Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: John's Gospel Studies|
INTRODUCTION to Chapters 11 to 14
This is the third in this Series of these studies in John's Gospel. You will probably have read the previous two Series and you will remember that we said in the Introduction, the fourth Gospel is quite different from the first three Gospels. The writer John wrote very much later than the other three writers and he doesn't seek to simply recount the same events as the Synoptic Gospels, but instead seeks to convey something of his growing understanding of the wonder of who Christ is.
Most of the action is this Set takes place in Jerusalem. The Synoptic Gospels have much of their activity centred on Galilee but John picks up on what happened when Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the various feasts, Passover (2:23 & 6:4) in the first Set of these studies, Tabernacles (7:2) and Dedication (10:22) in the second set. It was at such feasts that Jesus came into conflict with the various Jewish authorities, and made so many statements about himself.
This Set of Studies
In this Set we will see Jesus approaching Jerusalem for the final time and we find the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which is unique to this Gospel (Lazarus was probably still alive when the Synoptics were written). This provokes the authorities to move against Jesus. Then we will see Jesus heralded into Jerusalem by the crowds, further provoking the authorities. Then we move into that most intimate of time, the Last Supper, which again is uniquely described in John's Gospel.
We will thus see something of the incredible build up that Jesus used to provoke the authorities into action against him. The thing to especially note is that Jesus is supremely in command of all that takes place, and uses each event for his purposes. We will also see how he seeks to prepare his disciples for the days ahead.
PART 1 : " Lazarus "
In chapter eleven we will see Jesus in complete command of the situation. He is not afraid of death and indeed has power over it. See Jesus, completely in control, together with his care and compassion for those involved in this incident. Watch also for the hostility of the Jewish authorities who were upset by it.
Chapter: John 11
Passage: John 11:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. What are we told about Lazarus? v.1,2
2. What are we told about Mary? v.2
3. So what did the two sisters do? v.3
4. What did Jesus say about the sickness and its purpose? v.4
5. What are we told about Jesus' feelings for this family? v.5
6. Yet what did Jesus do? v.6
First note the family details here: two sisters and a brother - no mention of any husbands or wives, just a close, caring family unit.
Second, note their relationship with Jesus: Jesus had stayed there previously (Lk 10:38 -42), Mary was later to anoint Jesus prophetically, and Jesus clearly loved all of them.
Third, note the example they provide for us: when someone is ill, call for Jesus. Here is faith in action. They know he loves them and they believe he can heal the sick, and they believe he will come when they call. Is that true of us?
Well, next we must look at Jesus' response to their call; it was not what we would have expected! He simply waits - but not before he has made an important pronouncement; this death will not end in death. If we had been the disciples we probably wouldn't have realised that this meant that death would come but be overcome, yet that was what was to happen. We need to realise that Jesus KNOWS what will happen as a result of his actions and he has the POWER to deal with whatever comes.
We need to learn that although he wants us to call on him whenever we are in trouble, he may not immediately turn up because he KNOWS WHAT IS BEST for us in the situation.
1. Is Jesus the first one we call on when we are in trouble?
2. Can we rest in the knowledge that Jesus IS in control.
A. Find Out:
1. Who initiated what move? v.7
2. What objection did the disciples make? v.8
3. When will a man not stumble and when will he stumble? v.9,10
4. What did Jesus say had happened and what was he going to do? v.11
5. What confusion did the disciples have? v.12,13
6. What did he tell them and why was he pleased? v.14,15
First Jesus had said wait, and now he says it's time to go. Jesus has a strong sense of timing in this whole matter. He has waited until Lazarus has died, until there is no question about that, and now that he is dead, Jesus can go and raise him up.
The disciples feared that Jesus would receive opposition if he went south again but Jesus replies that there are set times when you can do certain things, so it will be all right. However his reply to their query goes further than this. There is a hint for those who will look at the whole thing, of him being the light of the world, and if we go with him, when the time is right, then we will be able to walk in his light.
In this passage we see again, Jesus completely in control of the situation. He waits until Lazarus is dead because he is totally confident that he will be able to raise him to life, and he will do it to bless the disciples and help them believe. Can we trust that Jesus knows the perfect timing for our lives and has the power to bring change when he sees it is right, even when the situation looks humanly impossible, so that he can increase our faith!
Finally note that Thomas expected the worst for Jesus, but was prepared to go with him to it. Wrong, but sincere. Like us?
1. We must learn to rest in Jesus' perfect timing.
2. Jesus desires to increase our faith by all circumstances.
A. Find Out:
1. How long had Lazarus been buried when they arrived? v.17
2. How far from Jerusalem was it? v.18
3. So who had come and why? v.19
4. Who went out to meet them? v.20
5. What was she sure about? v.21
6. And what else does she affirm? v.22
These few verses are packed with significant information.
First, Lazarus has been buried for four days. Implication: he is well and truly dead!
Second, Bethany is less than two miles from Jerusalem. Implication: the unbelieving Jews who had already been confronted by Jesus might be there or would very soon hear about it.
Third, many came to console Mary and Martha. Implication: Mary and Martha were well known and truly part of the local community.
