Lord, Your Friend is Ill

Gospel of John 11:1-44

The first eleven chapters have been about witnessing. First was the Baptizer, and then the disciples who witnessed by accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow him.

They were undoubtedly amazed when they watched Jesus turn water into wine, though it was a relatively private miracle because very few people saw it.

Jesus then teaches the Gospel to the Pharisee Nicodemus, and the Baptizer announces again that Jesus is ‘the One.’ Jesus then helps the Samaritan woman to become the first Christian missionary.

Jesus healed the son of a royal official by long-distance, no less. Then he entered Jerusalem and healed a man who could not walk.

Everyone’s favorite was the feeding of the Five thousand, followed by Jesus walking on water.

That feeding led to much dispute over who Jesus was and who he still is for us.

Chapter 9 has Jesus healing the blind man, resulting in more conflict between Jesus and the authorities.

In chapter 10, Jesus claims to be the Good Shephard. Now we come to the last witness before Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time.

Now there was a man by the name of Lazarus who became seriously ill. He lived in Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived. 2 (Lazarus was the brother of the Mary who poured perfume upon the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus: “Lord, your friend is ill.” Phillips

We should notice first that Lazarus does not seem to be very well known to John’s expected audience, but Mary is. In verse 2, John reminds all readers why Mary is well known.

Mark 14:3. Jesus himself was now in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As he was sitting at table, a woman approached him with an alabaster flask of very costly spikenard perfume. She broke the neck of the flask and poured the perfume on Jesus’ headPhillips

Matthew 26:6-7. While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the tableNIV

Luke 7:36-38. Then one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to a meal with him. When Jesus came into the house, he took his place at the table and a woman, known in the town as a bad woman, found out that Jesus was there and brought an alabaster flask of perfume and stood behind him crying, letting her tears fall on his feet and then drying them with her hair. Then she kissed them and anointed them with the perfumePhillips

John 12:1-3. Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the village of Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a supper for him there, and Martha waited on the party while Lazarus took his place at table with Jesus. Then Mary took a whole pound of very expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet and then wiped them with her hair. The entire house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumePhillips

You can sort out the differences later. For now, we see that John alone connects Lazarus with Mary and Martha. As we follow the three in John, we get the idea that they were a prominent family, perhaps even well to do. Some scholars have even suggested that they were related to Jesus. The evidence is weak, but I like the notion.

Here is verse 3 from another source. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, he [our brother and Your friend] whom You love is sick.” Amplified Bible

The literal Greek is, Lord, behold, whom you love is sick.

Nearly all English translations include that Jesus loves Lazarus. We do not know why, but it seems Jesus knew all three of them well. Jesus may have stayed with them whenever he visited Jerusalem, either because they were early disciples or relatives or both.

Notice the sisters did not request Jesus come, but it was common for a rabbi to visit a sick disciple. It seems the women knew he would come.

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.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. ESV

This illness does not lead to death. A strange statement, given what we read later. Keep in mind that the messenger took a day to reach Jesus, an important point later. If Jesus knew Lazarus was ill before the messenger arrived, he would have known all that was to happen. If the message was his first knowledge, I expect he quickly asked God what he should do. God assured him that what would happen would bring God and His Son glory.

The sisters said that Jesus loved Lazarus, now John clarifies that Jesus loved all three. John wants us to understand that Jesus takes care of his own. He does not do it out of any sense of responsibility; Jesus does it because he loves them, and he loves us.

Having made these points clear, Jesus hangs around two days before starting uphill to Bethany. Why? The text does not answer, but there seems to be some math involved. The count goes like this: one day for the messenger to arrive, wait two days, travel one day. That is a total of four days. Why is four important? Verse 17 will begin the explanation.

