“Is That Really in the Bible?”

“Is That Really in the Bible?” originally published in the Dowagiac Daily News May 19, 2019.

Pastor Guy Biddle

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33 (NASB)

As a pastor I deal with misconceptions and misunderstanding about the Bible nearly every day. One of the most common misunderstandings are some simple statements that are said to be from the Bible but in fact are only partially the words of the Bible. Let me give you a few examples of what I am talking about; how many times have you heard or perhaps said, “Money is the root of all evil.” This is partially true, but it is not what Scripture says. It comes from 1 Timothy 6: 10, For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” In the first statement we move the blame from our longing for money to the money itself. Subtle but very significant.

How about this one: “God helps those who help themselves.” Once again it sounds good but in fact it flies in the face of what Scripture teaches.  In 1 Peter we learned to cast our cares upon God because He cares for us. Jesus taught us to not worry about food or clothes because our Father in heaven knows we need these things and He will provide for us. Instead, we are to seek the Kingdom of God first. In His parable of the True Vine Jesus says we can do nothing without Him. All of this points to being fully dependent upon the One who called us into fellowship with His Son and has sent His Son for our salvation. Here is another one: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Once again it sounds like Scripture but isn’t.

This one comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Most people quote this when facing some kind of trouble. In its context the Scriptures refer to temptation and the way of escape provided by God. We stop at the “but with” leaving out the provision of God. The Bible is many things to many people. It provides words of encouragement, comfort, wisdom and truth. By allowing these very familiar statements to go uncorrected we remove the power behind these words…God the Father.

God has provided us with His everlasting word. There is life changing truth found in these words and when you know the truth, the truth will make you free. In these uncertain times we need the power of truth more than ever. This Sunday, find a church where the truth of God’s word is upheld and experience this truth for yourself.

Fear

“Fear” originally published in the Dowagiac Daily News April 7, 2019

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)

The lion pride is an efficient hunter. The lioness must hunt daily to feed the young who are just learning to hunt for survival. The lioness is an expert at using her surroundings to find the daily meal. She will seek out the lame, the young, the weak, the one who lags behind. Other times several lionesses will team up to split the herd and separate the young from the protection of the mothers in the herd. However, what the lioness makes up for with speed and cunning she lacks in strength and power. Alone she cannot take down the big meal that would last for several days or a week. When the male returns to the pride it moves from efficient hunter to a killing machine. The roar of the male lion spreads fear as far as the roar can be heard, about 10 miles. The power and strength of the male means now the pride can take down the water buffalo or other large game.

So it is with Christians in our fight against the enemy of our souls. He hates God and is God’s archenemy. It also means he hates God’s people. While Satan has no power against God, he does what he can to harm God’s people. When believers feel alone, weak, helpless and cut off from fellowship with other Christians, they become so focused on their troubles they forget to watch for other dangers. It is in those times that believers are especially vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, which come in various forms, often aimed at a specific weakness – fear, temptation, loneliness, worry, depression or persecution. Like the herd of water buffalo that surrounds the young to protect them from the hungry lion, so we must be with Christians who are weak, suffering, depressed or filled with anxiety. Take heart! You are not alone. There is a God who is bigger than all of your trouble. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). As we approach Easter, I encourage you to find the church of your choosing and enjoy the fellowship, encouragement and love that can only be found in the church. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen. See you in church!!

The Seventh Title – Savior

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 (NASB)

As Americans, living in the United States of America, we are fiercely independent. We fought for our freedom at the start of our country and we continue the fight for our freedoms still today. We do not take kindly to someone telling us to do things and when to do them, especially if we have no say in the matter. Just ask the British how that worked out for them! We are control freaks whether we admit it or not. We do not like to ask for help, we do not want to be someone’s charity case and we certainly do not want a handout that leaves us indebted to another! No sir, there is no mistake about it…we will make our own way thank you!

This independent attitude saturates everything we do in this country. We live with an attitude that says, “If you want something, you work hard and earn it. Nothing is ever free.” This is what has led many in our country to become control freaks, thinking they can control the circumstances that surround them and get ahead in life. But rarely does it happen this way. We hang on tight to our control and the feeling that if we just work hard enough…everything will turn out just fine. Sadly, this attitude has carried over into the church. Many feel they just need to work hard at this Christianity thing. Sooner or later they will get it right.

The issue in the church is far too many still believe there is something more THEY need to do. However, Christianity is not a do religion but a done religion. There is nothing more we can do because Jesus has already done all that needed doing! Thus, the Samaritans have it right…Jesus is the Savior of the world. And here is the biggest stumbling block of all…what do I need saving from? In a word…sin. This in and of itself is yet another issue. We do not like to call our sins, sin. We would rather they be called disease, addiction, character flaws or mental illness…anything but SIN!

In our passage today, Jesus and the disciples are traveling through Samaria and Jesus stops at Jacobs Well. A Samaritan woman has come to draw water and Jesus asks for a drink, which leads a much deeper spiritual conversation than this woman expected when she came to the well. The woman is so moved by Jesus and how He knows everything she has ever done; she leaves her water pot and runs back to the city to tell everyone she has found the Messiah! The people are curious and head to the well to investigate this terrific story. As a result, the people of Samaria ask Jesus to stay longer, confessing that He is the Savior of the world.

In looking at the definition for savior, we find agreement among most sources. Merriam-Webster defines savior as one that saves from danger or destruction and Dictionary.com says a person who saves, rescues or delivers. Both of these definitions “take the edge off” the significance of the title Savior by failing to include any mention of evil or sin. The Greek word John uses in this passage is soter meaning One who saves from any form or degree of evil. In its highest form it depicts the relationship between Jesus and His redeemed ones. When Christ, meaning Messiah, became a proper name for Greek-speaking Christianity, a new word was needed – soter, meaning savior, expressed the exact meaning and set apart language as a religious term and became the most popular divine title for Jesus.

Throughout his gospel account, John points out that to believe in Jesus is he proper and required response when a person has come face-to-face with Jesus. Following her face-to-face encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman has a bold and powerful testimony to share with her friends, family and townspeople. They are, at first, drawn by her boldness to the One she claims knows all she has done. When telling others about Jesus they will move from your testimony – what you have said – to their own personal experiences – what they have heard and what they now know.

