Opposite Reactions – Opposite End Results

John 12

John 12 46

John 12 opens with Jesus attending a dinner held in Jesus’ honor.  Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead was among those eating at the table.

While he was there, a large crowd came, not only to see Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Then we read… 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

I am astounded at the lengths to which the religious leaders of Jesus’ day would go to deny Jesus.  They saw all the miracles, but rejected Jesus anyway.  Even after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they still wouldn’t believe.  And because so many others believed, the religious leaders wanted to kill Lazarus again, to stop people from following Jesus.  Wow.

At this same meal, we see someone with an opposite reaction.  While Jesus was reclining at the table, Mary, Lazarus’ sister, poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair.  We’re told the perfume was worth a year’s wages.  We’re told in Matthew 26:13, where we also find this story, Jesus said,” 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”   And indeed, we’re still talking about this today.

Much later in John 12, we find this in verses 44-46:  44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

The chapter closes like this… “the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

So again, we have a decision to make.  Will we believe in Jesus, honor him like Mary did with our actions and our wealth, and live in his light?  This leads to eternal life.

Or will we reject him, like the religious leaders of his day, and stay in darkness (and be condemned at the last day)?

I choose life.  What about you?

-Steve Mattison

 

 

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Stake Your Life on This

John 11

John 11 25

In John 11, Jesus received word that his dear friend was very sick, and yet Jesus stayed where he was for two more days before heading to Bethany, where Lazarus was.  When he finally got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

Martha, Lazarus’ sister came out to meet with Jesus, and we have a record of their incredible conversation.

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

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

I love these incredible statements of faith:  If Jesus had only been there, he could have healed Lazarus.  Even now, God would give Jesus anything Jesus asked.  “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

No wonder Jesus loved this family.  They were devout followers of Christ with amazing faith.

You know the rest of the story.  Jesus told them to roll away the stone.  Martha said basically, “he’s going to stink, he’s been dead four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Then Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  And the dead man came out!

Many people believed in Jesus because of this miracle.  But not everyone believed. The Pharisees’ response was, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him…” and they plotted to kill him.

How is it possible to have such diametrically opposed reactions?  Unfortunately, we see a similar range of reactions to Jesus today, from faithful devotion to hostility.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have the same reaction Martha demonstrated.  And I’m staking my life on verses 25 and 26.  I want to encourage you – do the same.  And I’ll look forward to seeing you at the last day.

-Steve Mattison

 

 

Don’t be Mutton

John 10

John 10 14

In John chapter 10, we find Jesus telling a story about shepherds and sheep.  A person who is hired to protect the sheep will run away when his own life is in danger (like when a wolf comes), and abandons the sheep.  The true shepherd will put his life in harm’s way to defend his sheep.  Then we find this gem in verses 14 through 18:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

I see a couple of things in these verses that I’d like to comment on.

We all know that we are his sheep, and that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep.  We may be less focused on Jesus’ comment that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen that will listen to his voice and be part of the same flock.  In Jesus’ day, he was talking with the Jews, who thought they were the exclusive people who could have a relationship with God.  Jesus was pointing out that non-Jews would also come to God through Jesus.

Then we see this phrase in verse 17 that says God loves Jesus because Jesus is going to lay down his life.  I believe Jesus was saying that it was his decision whether or not to completely obey God.  He had the authority to obey, and lose his life.  He also had the authority to disobey, and retain his life.  My interpretation for all of this is:  Jesus had complete free will to do whatever he chose to do, just like we have free will.  It’s just that Jesus always chose to do God’s will.  This is exemplified in Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will, no matter what, even to the point of suffering and dying.  And God loves that fact about Jesus.  (As an aside, this attribute of Jesus is undoubtedly why God said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”)

You might be thinking, “This is a nice story, but how does it apply to me?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, I want God to be pleased with me.  And I project from this story that if I am obedient to God like Jesus was obedient to God, I will please God.  So, I’d like to challenge you to be completely obedient to God as well.

Second, I might tend to think, like the Jews, that I, or my church, or my denomination have an exclusive relationship with God.  I need to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not me, and he (not me) gets to decide who are and who are not his sheep.

Finally, we see from this passage that Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.  Wolves are prowling around outside the sheep pen.  If you’re not in the protection of the pen, being protected by the Shepherd, you’re going to be mutton.  So if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no time like today.

-Steve Mattison

In the Pool of Siloam

John 9

John 9 35 36.png

In John 9, we see the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  You know the story… Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and had him go wash in the Pool of Siloam.  After the man washed, he could see.

We’re told the story again as he told his neighbors the story.  Then, we’re told again as he told the Pharisees the story.

The Pharisees are so hung up on the fact that Jesus did this on the Sabbath (and therefore broke the law, so therefore he must be a sinner), that they totally miss the magnitude of the miracle.  They were saying Jesus was a sinner, others were saying, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”  So they were divided.

The Pharisees didn’t even believe the man had been blind, so they called his parents to testify that he was their son, and he was born blind.  The Pharisees asked him again how he came to see, since Jesus was clearly a sinner, in their mind.  The man had a great response:  25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The man then scolded the Pharisees for not knowing who Jesus was, since no one had ever opened the eyes of a man born blind.  Clearly Jesus couldn’t do this if he was not from God.  And if they were really God’s representatives, they should know Jesus.

At this, the Pharisees heaped insults on him, and threw him out of the church.

Jesus found the man, and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man?  (This was a favorite title Jesus used of himself.)  I love the exchange that followed:  36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

This man recognized the amazing transformation Jesus made on his life, he believed, and worshiped Jesus.

