Sunday with John — Purpose

John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There is life hidden in a hard nugget of grain that cannot be revealed until the hard outer shell is broken by the process of decay. That hard outer shell is the barrier to eternal life. “The hour has come for “the Son of Man” to break that barrier and reveal to His servants “the Father will honor” the life that “bears much fruit” in the presence of Jesus. 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus recognizes God’s timing “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” His purpose is to break through the hard outer shell that prevents life in this world from bearing fruit that the Father honors.

What does it say about people?
Some who have come to worship,“wish to see Jesus.”

Is there truth here for me?
The fruit of eternal life” is hidden in that phrase “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.“ It’s a hard phrase with a simple “either/or.” EITHER we hate the decay of this world that is going to end, and take us with it, OR we trust Jesus has broken that barrier of decay and given us the fruit of His life to get us through ours in this world so we’ll live with Him forever in the next.  

Wednesday with John – The Sign

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
What seems like a victory parade for Jesus is really a crowd full of curious people.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they are Jesus’s friends and support Him though they don’t fully understand His mission.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they saw Jesus raise a man from death to life and it’s all they can talk about.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they are filled with a kind of nationalistic fervor that Jesus may be the one God has sent to be their king. Lastly there must surely be some in this crowd that wave palms to hide their identity as enemies of Jesus and gather evidence they can use against Him.  Jesus recognizes them all.  He deliberately chooses a donkey’s colt, the symbol of a king coming in peace, for His last journey into Jerusalem.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
This IS His time and His choice.  Jesus has thoughtfully managed His involvement with the crowd.  He’s chosen to enter into Jerusalem as a visible sign of Peace that is to come.

What does it say about people?
Whatever the underlying motives of the crowd; friendship or nationalistic fervor, the reason why they’ve come to usher Jesus into Jerusalem is “they heard” of the amazing sign he had done in raising Lazarus.

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus is going to give them another sign that will be life restoring  and make peace a part of their future. “Behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”  Though they “did not understand these things at first,” some will come to recognize Jesus IS the sign to remind them  “that these things had been written about Him and had been done to him” and prove the Pharisees prophetic words in a way they never intended “Look, the world has gone after him.”

Sunday with John – Evidence

John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus and Lazarus are attracting too much attention. The people have heard of the power of Jesus’s life to destroy death and come to see for themselves.  They’ve believed. The chief priests have also seen…and believe death will preserve their power and have “made plans” to destroy life. 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is there.  He is part of the large crowd.

What does it say about people?
People have heard of Lazarus having being raised from the dead.  They have seen Lazarus.  He’s the confirmation of what they’ve heard and they are “going away and believing in Jesus.”

Is there truth here for me?
The phrase “going away” is what has alarmed the chief priests.  Going away…from obedience to a powerful, well-developed and highly refined legal system designed to be their evidence that God verifies them. “Many of the Jews are going away” to follow this man, who the priests have identified as an itinerant outlaw, because they have believed Jesus is their evidence that verifies God.

Wednesday with John — A Final Choice

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
What an unusual but familiar story this is.  It’s filled with facts that are puzzling.  Jesus is a fugitive from the law but this dinner is to honor Him.  Lazarus is evidence that honors God. Martha is honoring Jesus by serving. Mary honors Jesus’s in an unusual display of foot washing at the table.  Judas is blatantly showing the truth of what he honors most.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s choices have been perfect…so far.  He hasn’t made any mistakes in his choosing to confront the Pharisees unbelief or in the timing of raising Lazarus from the dead or in choosing how and why Mary will anoint Him.  But what about His choosing Judas Iscariot?

What does it say about people?
Each person in this story, Lazarus, Martha, Mary and Judas Iscariot, has had a very different experience with Jesus.  It makes me think of that brain game, “which of these does not fit?”     

