Tags: Biblical stones, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, Jesus, John 11, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, raising Lazarus, stones, stones in the Bible
During Jesus’s earthly ministry He developed very close relationships with a number of His followers. He seems to have been especially fond of a family of three adult siblings: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
The next verse seems a little illogical to our human, finite way of thinking.
When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
If I had a close friend or loved one who was dying, and I had the cure, I like to think I wouldn’t hang around two days before getting on the road. Of course, Jesus’s ways are always superior to our ways, His timing, unlike ours, is always perfect, and His power goes far beyond what we think of as a “cure.” His power goes all the way beyond the grave.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Lazarus had been dead for several days by the time Jesus arrived. His body had been buried in a cave, and a stone sealed the entrance. You probably know what happened next. If you don’t, I encourage you to read John Chapter 11 in its entirety. Jesus called Lazarus forth from the grave, and Lazarus’s body came back to life. This was a miracle beyond any human or material agency. It was completely supernatural. No physician played a part, no medication was administered, no sleight of hand or optical illusions were employed.
However, here is one of the many truths which we may take from this true historical account of Jesus’s miraculous power: God needs no man to accomplish His will, but He does deign to work through human agency.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days.
John 11:39 (emphasis added)
Why didn’t the Son of God – who could call the dead back to life with a simple shout – also command the stone to roll itself away, or – Samson-style – pick it up and hurl it away Himself? I believe it He did it the way He did so that Martha – whom He loved – could have the joy of getting her own hands involved in the work of the Lord. In fact, Jesus is nothing if not generous when it comes to sharing the joy of His miraculous wonders.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
John 11:44 (emphasis added)
What is Jesus getting done through your hands-on agency in your life today? I am afraid that sometimes we recognize that only God can deliver a person from the darkness of damnation (or the anguish of addiction; or the perils of poverty; or the ignorance of ingratitude), and we use our theological assurance of God’s omnipotence as an excuse to sit complacently with our hands folded, waiting for God to show up and speak forth the solution. God’s gracious empowering of human mouths, hands, feet, brains, and even hearts is a great kindness. Let us not miss out on the opportunities which God grants us to be a part of what He could easily do on His Own. God is not only sovereign over the ends. He is sovereign over the means. This is motivation for action, not an excuse for complacency.
Tags: Biblical Parenting, Canaan, Cross of Christ, Gospel parenting, Jesus Christ, Jordan River, Joshua 4, parenting principles, promised land, stones in the Bible
Joshua was leading a new generation out of the wilderness and into the promised land of Canaan. Only he and Caleb were still alive from the old generation to see God’s chosen people finally cross the Jordan River. Despite what many of the old hymns proclaim, this is not a picture in Scripture of making it to Heaven. There were still battles, wars, enemies, and obstacles to be overcome in Canaan; there will be no wars in Heaven. No, the crossing over into the promised land is a picture of believers claiming their inheritance in the Lord, and receiving the promises of confidence and assurance by faith.
The priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant went down into the Jordan and God stopped the waters like He had done at the Red Sea. The people crossed as on dry land. Then the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him to choose twelve men – one from each tribe – to gather big stones and put them in the river at the place where the priests had stood.
Some Bible scholars believe that this was to be a symbol of faith in the unseen. Once the stones were in place, the waters of the Jordan would cover them up, and future generations would believe by faith that they were there. Others argue that the stones would only become visible in times of drought when the water went down – to remind people to be faithful during hard times, and to trust God to send water – life-giving water – which would once again conceal the stones.
It is generally agreed that these stones were to be some kind of memorial, and, as they say, either of those interpretations “will preach.” As Christians today, we should set up memorials in our own lives to remind us of the great things God has done, but we must not make idols of God’s past accomplishments. God can do even greater things in the future.
What I want to do is look a little closer at the passage of Scripture.
And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
Joshua 4:5-6 (emphasis added)
We can imagine children asking their fathers, “Dad, what mean these stones? Dad, I want to know about those stones – there in the river. People still talk about them. Tell me again why they’re there.” But that is not precisely what Joshua 4:6 is telling us.
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
Joshua 4:6 (emphasis added)
That’s the question for us today, dads, grandpas, Christian men. The question is not, “What do these stones mean?” The question is, “What do these stones mean TO YOU..?” Because that’s what our children are really wanting to know. “Dad, what does that Cross mean to you? Is it just a decoration? Just something to wear on a chain? Just a design on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker? A bookmark in your Bible? A tattoo for rock stars?” I don’t think we should ever stray from the theological truth of the Cross, but our children need more than a theological discourse. They need to know more than what the Cross means. They need to know what it means TO ME.
Whenever God has entrusted you to fulfill some responsibility for your family the right way, and you don’t want to do it, the devil or the world has someone waiting in the wings who will be glad to do it the wrong way. Satan could explain the theological meaning of that Cross far better than any of us could. He could tell us exactly what that Cross means. He could tell us more about that Cross than we ever thought we knew. What your son – your daughter – your grandchildren – want to know is, “What means this Cross TO YOU?”
