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’]
John 11: verses 8-16
The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
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.
But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”
However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
“they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.”
Jesus says that He will not leave us, nor forsake us, and this story of Lazarus is surely proof of that. Jesus finally states clearly that “Lazarus is dead … Nevertheless let us go to Him.” He says this after having just stated that He was going “that I may wake Him up.”
Jesus flies in the face of all reason and common understanding, yet He speaks quietly and with conviction, knowing that the disciples, and us too, will in all probability react in disbelief and astonishment. None of this surprises Him, for He knows us all inside out.
In speaking of Lazarus as ‘asleep’, meaning ‘death’, Jesus is our teacher here. The passage begins with the disciples calling Jesus ‘Rabbi’ — ‘master’, or ‘teacher’ — which may confirm this, and he is teaching us the ways of the kingdom of God; how we are to think in the heavenly manner, with Holy Spirit understanding and not with the natural mind. Thus, Jesus says ‘nevertheless’; notwithstanding what the natural mind tells us, we go anyway, because the mind of Christ tells us that "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." [Matthew 19:26b NKJV]
‘O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go’
The title of this well-known Scottish hymn aptly expresses that Christ’s love for us is such that He will not and cannot leave or forsake any who call upon His name. Indeed the story of the Reverend George Matheson, who wrote the song is one of giving thanks to God, despite a great trial of His faith — overcoming and understanding that Jesus would not let him go. The words of the song just flowed ...
"I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high."
Matheson began to go blind as a young man and broke the news to the young woman to whom he was engaged. She decided she could not continue with the relationship. George Matheson became blind at the age of 20, but continued in ministry until his death 44 years later. His sister looked after him, acting as his ‘eyes’ until she married. It was at that point that he wrote ‘O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.’
Joy: Strength In The Lord
Have you ever been alone with Jesus?
The disciples enjoyed the inestimable privilege not only of hearing the truth from Our Lord’s own lips, but of questioning Him in secret about everything He said. The exposition the Holy Spirit will witness to is always so amazingly and profoundly simple that you feel, “Certainly that is God’s truth.”
Whenever you are without that feeling about an interpretation, hesitate. Don’t force your head to argue, but get alone with Jesus and ask Him. If He keeps you waiting, He knows why He does so. Discernment of God’s truth and development in spiritual character go together.
[from ‘Approved Unto God’]
John 11: verses 1-4
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
[John 11:1-4 KJV]
Chapter 11 in the Book of John is a significant chapter amid a book of much significance. Why? Because it focuses on resurrection — the restoring of life; overcoming death to live in eternity.
Lazarus was clearly special to Jesus. We know so little about the connections made by Him during His earthly existence, other than a few throwaway lines in the gospels— and here is one. This is ‘he whom You love’, and he is sick and expected to die.
Jesus response — which was basically “Lazarus is not going to die. In fact he will live and it will be for God’s glory … and to glorify The Son”. I must admit it had me confused at first; particularly as He then decided to stay where He was for two more days. When someone we love is seriously ill, our natural inclination is to rush to be with them; pandemic or not. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and why He must not rush in. Father God would lead in His time.
As we shall see, this was no healing of the type Jesus had done before. This was His great test, and it had to be accomplished in God’s way and no other. Have you ever felt tested to the limit, or even beyond the limit you supposed you had? If you have, you maybe realised pretty quickly, like me, that you cannot possibly measure up to the challenge.
As a child and young person, I never pushed myself for fear of failure. My school grades were indifferent for the most part, until a teacher I respected wrote in my end of term report “a bright child, but doesn’t try hard enough”, or some such thing. After that, I began to try a little harder and got through school reasonably well, but I could have done better.
In first year at Secondary School, each one in our year was given a small Gideon New Testament, which I read assiduously, following the reading plan. I would like to say that I had an amazing boost and never looked back, but that was not the case. However, it planted a seed and set me on a course that eventually — a mere thirty years later — led me to a deep sustaining relationship with The Lord. I have achieved many other things, but that relationship and a wonderful family are blessings that I never believed could be mine. In God’s time; not mine ... and it takes patience; particularly on God’s part.
I have a small note pinned to my drawing space at home which reads “Leave it to God; He has a much better imagination than you do.” Jesus always left it with The Father. His way is the best.
Alone with God! All hope and all aspiration springs from that source, and consequently all prosperity is measured from that source, and prosperity that springs from any other source is looked upon as disastrous.
[from ‘Christian Discipline’]
And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
[Genesis 15:7-11,18 NKJV]
Verses 9-11 in Genesis 15 seem just plain weird to the rational mind. Abram asks how he will know that he will inherit this land? The Lord’s reply is to fetch a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, (all these to be three years old), a turtledove and a young pigeon. The animals are to be divided in two, but not the birds.
