Lifted Up

John 12:31-34 WEB

[31] Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. [32] And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” [33] But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die. [34] The multitude answered him, “We have heard out of the law that the Christ remains forever. How do you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?”


Jesus’ impending death was heavy on his mind. Jesus was addressing the crowd that was drawn through the mighty miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection. Ironically, the Father revealed that Jesus would die through the resurrection of Lazarus. God even went so far as to reveal how Jesus would die. He would be lifted up on a cross so that all people could receive eternal life.

With all they had seen, the crowd still could not understand a Messiah that died on a cross. That was because in Isaiah 9:7 the Bible says that there is no ending to the Lord’s rule. Also, the crowd believed Daniel 2:44 which says God’s kingdom shall never end. They had Jesus before them and yet could not see him. So, although Jesus was dealing with his own heartache, he continues to explain the kingdom and the Son of Man. With all the heightened experiences Jesus and the disciples had experienced they were almost surely ready for rest. Instead, Jesus keeps trying to make use of the current opportunity. His feet were prepared with the gospel of peace.

Jesus was the gospel of peace. His life story teaches us what peace looks like, strangely enough, Jesus’ story is full of chaotic moments. The water to wine in Cana, the scourging of the vendors in the temple complex, the feeding of the multitude, and the resurrection of Lazarus. Those situations were chaotic, and that chaos affected the disciples. However, Jesus remained unchanged. The chaos of the circumstances did not take Jesus’ peace. Jesus was fully confident in God’s goodness. So much that he obediently went to the cross to be lifted up.


Lord, please release a quality of peace that will allow me to stand steady amid chaos. Help me make use of opportunities to share the gospel. Please, Lord, take away the fear of rejection so I boldly and respectfully share the message of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Testifying or Bragging?

John 12:17-19 WEB

The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it. [18] For this cause also the multitude went and met him, because they heard that he had done this sign. [19] The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him.”


Jesus did a wonderful miracle, he raised Lazarus from the dead. Not only did he raise him, but Jesus did it after Lazarus was buried and dead for four days. The people that were there to grieve for Lazarus saw what Jesus did. And now, they were repeating the story and causing many to look for Jesus. The Lord, through his ministry commonly told people to keep their miracles a secret (Mat 9:29-30). But this sign was too big to keep silent. So, they testified, and many came to Christ.

How do we know when we are testifying and when we are bragging? That is a huge issue in modern society. We live in a time when self-promotion is rampant and often leads to success. Yet the word teaches us not to boast about our accomplishments (1 Sam 2:3). It can even be a boast to tell what God is doing in our lives. When we are right with God, we do not have to prove we are right with God. That comes from ego and self-promotion. We do not have to brag about our blessings. We should brag on God alone. He is our boast.

We can often tell when God has intervened in someone’s life. God will begin to fix what is broken and line up a believer with their destiny. But having healing or destiny is not something to brag about. Having a destiny in Christ should lead to our silence. We may at appropriate times share our calling with others. After all, we still need people even when we are solidly in Christ. But in general, it is not something we should be bragging about. Rather, we should treasure the miracles and share them when led by the Holy Spirit, so they lead others to Christ.


Lord, give me the wisdom to see when I am testifying and leading others to you, and when I am bragging and harming others. Take pride and ego away, Lord, and leave a tender heart prepared to receive from you.  Help me receive the wisdom to keep silent. Lead me by your Holy Spirit and let my only boast be you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.   

The Spectacle of Miracles

John 12:9-11 WEB

A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. [10] But the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death also, [11] because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.


People love a spectacle. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he created a spectacle. People were astonished. In modern language, we would say Jesus “blew their minds.” And once Jesus astonished people with the wonder of the miracles he performed, people started following to watch the spectacle. Many did not want to become more intimately acquainted with God. They wanted to be entertained.

Of course, not all people were there for entertainment. Lazarus being raised from the dead excited many of the followers. A large number began to believe Jesus was the Messiah. Because of this, the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus. They were jealous of the attention Jesus and Lazarus were getting. It was a threat to their positions (John 11:48). Therefore, out of jealousy, they wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.

For Jesus and Lazarus, being anointed carried a heavy price. Not everyone was there to serve the Lord. Some were there to see what Jesus would do next. They loved what Jesus could do for them, but they did not love Jesus. We know when Jesus died, he died alone. Only a few apostles came to the crucifixion. The crowd that loved the miracles was nowhere to be found when Jesus needed them the most. Jesus understood these things. The Word says that Jesus trusted no one (John 2:23-24). So, for the many who would believe, Jesus endured the many that wanted to be entertained.


Lord, please prepare my heart to be faithful to you. I don’t want to be a person who is in Christ for entertainment. Please give me the grace to do what you ask me to do in a godly manner. Help me love you and love the people you died to save. Help me recognize the self-seekers so I can focus on those who may be saved. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus Rebukes Judas

John 12:3-8 WEB

Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. [4] Then Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, [5] “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” [6] Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. [7] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. [8] For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.”


