Sunday, April 21, 2019

190421 Walking with Jesus (Easter)

Luke 24:13-17  That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah. Rather than answer them, “Yes”, or, “No” Jesus told them to go back to John and report what they had seen and heard. “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5).
When we think on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection we are reminded that during Jesus’ ministry others were brought back from the dead. Most recently, Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, had been brought back. Let’s look at some of the others and see how they relate to Jesus’ resurrection.
During Jesus’ ministry, we have a record of three times that Jesus called someone back from death to life. There may have been more but they are not recorded in the Gospels.
The first seems to have been…
The widow’s son. Let’s look at Luke 7:13-15. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
This event seems to have been unplanned so far as Jesus was concerned. Jesus and his disciples in the earlier travels came to the little town of Nain. If the present-day town is the same one named in the Bible we know a little about it. The word “Nain” means “Beauty” or, “A Pleasant Place”. It is an Arab village in northern Israel. It may have been along the road they would have taken to Nazareth, or perhaps they were traveling to Capernaum. They were interrupted in their journey when they saw a crowd coming out of the village following an open casket. Luke reports that the dead person was the only son of a widow. Therefore she would have been dependent upon him for support. Jesus, Luke tells us, had compassion for the woman. He came alongside and touched the case her son was lying in. He then commanded, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Now, people, please use your imagination and picture the scene. Men, 4 to 6 of them, would have been carrying the case on their shoulders. Then he set up and began to speak — No, we don’t know what he said — the pallbearers must’ve been quite shocked. They did follow up with the proclamation that God had sent a great prophet to them and “they glorified God”!
In another event, soon after, we see a second person brought back to life.
The ruler’s daughter. Let’s read on Luke 8:52-54. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.”
Moving on from the young man at Nain. Jesus crossed the Lake of Galilee and cast out a legion of demons. This would have been a Gentile town because the people there were herding pigs. Jews don’t eat pigs!
As they were returning through the region Jesus was approached by a desperate man. That man’s young daughter was sick and appeared to be dying. Jesus accepted the request for help and as he was traveling towards the sick girl a woman came up behind him and touched his robe. That one touch, based on her faith, healed the woman who had been sick for many years.
After the interruption caused by the woman’s healing a friend of Jairus, whose daughter was dying, came to them. He reported that it was too late! The little girl was dead! Jesus told Jairus to not be afraid — only believe!
When they came to the house the crowd had already arrived to begin the mourning process. It was their practice to bury the dead immediately. Jesus told the crowd to get out of the way because she was not dead, only sleeping! I assure you those people knew what death was like. Yet, Jesus, more than once, used the term “sleep” instead of death. The crowd, under protest, made way for the Lord. Jesus took her by the hand and called, “Child, arise.”
Even though Jesus told them not to tell anyone I am pretty sure they could not keep the news to themselves. I can imagine the ruler of the synagogue looking at his 12-year-old daughter and saying, “I gotta tell somebody!” That’s the kind of news that’s hard to keep to yourself.
Now these two, along with Lazarus later, were brought back to life only to return to death at a later date. In fact, all who might have been restored to life throughout history were raised only to die again. Now, that’s not necessarily bad. They had been on the other side of the veil. As such, they knew what was waiting when it came time for them to die and stay dead!
We are assured that…
Jesus’ resurrection was more. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Jesus’ resurrection was not simply a coming back from the dead. If that had been the case he would have been subject to all the human weaknesses and would’ve died again! Jesus’ death was planting the seed of a new humanity.
This new humanity was probably the same humanity known by Adam and Eve before they sinned! This is a new life in which the body is made perfect. Jesus would have looked quite different from the people who had seen him die. The last image they saw was beaten and bloody. There is a continuity between the physical body of Jesus before and after his resurrection. That continuity was not just in appearance! I believe, after death, we will look very much like we do in life. I know, many people hope for a 20 something body! However, since gray hair is a crown of glory, gained by a righteous life, I am not ready to give up the gray hair and wrinkles that I’ve earned!
Evidence of Jesus’ changed body is the reaction of those who knew him.
Mary Magdalene did not recognize him. Let’s look at John 20:14. Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Mary came to the tomb on the first day of the week. The body that had been prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus was expected to be waiting for the women’s final ministration. Comparing the accounts in the four Gospels it seems that the women set out just before the break of day. As they arrived at the tomb it had become daylight and the first thing they saw was the stone rolled away from the door. They turned and hurried back into the city to tell the men that his body was missing. Simon Peter, and we believe John, came to the tomb and saw the empty grave clothes. Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb.
Two men, angels, appeared where the body of Jesus should have been. One of them asked Mary why she was weeping. When she answered them she turned and saw another person. That person was the resurrected Jesus. She thought he must’ve been the gardener who took care of the graves. She did not recognize him until he called her name. Immediately she fell at his feet! He asked her not to cling to him because he had to go to the Father. He instructed her to go tell the disciples that she had seen him.