Is there truth here for me?
The answer to that question seems so obvious, but is it?  Jesus did not make a mistake in choosing Judas, nor did He choose Judas to be his betrayer. Judas chose to betray Jesus, the one who’d chosen him!  I believe Jesus chose Judas to teach us a truth that is so simple and so painful that our hearts cannot miss the message…that Jesus chooses to give even betrayer’s a final choice.

Sunday with John — Surrender

John 11:54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Passover is the annual “first-month” commemoration for the Jews of God’s provision of redemption for their ancestors.  It’s an affirmation of a communal history but it’s also a time of instruction for the oldest to the youngest to remember and proclaim. “In every generation a man is bound to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt.”a   Passover is their personal commemoration of God’s intervention where death passed over His people to give them life free of slavery and the weight of history, to seek purity in their new beginning, from one year to the next.  “Now the “Passover of the Jews” was at hand…They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”  

a Rabbi Gamaliel, Mishnah 116b.  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has returned to “the region near the wilderness” to complete His last Passover preparation.

What does it say about people?
There’s several amazing details in this story.  They [the people] have come “to purify themselves…they were looking for Jesus” AND they’re talking  to one another about it “as they stood in the temple.” Sometimes even in our ignorance we ask the right question at the right time in the right place: What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”    

Is there truth here for me?
It’s so like God to redefine life in “the region near the wilderness” — an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region — a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town — a position of disfavor, especially in a political contextb — into the place Jesus is prepared to complete the purpose of his last Passover: that my life might be Passed over from death to eternity, Prepared to live now in freedom, my heart changed to desire Purity and finally able to surrender the weight of sin to Jesus, the New Passover, once and for all.

b Oxford Languages definitions

Wednesday with John — Gathered In

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There are two damming verses in this passage for those chief priests and Pharisees.  Verse 47 is not about the people impacted by Jesus’s “many signs” but that those miracles have narrowed the Pharisees focus to themselves and a different set of personal pronouns; “we and our” in Verse 48. They have forgotten what their God-given purpose IS.  No longer are they maintaining God’s place and God’s nation for God’s purpose.  They think the real threat to their future is Jesus, not that God remembers His plan.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God never forgets His purpose is Jesus, “and not for the nation only.”  Jesus’s death IS the miracle of life that will display His purpose “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” throughout history.

What does it say about people?
God will reveal His truth even in the perverted context of man’s reasoning and the human tendency to focus on “we and our” instead of God and Jesus.

Is there truth here for me?
Many of those same people who “had seen what he [Jesus] did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees” and told them what Jesus had done.  They’d all seen Lazarus come out of the tomb with their own eyes but now they’ve separated into two groups.  I know there were other miracles where life was restored but the truth here seems particularly clear; “resurrection” is the dramatic separation between those who believe and those who need an expert to validate what they believe.  Resurrection is how God has gathered in His children to validate their faith and make it personal!

Sunday with John + Abundant

John 11:38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, 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 the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The mourners are standing around at the tomb.  The tomb is the physical evidence of  the separation between life and death.  There’s been a proper burial so for Jesus to ask for the stone to be taken away seems shocking.  There are rules that must be observed once the tomb is sealed. These mourners are about to see Jesus challenge the power of death with the glory of God…life.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has promised Martha that belief would let her see the glory of God.   Jesus prays aloud for the crowd.  They need to hear and understand the miracle Jesus is about to do is undeniable proof for them that He has been sent by His Father to overcome the defilement of death with God’s glory…life for Lazarus.

What does it say about people?
The people have come to mourn Lazarus.  There’s an unusual backstory here; moving that stone away is risky business.  Jewish law stated mere nearness to a corpse could render a Jew unclean [Numbers 19] and sometimes the tomb stone would be painted white as courtesy alert for passers-by to take a wide berth because the defilement of death was catching and one person could pass it to another. 

Is there truth here for me?
“Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.”  It wasn’t the mourning of Lazarus that troubled Jesus, it was that death had the power to defile life that was meant to represent the glory of God.  Jesus came to this open tomb to prove He was both the Power of God that could raise Lazarus and the Glory of God, who by a simple two-word command “unbind him” could overcome the defilement of death with abundant life.