“Why do we go to church, Dad?”
“Because of that Cross, and what happened there.”
“Why do you sing songs about God and Jesus, Dad?”
“Because of what happened to Jesus on that Cross – and what happened to Him after they took His body down.”
“Why do we do things differently from the other kids at school, Dad? Why can’t we go to those kinds of movies? Why can’t we listen to that kind of music? Why can’t we dress like everyone else? Why can’t we say some words? Why do have to have a Bible study in our house, Dad? Why do we have to say our prayers and pray before we eat?”
“Because of that Cross. Because of what that Cross means to me – and what I want it to mean to you.”
The King of this universe – the One True God – the Creator of everything – came to die on that Cross for me – and for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your children – your whole family – is not watching you. They want to know what is important to you. You must have a desire for your Father if you want to be “a” father.
We must bring the Cross of Jesus Christ into our daily lives and everyday conversations – especially with our children.
“Dad, they told us in school that the earth revolves around the sun, and the earth rotates.”
“That’s true, sweetie, but did your teacher tell you that the earth doesn’t just rotate – it ‘repents’ – over and over again – it turns to darkness, and then back to light. And the sun is like God – it shines its glory. Did she tell you about the moon? We want to be like the moon. The moon reflects the glory of the sun onto the part of the earth (the world) that’s turned away from the sun. We need to be ‘moonlight’ Christians. We don’t care about shining our own light. We just want to reflect God’s light on a dark world.”
You can have conversations like this with your children if you are prepared – if the “stones” that memorialize what Christ has done in your life provoke your children to curiosity.
Tags: ladies ministry, Luke 24, men in church, men's ministry, stones in the Bible, the Resurrection, the Resurrection of Christ, women's ministry
It was the first day of the week, and a group of Jesus’s followers came to the tomb where He had been buried. Before Jesus’s death, He had predicted His own resurrection, but these followers weren’t going to see if Jesus had been resurrected.
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
Who were these visitors to the tomb of Jesus?
It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
They were all women, and it is almost as if this has turned out to be a prophecy of the modern church. Caring for Jesus’s body would have been a labor of love, but a very sad labor. There would be no steak dinner, no football game on a big-screen television, no exciting rock-concert-style music, no fiery emotional preaching, no motorcycle rally, no “boys’ night out” with a bunch of macho symbolism in the church fellowship hall. In other words, none of the things that are supposed to manipulate men into showing up for some of the mundane ministry tasks in the church, which usually wind up being done by women today. These women were going to be caring for the body of Christ and grieving – no fanfare, no accolades, no recognition. If you are reading this, and you are a man who belongs to a local church, are you guilty of being of being “all show and no substance?” Are you there for the “big men’s events” but not at the smaller Bible studies, the visitation times, the prayer meetings, the cleaning days? You might fool the congregation by showing up at the more “visible” events, but you are not fooling the Lord.
The women who undertook the task of visiting Jesus’s tomb to care for His body were rewarded when their grieving was turned to joy.
And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
An earthquake and the power of God had rolled the stone away, but the stone itself did not cry out. It was God’s plan that people would deliver the good news about the risen Christ.
And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
The stone that rolled away from the entrance to the tomb – although silent – still spoke very loudly. It was a stone that confirmed the truth of the Resurrection. It had been sealed at the entrance, so that only Roman soldiers could have broken the seal – and they never would have done so. The rolled-away stone is still silent today. It’s up to us to cry out the Good News.
Tags: condemnation, forgiveness, Jeremiah 17, Jesus Christ, John 8, little leage baseball, Matthew 5, stones in the Bible, woman caught in adultery
One day Jesus was up early in the morning, teaching in the temple. The scribes and the Pharisees came bursting in, dragging a woman with them. “Look here, Master,” they said, “we’ve got this woman – caught in adultery – caught red-handed in the act! The Law says we should stone her and kill her. What do You say…?”
When you read the Gospel accounts, it seems like Jesus never did what the self-righteous hypocrites expected Him to do. Now He stooped down, and started writing with His finger in the dirt. This must have frustrated the Pharisees and scribes. He seemed to be ignoring them. They just kept asking and asking, and it was like He couldn’t even hear them!
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
I wonder what He wrote on the ground? There has been much speculation about this. Perhaps He wrote out the Ten Commandments? After all, His finger had written the originals. Perhaps He traced out a verse from one of the books of the prophets?