Jesus lived a life full of contradictions. He had 12 apostles and he knew one was going to betray him. Judas of all the people present had the vulgarity to despise openly the ministry of Mary to the Lord.  While Jesus was having a moment, Judas was having a fit. He was a thief of an abundant money bag. So abundant he could steal from the money bag and the others did not realize he was stealing. But then he opened his mouth and everyone in the room could see his foul character.

He did not feel the awe and wonder others in the room surely felt. They watched as Mary pour out the valuable perfume. So precious it was worth a year’s wages. The gift is even more precious when you realize it probably represented her life savings. Mary and her brother Lazarus and sister Martha were most likely wealthy. They had a beautiful home that was suitable for large gatherings. The perfume Mary poured out was not something every woman had. They may have had a perfume box they wore around their necks, but they would not have that amount of perfume.

It is strange to think that Mary could have used a little of the ointment to minister to Jesus’ feet. What was astonishing is that she poured out the entire contents of the box. She held nothing back. And Judas could not stand it. From the abundance of his heart comes the accusation that the money should have gone to the poor. But Judas did not care about the poor, or Jesus, or his fellow apostles. Judas cared about Judas.


Lord, please give me the wisdom to pour out my prayer and worship to you. Help me balance giving to various ministries and outreaches. Show me how to lavish love on you without being foolish. Be with me to guide me in the offering. Help me love you more than I love myself. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Willing Servants

John 12:1-3 WEB

Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. [2] So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. [3] Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.


Mary had been angry with Jesus because he tarried at Lazarus’ death (John 11). Her anger did not stop Jesus’ obedience to the Father. Nor did it make Jesus love her less. Mary did not recognize the work of God happening around her. But she would soon see the greatest of Jesus’ miracles, the raising of Lazarus. Now, after a bit of time passed, we find this same Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. She probably washed Jesus’ feet, dried them, anointed them (gave Jesus a foot massage), and finally wiped the excess ointment off with her hair.

Mary was capable of great emotional responses. Though she is quiet, she is mighty. Her sacrifice ministered to Jesus, but it also impacted everyone in the house. Jesus’ feet and Mary’s hair were filled with the ointment which perfumed the environment. Also, Martha cooked a large meal and the good smells from the dinner were filling the air. The house smelled wonderful.

The house was full. We learn in John 12:4 that the apostles are also at the dinner. The people in the house were impacted by the faith of Mary and Martha. Everyone could enjoy the fragrances in the house. Mary and Martha’s faith had a positive impact on all those around them. They sacrificed and served, willingly. They shared what they had and ministered to Jesus and the apostles. Because of the willingness of the sisters to sacrifice and serve, Jesus comes to their home.


Lord, please help me be a willing servant. Help me give sacrifices of worship and help me serve with a glad heart. I want you to draw near to me and for my heart to be a place you gladly dwell. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus’ Family

John 12:1-2 WEB

Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. [2] So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him.


Six days before the Passover Jesus came out of hiding (John 11:54). He went to Bethany, to the household of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were practically family and Jesus trusted them enough to stay with them. Jesus was not hiding anymore. He had a following of disciples and apostles that would have been in Bethany with him. So, it was only a matter of time before the religious leaders found out Jesus was back in Judea.

The Pharisees were plotting to kill Jesus (John 11:53). For this reason, he stayed in Ephraim on the edge of the wilderness. However, the Passover was just six days away and so Jesus went back to Bethany. He would not have gone at all except if the Father revealed it to him (John 5:19). So, in faith, Jesus goes. He goes to his favorite family, putting them in danger as well.

But it was good that Jesus had Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to stay with. Martha is serving, her normal behavior. Lazarus is relaxed at the table with Jesus. This family is not afraid of danger. Lazarus was raised from the dead and the man who raised him was sitting at the table. Jesus chose well in trusting this family. He had done great things for them and had inspired great faith in them.


Lord, help me stand steady in my walk with you. Give me the courage to serve you. I want to be a daughter you can trust. I want to be close to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Take Away the Stone

John 11:39-43 WEB

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, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?” [41] So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. [42] I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stands around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” [43] When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”


Jesus had high expectations. Martha’s brother had been in the tomb for four days. There was nothing left to hope for in this life, Lazarus was gone. Still, Jesus reproves Martha for her lack of belief. He expected her to believe in a hopeless situation. Not only that, but she was also in pain. With Lazarus dead, Martha had many things to worry about. Regardless, the Lord does not shield Martha from the truth but instead reproves her.

It’s stunning. Martha was arguing with the Lord. She had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:27). Martha exulted in the revelation that Jesus was divine. But at the first small test, she fell. Instead of focusing on Jesus, she had her eyes on the situation. This resulted in Martha openly contradicting the Lord. If her mind had been set on belief and trust, Martha would have kept her first awareness of Jesus. But she clearly doubted. And because she doubted, she questioned. Because of doubt she openly demonstrated disbelief.

But Jesus believed. And all those that rolled the stone away believed. In the face of Martha’s instability in her walk with Jesus, he remained stable. He was faithful to Martha, Mary, and all those who trusted him for leadership. Martha slipped in and out of faith but Jesus remained faithful (Rom 3:3-4). Jesus believed to the point of confidence, so he called out boldly, “Lazarus, come out!”