Wednesday with John — Blessing

John 11:28 When she [Martha] had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
This is a story of family and friends coping with the unbearable circumstances of loss when death has upended routines, emotions and actions.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus was moved in His Spirit, and greatly troubled…Jesus wept.

What does it say about people?
Lord, if you had been here…Both Martha and Mary spoke very similar words to Jesus.  Are they an expression of emotion or faith? Even the supporting cast of Jews knows about Jesus and, as He weeps, are wondering that same thing.

Is there truth here for me?
“Jesus wept” over Lazarus even though He knew what was about to happen. This is the same Lord that spoke about a relationship between mourning and comfort.  “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  These verses are the “Teacher” living out His truth so I can see His purpose in coming to this place of mourning and death, is still life.  Life is an abundant story that includes death.  Jesus wept, not because death will have any hold over those who will live in eternity with Him but to show me mourning releases the emotional hold death has over those of us who still need to find the blessing of comfort in our life.

To honor my husband, Conrad K. Bedient, July 16, 1933 — April 9, 2021

 

Sunday with John – Faith is a Verb

John 11:17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 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 from 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 on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who 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 coming into the world.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
This household has already observed the traditions of grieving for four days but there is a new intensity to their grief today. The Jewish superstition about the soul having stayed near the grave for three days hoping to return to the body has now passed and this day has become the mark of finality for Lazarus’s life.  Jesus has chosen this same day for His purpose – to mark this day as the finality of Lazarus’s death, for life.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
When death marks the finality of life the past tense, “Jesus came,” becomes the present reality Jesus chooses for all believers.  “I am the resurrection and the life, “Jesus came” becomes “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”  When everything else associated with life has become history…“Do you believe this?”

What does it say about people?
Faith changes our experiences with the mystery of death because of Jesus.  Jesus came…Jesus was coming, Jesus had come…Jesus is coming.  Those are the tenses of life and death that cause people to respond differently to the truth that sustains them.  Mary remained at home… because she knew Jesus was coming.  Martha went to meet Jesus…because she knew Jesus was coming.

Is there truth here for me?
I see that mystery in the patience of Mary’s grief.  Faith gave her the comfort to “remain seated in the house,” knowing Jesus was coming   I see that same faith do something quite different for Martha in her grief. She knew Jesus was coming and that she had to get to Him…now!  Grief has tenses too!  I think very few of us consciously spend much in our relationship with Jesus thinking about death.  I know that’s true for me.  My relationship with Jesus began with this promise; Jesus came…for my life. Life has shown me a new reality.  Faith is a verb that holds the answers to the mystery of life and death because…Jesus came…Jesus was coming, Jesus had come…Jesus is coming.

Wednesday with John – Four Surprises

John 11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so 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 Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer 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, the Jews were just now seeking 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 anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The main characters in this story are all familiar; Lazarus, his two sisters and Jesus.  Word comes that Lazarus is ill.  The disciples know Jesus’s love for Lazarus and his sisters.  They know this family loves Jesus.  They know there’s danger if they go to Judea. Jesus has assured them Lazarus illness has a purpose; “for the glory of God.”  That’s all familiar to them.  Now two delay days have passed. Jesus tells “them plainly, Lazarus has died…But let us go to him.”  What has been so familiar about this text now adds a surprise character into the picture, “Thomas, called the Twin”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus loves Lazarus, Martha and Mary.   Surprise #1: He said “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Surprise #2: Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. ”

What does it say about people?
Surprise #3: the disciples don’t question Jesus’s response until the danger of returning to Judea comes up.

Is there truth here for me?
Surprise #4: John has found a surprising detail to give this familiar story a little plot twist so that they might believe and I might see something new in verse 16. Thomas, familiarly known to me as the “doubter,” is the one God uses to encourage his friends to put aside their doubts about returning to where Jesus’s life has already been threatened.  “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”