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Gospel of John - Chapter 12 - Lesson 1

Posted on May 22, 2016 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

 

John 12:1 (ESV) Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

 

Since Passover was less than a week away, Jesus was staying with His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus since Bethany was near Jerusalem and the temple. This was the Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead. They were the first “Singles’ Group,” remember? Jesus and Lazarus were relaxing or as the younger generation says, “chillaxing” at the table while Martha served the meal. Jesus’ friends were hosting this dinner in His honor. People had wondered whether Jesus would dare to show His face in Jerusalem for the Passover since the leaders were out to kill Him. Obviously, He did not let that threat keep Him away. HIS TIME HAD NOT YET COME, but it was very, very near.

 

John 12:3 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.

 

“Exactly what is nard?” you may ask.

 

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

NARD, noun

1. A plant usually called spikenard, spica nardi; highly valued by the ancients, both as an article of luxury and of medicine. It is an odorous or aromatic plant.

2. An unguent prepared from the plant.

 

So, nard is an expensive, fragrant ointment with healing properties. It was customary for a servant to wash a guest’s feet since they wore sandals and were dirty, tired, and sore. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive, perfumed, healing balm, something beyond the usual foot washing. She then bent down and wiped them off with her own hair with her face right by His feet. I wonder why no servant stepped in to offer her a towel at that point? Perhaps everyone was in shock that she would do such a thing in the first place. Do you think the people there realized there was a sacred exchange going on? Or did they think she was being a little weird? I wonder if she realized she was anointing Him for burial? Maybe she did or maybe she didn’t, but Jesus knew. I believe she was led by the Spirit to do so. Mary was always at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him intently, hanging on His every word.

 

Luke 10:39 (ESV) And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.

 

Read the account in Luke 10 to learn more about the personalities of Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to them.

 

John 12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

 

One denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer, so this ointment was worth almost a year’s salary! Judas questioned the extravagance of this seemingly wasteful gift. He seemed to think it was foolish to use up all the nard in this way. Judas made the supposedly benevolent suggestion that the nard could have been sold to support the needy.

 

John 12:6 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.

 

Judas’ desire was not relieving some poor person’s distress. It was self-interest because as treasurer of the disciples he could steal the money to line his own pockets. He didn’t really care about needy people but was just looking for a way to justify his indignant attitude toward Mary using the nard on Jesus’ feet.

 

John 12:7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

Jesus foreshadowed His imminent death and burial as He told Judas to leave her alone. He accepted her act of worship as preparation for the trial He was about to face. There would be other opportunities to help the poor, but this might be Mary’s last chance to minister to Jesus, to worship Him while He was living among them.

 

John 12:9 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.

 

The people wanted to see the Miracle Worker and the miracle recipient, Lazarus. Because he had been raised from the dead, Lazarus now drew crowds of his own. He was a walking billboard proclaiming that Jesus was Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

 

John 12:10 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.

 

Now Lazarus’ picture was on a wanted poster! His testimony was bringing people to belief in Jesus as God. Therefore, he was as much a threat to the chief priests as Jesus Himself. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha could testify that Lazarus had been dead four days. Many of the Jews had witnessed this miracle as well, but their hearts remained hardened to the truth. All they could see was the threat to their political power and therefore, all the creature comforts that came with it.

 

Q – Mary gave all of the best thing she had, the expensive ointment. She withheld nothing, not even her dignity, as she knelt and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. Are you willing to lay everything at the feet of Jesus? Or does pride keep you from humbling yourself before Him and in front of others?

 

Gospel of John - Chapter 11 - Lesson 4

Posted on May 17, 2016 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Jesus Raises Lazarus

 

John 11:38 (ESV) Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

 

Jesus arrived at the tomb. He was deeply moved again, but the scripture does not say why. Was He moved by the sorrow of the mourners? Was He troubled by their unbelief? Was He already thinking about the ordeal He would undergo on the cross and His own time spent in a tomb? The tomb, like many in Israel during that time, was a cave with a rock rolled in front of the entrance.

 

John 11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

 

Jesus commanded them to remove the rock from the entrance. Martha pointed out that by that time the body would stink since Lazarus had laid in the tomb four days. Bodies were not preserved by embalming as they are now. They were simply anointed with fragrant spices and wrapped in linen strips, so the body would have begun decomposing in that amount of time. Due to the lack of embalming, the burial process was completed within twenty-four hours. Therefore, Martha said he had been dead four days rather than entombed four days. Probably both things were true.

 

John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

 

Recall Jesus’ earlier conversation with Martha. He pressed her about whether or not she believed He was the Resurrection and the Life, and she declared Him to be the Son of God and able to ask and receive anything from the Father. So actually, Jesus had set Martha up to be able to express her personal revelation that He was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. In this passage, Jesus reminded her that she would see the glory of God.

