Monday, October 7, 2013


Reflections on a Comment
I did notice you quoted Matthew 27:46, when talking about Jesus taking on the sins of the world.

I was wondering what you thought about Mt 27:46, being Jesus quoting Ps. 22 which ends with (vs. 31) "They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn - for He has done it. 
I heard a pastor say recently that He is not lamenting God's forsaking but just starting a well known Jewish song, that everyone would know the ending to 

such as if I were to sing the line "a wretch like me." Everybody knows “Amazing Grace” and the point of the song...

what are your thoughts?

This was a comment I received about Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and why Jesus wept. I'd like to give some of my opinions about this.
I had said for a moment on the cross, when Jesus bore all the sins of the world, God even deserted Him, and I quoted Matthew 27:46: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (This is actually copied from Mark 15:34 here, which is the same as in Matthew.)
This is the opening line of Psalm 22, so technically Jesus is quoting from a familiar Jewish song. But I don't think he was just reciting a familiar line that all the Jews witnessing this event could sing along with. Let's look at the sequence of what Jesus did say around that line. (This is a compilation of the four Gospels on Christ's final moments on the cross: Mark 15:33-38 Matthew 27:45-51 John 28:16-30 Luke 23:44-46. Jesus' words are in red.)

It was now about the sixth hour [and] at the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land for the sun stopped shining. And at about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there. Immediately one of them, one man ran and got a sponge, filled [the] sponge with wine vinegar, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, put it on a stick, and lifted it to Jesus' lips, offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him, to take him down."

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." And when Jesus had cried out again with a loud crycalled out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he bowed his head and he gave up his spirit. Jesus breathed his last.

At that moment The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

Notice, after Jesus has said, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?", He then knew it was completed. What was completed? I would say the payment of the penalty for all the sins of humans past, present and future had been made. But Jesus wasn't dead yet, so what happened?
God is Holy. God cannot look on sinners. That is why sinners always had to be covered with some sacrifice, from the bloodshed to provide animal skin aprons for Adams and Eve through the last bull slaughtered in the Temple. When Jesus took on all the sins as the substitute lamb for us, God had to look away, and when God looked away it left the human Jesus upon the cross for a moment in as much darkness as there had been between those three hours.
But God came back in a moment, the sins forgiven and forgotten. Jesus speaks to his Father and he (for only Jesus could take his life, not those who crucified Him) gave up his spirit into the hands of the Father and breathed his last. Although in truth, he didn't breath his last, because three days later he breathed again and in the breath of his resurrection came the promise of our salvation.
Jesus said to her [Martha], "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

What of Psalm 22? This is more than a popular song known to the Jews. This is a very prophetic Scripture of the death of Christ on the cross. It was written by David and it has a very interesting structure. It was quoted by Christ to fulfill prophecy and as a reference to us all that it was a prophecy fulfilled.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. Psalm 22:1-22

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; 
 he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him— 
 may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, 
 and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD 
 and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn—for he has done it. Psalm 22: 23-31

The first 21 verses are told in the first person and it is as if we have Christ's thoughts as he hung on the cross. There is a feeling at times of God being distant, of a prayer asking that he will not be far for long. It ends with a prayer for rescue.
Verses 23-31 change to the third person. It is the declaration that all this suffering has accomplished the objective. This expresses the hope we have "for he has done it".

Illustration: "The Crucifixion" by Gustave Dore 1872-3

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Last Piece in Place

While Jesus was in Bethany, he [was] reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard, which she broke and she poured the jar, the perfume, on his head as he was reclining at the table. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
When the disciples saw this, some of those present were indignant, saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste?" Why this waste of perfume?" they asked. "This perfume, it could have been sold at a high price for more than a year's wages. And they rebuked her harshly. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor. It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Aware of this Jesus said to them, "Leave her alone," said Jesus. " It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. Why are you bothering her, this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want, but you will not always have me. She did what she could when she poured this perfume on my body beforehand. She did it to prepare me for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
Then Judas Iscariot one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"
They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. So from then on he, Judas, watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, John 12:2-10)

