1 Peter 4:12-13
A few nights ago I sat outside as the sun set and watched what the world — or at least our small corner of it — was doing. Beside me was our fire pit, slowly burning away at the logs placed there, and I mused and considered on what I was seeing.
The fire was slowly consuming the log and as it did so sent a plume of smoke upward. It reminded me of the pillar of smoke by day and the fire by night as mentioned in the Old Testament as a guiding and protecting. In the New Testament we can see that it gives us a deeper picture.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
I recalled that wood was a type of our natural existence and that when we tie ourselves to the horns of the altar of incense the Lord will place us on the altar to release a ‘sweet smelling savour’, a sacrifice of who we are that is pleasing to Him, because it is pure and holy, cleansed by fire. That release through the fiery trial of our faith becomes smoke — the Holy Spirit carrying us through the veil in the tabernacle to the holiest of all.
A complicated picture no doubt; but simply put, we are made into the likeness of our Lord by the fiery trial of our faith that Peter talks of, and we should be joyous that these difficulties come upon us because they draw us nearer to God.
Peace: Life in the Spirit
There is a dark line in God’s face, but what we do know about Him is so full of peace and joy that we can wait for His interpretation.
[from ‘Disciples Indeed’]
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.
Directly after Lazarus was raised again to life, many came to believe in Jesus and follow Him; and of course it did not take long before some brought this before the chief priests and the Pharisees (see note 1 below); and then the oft repeated notion that the Jews sought the death of Jesus really takes off.
If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
We can see in this verse — this statement — how the mindset of the Pharisees prevails, fear moves in and they become concerned about all that they have become and how they might lose that position of authority should Jesus be allowed to continue in His way.
And one of them, Caiaphas [meaning ‘as comely’], being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”
Caiaphas, who is the duty High Priest at that time, makes the comparison between allowing Jesus to die as against their whole way of life. Surely, he says it is better to dispose of Jesus than to lose all that we are?
Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
The fear was that Jesus would begin an alternative religious structure that would supplant their own religion — basically they would all be redundant — in which they were entirely correct. Jesus intent was to do the Will of the Father which was to bring about a truth which the Pharisees did not comprehend.
Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.
[John 11:47-53 NKJV]
This is always what the religious mind seeks in reality — the death of Jesus. Jesus always promoted and exclusively sought a relationship with Father God. The religious mind seeks its own understanding, its own will, and not the Will of God. Thus the truth must be crushed.
PRAYER: Oh Heavenly Father, help us to move only in Your truth. Let us not descend into religiosity and thus seek our own way. May Your way be the only way in our lives. Hallelujah and amen!
NOTE 1: PHARISEES — A sect that seems to have started after the Jewish exile. In addition to Old Testament books, the Pharisees recognised in oral tradition a standard of belief and life. They sought for distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fastings, prayers, and alms giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works. They held strenuously to a belief in the existence of good and evil angels, and to the expectation of a Messiah; and they cherished the hope that the dead, after a preliminary experience either of reward or of penalty in Hades, would be recalled to life by him, and be requited each according to his individual deeds. In opposition to the usurped dominion of the Herods and the rule of the Romans, they stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country's cause, and possessed great influence with the common people. According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000. They were bitter enemies of Jesus and his cause; and were in turn severely rebuked by him for their avarice, ambition, hollow reliance on outward works, and affection of piety in order to gain popularity.
There are 10000 reasons and many more, why we need to worship and hold to the life of Jesus in the midst of us.
Peace: Life in the Spirit
The revelation of identification means that we are one with God in His Son, but not by obedience, for obedience is nothing more than the human approach to this mightiest of revelations.
We enter into identification by the door of obedience and faith, but the oneness is a revelation.
When we do touch God we lose all consciousness of being in conscious touch with Him, we are so absorbed with His peace and power that language cannot convey the assurance of the oneness. The experience of sanctification is simply the entrance into this relationship.
[from ‘Approved Unto God’]
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
A cave with a stone covering the entrance was often the usual form of burial at that time; a cave or a hollowed out enclosure often designed to form a burial site for a family.
However, with what we know about Jesus’ death and resurrection we cannot help but equate the two events, with this as a foreshadowing of that momentous event.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
With Lazarus already dead for four days — and in the hot middle-eastern climate — there would inevitably have been the dreadful smell of corruption from the dead body.