 

John 11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

 

They obeyed Jesus and took away the stone. Jesus prayed aloud for the benefit of the family and especially the Jewish leaders who had gathered at the tomb. Jesus came to the Father with thanksgiving. Even though He was God in the flesh Himself, He considered gratitude a priority. He prayed thanking the Father even BEFORE the miracle occurred. We, too, are to have an attitude of thanksgiving when we petition God.

 

Philippians 4:6 (NASB) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

Jesus knew the Father always heard His prayers because they maintained uninterrupted, intimate relationship. As Jesus stated many times, He and the Father are One. Jesus wanted the crowd to know that He was God’s ambassador, here on God’s mission, and did only that which the Father authorized.

 

John 11:43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

 

Jesus could have accomplished the task with a whisper, so I wonder why He shouted? The people needed to hear Jesus commanding the dead man to rise in order to know it was by the Father’s power through Him that it was done. Jesus wanted those outside the grave to hear Him speak with authority in order to validate the fact that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.

 

John 11:44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 

Lazarus came out of the tomb alive but still bound in the burial cloths. This was proof that he was the man who had died. The Bible leaves us to imagine the looks on the faces in the crowd. Did Mary or Martha faint? I would have liked to see the faces of the Jewish leaders. Did their mouths drop open in amazement? Nothing is recorded about Lazarus’ reaction either. Did he hoot and holler? Did he fall at Jesus’ feet? Someday when we meet Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, we can ask them to tell us the rest of the story. Jesus simply told them to untie Lazarus and let him go.

 

Q – You would think seeing someone raised from the dead in person would cause the entire crowd to believe, but we will see that it did not. Are you waiting to witness a miracle firsthand before you will trust Jesus? There is no need to wait as we have the Bible, God’s word, where many signs were recorded. There is also the testimony of Christians you know who can tell you how Jesus has changed them forever. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to the truth. Then respond by faith and trust Him completely, giving Him control of your life.

 

Gospel of John - Chapter 11 - Lesson 3

Posted on May 15, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Jesus Weeps with Mary

 

John 11:28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.

 

After Martha had declared to Jesus her belief that He was the Christ, the Son of God, she went back into the house to announce His arrival to her sister, Mary. Privately, Martha took Mary aside to let her know that Jesus had asked for her. The message of Jesus’ being nearby was not shared with the entire room. Mary got up immediately and went out to meet Jesus.

 

John 11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.

 

Jesus was not right outside the door. He was yet a way off. He was still outside the city limits. Perhaps Jesus desired to speak with Mary alone, so He waited for her to come to Him.

 

John 11:31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 

They supposed wrongly that she was returning to the tomb. Since Martha had told only Mary of Jesus’ nearing their house, the Jews who had been there did not realize it was Him she was going out to meet. Lazarus and his sisters must have been in the upper echelon of society to be worthy of the Jewish leaders making an appearance to mourn with them. These were the very people the disciples wanted Jesus to avoid since they wanted to kill Him! However, Jesus, being omniscient (all-knowing) knew they would be there and went anyway because He also knew HIS TIME HAD NOT YET COME.

 

John 11:32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

Mary, in her grief, was laying her heart at the feet of her Lord. Falling at Jesus’ feet may have been partly due to her sorrow, but she was also still acknowledging and worshiping Him as her Lord. She pointed out that had Jesus been there death would not have touched and overtaken her brother. She expressed her faith that Jesus had the power to heal even someone near death.

 

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

 

Jesus was deeply moved because those He loved on a personal level, not a communal level, but as dear friends, were in great pain and anguish of heart. They wept openly in their sorrow and grief which touched Him. It hurt Jesus in His humanity to see those he loved in such pain. He may have been troubled at the havoc sin visited upon the world, that death causes such grief. He may also have been upset that these people were weeping as those who have no hope rather than the grieving of those who believe in the resurrection.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (ESV) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

 

As Christians, we still grieve, but differently than the world if we are remembering a fellow Christian. Of course, Mary and Martha were grieving prior to the resurrection of Jesus; but they knew that He taught there would be a resurrection of the dead.

 

John 11:34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

 

Jesus asked the women to take Him to the tomb. Either the sisters or those with them told Him to follow them to the place.

 

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

 

Two power packed words. The shortest verse in the Bible. Although it is the shortest verse in the Bible, it is one of the weightiest. Our favorite commentator, John MacArthur, points out that Jesus’ weeping is not the same Greek word as the others. He silently burst into tears rather than the loud wailing of the Jews. Nonetheless, He wept. Jesus empathized with Mary and Martha in His tender response and was not dismissive of their emotions, but respectful. How much more should we as Christians follow Jesus’ example in this way to not be dismissive or judgmental of a person’s emotions? We should show understanding and compassion.