The same title, savior, was common in the first century pagan world, it was given to various Greek gods and the emperor in Rome was likewise considered a savior. So, for the Samaritans to proclaim Jesus as the Savior of the world was a great and soul stirring title. The Samaritans, hated by the Jews, have been shut out from God’s mercy, they were considered second class citizens by the Jewish leadership, and they clung to their own traditions and religious rituals, making matters worse. But now, the long-awaited Messiah, the Promised One, has come through the line and House of David, a Jew by race, and He has come for them!

At some point, even though they have been hurt in the past, a person’s mind must stop asking how; their will must stop questioning why; their emotions must set aside fear and their experiences must not be allowed to say that Jesus is not trustworthy. While we, His followers, fail Him daily, Jesus is the Faithful and True witness to His person and His works. His office speaks of His authority and power over all people and things. He alone is the One who created the world, has come to those He created, has suffered all things as we have, and He alone can stand before God and the world as Savior.

The Samaritan people asked Jesus to stay; after two days even more believed in Him and had come to know Jesus as the Savior of the world – absolutely and positively!! Those who had been excluded for centuries are now included; the Promise of God has widened its circle to include them. Now they can experience the inclusive love of Jesus despite their standing in the eyes of the Jewish leadership. And so it is with people today; they too can experience the inclusive love and the promise of God. The circle has widened to include all of humanity that will come to Jesus as Savior and confess Him before the Father.

Where do you see yourself in our passage? Are you, like the Samaritan woman, still searching and seeking the long-awaited Messiah? Or have you had your face-to-face encounter with Jesus? Are you ready to tell those closest to you about the One who knows all you have ever done? Do others see the difference Jesus has made in your life? Are they drawn to Him because of what they have heard from you? I pray that as we grow closer to His return, you will find the Savior of the world; and if you have found Him I pray those around you will be drawn to Him because of what they see in you.

Amen and Amen.

The Sixth Title – Lord

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”                                                                           John 20:26-29 (NASB)

How many times have you said, off-handedly, “Oh Lord!” or “Lord have mercy!” These seem to be everyday phrases heard just about everywhere, from the grocery store to the gas station and even in the church. We think nothing about throwing these phrases around at the drop of the hat. While they are not, necessarily blasphemous, they are degrading or at least, very disrespectful, depending upon your worldview. These interjections have no real place in the vocabulary of the Christian even though it seems to be just as common in churches as it is outside of the church.

When we consider the definition of lord, we find the usual and most commonly known definitions. Merriam-Webster offers the following definitions, most of which have been heard before: one having power and authority; a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due; an owner of land or other real property; a male head of household. Dictionary.com adds this definition in the usage of lord as a verb – acting in a superior or domineering manner towards someone. It is this last definition most Christians know, even though they may not realize it at the time. When someone says they do not like Christians because they have “a holier than thou” attitude, this is what that person speaks of!! Lording it over someone!!

This high-handed behavior of lording things over people is the exact opposite of what Jesus wants from and has taught those who are called His disciples. It becomes easy to see why so many people turn away from the church and refuse to try another for fear or frustration of running into the same attitude. The title lord for the human carries the meaning of authority and superiority. It signifies their authority over other people. It is also used in deference and respect for that same authority and superiority. While a landowner is the most commonly applied situation, this also applies to business owners and managers placed in authority over the workforce.

When we consider Jesus as Lord, however, we would do well to focus on the second portion of the definition offered by Merriam-Webster: a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due. This is where the rubber meets the road for the Christian. The Greek word John uses for lord in our passage is kyrios. During the earthly ministry of Jesus, it functioned as a title of respect, which was also commonly used for Jewish Rabbis. In today’s world it would be the equivalent of Sir. After the resurrection of Jesus, however, it began to describe the divinity of Jesus. As a divine title in the New Testament it is a substitute for Yahweh of the Old Testament. Jewish Christians would certainly equate Jesus to Yahweh.

In our passage we meet an all too well-known and familiar character, well-known because of the commonly used phrase coming from his name and familiar because, in many ways, he typifies an experience shared by all people – doubt. Today we meet Doubting Thomas. For eight days, Thomas was at odds with the other disciples, his friends, men he had spent the last three and a half years traveling about and learning from Jesus. For eight days Thomas persisted in doubt, defeat and depression, missing out on the joy and fellowship he had known with his friends, the disciples of Jesus Christ.

The doubt in Thomas comes from a false picture of Jesus, thus leading to unbelief. Perhaps it was the belief that Jesus was just a great man, a great teacher, a great prophet, or the great founder of a religion, that led to the doubt in Thomas. No matter how highly esteemed Jesus is held in those beliefs, they are wrong – they are false beliefs. Why is it that people prefer to see Jesus as a great man? For one very simple reason – seeing Jesus as a man brings Him down to our level! It makes Jesus less than Lord but just a little above man…well, maybe.

There are many reasons people prefer to see Jesus as just a man. For some believing Jesus is just a man means people are not totally depraved and Jesus did not have to die for them. For others means people can do what Jesus did – His very best – and God will still accept them. For still others it means they do not have to follow every little detail and teaching of Jesus – because He was, after all, just a man. Here is the thing about Jesus though; as Lord, suddenly, unexpectedly, without notice He will stand in the midst of your doubt and call you to believe.

You see, Thomas had been walking down a dangerous road. His friends, the disciples, have been witnessing to him again and again and again – and yet he still refused to believe. Is this not what many of us have encountered from friends and family? Is this not the same reaction we have had at different times in our spiritual walk? Jesus knows your heart; He knows every person’s heart. He knows your despair, He knows your doubts and fears, He knows the hope and love you carry in your heart. Thomas was in the midst of his friends, believers, when Jesus touched his heart.