Jesus had come down to Bethany to this dinner party with twelve associates. These were the men he had chosen early in His ministry to learn and carry on His message. Some shared similar background, knew each other, were even related; yet there was still diversity in the group. Some had been fishermen, indeed, in the fishing business. They or their family owned boats and had others working for them. Matthew was in a more despised occupation among the Jews; he was a tax collector. Nathaniel Bartholomew seems to have been a man of higher standing then perhaps the rest. Simon (not Peter) was a member of the Zealot Sect, someone who might even be considered a terrorist. Some like Peter were ready to jump into things before they thought about it. Others like Thomas perhaps thought too much and became doubtful. Several were followers of John the Baptist and several were looking for the Messiah.
But they did have one thing in common. They were Galileans; that is, all except one. Galilee was to the north in Israel. Jerusalem, on the other hand, lay in the south in Judah. Jerusalem was the Big Apple of the day. The people in Judah thought themselves sophisticated and urban. People from Galilee were hicks and they were recognizable when they came south because they had country-boy accents.
Oh, except that one. That one guy not from Galilee would have fit in down south because his roots were in the city of Kerioth. He was a city boy from the south himself and his very name was the Greek form of Judah. He was known as Judas Iscariot - Judah, a man of Kerioth.
We don't know a lot about the Man of Kerioth's background. Perhaps he was more formally educated than the other eleven. Perhaps he just had a head for figures, but he was given the important duty of group treasurer. We would have expected that job to go to Matthew, after all, he had worked with money and accounting in his profession, he had the experience. Of course, Tax Collectors were known for their corruption and dishonesty then, so maybe they really didn't trust Matthew to hold the finances.
 (Frankly, if you think of it, we'd have probably expected Simon the Zealot to be the prime suspect in betraying Jesus. I mean, come on, he was a Zealot. A Zealot is someone with an excess of devotion to a cause. The Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome. And remember, we are looking backward from ahead at Jesus. These guys were behind looking ahead. Their view of Messiah was a king who would restore Israel to freedom and glory and the splendor of David and Solomon, not a sacrificial lamb. You'd think that if anyone might be getting impatient and upset with Jesus it'd be Simon the Zealot. Shows what we know and you can't tell a book by its cover.)
Not so long ago, Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. This caused an upset with some Jews and with those in power. That was the final straw that resulted in the decision by the Sanhedrin that Jesus must die and they were offering a reward to anyone who could lead them to Jesus in private, away from the crowds who adored Him. They just needed that one little last piece to complete their plot.
So here we are at this dinner party and this young woman destroys this very valuable jar of perfume. She pours it on Jesus and He says it is a wonderful thing she did.
And Judas is sitting there calculating all that money that jar of fragrance would have fetched. He used the cover of concern for the poor, but he was thinking how much he could have skimmed off first. How do we know? Because it is right there in Scripture, John tells us Judas was thinking about the money because he was a thief who had been dipping into the common purse for his personal gain. So many times things are spelled out for us in the Word, why don't we accept it? Why centuries of argument over the character and the motives of Judas? What have we been told elsewhere? A person cannot serve God and mammon, a man cannot serve two masters, for he will love the one and hate the other.
We say how could Judas do what he did after spending three years by the side of Jesus? How many people have you heard of in your lifetime that are close to the Gospel and betray it? How often have we heard of a minister of some renown who yields to temptations he has preached against his whole career, whether from pride, greed or lust?
Think about this: other of the twelve would refer to Jesus at various times as "Lord" or "Master" or even, "the Son of God", but never did Judas. To Judas He was never more than a "teacher" or "rabbi", never referred to as anything beyond a wise man, just like many today refuse to accept the Divinity of Jesus, but call him a "good and wise man".
When Judas left and went to the Chief Priests did he express outrage about what happened? Did he say, “Jesus is a phony; he doesn't care about the poor?” Did he say, “I was duped, this man isn't the Messiah?” No-o-o-o! He says, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"
They gave him 30 pieces of silver. It is difficult to value what he received. He was given silver coins. It has been stated this was the equivalent of 120 Roman dernari and this was about three months wages at that time. Not really a great amount. It has also been said he sold Jesus for the price of a slave.
"If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull must be stoned. Exodus 21:28-32
Well, we do know what was prophesied would happen to those thirty pieces of silver:
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter. Zechariah 11:12-12

