The Smell of Death and the Sound of Life

October 8, 2019 at 9:06 am | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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Jesus informed His Disciples that his friend Lazarus had died. Despite the danger that a trip to Bethany would pose for Jesus, Who had been targeted for arrest and execution by the religious leaders, He nevertheless intended to go.

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

John 11:14-16

The nickname commonly given to Thomas – “Doubting Thomas” – needs to be tempered with the understanding that he at least showed a courageous resolve in speaking up and calling for active faith as he proposed to follow Jesus into an encounter that could very well result in death.

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

John 11:17

There was a Jewish superstition in those days which held that a deceased person’s soul could linger in the vicinty of the body for a period of up to four days, at which time decompsition made it impractical for the soul to consider re-entering the body, and death became “more final.”

Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

John 11:18

“Fifteen furlongs” indicates a distance of around two miles.

And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

John 11:19

It is possible that the large number of comforters were due to the influence and wealth of Martha’s and Mary’s family, but this also highligted the danger to Jesus in making His visit.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

John 11:20

Martha and Mary both acted in accord with their distinctive personalities: Martha rushing out to meet Jesus, and Mary inactively waiting.

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

John 11:21-22

We must not conflate Martha’s busyness, however, with a complete lack of faith on her part.

Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

John 11:23-24

Martha misunderstood Jesus’s meaning concerning the timing of this interim resurrection that was about to happen, but her statement was nevertheless also true.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25 (emphasis added)

This is the fifth of the seven commonly recognized “I AM” statement in the Gospel of John. He is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and the Light of Life. Food, water, and light are all necessary for life, but we need to also remember that Jesus IS the Life. Lately I’ve been seeing people post pictures of themseleves, their friends, their family members, even their pets, with the curious caption, “Living my/his/their best life.” If Jesus is truly eternal, abundant Life personified, then, by necessity, you can’t be living your best life apart from Him. Jesus is the Way of life and He gives life (II Timothy 1:10; I John 1:2): eternal, immortal LIFE.

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

John 11:26-27 (emphasis added)

Martha’s statement is a great confession and profession, and all true Christians should affirm this truth.

And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

John 11:28

Martha called Mary secretly because of the danger in identifying with Jesus. Today we should take advantage of the freedom we have to meet openly with other believers and tell them the same thing.

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 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 11:38-39

My daughter likes a silly joke where she sniffs the air curiously, and says, “Something around here smells like updog.” Gamely playing along, I ask, “What’s ‘updog?'” in response to which she beams brightly, slaps me on the back, and says, “Not much, dawg, what’s up with you?!” Maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there” moments, but I enjoy it. The miracle of Lazarus’s (who after four days in the grave smelled way worse than any updog, or downdog, for that matter!) resurrection went 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.

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

John 11:43

It has been surmised that, perhaps, Jesus specifically used Lazarus’s name to prevent the emptying out of Abraham’s Bosom, or even sheol.

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

Lazarus moved without walking. This is a picture of salvation in which spiritually dead sinners are brought to life without any meritorious cooperation on their own behalf.

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

John 11:45-47

This “council” was the Sanhedrin.

If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

John 11:48-51

Caiphas gave a true (albeit unrecognized by him) prophecy.

And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.

John 11:52-77

The Pharisees, most likely invigorated by Satan deviously working and influencing behind the scenes, did not want Jesus to make it to the Passover alive.

The Stones of Complacency

March 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Posted in John, The Stones that Don't Cry Out | 7 Comments
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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.

John 11:5

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.

John 11:6

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.

John 11:32

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.


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