Then after this, he said to his disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish leaders were just now trying to stone you to death! Are you going there again?” Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks around at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After he said this, he added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I am going there to awaken him.” 12 Then the disciples replied, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 (Now Jesus had been talking about his death, but they thought he had been talking about real sleep.) NET

It is not clear that the disciples heard the message about Lazarus or Jesus’ statement that it would not end in death. Therefore, they thought little of sitting around for two days. When their Master said, ‘let us go to Judea,’ their spines tingled. Jesus had had a close call there on the most recent visit, in fact on several visits. ‘They just tried to stone you! Are you crazy?’ True, they may have been more polite.

What did Jesus mean by ‘twelve hours?’ On the surface, it means daylight is limited. People then did very little after sundown. They worked in the sunlight. Jesus meant that there is plenty of time for the day’s work, but he also meant there is only so much time. Do today what needs to be done.

Jesus contrasts day and night by talking about stumbling around in the dark, or worse, getting up to no good. Drive through any small town or large city at three in the morning, and you will see troubled people doing things they hope will make them feel better but fail.

The deeper meaning Jesus has in mind takes us back to John 1: In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. NIV The Son of God is always the light.

‘Fallen asleep’ was and still is a common metaphor for death. You would think the disciples could follow Jesus’ ideas a little better after three years, but no, they are still obtuse. ‘Right, Jesus, he’ll wake up soon.’

14 This made Jesus tell them quite plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and I am glad that I was not there—for your sakes, that you may learn to believe. And now, let us go to him.” 16 Thomas (known as the twin) then said to his fellow-disciples, “Come on, then, let us all go and die with him!” Phillips

Two different things happen in this section. First, Jesus announces that he knows that Lazarus is already dead, even though no one has come to let him know. He also tells the Twelve that Lazarus’ death is for the benefit of the Twelve. Second, Thomas is sure Jesus will be killed, so they might as well die with their Master.

Jesus shows patience. I wonder if he asked God, ‘are you sure these blockheads can get the church up and running?’ We see Jesus giving them what they need for the job to come without demeaning them or breaking them down. He is our example as well.

We also see the loyalty of the Twelve. Whatever their faults, they were willing to die with him. All but one will die for him (Judas died but not for Jesus). John alone died of old age, and I believe because he needed sixty years to get this Gospel right.

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 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. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. ESV

If you follow the timing, the messenger walked for a day to inform Jesus that Lazarus was ill, but he likely died shortly after the messenger left Bethany. Jesus then waited two full days, going on the fourth day after the messenger left Bethany.

This is God’s timing. Whether Jesus knew the details or not, God knew Jesus would be in the grave for three days. God wanted Lazuras to be so dead in the eyes of the witnesses that they could never say that he was just ‘asleep.’ It was true in ancient times that people were buried, only to revive days later. It became common knowledge that no one survived four days in the grave.

So, why was Jesus only in for three days? Most importantly, he was tortured by professionals and executed on the cross—no one survived that.

Being close to Jerusalem—with Passover around the corner—word spread about Lazarus’ death, and friends and family came to mourn and honor Lazarus. Mary and Martha were sitting shiva. Jews to this day follow the seven-day practice. The immediate family sits in the house after the burial (on the day of death) in straight back chairs and receives visitors. Neighbors and friends bring in food for them.

Martha broke shiva to meet Jesus on the road. Martha behaves the opposite of what we read in Luke 10.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV

Mary is honoring her brother by staying to properly greet the guests while the older sister (probably) goes to Jesus.

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.” NIV

We should be clear that Martha is a believer; she is short on understanding, but she knows Jesus is of God. She shows her belief that Jesus’ power comes from God, that all he has to do is ask, and it will happen. Here, we see her making a backhanded request to do something he has done for others.

An additional possibility is that Martha realized that Jesus was in great danger, so she went down the road to stop him before all the Jews from the city saw him.

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.” NIV

Martha continues to reveal her faith. The idea of resurrection was a Pharisee belief, one rejected by the Sadducees. We cannot be sure of the general population, but a large portion of them certainly agreed with the Pharisee’s thinking on life after death. Martha likely had a stronger belief on the matter as a friend and follower of Jesus.

