Being Late, Yet Still On Time!

SCRIPTURE – JOHN 11:1-40

Please, if you have the time, watch this YouTube Video of a scene from the movie Son of God.  This four-minute plus scene sets up my Bible study in John 11.

BEING LATE IS A BAD THING!

I’m a person who always believes in being punctual.  Being late is a bad thing.  My dad was the same way: “Better an hour early than 5 minutes late” he used to say.

TRAINS and PLANES leave at appointed times and connecting flights are dependant on the earlier flights being on time.  Delays or cancellations can cause big problems for people.

But by far the most punctual person in the universe is God!  He set up the galaxies and our solar system like giant timepieces, run with precision.  The timing of the sunrise–a thousand years from now–can be calculated to a millisecond.

So, how strange it is then, to find God being late!  God–all-knowing and all-powerful–how can He not be on time?

And yet, we find God being so late to heal a man that he even missed his funeral by 4 days!  We’ll look together at the Scripture in this blog-study and find out, how God “Being Late, Yet Still On Time!” will give some perspective and understanding.

SCRIPTURE – John 11:1-7, 11-15, 39-40 (New International Version)

(Verses 1-7)

[1] Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  [2] (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and washed his feet with her hair.)  [3] So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  [4] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  [5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  [6] So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  [7] and said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

(Verses 11-15)

(Verses 39-40)

[39]  “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.”

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

“Lord, the one you love is sick”  (11:3)

Note that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, didn’t say, “Lord, the one who loves You, but the one You love.”

(1 John 4:10)

“This is LOVE: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Our LOVE to Him is not worth speaking of but His to us can never be enough spoken of.

Jesus has the POWER to alter the forces of nature; calm the winds and waves; to suspend the movement of the universe in answer to the prayer of one man.  Jesus did miracles with many elements–He made arms grow out, made bread and fish multiply, turned water into wine.  He didn’t have to be present to work a miracle.  He told the Centurion “Go your way, your servant will be made whole.”  Another long-distance healing was the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter.

No circumstances could stop Him.

No limit of time was a factor.

QUESTION:  Then, why does Jesus wait until a man, who He dearly loves, is dead, before setting out to help him?

Even the disciples knew there was a special bond between Lazarus and Jesus.  Imagine if you will, you or I call our best friend and say, “I think I’m going to die!”  And our friends’ response, “Well, I’m pretty busy right now.  It’s Sunday, I’m in church, I’ll try to make it by Friday.  Do you think you can hang on that long?”

Doug Greenwold, with Lamb & Lion Ministries, gives us a deeper look into the events that occurred:

“A messenger is commanded to go and find Jesus, to tell Him that Lazarus was about to die.  The messenger traveled by foot for two days, then faithfully informed Jesus about Lazarus’ condition.”

Here’s what I found fascinating.  When Jesus heard the message, He replied (verse 4), “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Notice the very first thing that Jesus did.  He gave the messenger a PROMISE.  Jesus often does this when He’s going to stretch our FAITH.

He provides a PROMISE, and then He gives the reason why what’s about to happen was going to happen.

Lazarus’ sickness was not to end in death, rather it would be used for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son would be glorified through it!

Jesus stayed two more days.

Jesus didn’t leave right away.  So something puzzling was going on there.  We’re talking about God incarnate here, so everything Jesus does here is strategic and for a reason.

In Mr. Greenwold”s article, he points out something I never knew before, so I wanted to share this in the blog-study:

“The Hebrew view of death believed that when a person died during the first three days their NEPHESH, which is the Hebrew word for soul, hovered over their body.  In fact, by the beginning of the fourth day, the body would already be fallen into such a rapid state of decomposition, it would stink to high heavens, and then the NEPHESH flees.”

The upshot is for the first three days you’re just dead, but from the fourth day on, you’re totally dead-dead.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

Because the rabbis and the religious leaders had been teaching when the Messiah finally arrived, he would be able to achieve something so amazing they would easily know he was the prophesied one.  It’s so impossible to bring someone back from the dead.  Only the Messiah or his prophets could bring people back from death.

From the Religious Leaders’ Point of View –

If Jesus was really the Messiah as some had claimed, then the religious leaders, in order to keep their positions of wealth and power, would have to kill him.  They’d attempt creating some uncertainty.  They’d claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the FIRST DAY didn’t count.  The nephesh (the SOUL) hadn’t left yet.  Doesn’t count!  For Jesus to truly be THE MESSIAH, in the people’s eyes, Jesus needed to overcome this obstacle.

A Sign Of A Much Greater Love –

By Jesus delaying to answer the sister’s prayer and letting the situation to become seemingly hopeless and impossible…He showed more LOVE than anyone else!

NOTE:  GOD’S GREATEST INTENTIONS MAY BE SIGNALED BY HIS LONGEST DELAYS!

Look at the words found in Ezekiel 37:11, 13 (AMP)

[11]  Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off.”

[13]  And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler],  when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

Jesus’ DECISION was for His Disciples too!

VERSE 15 says,  “…and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

God may be delaying because DELAYING is good for us!  He may be testing our faith or developing perseverance in us.  It may actually be dangerous to give us something at the moment we first ask.

Another idea is that God is setting up an impossible situation, in order that He may perform a MIRACLE or an even bigger miracle!

So the question may come up in your mind, “How long will God wait?”

And the answer?  TILL IT STINKS!

Sometimes Jesus waits until the situation you find yourself in really “stinks”.  When it “stinks,” God will get complete GLORY!

Another REASON God Waits So Long…RESURRECTION LIFE is not for the living, it’s for the dead!

You don’t get resurrected while you’re alive, you get resurrected when you’re dead!

THE PRINCIPLE IS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!

We must grow in our handling a bumper crop –

You don’t see a young apple tree bearing 150 apples; if it did, it would collapse under the weight.  Over time, God strengthens and prepares the tree so it can handle the weight for what it can bear in maturity.

It’s the same way with us.  We want everything NOW!  But God knows we can’t bear it, so He only gives us an apple or two until we grow stronger.

Jesus said to Martha,  “I AM the resurrection…”  That’s present tense.

PATIENCE!

The word “patience,” doesn’t occur in the Old Testament, but we have “patiently” in Psalm 40:1; meaning to “wait,”to expect,” or waiting on God.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “hypomone” carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance (Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 5:3-4).  [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encycolopedia]

PATIENCE is often hard to give and maintain, but in Romans 15:5, God is called “the God of Patience” (ARV – “steadfastness”) as being able to grant that GRACE to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it.

NEVER CLOSE THE BOOK OF YOUR LIFE WHEN GOD HASN’T FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV Bible) –

[35]  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

[36]  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Never hang up–throw in the towel–when God is still on the line with you.  Hang in there!  God is still working in your life!!

God wants us to know that even if we don’t see Him, He’s always there and He will be on time!

THE CALL!

Many teachers have asked the question and attempted to explain why JESUS WEPT.

Jesus knew at the time that in a matter of minutes He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept, because He felt the hurt of Mary & Martha’s pain so deeply that He grieved for their hurt.  HE WEPT!

Jesus is touched by feelings of our own infirmities, our pain, our grief. 

Let us then turn EVERYTHING over to Him in prayer.

_________________________________________________________

~CREDITS~

Movie Clip:  YouTube video – Lazarus Raised scene from The Son Of God movie.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advance settings.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); American Revised Version (ARV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted.

Credit and courtesy of LAMB & LION MINISTRIES Deeper Insights Into the Resurrection of Lazarus by Doug Greenwold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.