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
What if Jesus was quietly writing out the names of some of the Pharisees’ mistresses or girlfriends – women with whom they themselves were committing adultery? Whatever it was He was writing, it convicted their consciences.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
I can just see them… They are clutching stones in their fists – ready to hand one to Jesus in case He gave the word – or ready to start throwing themselves to show their hypocritical judgment against this woman’s sin… and then… one by one… with downcast eyes and slumped shoulders… they begin to drop their rocks in the dust and slink away…
In this series of lessons we are using Jesus’s words from Luke 19:40 as a starting point to discuss how the silence of rocks can actually be quiet loud. I don’t know if rocks thudding in the dust around a frightened woman would actually make all that much noise, but, if you ever played little league or high school baseball, you may be able to draw something of an analogy. There you are in center field, glove wavering unsteadily as you wait for a high arcing fly ball to come down toward your face. The game is on the line. Tragically, though, it is a bright day in the mid-afternoon and the sun is right in your eyes. Temporarily blinded, you hear the baseball hit the dirt in front of your feet as the winning run rounds third and heads for home. If you have ever been in that situation, you know that sound – the thudding sound of condemnation.
The rocks that the scribes and Pharisees would have brought to the stoning did not end up “crying out” in the way they supposed when they arranged this challenge to tempt Jesus. Instead, the ones who sought to condemn were the ones who held their peace when Jesus reminded them of their own sin. As Christians we need to see to it that the stones of condemnation never cry out in hypocritical judgment. Instead, we should cry out in forgiving love. Jesus Himself is truly the only one with the right to condemn, and, to those for whom He shed His blood, He offers instead the same loving admonition: “Go… and sin no more.”
Why do we find it so hard to forgive, after all the things for which He’s forgiven us? I know that someone will say, “But you don’t know my enemy. You don’t know what he’s done to me.” No one has done worse to us than we’ve done to Jesus. Yet He loves and forgives.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Tags: building materials, covetousness, Habakkuk 2, Lord Jesus, Luke 19, misunderstood teachings of Jesus, Palm Sunday, Psalm 118, stones in the Bible, triumphal entry
The Lord Jesus was moving toward Jerusalem. Those who had plotted to tempt Him, to cause Him to fall into sin, to argue against Him and to try to prove Him a to be a blasphemer, and those who had tried to kill Him, had all failed – because His time had not yet come.
The Lord Jesus, Who had never allowed His followers to engage in a public demonstration for Him, allowed it this one time, and they treated Him like a triumphant King. Garments were laid on the animals and on the road. Palm tree branches were waved and spread before Him (John 12:13). He rode a “colt” (a young donkey) which had not been broken or trained by men, but which submitted to Jesus because He, as the “second Adam” and as God incarnate, had dominion over all creation.
And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.
The crowd was excited. Many of them had seen this Man – Jesus of Nazareth – perform miracles, heal the blind, even raise a man from the dead. Possibly others – even some of the Disciples – believed Jesus was entering Jerusalem to overthrow the Roman government there. This is indicated by their use of the messianic Psalm 118 (118:26).
And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
But there were also Pharisees in the crowd, and they were upset.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
In the Lord’s response to them, you might recognize a very common modern church expression:
And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Luke 19:40 (emphasis added)
This expression is used to encourage and exhort people to “liven up” – to get excited in worship – to “get free” – to “loosen up” – to sing louder and with greater emotional enthusiasm. This will be the plea of song leaders and worship ministers all across America this Sunday morning: “We don’t want the rocks to put us to shame – come on, please – if we don’t praise Him, the rocks will! You don’t want us to be outdone by a rock, do you?”
One of the things that happened often in Christ’s ministry on earth is that He would speak a great truth and people would put their own stamp of perception on it. Instead of hearing what He actually said, they heard what they wanted Him to say. When He said that the temple would be torn down, and in three days He would raise it again, they thought He meant the temple building. When He said that in order to see the Kingdom of God you must be born again, they asked Him how someone could get back into his mother’s womb. When He told people that those who eat of His flesh and drink of His blood would have eternal life they were offended at the thought of eating literal flesh. I wonder if Jesus’s followers knew the deeper spiritual meaning when He said, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out?”
I don’t know for sure, but I believe the Pharisees must have known. They were students of the Word. They knew the writings of the prophets. Surely they would have recognized the quote from Habakkuk:
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
See, the followers of Christ wanted Psalm 118 – “Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord!” – but Christ’s point was, “What about Habakkuk 2:11? Thou hast brought shame to thy house! The very stones of the houses cry out!”
Is your house just a pile of stones (or bricks or wood or aluminum siding)? What is it about your house that cries out about the glory of God? About the salvation of Christ? I’m not talking about the materials out of which your home is made. I’m talking about what takes place in your home. If the praises of the Lord are not heard in our homes, we won’t have to worry about the paneling and the bricks crying out in praise. Oh, they’ll be crying out alright – but they’ll be crying, “Covetous! Covetous! I am a house full of furniture! Full of television sets! Full of computers! I am a house full of possessions – of material treasures – I am a monument to covetousness!”
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Let’s make sure our homes are places where the Word of God is taught. Where the fear of God is evident. Where the love of God is shown. Let’s make sure our possessions “keep silence” before Him. The “stones of covetousness” which make up our homes don’t have to cry out, but if they are crying out already, how will we respond?
Next time, we will take a look another of The Stones that Don’t Cry Out – the Stones of Condemnation.