The Chief priests were delighted. Certainly, it was the last piece to cinch their plot. Judas would take them where they could arrest Jesus without interference. And they must have feared the possibility of interference because what ends this? They plotted to kill Lazarus also because the raising of Lazarus was causing many to put their faith in Jesus and not in the Chief Priests.
And so, the hospitality of two women and the death of one man were key ingredients in the plan of God for our salvation. And who is our salvation? Yeshua ben Yosef is.
This is the name Jesus carried as a man, Joshua son of Joseph. Joshua son of Nun was a great hero to the Jews and a good name to have. They wouldn't have given the name Jesus. Yeshua was his Aramaic name. In the Greek language it would have been Iesous and this was transliterated in Latin as Iesus. This in turn got transliterated in English as Jesus and we pronounce it the way we do because that is how those English letters are usually pronounced.
There is an interesting bit of history with the name Yeshua. It is the shortened version of the name Moses gave to his close aid, Hoshea, whom we know better as Joshua, who fought the Battle of Jericho.
These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Yehoshua [Joshua].) Numbers 13:16
Yeshua is the short form of Yehoshua, like Will is for William, and we find Joshua called this shorter form in Nehemiah:
The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Yeshua [Joshua] son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. Nehemiah 8:17
Yehoshua means "God or Jehovah is Salvation". It comes from two root words meaning; "The Existing One" and "saves". Yeshua means "Salvation" or "to Save" or "He saves". It comes from the second root word in Yehoshua. But we lose these subtleties because in our English Bible translation both words come out as Joshua in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New.
"Christ", as previously stated, is not a name, but a title. It comes from Christos, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Both words mean, "Anointed". 
So Christ Jesus is the Anointed Existing One Who Saves or The Anointed Salvation. Sometimes we lose meaning in translation.

Illustration: "The Betrayal of Judas" by Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Stirring the Pot at a Party

So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.
Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people or the people may riot."
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.
While he Jesus was in Bethany reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard, which she broke the jar and she poured the perfume on his head as he was reclining at the table. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

When the disciples saw this, some of those present, they were indignant, saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste? Why this waste of perfume?" they asked. "This perfume, it could have been sold at a high price, for more than a year's wages. And they rebuked her harshly. {And} one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor." (John 11:53-John 12:5, Mark 14: 1-5, Matthew 26:3-9)

