in for a final test to determine which route they would go. My friend loves God. She already believes. A miracle would not make her believe nor would no miracle stop her from believing. Her friends were praying for her. Monday came and the test was done. All her arteries were clear. They were confused. They sent her home with instructions to return for a consultation with her physician the next day. She sat down in his office and he admitted there was no human explanation for what happened and she told him about her Jesus.
Why? Why does He stuff like that and then other times appear to do nothing? Why even when He does something beyond amazing like raising the dead do some still refuse to believe Him? Why after all He did were the very religious leaders who were supposed to be the most faithful planning His death? How did they even think killing Him would solve anything if death had no power against Him?
I have lots and lots of questions but this I know: God is love. Everything He chooses to do or not do is motivated by love no matter how confusing it appears to us.
I also know this: some will refuse to believe Him no matter what He does.
John just lays open to us who He is. What we choose to do with Him is up to us. I choose to believe in the One who died for us all even in the face of stubborn resistance and open cruelty. I prefer to trust His love than doubt because of questions I can't yet answer. We live in the tension between the problems and the solution but He will come and we will go home as surely as my friend went home with healthy arteries that no one had to touch.
See you tomorrow...

John Day 108 - Driven Back to the Roots
11:53 "Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.
55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him."
Jesus has raised a man from the dead and still many don't believe in Him. They are more determined to kill Him than they have ever been. The leaders of the murderous plot are the same men who lead the religion that claims to represent God.
The uncomfortable truth is that it came to the point that anyone who went to the heart of religion (Jerusalem and specifically the temple) to find Jesus was out of luck. He had been driven from His own, far from His own.
However there is something deeply significant about where Jesus went when He left Jerusalem. He went to the hill country of Ephraim. When you read Joshua and Judges, the two books that deal with the conquering and occupation of the "Promised Land" you will see Ephraim mentioned over and over. It was the land conquered by Joshua himself. Two significant sites are in Ephraim. One is Bethel which literally means "House of God" and is the place where Abraham and others after him had direct encounters with God. Ephraim is also the place where the sanctuary that Moses had built in the desert journey from Egypt was first erected in the Promised Land and remained there for about 300 years.
You see Jesus didn't leave. Jesus returned to the roots of the Story. He went back to where it all began. Religion strays. Religion goes off course. Religion becomes corrupt and at times pure evil yet Jesus remains. The Story remains. Even while the plant wilts with decay the roots remain and in the end Truth prevails and God Wins. If you are having trouble finding Jesus in places where you would expect to find Him go back to the roots. Trace the Story back to the beginning. Religion may change but God never changes. Search for Him in Bethel. Return to Shiloh. Look for the old paths. Abraham found Him there and so will we...

John Day 109 - When Religion Abuses Power
11:57 "Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him."
There is a powerful principle in the Bible that teaches that history continually repeats itself because we don't learn from it. One generation makes a mistake a few generations later they have forgotten all about it and repeat the same mistake.
One such mistake that gets repeated over and over all over the planet is the attempt to control the people by those in leadership. More often than not religion is the tool used in this endeavour because nothing instills fear and guilt like religion. Religion has the added "bonus" of not only controlling you in this life but holding your eternal life in it's grip.
You will remember in chapter 9 that the parents of the blind man that Jesus healed wanted nothing to do with the whole situation because they knew their position in the church was at stake. They knew if the leadership didn't hear what they wanted to hear or get the outcome they desired they could and probably would be thrown out of the church. If you want to read about a Canadian example of what it looks like when religion takes over a community read about this one: http://culteducation.com/…/345-plaster-rock-church-at-cente…
The point is not to pick on the above mentioned case. It only serves as an example. The point is what happened at the end of chapter 11. This is reality. The church from the top down decided to launch an Osama Ben Laden style man hunt with the intent to murder Jesus and they enlisted the entire religious community to get the job done. "If you know where He is, hand Him over".
What are we to learn from this for our lives? If you belong to any organization or even relationship that seeks to control you and treats you like a pawn in their schemes and or threatens/manipulates you to do what they want, you need to leave that situation. Jesus is love and love neither threatens nor manipulates. Love pursues and invites and demonstrates it's feelings but where coercion begins love ends.
It is critical that we pursue understanding the character of God because then it becomes much easier to see through people and movements that are false and rotten at the core no matter how popular, powerful, or pleasant they may seem on the surface.
See you tomorrow when the Story gets better...

John Day 110 - The Fragrance Filled The Room
12:1 "Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
Try and picture this moment. The last time Jesus was with this little family was at the cemetery. Lazarus was dead and Jesus "woke him up". Shortly after, by decree of the Church, Jesus was forced to retreat from Jerusalem to the mountainous region of Ephraim. This is His first time back. You can imagine both the excitement and the tension. There is essentially a bounty on Jesus' head. Hosting this meal is considered by the Jewish leadership an act of treason. The people have been ordered to hand Him over, not host Him. However this is a very private meal. It appears to consist of only the disciples and Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
As usual Martha is serving the food. Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus and the disciples and Mary is nowhere to be found. Suddenly in the dimly lit room filled with conversation it gets quiet. A fragrance is filling the room. It's a familiar smell. It wasn't that long ago that Lazarus' dead body was covered in the same or similar fragrance. The smell overtook the room. In the ensuing silence all that could be heard was the gentle sobs of Mary as she knelt in the shadows wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair.
This time it wasn't Peter who spoke first. It was Judas. He recognized the smell. He knew this was not burial perfume used by common folk. This was the expensive stuff. Unable to contain his greed, his only concern was the cost. "Why not sell it instead of waste it? A years wages could really help the poor!" he blurted out.
He had a point. Water is free and it would have served the purpose of washing Jesus' feet. However Judas wasn't concerned with the poor. He was concerned about himself. More donations meant more for him to line his greedy pockets with. Unknown to all but Jesus, Judas was a thief and his only real motivation for following Jesus around was personal gain.
How different was Mary's motivation. While the disciples were seeking advancement she was listening. While Martha was seeking to impress she was listening. While the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest she was listening. While the Pharisees were looking to trap Him, Mary was trying to capture every word. Now here He is 6 days from His own death and while everyone is still caught up in their same old, same old concerns Mary knows exactly what is coming. Why? Because she has been listening. Above the sound of politics and religion and tradition and arguing she has been hearing every word.
It started way back when John the Baptist declared "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!". Shortly after Jesus walked into the temple and overthrew the tables and interrupted the selling of lambs. Lambs being sold for slaughter. Lambs being slaughtered to take away sin... Mary was taking it all in.
When Jesus declared that He would be "lifted up" Mary was listening.
Jesus cuts the silence that followed Judas' rebuke with a rebuke of His own. "Leave her alone!" Then comes a clever play on words that is lost in translation. The word 'keep' or 'kept' means to guard, to watch out for, to observe. Jesus is saying two things at once. He is saying that Mary has had or has kept this perfume and has been keeping watch for when to use it. She knows it is time.
What a rebuke to Judas who knows within himself what he has planned for Jesus. Mary is anointing Jesus the Lamb who is about to be lead to the slaughter by Judas.
How many times I have observed those in the wrong attacking those in the right. I often wonder if it is done purposely to deflect attention away from their own behaviour or if it's just the inevitable result of being full of poisonous evil.
In the end there are only two kinds of people. Those who hurt and those who heal: Judas' and Marys. Both were with Jesus so much. Both were "religious". Both appeared to be on the same "team" yet they couldn't be more different. Why? Because one was seeking self advancement while the other was seeking Jesus.

Who am I? Why are we where we are and why do we do what we do? What fragrance do we bring to the room?

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