Apparently, the second interaction of Jesus with his disciples was…
On the road to Emmaus. Let’s turn to Luke 24:30-31. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
As the day went on two of his disciples were going to a village called Emmaus. It’s a journey of about 7 miles from Jerusalem. They were engaged in intense conversation as they walked. Jesus walked up to them and asked what they were talking about. One of them, named Cleopas, had a question for him. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that happened there in these days?” Jesus simply said, “What things?” And they begin to tell him all about the mighty prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, and all the things he had done! In effect, they gave Jesus the first gospel witness! He, in turn, gave them the first in-depth review of the Bible proving that the Christ should suffer and enter into his glory.
Two men urged Jesus to stay with them that night. They sat down to a meal together. Jesus prepared to break the bread and bless it. When he did they realized who he was and immediately he disappeared. Needless to say, they had lost their appetite! They hurried back to the city where the other disciples were only to be told that they too had evidence of the risen Lord.
Jesus’ closest disciples needed proof. Let’s read on Luke 24:36-39. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
Suddenly, the risen Lord was in the room. Traditionally, it is assumed that Jesus simply came through the wall! I realize that the door was locked but that has never hindered God before.
When Peter was arrested and being held for trial he was chained to a guard in a locked prison. While he was sleeping the door of the prison opened, an angel woke him up, the chains fell off and he was escorted into the street. He thought he was dreaming! Note that the angel opened the door rather than passing through it. I believe the locked door of the upper room was opened and Jesus entered it. I have no problem with Jesus appearing there in the same manner that he “disappeared” in Emmaus.
In another example, Philip shared the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, baptized him, and disappeared! Praise God! He can do these things any way he wants to!
Jesus’ resurrection restores creation’s glory. Let’s look at Romans 8:18-21. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
The glory that is to be revealed to us! The KJV translates it as “revealed in us”. I am not a language scholar but I prefer “in us” to “to us”.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin they subjected the world to suffering. Jesus, the first-fruits, began the process of restoring all things. God will give us bodies to live in when the current physical body fails. I don’t know how he will do that. I believe the Scriptures teach we will have bodies. In fact, those bodies may already be waiting our coming. We currently live in an earth suit. We are going to live in a heaven suit. We will not be ghosts drifting around on the clouds with our harps in hand. Thank God!
The physical resurrection of Jesus and his eternal possession of a physical resurrection body confirms the goodness of God’s original creation (Genesis 1:31). When we receive our resurrection bodies we will be like him (1 John 3:2). In the mind of God we have already been raised with him (Ephesians 2:6-7). Consequently, we should focus on things that are above rather than on the temporary things of earth. We have died with him, we have been raised with him. Therefore, we should put on a lifestyle that reflects his glory (Colossians 3:1-4 and 12-17). The power of his resurrection enables us to participate in a wonderful new world. The curse of sin will be ended. Read Revelation 21-22 and see for yourself!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

190414 Jesus’ Last Days

John 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
There are very few dates on the liturgical calendars that impress me. The days surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection are some of those dates. The early Christian church did not observe a date for Jesus’ birth. The early church did not observe memorial days for Jesus’ early years or his baptism and ministry. I suspect they were too busy staying alive to spend time figuring out what those anniversaries might’ve been. We can be fairly sure that the timeline of his entry into the city until the Passover is accurate. There are some disagreements as to the exact day of the week these things occurred but that means nothing in relation to our salvation.
We will begin with events a few days before Jesus’ entry into the city. We do not know exactly how much time passed between restoring Lazarus to life and Jesus’ coming back to Bethany for a meal and the triumphal entry into the city the next day. Jesus had gone with his disciples across the Jordan to a region near the wilderness in order to await the right time. I believe that this was the area where John the Baptist had baptized many hundreds including Jesus. At least that is the way the area was described before Jesus came to Lazarus’ tomb.
In Jesus’ life…
The village of Bethany was important. Let’s look at John 11:1-4. Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
This is one of the stories that John fondly remembered that had not been included in the other Gospels. The only other gospel that includes the name “Lazarus” is Luke. However, the Lazarus mentioned there was a beggar and I am sure was not the man we are looking at today!
Remember, Jesus and his disciples were on the east bank of the Jordan River waiting the time that Jesus had fixed to face the rulers of the Jews.
Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that his good friend was very sick. Jesus put off his trip to Bethany for two days. He did this, we can assume, because he wanted his disciples, and us, to see how God would glorify himself through the sickness. Jesus would tell his disciples when it was time to go back to Judea. Since they knew he had been waiting for the right time they questioned why they were going now.
Jesus referred to Lazarus as having “fallen asleep”. With that statement, the disciples assumed that Lazarus was mending. After all, there is much healing in sleep. Then it was necessary for Jesus to say, “Lazarus has died.” The disciples did not really understand why it was important for them to go if indeed Lazarus was dead. But, the disciple, who would later be referred to as “Doubting Thomas”, spoke these fateful words, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Meaning, die with Jesus!
When Jesus arrived Lazarus had been dead four days. There was a great crowd gathered for the mourning period. It was expected that people would gather from near and far and grieve together at the death of a loved one.