I hear this cliché a lot: "No good deed goes unpunished". I don't particularly accept it, but in this case it seemed to happen. Jesus traveled to Bethany to raise His departed friend and ended up an outlaw with a price on His head.
So with the Passover coming a lot of people were looking for Him, wondering if he would come. I imagine there was quite the buzz by this time, especially with the recent raising of a dead man. Then Jesus finally came down and He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to a crowd waving palms, many ready to crown Him their king, and others thinking about what award they might get if they could somehow turn Him over to the Sanhedrin. On this visit a lot is going on and somewhere during all the hubbub, He is given a dinner party in His honor back in Bethany.
Something happens at this dinner party. It starts off normal enough. Jesus and the other guests are reclining at the table, as was the norm for the times. Lazarus is also reclining near Jesus. We must remember those plotting to kill Jesus were also plotting to kill Lazarus, too. We have here our last mention of Martha, only two words, "Martha served". As I said, things seem to be as usual. But then Mary rushes in with a very expensive alabaster jar of Nard, a kind of perfume. She breaks the jar and pours some of the Nard on Jesus head and then dropping to the floor, she puts it on His feet and wipes them with her hair.
I have seen where some have said her act was the anointing of Jesus as our priest. Remember Jesus Christ is not his name. His name is Jesus; Christ is a title. It is the Greek (Christos = "creamy", "greased"; not to be confused with Crisco, which was an acronym for crystallized cottonseed oil) equivalent to the Hebrew Messiah and generally translated "the Anointed". They point out Jesus was not anointed and this act was the supplement. (But then so could it be said of the earlier and similar event where the sinful woman also poured perfume upon Him at a dinner.)
However, this could not be such a thing at all because it would have been a sacrilege and Mary would have been ostracized from her people. The Law required a special blend of perfume be created for anointing the Priests, not Nard, and it had to be applied by a priest. It could not be used by anyone else. 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men's bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.' Exodus 30: 31-33
We also must remember something else. Jesus was not a Levite; He was not of the priestly tribe. Jesus was a very special, very different priest, a priest like that mysterious character named Melchizedek, who was both a priest and a king, and who preceded the Law. Jesus was also not anointed under the Law or by men. He was anointed by God.
"You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." Acts 10: 37-38.
There is, I suppose, a case to make that this was an anointing of Jesus as King. Nard was used by royalty and was used to anoint kings. But it had other purposes more germane to this circumstance.
One purpose Nard served was as a perfume sometimes included as part of a Hebrew maiden's dowry. Tradition would have it used in this manner: the bride would take her container of perfume, break it open and pour the contents on the bridegroom’s head and feet. (The use of perfume in a dowry and for anointing the bridegroom was fairly common in the Middle East throughout history. It was practiced in Ancient Egypt and perhaps this is where the Hebrews adopted it. Even today it may be found practiced in some Muslim cultures.) Mary having this expensive container of Nard may indicate she was unmarried and had this in her "hope chest" for when her betrothal occurred. She was willing to sacrifice part of her dowry then on Jesus, somewhat as a symbolic act of being wed to Him as the Church was to be the Bride of Christ.
Having this Nard again points to what we have suggested before, that the household of Martha and Mary had some above average means. The Nard may also have been a family heirloom passed down to Mary or it could have been a gift given her by her father as part of a future dowry or even security. Since inheritance of property generally went to the sons (Mary had at least one brother, Lazarus) daughters were often given valuable items in place of it, such as expensive perfume if the family could afford it.
And this was expensive perfume. "This perfume, It could have been sold at a high price, for more than a year's wages." A year’s wages for a common laborer in Jesus' time is estimated as equivalent to $15,000 to $20,000 today. Expensive, indeed, and it would not have been a great quantity. There would only been enough Nard in the jar for one application.
Nard is a perfume derived from a root found in India and has a distinctive, pleasant smell. Once extracted, it was sealed in a small container to preserve the fragrance. This "jar" would be like a small flask, with a long neck. In order to open the jar, you would break this neck and pour it out. Thus, you would only get one use from it.
The container Mary had was itself expensive. It was alabaster, which was prized as a container of perfume. Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, a First century Roman philosopher and writer) claimed "the best ointment is preserved in alabaster" [Pliny: Natural History XIII]. Alabaster is a fine-grained form of gypsum, generally white and smooth and translucent.
This was an extraordinary extravagant action taken by Mary and it is understandable some were taken aback by it. One in particular was especially indignant. Why should he care so much?
Before we address him, there was another common use of Nard, in burial. Why would dead bodies by anointed with perfume? At a time and in a place where neither embalming nor mummification was preformed the answer should be obvious. Now you might think this was also unnecessary for the Jews who buried their dead within a day, but there was another tradition that may have had some relationship to this and some significance to both the deaths of Lazarus and Jesus. There was a practice of visiting the tomb of the deceased for three days to mourn and inspect the body to assure death. " One may go out to the cemetery for three days to inspect the dead for a sign of life, without fear that this smacks of heathen practice. For it happened that a man was inspected after three days, and he went on to live twenty-five years; still another went on to have five children and died later." Tractate Semahot (Mourning) 8:1
 (Notice in light of this tradition of the three days of mourning and examining the body to verify death that Jesus waited until Lazarus had been dead four days before returning to Bethany.)
Jesus tells one and all it was for his burial that Mary made this sacrifice. We can understand those reclining at the table questioning this act, but why should we have any debate as to its purpose? Jesus didn't say she came to anoint Him a priest. He didn't say she came to anoint Him a king. He is quoted as saying, in three of the four gospels, that she did it to prepare Him for burial.
He has been explaining recently to his Apostles, to His Disciples, to the Pharisees and Sadducees and quite possibly to Mary as she sat at His feet listening that He was going to be put to death. Mary got it. Just as His raising of Lazarus pointed to His own death and resurrection and was part of God's moving toward that time, so was the anointing by Mary. What does he tell us: "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. She did what she could. When she poured this perfume on my body, beforehand, she did it to prepare me for my burial."
Why was this a beautiful thing she did for Him? Remember, the bodies of the dead were anointed with fragrant oils...except those who were put to death as criminals. It was prophesied that Christ would die a criminal's death, and so he did. What she did beforehand was by necessity and provided Him the honor that would be denied Him otherwise. Granted, the women who witnessed His crucifixion bought oils with the intent of anointing His body, but they never got to do so, did they? The body was buried with haste before the Passover Sabbath so they had no time to get the oils to do so. They purchased the ointments the next day, but then ended up waiting through the Saturday Sabbath before actually going to the tomb and then it was too late for he had risen.
But those at the dinner did not understand any of this. They were upset and angry that this woman "wasted" this precious perfume in this manner. One was especially incensed by it. "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?" he demanded to know. Perhaps a reasonable question, although this was not his property to sell or determine its use. Now, it was the custom to give gifts to the poor on Passover Eve so that possibility could have been on Judas Iscariot's mind when he asked his question or...
...maybe not.