For those of us who were born and raised in the church, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the amazing transformation Jesus has made (or should have made) in our lives.  We don’t necessarily acknowledge that “I once was blind, but now I see.”  And how often are we overwhelmed and say, “Lord, I believe” and worship him?

The Pharisees, even though they knew what to look for in a Messiah, were blind to who Jesus was, despite amazing miracles.

So who are you most like in this story?  The man born blind, or the Pharisees?

If you haven’t yet received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, ask him today, “tell me so that I may believe.”  And for the rest of us, today is a good day to focus on Jesus, say, “Lord, I believe”, and worship him.

–Steve Mattison

 

IF you Believe, THEN…

John 8

John 8 31 32

As we have read repeatedly in the last two chapters, we see again in John 8:30, 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

Then Jesus shared this powerful truth:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This passage points out that while belief is important, belief alone is insufficient.  If I’m completely honest, I don’t like the implications of this passage.  I want to just believe and know I’m ok.  Unfortunately, I see a similar warning in James 2:19, where we’re told, “Even the demons believe – and shudder.”

Now Jesus has my attention.  If belief alone isn’t enough, what does He expect? I interpret these two verses as Jesus giving his followers a series of If .. Then conditions:

  1. If you hold to my teaching (which I interpret as meaning: you need to live your life like Jesus told you and demonstrated to you).
  2. Then you are really my disciples (meaning, you’re not really His follower unless you do what He told you to do.)
  3. If you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth. (This suggests to me that people can’t even understand the truth unless they are really Jesus’ disciples.)
  4. Finally, when one knows the truth, the truth will set them free.

 

The believers Jesus was talking to had the same reaction I tend to have.  Wait a minute, set me free?  I’m not a slave.

 

Jesus went on to say that anyone who sins is a slave to sin, and Jesus came to set people free from sin.

 

This is really interesting to me.  As members of a denomination that claims to have the faith of Abraham, we may tend to think we have a corner on the market for faith and truth.  But how focused are we on the holiness message Jesus is sharing in this passage?  This should challenge us.

Verses 35 and 36 go on to say, 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I want a permanent place in God’s family.  But to have that place, I need to be set free – first, from sin, and ultimately from death.

 

This requires adding to belief:

  1. Following Jesus’ teaching
  2. Becoming his disciple
  3. Knowing the truth
  4. Having Him set me free.

Sign me up!  How about you?

-Steve Mattison

Judging Jesus

John 7

John 7 24

In John 7, we see multiple examples of people struggling to believe in Jesus because he didn’t fit their expectations of the Messiah.

In verse 27, the people were saying, 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” I don’t know what scripture or teaching they were relying on, but they were confused, and it prevented their believing.

Despite his not meeting their expectations, verse 31 tells us, 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him.  They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

The religious leaders heard the crowd whispering about him, and sent temple guards to arrest Jesus.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

 

We see three general categories of people in John 7.

First, some people just believed in Jesus because of the miracles he did and because of his teaching.

Second, some wanted to believe, but they knew some scripture (like the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem), and they thought they knew some facts (like Jesus came from Galilee, and not from Bethlehem), and they couldn’t reconcile the two – so they struggled to believe.

Third, we see the religious leaders, who knew the scriptures far better than the common people, but flatly rejected Jesus — partially because he broke the letter of the law by healing people on the Sabbath, and partially because he was disrupting their hold on the religious establishment of their day.

It’s easy to look back at those people and think, “They were so stupid.  Why didn’t they just believe?”  What about us?  Are we any better?  Do we have pre-conceived expectations of God, or Jesus, or Christianity that just don’t seem to fit our knowledge or experiences, so we’re struggling?  Have we studied the Bible so much that we already “know it all” (like the Pharisees), and are relying more on our knowledge of scripture than relying on our relationship with God and His son?  Or will we take Jesus at his word, as recorded in John 7: 24… 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

The good news is, regardless of whatever you decided before, you get to make your choice again today.  Choose wisely.

 

–Steve Mattison

 

Easy Life vs. Eternal Life

John 6 27 a

John 6

 

John 6 is a great example of the total disconnect between Jesus, and what he had to offer, versus the people following Jesus, and what they wanted.

The chapter starts with Jesus feeding 5000 men.  (I don’t even have space to discuss Jesus’ walking on the water right after that miracle.)  Once his followers enjoyed a free meal, they wanted more.  The chapter then has this recurring theme where the people want more food, and Jesus wants to focus on something more eternal.

I’ll paraphrase the story:

Jesus: You’re only following me to get more food.  You shouldn’t focus on food that spoils, but the food that I’ll give you that will endure eternally.

People:  Do a miracle for us.  Moses fed our ancestors in the desert. (Hint)

Jesus: I’m the true bread from heaven to give life to the world.

People: Feed us.

Jesus:  39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

People:  Grumble

Jesus: 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

People:  Grumble about eating Jesus’ flesh.

Jesus: 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

People: Desert Jesus.

Jesus then asked the twelve disciples, “Are you going to leave too?”

I love Peter’s answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Application:

In Jesus’ day, I assume the people had to work pretty hard to acquire food.  If Jesus could have just supplied all the food they would have needed for the rest of their lives, life would have been so much easier.  After all, God wants us to have an easy life, right?

Jesus was focused on doing God’s will, and looking forward to the resurrection.  Four times in this chapter, Jesus repeats that he will raise people up at the last day.  Five times he talks about eternal life.

How often do we focus on (and pray for and long for) God making life easy for us?  Jesus is clearly pointing out that we just need to “believe in the one he [God] has sent.”  Live for Him, and look forward to the resurrection.

So, where will you focus today?

 

–Steve Mattison