Thomas was very close to allowing his doubt to become a lack of faith. He was in danger of becoming faithless. Thomas had spent the same three and a half years with Jesus as the other disciples had. He had seen the miracles and heard the same teaching. The only difference is he had not seen Jesus with his own eyes. Thomas had faith only in the Christ he could see with his own two eyes. Yet to be faithless is to be separated from Christ. To be separated from Christ is to be without hope in a world that is hopeless. To be separated from Christ is to be without God in a world filled with chaos and turmoil. But, to say about Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” that changes everything!

Jesus truly is the ONLY Risen Lord. All that He has said and revealed is truth. Jesus is both Lord and God, the Sovereign One full of majesty, love and truth. Jesus is the only One who has truly come to reveal the Father; He is the Mediator between a holy God and fallen humanity. Jesus is the ONLY One who has the hereditary right to claim authority and superiority over all He has created. He is the ONLY One to whom worship, obedience and service are due! Jesus Christ truly is Lord and God!!

If you can say about Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” He will accept no halfway commitment. Jesus expects to be Lord and God to all; therefore, we must bow down and worship Him as Lord and God. Finally, Jesus expects you to make a public confession of Him as Lord and God and to then live a life that continues to make that confession! How much of yourself do you see in Doubting Thomas? Are you refusing to hear the evidence about Jesus? Or maybe you need to see the physical proof from Jesus Himself? Is Jesus now standing in the midst of your doubt calling you to believe? Or are you now ready to confess Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” May the Holy Spirit guide you to the truth of Jesus Christ and prompt you in confessing Him as Lord and God. 

Amen and Amen.

The Fifth Title – Teacher

We returned to our family worship after a two week break due to computer issues and work related adjustments.

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

The Fifth Title – Teacher

Home Church Devotional 8/12/2020

So, when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”                                                                    John 13:12-17 (NASB)

Teacher, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is someone or a thing that teaches something, especially a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects. Wikipedia offers this definition of teacher: a teacher is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Informally the role of teacher may be taken on by anyone. What, then, does it mean to teach someone? Again, we turn to Merriam-Webster to find an answer that is broken into five subcategories. To teach, according to Merriam-Webster means to: (1) to cause to know something, (2) to guide the study of, (3) to make known and accepted. (4) to impart the knowledge of, and (5) to conduct instruction regularly.

In the current climate of our country, I saw all five of these happen daily when schools in Indiana and across the country suddenly and unexpectedly closed their doors and moved to an e-learning (online) platform. Being married to a teacher I witnessed my wife “open” her classroom each morning awaiting the arrival of students who wanted to learn, grow and be better prepared for the world of the future. Most days ended in frustration as many of those students did not arrive, make time for school, or simply just did not care. As someone hired to teach the next generation and have them simply quit because it was the easier choice, the frustration and hurt were evident throughout the remainder of the school year.

In today’s passage we find Jesus teaching His disciples with a hands-on approach. In His final Passover Meal, Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room and here He leaves them an example, a teaching, they are to remember and follow. Jesus takes the place of a servant and washes the feet, the very dirty feet, of His disciples. They have called Him Lord and Teacher, and rightly so, for He is, but Jesus is about to drop a bombshell on His disciples. “If I,” Jesus says, “the Lord and Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Each of the twelve disciples entered the upper room expecting to have their feet wash, it was the custom of the home owner to provide a servant for such duty, but none of them were willing to take the place of the absent servant.

Some Jewish teachers had private rooms, though it was the custom of the day to teach openly, in public. Any disciple could ask a question of his teacher, who would then provide reply. There was no official position as a teacher and no salary was given, other than what was received from his disciples,  and most were associated with a sect of the Pharisees. Rabbi, meaning “master” or “great one” is a loose designation of teacher. This title is found only after Jesus began His public ministry. Rabboni, also found in the New Testament, means “My teacher” or “My Master.”

Before we consider Jesus as teacher we must first look at the warning given in James 3:1-2; “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.”                           James 3:1-2 (NASB)

James warns that not many believers should undertake becoming a teacher. Teachers face a stricter judgment from God because they are responsible for telling others how to live and correcting those who go astray. The teacher was responsible for the lives and spiritual growth of all those under him. A teacher must live what he is teaching and if he is not, greater judgment and condemnation will follow. Therefore, a person should only commit their life to teaching if they CANNOT keep from teaching. Teaching is a high calling, ranking behind only the apostles and prophets.

However, a person must not fear their responsibility to teach nor neglect their gift of teaching. If they are called and gifted to teach, they MUST teach! With its great responsibility and potential condemnation, the dignity of the position of teacher is greatly enhanced. Because the main tool for the teacher is speech or the tongue, it is the tongue and its use that will bear the greatest weight upon the teacher’s condemnation. With the tongue we bless, and we curse, and it is where the teacher’s great temptation first attacks, the temptation to misuse the tongue.

With this background in mind, we now consider Jesus as Teacher. As we saw from Meriam-Webster there are five elements or goals associated with teaching; (1) to cause to know something, (2) to guide the study of, (3) to make known and accepted. (4) to impart the knowledge of, and (5) to conduct instruction regularly. In the gospel accounts, we can clearly see how Jesus met and excessed these elements or goals, and in fact, Jesus sets the standard for all who wish to become teachers. With the bar set high we begin to look at the goals of those called to teach.

In order to cause someone to know something, you must first have a grasp of the subject matter yourself. Many times, in the gospel accounts, we read of the crowd being amazed at the teaching of Jesus. The gospel writers always tell us exactly why the crowds are so amazed. Take for example the account of Matthew 7:29 at the end of His Sermon on the Mount. Matthew sums up the rapt attention of the crowds by stating: When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29 (NASB) Jesus had a full understanding of what He was teaching and to the audience He was teaching.

From the outset of His ministry, Jesus was continually teaching His disciples about His death. The disciples were, understandably, confused but Jesus continued to guide their study of the Son of Man. We find one such example in Mark: “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” Mark 9:31-32 (NASB) We must remember that these are Jewish men who have been taught the Scriptures since the age of twelve or thirteen. Jesus, first, began by teaching with authority to cause His disciples to know and now He guides their study of the Son of Man.