Fourth, Martha went out to greet Jesus. Implication: Martha is the doer (See also Lk 10:38 -42), the outspoken one, while Mary is the reflective, less sure one.
Fifth, Martha declares it would have been all right if Jesus had been there. Twofold implication: first a mild rebuke; why didn't you get here earlier when we needed you? Second, a statement of faith; I know you can heal the sick.
Sixth, a further statement of belief. Implication: yet I still believe your Father is with you and I won't turn from my friendship with you. Martha doesn't yet believe in the dead being raised (as we'll see tomorrow) but her grief has not soured her against Jesus.
1. Our faith level is probably limited, and Jesus knows that, but he wants to
provoke it to deeper levels.
2. Faith is stretched or developed when we go through apparent crises and
we have to learn that Jesus can handle anything.
A. Find Out:
1. What did Jesus promises Martha? v.23
2. How did she interpret that? v.24
3. How did Jesus describe himself? v.25a
4. What will be the consequence of believing that? v.25b
5. And how further did he put that? v.26
6. What was Martha's response? v.27
Jesus, in response to Martha's affirmation of confidence in him, simply promises her that Lazarus will rise from the dead. Now the Jews believed in a resurrection on the Last Day and so she is happy to affirm that, but of course Jesus meant far more than that, yet that is as far as her faith will go for the moment.
Then Jesus makes one of his “I AM” claims: to be the resurrection and the life or, if you like, the means of life from death and source of eternal life. Believe in me, he says, and if you die you'll live, and if you then live you'll never die. Now that is a bit difficult to take because Lazarus has just died, so he asks her if she believes that.
Martha's response is good but limited. It is good in that it is a declaration of her belief that he is the Messiah, but it is limited, because she is still only able to believe in eternal life in the after-life , and not in Jesus raising Lazarus NOW. Yet Jesus does not chide her for unbelief; he knows that when we are confronted by a new situation, we find it difficult to take that extra step of faith. Three levels of faith are shown here:
Martha has the first two levels but wasn't yet at the last level. Are we?
1. We can have faith for eternal life but stumble over faith for now.
2. Jesus loves and accepts us even with our limited faith.
A. Find Out:
1. Who did Martha call and with what reaction? v.28,29
2. Where did she go to and who followed? v.30,31
3. What did she do when she arrived? v.32a
4. What did she say to Jesus? v.32b
5. Who was weeping and what effect did it have on Jesus? v.33
6. What did Jesus then ask and with what consequence? v.34,35
Jesus waited outside the village while Martha went to tell Mary that he was there (at his instigation, so he could talk to her alone?). When she comes her reaction is clear: she falls at his feet in surrender (?) or submission, and yet she can't help the cry coming from her, that if he had been there Lazarus would still be alive. Note she doesn't go the extra stage that Martha went, there is still a sense of reproach in her. It was Mary who had previously sat at Jesus' feet (Lk 10:38-42), indicating a sense of intimacy, and it is those who are intimate with Jesus who can fully express their hearts to him, even when they are unhappy about what he seems to be doing or not doing. The less intimate carry on making spiritual noises. Not so for Mary.
Then we see Jesus' response: first of all we are told he was deeply moved in spirit. There is within the original a sense of anger combined with sympathy. We may suggest this sense of anger was directed against sin that brought Mary low through grief over death, against sin that brought both Mary and the Jews to tears through their inability to believe Jesus can be the Saviour of the situation, and even against sin of mankind that allowed death into the world against God's desire. Jesus also weeps in sympathy with those who weep.
1. Do I have such an intimacy with Jesus that I can be totally honest?
2. Do I see behind circumstances while feeling for those in them?
A. Find Out:
1. How did the Jews interpret Jesus' tears? v.36
2. But what did some say? v.37
3. How did Jesus feel and what did he instruct? v.38,39a
4. What was Martha's objection? v.39b
5. What conditional promise did Jesus refer to? v.40
6. What did Jesus then do? v.41
As the Jews look on there are mixed feelings. Some sense care and compassion in Jesus for this little family, others are critical. There are always the critics looking to find something wrong with us; let's not be put off by them, Jesus wasn't!
Jesus is still deeply moved. This is not a God who stands far off without feeling. No this is a God who comes down and shares in our anguishes, who feels what we feel and when it means facing death, he is just as moved as we are. Yet he knows he has come to raise Lazarus and so certain stages have to be gone through.
The first stage is removing the stone. When there is something impossible there (a dead body to be raised) we need to do what we can first in removing obstacles to Jesus moving. The grave has to be opened, the thing fully confronted in all its mouldiness as Martha is only to willing to point out. This has gone beyond redemption, there is no hope here, just a rotting corpse. The first stage, when God wants to perform a miracle in our lives, is to face the impossibility of what is here. It happened in the process of us becoming Christians and it happens at every stage of our growth; we have to face that of ourselves we cannot do anything. If there is going to be change it will have to be Jesus who brings it!