 

Romans 12:15 (NIV) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

 

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul gives us the condensed version of how we should respond to others as Christians. Weeping with those who mourn is on the list.

 

John 11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

 

Even the Jews could see that Jesus truly cared for Lazarus and his sisters. When we console others in the midst of their tears, sometimes weeping with them, we are demonstrating a sincere portrait of the love of Jesus and our love for them.

 

 

John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

 

If they truly knew that since Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, He could have kept Lazarus from dying, why didn’t they believe? Was this said sarcastically such as, “He healed the blind man, but He couldn’t save His own good friend!”? No one was anticipating what was to come. Don’t miss the next lesson when we share the rest of the story!

 

Q – Jesus wept in empathy for Lazarus’ sisters, perhaps in His own human grief, but also because He was saddened by the effects of sin in the world. How often do we sincerely share in a friend’s troubles to the point of crying along with them? When we ask someone how they are doing, do we really want to know? Do we care? Do we tell the truth when someone asks us how we are? Do we simply say, “I’m fine,” because we know most people, even our Christian friends, don’t really want to know? Or are we afraid that instead of being blessed by their compassion we may be burned by their criticism or even gossip? Dear Christian brothers and sisters, pray we can learn to behave like the family God adopted us to be!

 

Gospel of John - Chapter 11 - Lesson 2

Posted on May 12, 2016 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Martha Confronts Jesus

 

John 11:17 (ESV) Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

 

Jesus is Sovereign, so He already knew that Lazarus was dead. He had even told His disciples plainly that Lazarus was already dead. Perhaps John was confirming for the reader that Lazarus had indeed died while Jesus was still in Galilee. The sisters had sent word to Him that would have taken a day to get to Galilee. He stayed where He was for two more days. Then His journey back to Bethany in Judea would have taken a day. That would account for at least four days. If the sisters had entombed Lazarus within 24 hours of death as was the custom, he could have been in the grave four days. Lazarus was in the tomb longer than Jesus stayed in His tomb. Jesus was dead part of three days, but Lazarus was dead at least four! Why the long wait if Jesus knew He was going to restore Lazarus to life? No one would be able to question whether Lazarus was truly dead since he had been bound in strips of cloth and lying in the tomb for four entire days. Had Jesus come earlier, some might have said He just revived Lazarus from some sort of coma or deep sleep. It would be the difference between a resuscitation and a resurrection.

 

John 11:18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

 

The Jewish religious leaders, the elite doubters of Jesus’ deity, had come from Jerusalem to console the sisters. This family was apparently respected in the upper echelon of Jewish society. Perhaps the delay allowed for those who needed to see the miracle the most to be present when Jesus arrived. However, this also validates Thomas’ fear that those who wanted to kill Jesus might be present. Mary and Martha already believed, as we will see.

 

John 11:20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

 

Martha was in hospitality mode, so she went to greet their guest as He arrived. Mary was in contemplative, heart broken, worshipful, please help me mode to the point that she might not even be able to utter words at that point. She was the more sensitive of the two sisters as we will see further into the study of John. Or she may have even been angry that Jesus had not come sooner and had to get herself together in the right frame of mind rather than say something she shouldn’t, lashing out to the One she loved the most. Perhaps she was feeling abandoned. The Bible doesn’t really explain their different reactions to the news that Jesus was almost there, but these are some possibilities.

 

John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

 

Martha stated that had Jesus been there death would not have had a chance to stand against Jesus. She had faith that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death by healing him completely. She proclaimed her belief that even then, after Lazarus was dead, God would give Jesus whatever He asked. God would always give Jesus His heart’s desire.

 

John 11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

 

Even though Martha expressed belief that Lazarus would be raised to life when Jesus returns in the future, she did not seem to realize that Jesus could raise him up right then, in that very moment. I think that Martha believed that whatever Jesus would ask, the Father would give Him. However, she could not conceive of a bodily resurrection at that moment. It was not that she lacked faith, but that she had never heard of such a thing occurring.

 

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

 

Jesus made another one of those I AM statements when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He was pointing out that as God, He controlled even life and death. Those who believed and trusted in Him as Messiah, Son of God, would never die. Jesus was asking her whether or not she believed He was the resurrection. Did she believe Jesus had the power to raise the dead, even Lazarus, right then in the “here and now,” even though he had been in the grave four days?

 

John 11:27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

 

Martha knew what He was getting at. Did she believe that He truly was God incarnate? Ultimately, Martha believed that Jesus was the Messiah. She declared Him to be Lord, Christ, and Son of God. We only have the conversation between Jesus and Martha. However, I believe the disciples may have been within earshot and perhaps even some of the Pharisees which would make this a public declaration of her faith. She could have been labeled a heretical blasphemer by the Jewish religious authorities. She declared Jesus’ deity clearly without any apparent thought of the consequences. She risked her prestige in society and perhaps being cast out of the synagogue.