As Jesus approached the town Martha hurried out to meet him. Mary stayed behind in the house. Martha spoke words that could be considered a rebuke. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Jesus assured her that her brother would rise again. Now Martha was a believer who had settled her relationship with God and understood there would be a resurrection. So she said, “I know he will rise again…” And then Jesus spoke those oft-quoted words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” At first glance, she did not seem to directly answer his question. Her answer was way beyond the surface. She replied, “Yes, Lord; I believe you are the Christ, the son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Martha hurried to Mary to tell her that the master had come and he was calling for her. On hearing those encouraging words Mary jumped to her feet and ran to him. When she found him she fell at his feet with the same rebuke Martha had. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus did not bother to answer her. He simply asked, “Where have you laid him?” Seeing the crowd weeping John remembers that Jesus was very troubled by the scene before him. Jesus was deeply moved when he came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance. So Jesus commanded them to take away the stone. Martha who was always the one who kept things clean and in order told Jesus that there would be a strong odor because he had been dead four days.
Jesus insisted and they took away the stone. Then Jesus said a short prayer designed to assure the crowd that he was working in the power of the Father. So the scene was set for Jesus to work. “He cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out.”
Many people have observed that if Jesus had not used the qualifier of the name “Lazarus” all the dead in the vicinity would have risen. Picture the scene with me. Lazarus was wrapped in grave clothes. And the crowd had the necessity of removing the wrappings. A spiritual comparison to this event would be when a new brother or sister comes to faith in Christ they still have the grave clothes of their bondage to sin wrapped around them. It is the responsibility of the church to unwrap him/her and let them go.
With this very public event being proclaimed throughout the land…
The Jews began to plot his death.  Let’s look at John 11: 54-57. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Jesus returned to his wilderness resting place. He could not allow himself to be arrested until Passover. In preparation for the Passover, the people would have come to Jerusalem and purified themselves. We know that they practiced a type of baptism. That might have been included in this purification process.
All the while that the people were preparing themselves spiritually the rulers were preparing themselves politically. They believed if Jesus’ popularity continued to expand it would become a threat to Roman rule. Caiaphas, the high priest, had pointed out that it was better that one man should die for the people and not the whole nation be destroyed. Without realizing it Caiaphas had prophesied the reason for Jesus’ death. He died, not just for the Jews, but for all children of God wherever they were scattered (John 12:49-53).
Six days before the Passover, Jesus returned to Judea and a banquet was prepared in his honor at the house of his friends. While the feast was for Jesus, Lazarus took up a lot of attention. Here Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a very expensive ointment and wiped the excess off with her hair. Judas Iscariot reacted to this. “Why was this ointment not sold… And the money given to the poor?”
John tells us that Judas was not concerned about the poor. That ointment was worth a year’s wage for a laborer. Judas held the purse and helped himself anytime he wanted money.
The rulers enlarged their hit list. Let’s read on John 12:9-11. When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The crowd gathered to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus. Lazarus was “Living Proof” as to Jesus’ divinity. Now from the viewpoint of the Jewish rulers, it was necessary that he be killed also. By the grace of God, so far as we know, the rulers of the Jews never managed to take Lazarus’ life. He lived out his normal life span and returned to heaven. I have often wondered how he might’ve felt! He had spent four days in Paradise and Jesus had called him back. The next day…
Jesus’ entered the city in triumph. Let’s read John 12:12-13. The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
This was not the typical military parade that would be seen after a great conquest. In such a parade the Romans, for instance, would have had the legions with banners flying and images of Eagles on the top of the poles. They would also have with them prisoners taken in battle.
Jesus’ captives were not human prisoners of war, they were spiritual enemies. Jesus led all the opposition forces in captivity.
Later, the apostle Paul would write in his second letter to the Corinthians “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:2-5).
The fears of the ruling class were being fulfilled it was true…
The world followed him. Let’s look at John 12:20-23. Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
We don’t have any evidence that these Greeks ever got to talk to Jesus. His time was pretty well taken up that day. In a side note: The Greeks may have come to Philip because he has a Greek name. It is very possible that at least one of Jesus’ disciples/apostles was a Greek and not a native-born Jew.
Philip brought the request to Andrew and the two of them went to Jesus. Apparently, Jesus saw this request as evidence of the right time for him to lay down his life. It was time for him to be glorified. So he turned to the Father and…
The Father honored the Son. Let’s look at John 12:27-29. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus was not looking forward to what lay ahead of him. At least three times he had told his disciples that he would go to Jerusalem, be arrested and turned over to the Romans to be crucified. He always added that he would be raised again on the third day. It seems the disciples never fully understood that last concept. Only after the coming events did they begin to understand what it was all about. Later, in the garden, he would ask the Father to let this cup of suffering pass from him. But, each time he asked, he added, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Three times God the Father proclaimed his love and support for the Son. First, when Jesus was baptized by John. Second, when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah to discuss the upcoming events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. Third, after his triumphal entry into the city as recorded here. John, the gospel writer, was present at all three events. A crowd was present at the first and third events. The second event was witnessed only by Peter, James, and John his closest men. Later, Peter would remember that event on the mountaintop. We have the complete witness of the word of God. Although sometimes we might want to have an audible voice it is not really necessary. Our faith rests on the biblical testimony. We can trust our lives to our God.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Matthew 21:1 through 11