1. Jesus wants us to confront the impossibility of our situations.
2. He also wants us to be willing to let him bring change. Make room!
A. Find Out:
1. What did Jesus do first? v.41
2. Why did he do it? v.42
3. Then what did Jesus do? v.43
4. What happened? v.44a
5. What did Jesus instruct? v.44b
The stone is taken away. That in itself is quite remarkable, for it shows that they are willing to go along with Jesus. They are not sure what is coming but they are willing to go along with Jesus. That is one example for us to follow.
Then Jesus prays, and that is the second example in this passage for us to follow. When we are confronted by an impossible situation, pray! Turn to God and seek His help. The temptation so often is for us to worry and struggle and strive to overcome it in our own strength. Seeking God's help overcomes that temptation.
Then Jesus gives an indication as to why he prays - so that people can see him relying on God and giving God the glory. Jesus' aim again and again was to glorify his Father. Here is our third example in this passage. Do we do what we do to glorify us.... or God?
Finally Jesus speaks a word of command for Lazarus to come out. Life flows and the authority of the Son of God is seen as the dead man is revived and stumbles out. The sight must have been awesome as this bandaged body totters out of the cave. The problem has been resolved, but it still needs unwrapping. When Jesus brings us out of darkness into light we still need unwrapping and that sometimes takes time. The signs of death have to be removed to live the new life.
A. Find Out:
1. What happened as a result of Lazarus being raised? v.45
2. But what also happened? v.46
3. What was the fear of the Sanhedrin? v.47,48
4. What did Caiaphas say? v.49,50
5. What was he in fact doing? v.51,52
6. So what was the result of all that? v.53
When a miracle occurs it doesn't only bring rejoicing! We might think that when God moves there will only be praise and worship for God, but the human heart is sinful, and even so-called believers will often react against the works of God!
After Lazarus has been raised many believe in Jesus - it is difficult not to when something incredible like that happens. But some of the Jews went back into Jerusalem and told the religious authorities about it, and their motive for doing that must be questionable. The authorities take a rather longer view of the whole thing; instead of rejoicing at the wonder of what has happened they merely see it as something which, if it continues, might provoke the Romans to act against them.
Theirs is purely self interest to the exclusion of God. Their leader, Caiaphas, suddenly prophesies (although they don't realise at the time that that is what it was) that Jesus must die for the sake of the nation. Even the wrong intentions of a person can be a prophecy inspired by God. The incredible thing we see here, is that the raising of Lazarus has become a key issue to provoking the Jews to act against Jesus. Right on their doorstep, this miracle will be the thing that pushes them over the threshold to murder him.
1. Miracles are not always accepted by everyone.
2. Hearts are revealed when God does things.
A. Find Out:
1. What wasn't Jesus able to do, so what did he do? v.54
2. When did many go where and for what reason? v.55
3. What did they do in Jerusalem ? v.56a
4. What did they wonder? v.56b
5. Who commanded what and for what reason? v.57
We begin to catch something of the tension in the last weeks of Jesus' life. The raising of Lazarus, so close to Jerusalem , had stirred even more interest in Jesus' activities. First of all, note the timing of it all, just a little while before the Passover when great crowds would come to Jerusalem , and thoughts be on that time of liberation from oppression in Egypt (see “Pharaoh's Fall” in these Studies). The excitement and expectations of the crowds would be at their highest.
Into all this the Jews expect Jesus to come, into a potentially explosive situation, of possible confrontation with the Roman overlords. As the crowds came into Jerusalem they looked around for Jesus, wondering if he was actually coming. Meanwhile the Jewish authorities are looking round for Jesus waiting for an opportunity to arrest him. For them Jesus might be the match that might light an uprising in which they have no faith. Their fear is that the might of the Romans would quickly put down any rebellion, and would then in anger send the nation into exile again and destroy the Temple and all the Jewish heritage. In fact that would happen in forty years time in AD70 but not directly because of Jesus. Their fears blinded them to the wonder of who it was coming. God was just about to return to His city.
1. Does fear blind us to good things?
2. Does wanting to hold onto what we have prevent God blessing us?
In this first group of 9 studies we have seen :
As one of the most spectacular miracles that Jesus performed, the raising of Lazarus achieved what Jesus wanted: it gained him great publicity and it raised the wrath of the religious establishment who started to plan in earnest his death.
1. Jesus is in complete control, even when he appears to do nothing
2. Jesus' timing is perfect because he knows God's will
3. Our faith is stretched and enlarged in crisis situations
4. Jesus loves us even with our limited faith
5. Jesus wants us to have the honesty of complete intimacy with him
6. Jesus wants us to confront impossible situations with him in prayer
7. Jesus' miracles will not convince everyone!
Thank the Lord that he IS Lord of your circumstances, even when they appear impossible. Hand them over to him. Trust him to work them out.
PART 2 : "Anointing, Welcome & Unbelief"
In this next chapter we find a complete blend of acceptance and unbelief. First there will be the beauty of Mary's love, then there will be the welcome of the crowds, even of Gentiles, and acceptance of the Father from heaven, but them comes the sharp contrasting unbelief of so many of the Jews. Watch for these contrasts.