Now we have I Am number five. I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus is not here only to bring one man back to life; he is here to bring the world back to life in God. In a way, this resurrection is unfair to him. Lazarus will die a second time. But he will know that his return is a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

To live in Jesus is to defeat death. Death will win now, but not in the forever.

Martha completes her faith statement. ‘I believe you are the Messiah and the Son of God.’

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

Martha could have explained to Mary the exchange she had had with Jesus, but instead only says that Jesus is asking for her. This suggests that Jesus told Martha to do only that. We see that Jesus remains outside of Bethany to wait for Mary. He may have wanted a private word with her, but it is not to be.

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. 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.” 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. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” ESV

Mary also shows her faith by kneeling before Jesus and saying the same words her sister used to greet Jesus. John does not have Jesus go through the same exchange; instead, he jumps to Jesus’ reaction of grief.

‘Mary, where is Lazarus?’ Mary answered, ‘Come, I will show you.’

Now the Jews who heard the exchange start to take sides. Some stress Jesus’ love, and some wonder why he did not heal his friend. The healing would have been long-distance, suggesting that the people had heard of other such miracles.

Verse 35 is the shortest sentence in the Bible. John wants us to see the humanity of Jesus. Healing a blind man he did not know was one thing; seeing the tomb of a friend was quite another. Even as he prepared himself for the resurrection of his friend, he allowed his grief to show.

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

There is a translation issue in this verse. The Greek word embrimaomai means to snort like a horse, to snort with anger, to have indignation, to blame, to sigh with chagrin, groan, murmur against. That is a wide range of options. It is up to the translators to read the entire section and select the best meaning for this context.

Groaning in himselfAmerican Standard Version Deeply moved within [to the point of anger]. Amplified  Terribly upsetContemporary English Version Moved with deep angerTLV 

It is not easy to decide who has the best translation with all these options. It is clear from the Greek that the emotion was ‘in himself.’ In verse 33, we read that he was—embrimaomai—deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. The word again indicates that Jesus had the same reaction as in v. 33.

Several leading modern translations have gone with ‘deeply moved,’ or its variations. That seems too weak. William Barclay points out that John was writing for a Greek audience. They had no notion that any god could feel emotions. They reasoned that to make a god feel some emotion gave us power over them; therefore, they were without feeling.

John’s message to the Greek Christians with the account of Lazarus is that the Son of God had the same feelings we humans have. John has already destroyed many Greek ideas with Jesus wept. Now he describes Jesus as snorting anger. We cannot know why he was angry, only that he was. That powerful emotion may have been necessary for Jesus to do this sign.

However you choose to read the phrase, read it as powerful.

39 “Take away the stone,” said Jesus. “But Lord,” said Martha, the dead man’s sister, “he has been dead four days. By this time he will be decaying ….” 40 “Did I not tell you,” replied Jesus, “that if you believed, you would see the wonder of what God can do?” Phillips

We read in verse 38 that Lazarus’ body was placed in a cave. The practice was to seal the opening for one year, at which time the family would move the bones to a permanent shelf or box.

The stone would have weighed several hundred pounds and required several men to move it away from the opening.

From what little we know of her, Martha seems to be practical. ‘Don’t unleash that stink!’

Now, we see Jesus calmer as he rebukes Martha. She believes Jesus, but not after four days. ‘I have heard about all you have done, but even you can’t pull this off.’ We should not blame her; even his Twelve were doubtful.

We need to believe in the wonders of God.

41 Then they took the stone away and Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of these people standing here so that they may believe that you have sent me.” Phillips

For his prayer, Jesus looks up to Heaven. Through the centuries, we Christians developed the attitude of bowing our heads for prayer. One reason was Jesus’ instruction to us in Matthew 6:6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseenNIV When in public, closing our eyes duplicates the closing door.

But I think there is another explanation. The European culture, which was true in the rest of the world, stressed that commoners should not look directly at their betters. Whenever a person of rank or title came by, people would bow their heads until he passed. It makes sense in that culture to bow before the one who is greater than a king. So we bow our heads in the presence of God.