Jesus is unconcerned about this. Indeed, what we know of Him, He was very grounded in reality, if we can put it that way; there is never a suggestion at any time, that Jesus was anything other than certain of the deepest reality and thus the fundamental truth in everything He did then — and does now through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.
And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
Taking the stone away from the tomb is shining light into a dark place; it is revelation and it is life triumphing over death.
Jesus speaks aloud so that those around Him can hear His prayer and fully understand what is happening and the miracle that is occurring — that the awesome power of a Creator God is focussing on one man, turning time back on itself and restoring life where there was none.
Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”
And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
[John 11:38-44 NKJV]
After the long lead up to this event there is almost an anticlimax in these words; a matter-of -fact statement, no more than that. Their import has to be allowed to sink in to our minds. Indeed, from the Divine perspective, this is a daily occurrence — all in a day’s work. Jesus’ story now swiftly moves on.
AWESOME GOD lyrics
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom power and love
Our God is an awesome God.
Peace: Life in the Spirit
“If all God can do for me is to destroy the unity I once had, make me a divided personality, give me light that makes me morally insane with longing to do what I cannot do, I would rather be without His salvation, rather remain happy and peaceful without Him.”
But if this experience is only a stage toward a life of peace and union with God, it is a different matter.
[from ‘Biblical Ethics’]
Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.
Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
[John 11:30-33 NKJV]
Mary repeats what Martha had said, “Lord, if You had been here …”. Again we hear those words. What do they express to you? To me they suggest disappointment in Jesus. He has performed many miracles; great healings, cast out demons, so that His followers have begun to think that He will always turn up ‘in the nick of time’ and save the day.
When Jesus saw Mary crying ‘He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.’ Jesus was very deeply affected by the impact of His seemingly late arrival on both Martha and Mary (and those with them).
And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
[John 11:34-37 NKJV]
Jesus Himself was very much affected by this situation. As has been said, this was His greatest trial so far, but more than that was His immense compassion for and connection with all those present who placed so much faith in Him. More than that, His earnest desire was that those who followed Him would have every bit as much faith in Father God as He does.
There will be times in our walk with Him, when it seems that He is not there; that we say, “Lord, if You had been here, things would be so different. Such and such would not have happened.” When we doubt Him, Jesus weeps. He sheds tears for our lack; willing us to know Father God as He does.
Believe in Father God as Jesus does, because He is with us every step, even when it seems that He is not there. He is always there — only believe.
Peace: Life in the Spirit
Conscience must be educated at the Cross. Always bring the conscience of others to face the Cross of Christ. Is my life worthy of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross? Are there the elements of ability and power and peace stamped with the almightiness that comes through the Cross? If not, I am not where I should be.
The Cross of Christ means that the Spirit of God can empower me almightily.
[from ‘Approved Unto God’]
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
[John 11:17-23 NKJV]
Whenever Jesus sees belief from one of His own He responds; so when Martha says “I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” Jesus replies with “Your brother will rise again.” But what does Martha understand by that? The passage now goes on to show more depth, and we see that Martha understands in part at least, if not fully what Jesus means …
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
[John 11:24-27 NKJV]
Martha believes because she knows Jesus and even if she does not fully know what He means, she is prepared to trust Him. Jesus hopes that she will see and understand that this is not just something for ‘the last day’, but that, if we know and trust Jesus, all His promises are for now and today. Jesus only asks that we believe in Him and trust Him; the rest and His rest will follow.
This is something that is difficult for any of us to fully grasp. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
[2 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV]
This can be restated as ‘His promises are true and in Him are trustworthy.’ There is no reason to doubt Him. So, when Jesus says a thing we consider to be impossible, or against the laws of nature as we understand them, we should believe the impossible, because of the source — the one who says it.
The name Martha translates as ‘she was rebellious’; Mary (or Miriam) is ‘their rebellion’. I’m sure there are several ways that this could be interpreted, but I believe — in this instance at least — we should see that we are all rebellious to a degree, until we are perfected in Christ. All of us can miss what Jesus says to us — because of the dark cave we are trying to leave behind.
Jesus says that He is ‘the resurrection and the life’, but He also asks ‘Do you believe this?’
Joy: Strength in the Lord
Self is not to be annihilated, but to be rightly centred in God. Self-realisation has to be turned into Christ-realisation. Our Lord taught that the principal purpose of our creation is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”; that the sun total of my self is to be consciously centred in God.
[from ‘Biblical Psychology’]