Day 263 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue John.
John 11 – Jesus enjoyed a special relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. This family gave Him welcome and oasis in a world of conflict and escalating hostility (Luke 10:38–42). Perhaps it was precisely because of Jesus’ great love for this family that He entrusted to them a very difficult story, a hard providence: the sickness and death of Lazarus.
The gospel is a story of our God doing all things well, not all things easily. His name is Abba Father, but this does not mean that He leads His children in a life of complacent ease and comfort. Indeed, upon hearing about Lazarus’s sickness, Jesus waited two days longer before responding—apparently so that His compassion could be revealed by a more glorious expression of divine power, expressed according to divine wisdom and timing. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). They are much better.
Jesus delayed coming to His beloved friends until Lazarus was dead. Martha and Mary were incredulous about Jesus’ decision to wait. “Lord, if you had been here . . .” The discipline of delay is one of the hardest lessons we must learn, as followers of Jesus, especially when it is God who does the delaying. Only grace can enable us to accept God’s rich vocabulary of answers to our earnest prayers—“yes,” “no,” “not yet,” or even “yes, but it’s going to feel like no”—because we trust that He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
The more deeply we know and walk with Jesus, the more readily we accept God’s glory as our greatest good, even when it feels like such a momentary bad. As “the resurrection and the life,” Jesus is always writing better stories than we could ever pen. Martha and Mary would soon find this to be true.
Jesus identifies with us in our pain and loss. He comes to us in our weakness and brokenness. Though He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept when He saw the tears of Mary and her companions. This is Jesus being truly human. As God incarnate, Jesus shows us what He, as God, created man to be—a whole-hearted lover of God and a compassionate lover of fellow image-bearers—summarized in the two great commandments (Matthew 22:34–40).
But as the incarnate God, Jesus’ tears in front of Lazarus’s tomb are of a different order. This is Jesus feeling the weight of the fall—the violation and disintegration of the way things were meant to be. His holy tears are those of the Creator grieving over the forfeiture of beauty through the intrusion of sin and death. Once again, in the incarnate Lord, we see the heart of the Lamb who would offer His life to overcome our sin and death.
The death and resurrection of Lazarus were a precursor of Jesus’ impending death and resurrection. Jesus had already spoken of the day when “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out” (5:28–29). Here we are given a “preview of coming attractions.” The apostle Paul spells out the vital connection between Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ours (1 Corinthians 15:12–23). If the dead are not raised, Jesus wasn’t raised, but if Jesus was raised, we too shall be raised. The real loser in view is death itself, and more expressly Satan, who holds the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). The resurrection we presently enjoy through our union with Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–7; Colossians 3:1) will one day segue into the resurrection of our bodies.
Here is another example of the use of irony in John’s Gospel. Caiaphas, the high priest, unwittingly prophesied that Jesus’ death would be a vicarious, substitutionary atonement. The God of all grace is sovereignly at work, at all times and in all places.
How does the defeat of death that Jesus accomplished encourage you to live today?
John 12 – The contrast between Mary and Judas could not be bolder. Mary reclines at Jesus’ feet in adoring love, offering extravagant devotion—anointing him for his burial. Judas sits in condescending arrogance, not only questioning Mary’s action but judging Jesus’ willing acceptance of such a gift. One is a worshiper; one is a thief. One gives sacrificial honor; the other seeks personal gain (Matthew 26:15). One demonstrates the way of grace; the other, the way of sin.
This story should remind us of a similar scene recorded in Luke’s Gospel, where an unnamed sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, while Simon, a self-righteous Pharisee, “murders” Jesus in his heart (Luke 7:36–50). Those who have been forgiven much love much. Those who are greedy for much are greedy for more.
Jesus is His own “public relations firm”—and His own interpreter. The choice to ride into Jerusalem on a young donkey wasn’t just to fulfill prophecy but to contradict the prevailing notions about Israel’s Messiah. The waving of palm branches wasn’t just an act of enthusiastic praise; it was a statement of nationalistic pride. But Jesus didn’t come into Jerusalem as a political, economic, and social advocate for Israel. He came to establish a kingdom reign over all nations, including Israel and Rome—a reign of grace in the hearts of His followers and a reign of peace over all He has made. Jesus makes us joyful prisoners of hope by rescuing us from the empty promises of hype (Zechariah 8:9–12).
The “not yet” is over; the appointed hour has arrived. The time for Jesus’ passion is at hand. The Pharisees lamented, “The world has gone after Him.” They simply had no clue how fully their words would be fulfilled. With the arrival of the Greeks, we are given a preview of the enormous harvest of nations that has been secured by the death of Jesus—the eschatological kernel of kingdom wheat. In Jesus we see the promise to Abraham fulfilled that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 12:1–3).
These Greeks were seeking Jesus because Jesus was seeking them. He came into the world to seek and to save the lost. Apart from the sovereign grace of God, the message of the cross is foolishness to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:22–24), just as it is to us—but for the grace of God.
First and foremost, the gospel is the good news of how God reconciles sinners to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But it is also the story of Jesus’ triumph over all evil and over Satan himself, “the ruler of this world.” Jesus came into the world to destroy him who holds the power of death (that is, the Devil) and to free those “who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15; 1 John 3:8). His “bruised heel” secured the “crushed head” of the Serpent—fulfilling the first gospel promise (Genesis 3:15).
Satan’s defeat has already been secured, and the clock is ticking on his ultimate demise. His present flurry of fury is actually a sign that he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12).
How does knowing that Satan’s defeat has already been secured (though we’ve not yet experienced it) give you hope for the future?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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