Illustration: "Banquet of Simon of Bethany", Stained Glass. Artist unknown, c. 1520.

Friday, October 4, 2013


What Would You Do After a Raising?

Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. 

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." John 11:41-44

Hey, that would get my attention. I've visited a lot of graveyards in my day. They make nice quite places to walk, plus I've traveled hither and yon looking for family tombs. I've attended a few funerals, too. I've seen some dead body in hospitals and homes. None of them ever got up and walked around. Nobody dead ever came shuffling out of a tomb more fit than when they went it and none laying on display in their coffin even so much as sat up and said a last goodbye. If someone came along and told a relative of mine, who I knew had been dead four days, to come out of the grave and it happened in front of my eyes, I'd have to take that person pretty seriously.
How about you?
But what kind of serious thoughts would you have?
We kind of sit here and think we would have thrown ourselves at Jesus feet right along side Mary and worshiped Him. We would have been convinced and believed in Him. You like to think that, anyway.
What about the crowd at the scene way back then? Those Jews who had followed Mary down to the grave site. I'm sure that group hurrying along after the woman probably drew others to the scene as well. They heard what Jesus said and saw Him command Lazarus to come out. They saw the dead man step forth alive again.
I think Sebastiano del Plombo's painting, at the top of this post, captures what happened. See all the people in the foreground around Jesus and Lazarus. Some have even been moved to drop beside Christ and kiss the hem of His robe. They obviously are worshipping Him. But what about that group to the left side in the background whispering together, the one pointing. What are they thinking?
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
"What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. John 11:45-53
So the Raising of Lazarus from the grave wasn't just another miracle along the way or an inspirational story. It was a catalyst leading to the solidification of the plot to kill Jesus. This is the decision of the Sanhedrin, the council of 71, the Jewish Supreme Court and Legislative Body in Judea during the Roman times. It consisted of Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and the top minds of the day. (It is interesting that there is an effort underway today to reestablish the Sanhedrin.)
They are afraid of what? They are afraid "everyone will believe in him". Why is that so bad? Because if enough people begin following Christ, Rome will see it as a threat and come down on the nation of Israel so these fellows are very concerned for the welfare of their nation. But wait, what did they put first in their concerns? "The Romans will come and take away both our place...and our nation."
Caiaphas, the High Priest then declares the death sentence: "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
It then tells us something amazing, which is Caiaphas had predicted Jesus would die for the Jewish Nation and also for the scattered children of God, bringing them together as one. He was actually absolutely right. Jesus would die, it would be in part for the Jewish Nation (as well as the whole world) and eventually, in the end times, God will bring His scattered children together and make them one. (Caiaphas statement contains some truth as well. It was the plan that one man should die [Jesus] that the whole [world] shouldn't perish.)
So, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb it was the sealing of His own not so far away death and resurrection.
In Jesus' ministry sometime after this point, He tells a parable about a Beggar and a Rich Man who both die and find themselves on opposite sides of a chasm in the afterlife. The Rich Man is in torment; The Beggar is in Paradise. The Rich Man asks for The Beggar to be sent back to convince the Rich Man's family to believe and repent.
I think when Jesus told this parable he chose the name Lazarus for The Beggar on purpose. The Raising of Lazarus of Bethany was still fresh in people's minds and Jesus knew it had led to the plot to kill Him. And what is the conclusion of the parable:
"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' " Luke 16:27-31

And they weren't.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him. John 11:54-57
Jesus is going to return to Bethany and we are going to meet Martha, Lazarus and Mary for the last time where another key event will be put in motion. Stay tuned.

Illustration: "The Raising of Lazarus" by Sebastiano del Plombo, 1517-19