The disciples did not want to accept the fact that Jesus would have to die and return to the Father, but Jesus plainly tells His disciples it is for their benefit that He leave and return to the Father. In John 16 we witness this moment of acceptance from the disciples: “His disciples said, ‘Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.’” John 16:29-30 (NASB) This acceptance comes on the final night of the life of Jesus. For three years He taught His disciples and now, on the night of His betrayal, they accept His teaching.

Jesus also made known to the disciples, the name of the Father and the disciples accepted His teaching on the Father. Later in the same evening, after accepting the plain teaching of Jesus, John records the prayer of Jesus for His disciples. In this prayer we find these statements on the Fathers name: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” John 17:6-8 (NASB) The Greek word for manifested means made known. Jesus has made known the name of the Father and the disciples have received this teaching; while the Greek word for received also means to accept.

In the above example we also find that Jesus has imparted the knowledge of the Father and the fate of the Son of Man to the disciples. The disciples were part of the frenzy waiting for and expecting a Messiah with political and military strength to free the nation of Israel. But Jesus came to offer spiritual freedom in the Kingdom of God, breaking the chains of bondage in sin, to destroy the fear of death and the grave, which ultimately, destroyed the works of the devil. Jesus has opened the minds of the disciples to the Scriptures in ways they had never imagined possible.

Finally, we find that Jesus was regularly found teaching, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue. One such example is found in Luke: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.” Luke 4:16 (NASB) We know that Jesus continued to teach in the synagogue throughout His earthly ministry because the Pharisees and religious elite had a growing hatred of Jesus. His teaching, teaching with authority, severely undermined their position and authority. Time and again the Pharisees accuse Jesus of false teaching. He meets each challenge head-on and reminds them He has been teaching openly, in the synagogue.

It is plain to see that Jesus sets the bar high when it comes to teaching. His disciples call Him Teacher and rightly so, for He is, and He teaches with authority that comes from the Father. So, here is the challenge for Christians today. Do you call Jesus Teacher? If so, ask yourself if you are fully following His teaching? Does His teaching have authority in your life? Are you following ALL of His teaching, not just the easy to do, go with the flow type teaching? Can the people around you tell that you belong to Jesus because of how you follow His teaching? These are the tough question we must each ask ourselves, for this is how the world will know we are disciples of Christ Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

The Fourth Title – Christ/Messiah

The Fourth Title – Christ/Messiah

Home Church Devotional 7/19/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman *said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”                                                                               John 4:19-26 (NASB)

As we sit around our family table tonight for worship, I cannot help but think of how appropriate this passage is for the time in which we currently live. As the calendar paged turned, many people on social media posted “20/20, the year of perfect vision” or 20/20, my year to see clearly.” Watching how events in our nation have been unfolding, I wonder how many people truly believe they have perfect vision, or if they are seeing things clearly. Our country is divided and out of control. Hatred, bitterness, racism in all forms and a general lack of respect for people, property and life itself exists. We are truly a nation that has lost its way. We truly need someone to step up and straighten out the mess we have made!

As Jesus begins His earthly ministry, Israel too, is a nation that has lost its way. As the chosen people of God, Israel is to be a light in the darkness, a people set apart for a holy purpose. Israel has been chosen to show the nations of the world a different way of life. Under Roman occupation, expectations of the coming Christ or Messiah are at an all time high. Messiah will come and free Israel from foreign occupation and return the nation to its former glory, at least, that is the belief among the people of Israel. The coming Messiah will set free the nation of Israel and its people to once again flourish as the chosen people of God. Israel needs the power of the Messiah to straighten out the mess they have made!

Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, it is the equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah, meaning to anoint or smear. Its common usage was applied to prophets, kings and priests, particularly the high priest, whose installation into office included a ritual anointing. As the official title for our Lord Jesus, it occurs five hundred and fourteen times in the New Testament, thus Jesus is “the Anointed One” of the New Testament; Old Testament usage includes “the Lord’s Anointed,” “My Anointed,” “His Anointed” and “Your Anointed.” As the Great Messiah, Jesus is anointed above all others, He been anointed or consecrated for His great redemptive work as Prophet, Priest and King. He is Jesus the Christ.

The future hopes of Old Testament Jews were invested in a king from the line of David, the Lord’s anointed. In this vision, the king would deliver Israel from the hands of foreign oppressors, at the time the Roman Empire, and establish an ideal kingdom in which justice ruled. The power of this messiah was political and would forever establish Israel as the political power in the Ancient Near East, or so the religious elite of the time assumed. No one was ready for the carpenter of Nazareth to step forward and begin to exhibit the signs of the coming messiah. Certainly, the religious elite would not settle for some common, uneducated carpenter teaching them about the coming kingdom of God. Early Christians and rabbinic traditions refer to the Messiah (King) as a royal official who plays a critical role in the last days. This messianic coming refers to a promised future, just not the future many expected.

In today’s passage, Jesus has been having a conversation with a Samaritan woman near Jacobs well. As the conversation turns to her personal life, the woman makes a sudden and unexpected turn in the conversation. Quickly she changes the subject from her personal life to worship on the mountain where the well is located. Why this sudden change? Is she simply deflecting from her sin riddled past? Or is there something deeper happening here? The Samaritans hold that worship of God must take place on this mountain near Jacob’s well, while the Jews claim worship can only happen in Jerusalem. Jesus meets the challenge head-on!

True worship, Jesus says, is not found in the place but the way in which a person is worshiping God. A true worshiper will worship God in spirit and truth and, in fact, these are the kind of worshipers God seeks. It is not the location God is worried about, either Jewish worship or Samaritan worship, it is how He is being worshiped that matters to the Father. We now get a glimpse of the woman’s faith as she reveals her belief that the Messiah will come one day and reveal all things and remove all confusion. In a startling admission, Jesus reveals to this woman something that He has not revealed in His own country, He, Jesus, is the Messiah she is seeking!

How did we get here? Jesus simply wanted a drink of water and now here we are talking about worship! Is this woman a master of deception or have we missed something? Throughout this conversation, beginning with His request for water and leading to the discussion on worship, Jesus has been slowly drawing this Samaritan woman into a deeper conversation. Slowly He has been revealing Himself to her and somewhere along the line this woman began to see something unique and special about Jesus. There is something different about this man, something more than just talking to a woman or a Samaritan, He has gently but persistently drawn her in and now He has revealed His true identity. Our Lord Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.