What are we to make of that? We know that His ways are not our ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts*, but this one is a doozy. However, The Lord always has a purpose, and the perfect one at that. He gives us a picture, a vision of something we will understand. Here, Abram would understand what is being said in the vision of the three specific animals and two specific birds, because it speaks to what he would know; not about animals and birds, but about people and faith.
We should see that the animals are earthbound creatures; the birds are creatures of the air, and thus we see a picture of those with faith at different stages in their walk with God; taking flight when hearing directly from The Holy Spirit
I am sure there are other ‘pictures’ to be derived from these verses, but what we have is explanation enough for Abram driving away ‘the fowls of the air’; the demonic spirits which gather to destroy the Holy Spirit life.
Unto thy seed have I given this land
After giving Abram a vision of ‘the road map to inheritance’; how He foresaw the outworking of His plan, God revealed the promised land; the land that was His covenanted prize for His people.
* For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. [Isaiah 55:8 NKJV]
** A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways [James 1:8 NKJV]
*** For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Hebrews 4.12 NKJV]
A wise man who has built his life in confidence in God will appear a fool when he is among people who are sleek and cunning. The wisdom of God is arrant stupidity to the wisdom of the world, until all of a sudden God makes the wisdom of the world foolish [1 Corinthians 1:23-25].
If you stand true to your faith in God, there will be situations in which you will come across extortioners, cunning crafty people, who use their wits instead of worshipping God, and you will appear a fool.
Are you prepared to appear a fool for Christ’s sake?
[from ‘Still Higher For His Highest’]
These verses in 1 Samuel are often quoted — particularly in regard to the concept of rebellion — and usually as a form of accusation to change the attitude or behaviour of the one accused, as in “I am right and you are wrong.” God does not enter the equation except as an onlooker.
So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
[1 Samuel 15:22-23 NKJV]
Samuel is expressing truth about hearing and obeying ‘the voice of The Lord’, and does so by stating that the The Lord would much rather have our complete obedience to His precepts than that we give offerings and sacrifices which may cost us little beyond mere observance of form.
Today — the Fourth of July — is America’s Independence Day, and in 1776 by ‘rebelling’ against British overlordship and declaring themselves an independent nation (of 13 states), America could then make an alliance with the French and go to war. So independence to America, was rebellion against Britain.
In this example, it is a case of ‘all men are created equal’, so neither party is better or worse than the other, whereas in our relationship with God, He is our Creator, and His hope is that we might be loyal to Him. In this regard, we are in rebellion from birth because ‘we know Him not’ [Job 36:26a KJV]. This is the lesson from Genesis; that, since the Fall, our days are lived out in search of Him in His fullness. Many, will never do so; thus remaining stubbornly in rebellion.
Together these twins — both arising from the one source— are likened to ‘the sin of witchcraft’ and ‘iniquity and idolatry’. In short, these mean simply going our own way instead of God’s way. If we have chosen to go His way and follow Jesus, who is ‘the way’, then we cannot dally with either rebelliousness or our own stubbornness in doing so. The Lord cannot by His very nature accept compromise.
A man’s idea of prosperity is according to where his hopes are founded — on God or on a hearsay God; on the living God, or on ideas of God. It is in the way alone with God that the soul says with Job, “I have heard of you … but now my eye sees you” (42:5).
[from ‘Christian Discipline’]
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Human sacrifice was practised in many cultures in pre-history. Scholars debate whether this was the case in Ancient Israel; certainly, evidence was found in Egypt, although it had largely ceased when the pyramids were built around 4500BC. Human sacrifice has been known even in this present century, often associated with what we might call satanic cults.
So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
[1 Samuel 15:22-23 NKJV]
God seems to have demanded sacrifices since time immemorial and is our God any different to the deities of the past — or of other religions? Well, yes He is, because He does not demand that you sacrifice another by killing; He demands that you offer yourself as ‘a living sacrifice’.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
[Romans 12:1 NKJV]
And Paul says that this is our ‘reasonable service’. I may be totally wrong here, but it seems that our God — who has always been with us — sought to correct our misguided ideas of what He (or previously, gods) were, by sending Jesus to us to open our minds to the truth behind our suppositions.
I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved!
He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one; for my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.”
[Song of Songs 5:2 NKJV]
The sacrifice that our Lord hopes for from each one of us is our obedience, which in essence is the complete and utter commitment of everything we are to Him. That is the reality of human sacrifice — not the taking of a life, but the giving of a life; the gifting of my life to my Heavenly Father, who gave me that life in the first place! That is the understanding He hopes that we will have.
A parable is an earthly story which does not explain itself.
Every one of us has an earthly story, and the explanation of it is not to be found in its own expression, but only in the domain of the Designer of life. Job says that the explanation his friends give of his earthly story is hopeless, they are nowhere near understanding it; God alone is the Source from whence will come the explanation of all he is going through.
[from 'Baffled To Fight Better']
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GEORGE and GILL STEWART