Lord, please help me trust you and believe your Word. When difficulties arise lend me your grace that I may stand stable in my faith. Help me keep my eyes on you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus Groans

John 11:33-40 WEB

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, [34] and said, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus wept. [36] The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” [37] Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have also kept this man from dying?” [38] Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now 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, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?”


God hates disbelief. In this story, Jesus groans twice. The first time he groans he is with Mary crying in despair. The second time he groans the Jews were murmuring doubtful comments. In the first instance, Mary is at his feet and has just lamented Jesus could have saved Lazarus (John 11:32). In the second instance, the Jews were questioning why Lazarus died. Thus, Jesus had much to groan about. However, it is the disbelief that makes this situation so troubling. In other places in the scripture, it says that Jesus was limited in the miracles he could perform because of disbelief (Mat 13:58). When Jesus followed the Father’s direction and waited to come to Bethany to heal Lazarus, he took a risk.

It was a risk for Jesus to tell his disciples that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. It was a risk to the lives of the disciples to be in Bethany of Judea. There were many seeking to arrest the Lord and his companions (John 11:8, 16). So, to see the disbelief, and to have so much pressure on him, Jesus groans. We know from the scripture Jesus had times when the miracles would not flow. This created pressure on Jesus. This forced Jesus to walk in faith. He had to take a risk with every miracle. Now, he is going to do something he has never done.

Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. But he has a problem, there is a real lack of faith from everyone. The sisters are in despair, the Jews are murmuring, and the disciples are unhappy. Jesus needed to raise their faith. So, he gives them a task. Remove the stone. It took faith to move the stone. Lazarus had been in the grave for four days and his body should have been in a state of decay. To move the stone was an unclean act. Being unclean disqualifies one from going into the temple. Therefore, this was truly an act of faith. And that mustard seed of faith was enough. Lazarus was about to be called out of the grave.  


Lord give me a discerning ear to hear from the Holy Spirit. Lead me into obedience that can move mountains. Give me wisdom and cause me to mature in my faith. I trust you, Lord, with this process. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Hope or Doubt?

John 11:20-27 WEB

Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house. [21] Therefore Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. [22] 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 will still live, even if he dies. [26] Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [27] She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.”


Jesus told Martha a secret. He told her he was, “the resurrection and the life.” Jesus had enough confidence in Martha to tell her something new, a revelation. Why didn’t he give this revelation to his disciples first? It’s probably because Jesus knows the heart of all people. He knew he could entrust the truth to Martha. She would not throw it away in doubt.

Martha did not doubt the Lord even after Lazarus died. She acknowledged anything was possible with the Lord. Even in her brother’s death, Martha had hope. So, she ran to the Lord. When she saw him Martha lamented that Jesus could have saved Lazarus. However, she quickly moves past sadness and goes straight to the victory. She said, “Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Martha had hope.

But Mary stayed behind because she did not have hope. She had given the Lord everything she had and still, he did not answer her call for help. She was immobilized by her grief. Lazarus was the provider of the home. Moreover, Mary had given up a sinful lifestyle that she probably profited from. That left her only one option, trust Lazarus. Then Lazarus died. And Jesus didn’t show up. Mary had just recently given him her most precious possession. And now, she was spiritually bankrupt. She came to a crisis of belief because things did not go how she expected. Her life was not going as she expected.


Lord, help me seek you so I may serve you. Help me remember I do not serve myself but I serve you. When things look different than I expect, help me stand steady in my faith, nothing wavering. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Metaphor?

John 11:11-15 WEB

He said these things, and after that, he said to them, “Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep.” [12] The disciples therefore said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” [13] Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep. [14] So Jesus said to them plainly then, “Lazarus is dead. [15] I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let’s go to him.”


Some Christians believe the Word of God is black and white with rigid borders and boundaries. Other Christians turn everything into a metaphor with a plethora of meanings. So, which is it? Is the Bible to be obeyed to the letter? Or, should the Bible be analyzed as a metaphor so that people can take a range of meanings from the Word? In the above passage, Jesus mixes metaphor with concrete action.

Jesus tells the disciples Lazarus has fallen asleep. Actually, Lazarus is not sleeping, he is dead. What do we do with a passage like this? Do we call Jesus a fool or a liar? No, of course not. Jesus is hinting at the coming resurrection. When he says “Lazarus, has fallen asleep,” it is a metaphor that expands the meaning to something greater than the words therein. Lazarus had died but was going to awake from death.

But the metaphor is only part of the passage. There is also a concrete, black and white, command. Jesus tells the disciples, “Neveretheless, let’s go to him.” It was time for Jesus’ entourage to make their way to Bethany. They were in danger of being arrested and killed. So, it was not an easy command to obey. Without the hope found in the metaphor, the command seemed pointless.


Lord, help me listen to your Holy Spirit so that I can understand your Word. Fill me with obedience and understanding. Let your Word be a lamp to my feet. In Jesus’ name, amen.