Jesus has confronted this woman with her sins, and she is deeply moved and convicted of those sins. Now she feels the need to worship God and make sacrifices for her sin – but WHERE to worship? She knows Jesus is some kind of prophet, a man connected with God, therefore, she looks to Him for help. Before her is the One who brought piercing conviction for her sins and now, she is confused as to where she should worship and sacrifice to God. This confusion is caused by the dispute between the Jews and the Samaritan about where to worship, not how to worship. Is this not a picture of the church today? Do we not confuse people about where they are to worship? Do we not put limits on the places we consider acceptable for worship?

Like this woman, when we feel conviction, we must worship God; when we are stirred deeply in our soul, when we are convicted of sin, we need to turn to God immediately! And it is not where we worship that matters, it is how we worship that matters. True worship is worship that is done in spirit and truth. To worship in spirit means we worship God through the spiritual drive and ability of our soul, seeking the most intimate communion and fellowship with God; this means we worship by resting in God’s acceptance, love and care for us. We worship in truth when we worship in the right way, through His Son, Jesus the Christ. It means to worship with sincerity and truthfully, not coming in half-heartedly, or with a wandering mind or sleepy eyes. We come with a heart that is fully devoted to God. Most importantly, we worship God for who He truly is and what He has truly done. We must leave our concepts and perceptions at the door when we enter into worship!!

Our Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. He is the One who brings conviction for sin but also provides the means for cleansing. He is the One who has been anointed for His work as Prophet, Priest and King for His work among fallen humanity. He is the One, the only One, who is worthy of our worship. Worship that must be done in the right WAY, not in the right PLACE. So, where do you see yourself in this conversation? Are you still amazed that Jesus sees and knows all about who you are and what you have done? Do you sense something unique in the One called the Christ? Are you feeling stirred and convicted? Worship is the answer, worship in spirit and truth. Jesus is the way to access the father through worship. So, come with a heart fully devoted to the Father, leaving your concepts and perceptions art the door. For God seeks those who worship in spirit and truth. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Third Title – Son of Man

The Third Title – Son of Man

Home Church Devotional 7/12/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”                                                                                         John 1:43-51 (NASB)

As a man, I looked forward to the day I could start a family, as I am sure, many men do. We especially look forward to the day we have a son to teach the ways of the world, to have a catch in the back yard, take fishing, change the oil in the car or just simply hangout and watch a game on television. As a man I am also a son. As a son I made my share of mistakes, had my share of disappointments, disappointed my parents, struggled with schoolwork and chores, and generally just wanted to be me and do what I wanted. I was far from the perfect son. Far too often I would seek my will, to do what was pleasing to me, instead of doing as I had been asked or waiting until I felt like doing what had been asked of me. No, the will of my parents, and particularly my father, did not always matter much to me.

In our passage today, we find Jesus traveling in Galilee, where He calls Philips to follow Him. Philip immediately finds Nathanael to tell him they have found the One Moses and the prophets wrote about – Jesus of Nazareth. The response of Nathanael is less than positive but nonetheless, he followed his friend to meet Jesus. Jesus sees Nathanael approaching and His greeting is one that caused Nathanael to ask where Jesus knew him from. Jesus saw Nathanael as he sat under the fig tree, causing Nathanael to confess, Rabbi, You are the Son of God; the King of Israel.” Jesus, however, refers to Himself as the Son of Man in His response to Nathanael; he would see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

The title Son of Man is a testimony to the humanity of Jesus Christ. Yes, He was and is fully God, but He was also fully man. This means far more than Jesus was simply born of a human being; it means that He is more than some ordinary human being; it means that He is more than just a son of some man. The title Son of Man means that Jesus is the Ideal Man; he is what every human being ought be; He is the representative of what every human being should be – He is the Perfect Human, the Perfect Pattern, the Embodiment of everything God wants a person to be can be seen in Jesus Christ.

Son of God is the divine title of Jesus; Son of Daniel is the Jewish name/title for Jesus; the title Son of Man links Jesus to the earth and His mission among people. This is the favorite title for Himself, He used the title more than 80 times and is mostly likely based on Daniel 7:13-14. The title Son of Man emphasizes (10 His lowliness and humility, (2) His suffering and death, and (3) His future reign as King. It is in John’s gospel we clearly see both the deity and the humanity of Jesus. We have already seen the deity throughout this gospel and today we find the humanity of Jesus on display. In Jon 2 we see the righteous anger of Jesus; in John 4 we see the weariness and the thirst of Jesus; in John we see Jesus deeply moved and that Jesus wept; in John 12 we see the physical hunger of Jesus.

Jesus has experienced all things we face, there is nothing left to doubt. The writer of Hebrews states like this, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16 (NASB) As the Son of Man, Jesus is the mediator between a holy God and fallen human beings. As the Son of Man, Jesus opens up the heavens giving us and fellowship with God the Father. As the Son of God, Jesus stands before the Father interceding – communicating – with the Father on our behalf.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “…Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Romans 8:34 (NASB) As the Son of Man, Jesus has made it possible for us to approach God and enter heaven through Christ. He has bridged the gulf of loneliness and alienation all people have felt. As the Son of Man, we have access to God through Christ alone. He is the only One to have seen the Father for He has come from the very side of the Father. As the Son of Man, Jesus has given us unlimited and continuous communication with God. We can now enter the throne room with confident boldness that God hears us and cares for us.

While all sons, at some point in time, will fail their father, Jesus, as the Son of Man, never failed His Father, for He sought to do that which was the Fathers will. Jesus never allowed the influences of this world to cause Him to deviate from the course the Father had predestined from the foundation of the world. Jesus sought to please the Father by doing His will, without regard for His – Jesus’ – personal feelings. Not many of us today can make that same statement. We live in our fallen humanity, far from what God planned for His image bearing creation.