 

Q – Once again, Jesus declared Himself to be the great “I AM,” to be equal with God the Father. He controls not only your path on this earth, but your eternal destiny. Are you seeing the enormous importance of being in right relationship to Jesus? Have you entrusted your life and eternity to Him? If you are already a believer, do you stand on the truth that Jesus has power over life and death when you or a loved one are facing a life threatening disease or situation?

 

Gospel of John - Chapter 11 - Lesson 1

Posted on May 10, 2016 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The Death of Lazarus

 

John 11:1 (ESV) Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

 

Every time Jesus traveled through Bethany, He stayed with His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In chapter twelve, we will read the entire account of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet which is mentioned here in order to identify her for the reader. Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were an early Singles’ group and comfortable in their singleness. There is no account of them being married or desiring marriage. When Lazarus became very ill, their first thought was to contact their friend Jesus. They sent out an SOS – Save Our Sibling! I am sure they were confident Jesus could and would heal Him because they were confident of Jesus’ intimacy with God. They also knew the intimate friendship between their brother and the Lord because they described Lazarus as “he whom you love.” Maybe Lazarus and Jesus were best friends. The Bible does not tell us how these three met Jesus, but they were obviously very close.

 

John 11:4 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.”

 

Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, so He knew that even though Lazarus would be dead for four days, it would not be permanent. God’s sovereignty was at work in this entire situation. As Jesus had stated about the man born blind, He again proposed that Lazarus’ illness was ultimately for the glory of God. He added that it would glorify Him, the Son of God, as well. Whatever glorifies Jesus, glorifies God and vice versa because the Father and the Son are One.

 

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

 

Jesus loved the trio in Bethany, so He waited two days to go them. What?! He didn’t rush to their side to be an encouragement and consolation in their time of need and anxiety in order to bring them peace. Or better yet to hurry there to prevent Lazarus’ death. I guess it was loving to wait because they were going to witness His greatest miracle other than His own resurrection which would certainly serve to increase their faith. After the two days, Jesus told His disciples that they were all returning to Judea. Bethany was in the region of Judea.

 

John 11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

 

At the end of chapter ten, the Jews were trying to stone Jesus to death, and He had narrowly escaped. The disciples were questioning whether He really wanted to go back to the place where He knew the Jews had just sought to kill Him. They wanted to know if He was sure He wanted to go back at that moment. They were probably a little concerned for their own hides as well.

 

John 11:9 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. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

 

Huh? We turned to one of our favorite commentators to clarify these verses:

 

The MacArthur Bible Commentary:

During the light of the sun, most people did their work safely. When darkness came, they stopped. The proverbial saying, however, had a deeper meaning. As long as the Son performed His father’s will (i.e., during the daylight period of His ministry when He is able to work), He was safe. The time would soon come (nighttime) when, by God’s design, His earthly work would end and He would “stumble” in death. Jesus was emphasizing that as long as He was on earth doing God’s will, even at this late time in His ministry, He would safely complete God’s purposes.

 

In other words, Jesus would be safe because HIS TIME HAD NOT YET COME!

 

John 11:11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.

 

In the New Testament the euphemism “fallen asleep” is often used to mean death, but the disciples did not pick up on Jesus’ meaning. I think they may have been grasping the hope that a trip to Judea would not be necessary after all since it sounded like Lazarus might be on the road to recovery on his own. They were confident Lazarus would wake up healed. They thought this meant they did not need to go from the frying pan into the fire.

 

John 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

 

Jesus made it clear that Lazarus was indeed dead. Jesus knew that when He raised Lazarus from the dead, the disciples would have a greater understanding that He was not only the Truth and the Life, but that He was the resurrection. They would then believe strongly enough to be witnesses to the fact that He was the resurrection. Then, even though Lazarus was dead, Jesus said, “Let us go to him.” Not let us go comfort Mary and Martha, but let’s go see Lazarus. He knew the miracle He was about to perform. He spoke as if the miracle had already been wrought.

 

 John 11:16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

 

Thomas, who I would nickname Eeyore, Mr. Doldrums, said they might as well go along and die with Jesus since they had already pointed out the danger of going back into the territory of those who wanted to stone him. Thomas may be called the doubter and we tease about him being negative, but at least he was loyal enough to be willing to follow Jesus to what he thought was certain death.

 

Q – Once again we see Jesus pointing out that someone’s adversity was meant for the glory of God. Are you beginning to see that you can trust the sovereignty of God in every situation? God has a purpose for everything you are going through, but it may not be evident at the moment. Trust Him, but remember it is okay to be honest with Him if you are perplexed because He knows what you are thinking anyway.