And yet, there is great hope for those who put their trust in Christ Jesus. As the Son of Man, Jesus alone can bring you access to God the Father. Jesus alone, as the Son of Man, can bring you into eternal life. Jesus alone, as the Son of man is the perfect representation before God the Father, allowing you to enter the throne room with confident boldness that God loves you and cares for you. If you too would like this confident boldness, today is the perfect time to place your faith, your trust, your life in the hands of the One who has come from the side of the Father and stand before the Father, interceding for those who love and trust Him.

Amen and Amen.

The Second Title – The Son of God

The Second Title – The Son of God

Home Church Devotional 7/5/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:30-34 (NASB)

I am the first born, the oldest of five siblings; I am also the first-born son. Growing up, many people could look at me, and say, “Yep, that’s Dave’s son.” Family resemblances are strong in all families and mine is no exception. All three of the boys in my family all have strong family characteristics, whether it is the hair, eyes, forehead or some other distinctive trait found in the men of our heritage. Being the first born, however, gave me “special” recognition. I was the “first” to…well, you can fill in the blank. Being the oldest meant I had to make a few sacrifices to be able to enjoy the privilege of being the first-born. Not that the sacrifices were that difficult, it just meant the younger brothers and sisters did not have to repeat my performance. 

Jesus was also the first born of five, for we read in Matthew 13:55 of four brothers (no mention of sisters by name or how many) named James, the writer of the epistle by the same name, Joseph, Simon and Judas. These brothers seemed to be typical brothers, interacting and behaving as any other brothers would act with one another. There is one major difference with the brothers of Jesus, however. In John 7 we find that the brothers are trying to force Jesus to show Himself to the world through His works; the reason John tells us is they do not believe in Him. The things Jesus did in His sacrificial love were far more difficult, and important, than the small insignificant sacrifices I made as Dave’s son.

In our passage today, John the Baptist makes an astonishing confession after claiming that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the One who takes away the sin of the world. John tells his disciples that he did not recognize Jesus but the One who sent him to preach of the coming Messiah, made Him know to John. Okay, wait just a minute here…John and Jesus were cousins. How could John the Baptist not recognize his own cousin? Come on, really? Certainly John and Jesus had played as children; gone to the synagogue together and had family meals together, right? So, what in the world could John mean when he says, “I did not recognize Him?”

What John is talking about is recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. Yes, John knew Jesus as his cousin, but he did not know Him as the Son of God. That is, until Jesus came to be baptized by John and John was witness to the Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, landing and remaining upon Jesus. Only then were John’s spiritual eyes opened to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Can you imagine yourself as John? Preaching the coming of God’s kingdom, acknowledging the presence of One who existed before he did, One he could not even stoop to remove His sandals, and here, it is his cousin, Jesus the entire time!

The prophesied King in the line of David was God’s own Son and the messianic King is uniquely the Son of God. No other person can fit this description or fulfill the prophecy. The title “Son of God” goes beyond the idea of obedience and messianic King to that of Jesus’ essential nature. This title, “Son of God,” is primarily used to affirm the deity of Jesus witnessed in His person and His works, the nature and characteristics of being God’s only begotten Son. This is the title applied to Jesus of Nazareth as the one, unique Son of God.

John uses the title “Son of God” as the centerpiece of Jesus’ identity throughout his gospel account. In fact, John boldly states that Jesus is THE Son of God, not A Son of God. He is the ONLY Son; the only BEGOTTEN Son who has come from the side of the Father, from His very bosom, the deepest, most intimate place – the most honorable fellowship of God. Notice I said, of God, not with God. We, as believers, have fellowship WITH God in our fallen humanity, but Jesus has come FROM God and the fellowship OF God. This means that Jesus is the same nature as the Father.

Jesus understood His relationship as the Son of God through statements found throughout Johns gospel account; in John 10:30, Jesus claims, “The Father and I are one;” and in 10:38 He declares, “the Father is in Me and I in the Father,” and He frequently refers to God as , “My Father…” Nowhere, in John’s gospel, is the title “Son of God” ever applied to believers, we are children; “Son of God” is reserved exclusively for Jesus throughout his gospel account. Jesus is the first born, unique and only Son of God. As the first born, Jesus uniquely showed and shared His family traits with those around Him.

In John’s gospel alone we learn that all things were created through Jesus (v.3); in Him was life and this life is the light for all people (v.4); He is the true light and darkness cannot overtake Him (v.9); He was in the world, among those He created and He was rejected by His own kind (v.10-11); He gave those who believe in Him the right to become children of God (v.12); he became flesh – that is, He put on humanity – to live among those he created (v. 14); He is the only one to see God (v.18); He is the Lamb of God who came to take our sin upon Himself (v.29). All of this in the first chapter of John’s gospel account.

Throughout the rest of His gospel we learn that Jesus is the Bread of Life (6:36); the Light of the World (8:12); the Door (10:7&9); the Good Shepherd (10:11&14); the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); the Way, and the Truth and the Life (14:6) and the True Vine (15:1&5). John also provides ample evidence that Jesus is the Son of God by recording seven miracles of Jesus. Turning water to wine (Chapter 2); healing the royal officials son (Chapter4); healing the lame man at Bethesda (Chapter 5); feeding 5,000 (Chapter 6); walking on the water (Chapter 6); restoring the sight of the blind man (Chapter 9); and raising Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11).

As the Son of God, Jesus did all of this BEFORE He turned to face the cross of Calvary. At Calvary He took the sin – past, present and future – for each and every individual, including you and I, and placed them upon Himself, the One who knew no sin became sin; He became the only sacrifice found acceptable to God the Father. In this single, mighty act, He defeated sin, breaking it chains of bondage forever; he defeated the fear and sting of death; He defeated the works of Satan, landing a mighty blow to the enemy of our souls; and with His resurrection he defeated the grave, freeing all those who believe in Him as the Son of God from death and granting them eternal life.

The momentary and light sacrifices I made as the first born son pale in comparison to the sacrifices of Christ Jesus, the One who has taken a life headed for an eternity separated from God, washing that life to make it snow white and pure before God the Father, moving me from darkness into His glorious light! My life has been turned upside down by this wonderful Savior, the One who has created me for fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, granting me eternal life at the end of this journey.

And what about you? Have you found the One who died in your place? The One who has been found acceptable by the Father? In a world that continues to fall further and further away from God, spinning out of control as the mind of humans becomes increasing sinful, do you find yourself longing for peace, security and a sense of purpose? Do you find the material goods and money you once found comfort and pleasure in has turned sour and empty? Turn today to Christ Jesus, he alone can meet and satisfy your needs. He is the Light of a darkened world and in Him is life, light, hope and love. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The First Title – The Lamb of God

Home Church Devotional 6/28/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”                                                                                                        John 1:29-36 (NASB)

I like to play golf. Well, I like to play at golf. I’m really not very good but its not about being good for me. I just enjoy being out with a friend who enjoys the game as much as I do. And of course, there is always that one shot that keeps you coming back for more. I have one big problem when it comes to playing golf. If there is water anywhere on the course, I will find it! Those shots that find the water make me grateful for the opportunity of taking a mulligan, a do over. Playing with a friend for the love of the game makes this possible and if it weren’t for the grace to try again, I would likely stop playing the game altogether. Too bad we can’t have a mulligan in life; or can we?

In our passage, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking past as John is teaching his disciples. Seeing Jesus, John proclaims of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” For the Jews of Jesus day, the title “Lamb of God,” would be associated with the Passover lamb, sacrificed yearly during the Passover Feast, and those lambs used in daily sacrifice as sin offerings. Now, John the Baptist, points to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the One who will remove the sin of the world through His sacrificial death.

There is both an historical and symbolic picture being painted before the disciples of John the Baptist. The historical picture is that of God delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt. God has pronounced judgment on Egypt for their injustices against Israel. God will bring the final judgement against Egypt by slaying the firstborn of everyone and everything in Egypt. As He prepares to execute the final judgment those who believed God were instructed to slay a pure lamb and sprinkle its blood over the door posts of their homes. The blood of the innocent lamb would then serve as a sign that the coming judgment had already been carried out. When seeing the blood, God would pass over that house. Those who believed God applied the blood to their homes and were saved, but those who did not believe did not apply the blood to their homes and their firstborn were destroyed.

The symbolic picture is that of the coming of Christ as Savior, our Passover Lamb. The perfect lamb pictured His sinless life, and the blood on the door posts pictured His blood shed for believers. It was a sign that the life and blood of the innocent, perfect lamb had been substituted for the firstborn. The eating of the lamb pictured the need for spiritual nourishment gained by feeding on Christ, the Bread of Life. The unleavened bread, bread without yeast, pictured the need for putting evil out of one’s life and household.

The point is this, it was the blood of the lamb that saved the people. The lamb was sacrificed; that is, its blood was shed as a substitute for the people. The lamb symbolized Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us. If we believe and apply His blood to our hearts and homes, He saves us. If we do not believe and do not apply the blood to our hearts and homes, we are destroyed. It is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for us; it is His blood which saves us. Isaiah prophesied that Messiah, God’s anointed servant, would be led to the slaughter like a lamb.

Every morning and every night, a lamb was to be sacrificed, at the temple, for the sins of the people. However, the sacrifice made by Messiah is a perfect sacrifice removing the sin of the world and defeating the power of sin. Through this sacrifice, God forgives our sins. The “sin of the world” means the sin of each person, individually. Jesus has paid the price for our sin by His sacrificial death. However, we must first take ownership of our sin, acknowledging we are in need of a Savior. Only then can we claim the forgiveness found only in Jesus. We must have a repentant heart before we can be forgiven, for without acknowledging our sin, the work of Christ cannot be completed in our lives.

The Greek word John used for “takes away,” can also mean to “take up.” Christ willingly offers Himself as the sacrificial lamb; He offers Himself as our substitute and sin-bearer, and God has willingly accepted the offering and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb. If anyone, any person, truly believes in the blood of Christ, the precious shed blood has covered their sins, God will take that person’s faith and count it as righteousness. It is not the deed that causes God to remove our sin but the faith of the person in believing God’s word that He will remove the stain of sin. Jesus, the lamb of God, our Passover Lamb, took away our sin by taking them upon Himself.

In the climate of our ever increasingly unstable world, many people are looking for someone or something to give them a mulligan, a do over; someone or something that can provide a sense of security in our dangerous times. Some look to the government, others to drugs and alcohol, still others seek security in money and material goods. As followers of Jesus Christ, believers today have the responsibility to point them to Christ, the Lamb of God; the One who meet and satisfy their need, the One who can provide a do over and a sense of security in uncertain times is none other than Jesus, our Passover Lamb. If you profess to know Jesus, take the time to introduce Him to others; however, we cannot pass on what we do not have, so make certain you know the Lamb of God and have the good news of His sacrificial death in your heart, life and home. To the glory of God. Amen.

The Seventh Sign – The Raising of Lazarus

The Seventh Sign – The Raising of Lazarus

Home Church Devotional 6/21/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:33-44 (NASB)

Pain and suffering are part of human life; they are hard to deal with, come unexpectedly and often times, leave us feeling empty and without hope. There is no pain and suffering more difficult to deal with than the loss of a loved one. Whether it be through an accident, a prolonged illness or a sudden and unexpected death, this one hurts deeper and seems to last much, much longer. The issue of pain and suffering is often an argument used against the faith of Christianity. How can a loving God, the argument goes, allow people to suffer so needlessly and so horrifically? At times like these, it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide an answer for someone who is in the midst of this deep and difficult time of suffering.

Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, are close friends with Jesus. He has spent much time in their home as He passes through the area of Bethany, across the Jordan. Jesus is alerted to the illness of Lazarus, yet He does not immediately leave for Bethany, instead, He simply states this illness will not end in death. We are about to learn what Jesus already knows. God will be glorified through this death and Jesus will be shown to be, undoubtably, the Son of God. In an interesting twist, the name Lazarus will become more important and take on a deeper meaning in our passage. The name Lazarus means “God is my help” and becomes even more significant as the passage progresses.

In our passage, Jesus has arrived some distance from the family home. Martha is the first to arrive and has a lengthy conversation with Jesus before informing her sister, Mary, that Jesus has arrived. When Mary arrives, with friends and family as well, Mary weeps before Jesus and we see that Jesus is moved by the experience. Earlier in this passage Jesus tells the disciples He was glad that He had not arrived sooner and now, John tells us Jesus is deeply troubled in His spirit. The Greek word for troubled means to be troubled within Himself. We are witnesses to the understanding and compassion of Jesus. The grief of Jesus has gripped Him with intense emotion. Jesus has been deeply moved by Martha, broken with deep sorrow; Mary, gripped with pain and hurt; those who have been affected by the death of Lazarus, the great sorrow and suffering of the family; the tragedy and pain caused by death; and the terrible price He would soon pay to defeat death. Jesus is angry at man’s ultimate enemy – death.

John has built the case that God cares. The Greek concept of God is a God with no emotion or empathy for humanity. But here, standing before the family and friends mourning the death of Lazarus, Jesus shows His compassion, indignation, sorrow and even frustration. Jesus shows His deep emotions and we MUST NEVER be afraid to show our deep emotions to Him. God cares when we hurt; He cares when we suffer; He knows the deep hurt that is caused by death, nit just because He created us but because He gave His Son to die for each of us, to remove sin, grant forgiveness and give eternal life. God truly cares for each of us, individually.

To further emphasize this point, John records for us, in verse 35, perhaps the two most powerful words in all Scripture. Jesus wept. Why? Did not John tell us that Jesus waited for two days before leaving for Bethany? Did not Jesus, Himself say He was glad He was not there to heal Lazarus? I have already mentioned that Jesus said this illness will be for the glory of God and to proclaim Him as the Son of God. But why the delay? There are simple explanations for the delay, mostly concerning logistics, but that is not the point. The point is the compassion and understanding of Jesus. Jesus wept beside those who mourned the death of Lazarus. He wept over the pain and suffering felt by family and friends.

Jesus wept over the sorrow and fate of all humans. Humans were created for life and righteousness, not for sin and death. The tears Jesus shed tells us of His great love for each of us, individually. The heart of Jesus is broken over our sorrow, pain and suffering. And His heart is also broken over our common destiny, death, and the grave. His heart was so broken that He came to earth, as a man, in order to die in our place. It is through His sacrifice, His atoning death and glorious resurrection, that He will defeat our ultimate enemy – death!

And now, as Jesus prepares to pray publicly, before the grave of Lazarus, we find that Jesus has been praying for Lazarus for some time. This was not a public prayer, but a silent request made to God alone. Jesus is confident that the Father hears Him, and He wants us to believe this as well. God does not require that our prayers be loud or filled with repetition; the quiet, simple prayer echoes just as loudly in the Father’s ear. God hears, understands and has compassion in our pain and suffering.

Jesus, once again being deeply moved, calls for the stone to be removed from the tomb. We must take notice that it is a believer, the sister of Lazarus, Martha, who objects to the stone’s removal. Why? Her initial objection is that Lazarus has been dead four days and there will be a stench. Martha is the one who first showed disappointment in Jesus because He had not come in time to keep her brother from dying. Now she is concerned about the smell of death. And she is right, the body would have begun to decompose, but deep inside her objection is rooted in distrust and uneasiness.

Many times, we as believers, simply want to leave things alone, we are happy with the way things are. Martha is unsure if the actions of Jesus are for her best, she is happy knowing that Lazarus has been laid to rest, she does not want the situation to be disturbed or worsened. As believers, many times we want just enough of Jesus to give us comfort, security and ease of life. We want little, if anything, to do with His demands and confrontation of our sin and the death found in this world.

Jesus has challenged Martha, and believers today, to take a leap of faith, an enormous leap of faith. He wants Martha, and us, to conquer our complaining, to set aside our objections and simply rest in Him. Jesus wants us to trust Him, to stop questioning what He has done. He wants us to trust in His judgment and will; to trust His knowledge and understanding; to trust His word and instructions. Jesus wants Martha, and us, to rest in Him, to place an unlimited, resting faith in the Son of God. If we believe and rest in Him, we will see the glory of God; His power, mercy, love and care will be seen on this earth, if we rest in Him!

With a great shout, a shout that demonstrates His power over death, Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth from the grave! In this we see a picture of the coming resurrection of believers, but of importance for us today, we see a picture of the believer being called from death and darkness, into the glorious light of Christ. Jesus alone has the power over death; Jesus alone has the power to call the dead to life; Jesus alone can speak the word over death and the grave. The shout of our Lord demonstrates the enormous power required to defeat death and the power found within Jesus is the power of God Himself!

The power of Christ, this death-defying, death-defeating power calls the dead person to come forth! There is no way any person called out of death by Jesus can remain in death; there is no power to hold them there. Called from death the person is to come out of death immediately, in obedience, perfectly, and visibly. The person called from death has received the personal attention of Jesus. His care and concern, and the thoughtfulness of Christ are fully on display as He commands that Lazarus be set free.

Ours is a journey into completion, not a once and done event. Jesus gives second birth to those who are dead in sin, but the free gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit do not create perfect Christians. We enter into Christ’s kingdom with old habits, sinful behaviors and painful memories that require gentle and loving removal. It is the command of Jesus that our healing be complete, but we need other believers and the power of Christ to complete the unwrapping. Where do you find yourself in this journey to completion? Have you felt the compassion and understanding of Jesus in your pain and suffering? Perhaps you are feeling them in your current situation?

Whatever you are facing, pain and suffering, stress or strain from life’s difficult experiences, you are not alone. Jesus weeps with you in your pain and suffering. From this passage we can learn that, as Christians, we do not have different life experiences, rather, with Christ we experience life differently. Jesus knows, understands and has compassion on those who have called on His name. Our faith in Him does not keep us from life’s difficult experiences, it provides us with the strength to navigate through them. Whatever you may be experiencing at this moment in life, may you find the compassion of Jesus as He sheds tears of love over your current situation. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.