We quickly learn that Jesus is speaking more to those around him than to God. He and God are in constant communication, so such a public prayer is not about God but about witnessing to the Son of God.

We do not know how loudly Jesus spoke, so we cannot know how many people heard him. The most important people around him would have been Martha, Mary, and the Twelve. I believe they were the primary target.

Jesus is a witness to himself again.

43 When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” NET

Jesus’ shouting teaches us two things. He spoke to a corps, so he needed to ‘wake’ him. There was no need for him to shout; he could speak to the soul of Lazarus with his mind. The shout was for the living—another witness.

The second point is the contrast to the quieter prayer, heard only by those close to him. Jesus goes from speaking to a few—for their spiritual growth—to impressing the crowd with his power over death.

Some have quibbled over the cloth wrappings, saying he could not have stood up if he was wrapped like a mummy. But if God could bring a man dead for four days back to life, a few cloth strips would be no problem. Additionally, the cloth was mainly used to hold in the spices and herbs; mummies were an Egyptian thing.

You may wonder why they wrapped Lazarus in strips of cloth and Jesus in one long cloth. With Jesus, there was too little time, so they had to take shortcuts. More on that later.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

The Good Shepherd

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Gospel of John 10:1-42

“Amen, Amen, I tell you: Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the door, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own sheep, he walks ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration in speaking to the people, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Evangelical Heritage Version

None of the versions I generally use had the ‘Amen, Amen.’ The other translations are not inaccurate, but the Greek word is amen, based on the Hebrew word amen. Both words mean so be it, faithfulness or verily.

The Amen, Amen is used twenty-five times in John; this is the fifteenth. It is found one hundred twelve times in the NT, with the most in Matthew. We use amen to end a prayer, meaning so be it. It is used throughout the Bible in this double format to announce something extra important. It is like, ‘listen up!’

In the first 21 verses of this chapter, we see Jesus following up on the conflict surrounding the healing of the man born blind. There is no break between 9:41 and 10:1. [This is one of the times Cardinal Stephen Langton could have done a better job creating the chapters in 1205 CE. Rabbi Nathan added verses for the Tanakh (OT) in 1448 CE, and Robert Estienne did the same for the NT in 1555 CE.]

Jesus is giving us a parable, though in real terms. Everyone in Judea knew about shepherds and sheep. The land was too mountains for crop production, so sheep and goats, dates, olives, and grapes were the agricultural operations.

It is unusual for Jesus to open a parable with a negative, but it is not so surprising when we look back at the conflict with the Pharisees (they are still facing him during this parable). It should not be a shock to say that a thief and a robber refers to those Pharisees.

In the Daily Bible Study, William Barclay wrote, In Palestine no flock ever grazes without a shepherd, and the shepherd is never off duty. There is little grass, and the sheep are bound to wander far afield. There are no protecting walls, and the sheep have ever to be watched.  . . . The shepherd’s task was constant and dangerous, for, in addition, he had to guard the flock against wild animals, especially against wolves, and there were ever thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep.

The shepherd image describing God is familiar in the OT. David, the shepherd boy, became King David. Yet, actual shepherds in the first century were low on the social ranks. Little wonder when they spent months without bathing or changing their clothes. Few of them ever entered a synagogue or the Temple.

The one who enters by the door. The walls were three feet or more in height so the sheep could not jump out. There was one entrance called the door or gate through which the shepherd led the sheep. He would then lie down in the doorway to sleep and prevent the seep from escaping. Most of the time several shepherds would use the same enclosure and one of them would sleep in the door while the others would walk to down for more food, returning to help guard. The shepherd would lead his flock to a keep made of stone in the evening.

For Jesus’ parable, the door is the key to understanding his point. Sheep have strong herd instincts and will follow their leader almost anywhere. They know the person leading them and follow without question. They follow the dominant ram in the wild, but domesticated sheep depend on people.

For Jesus to claim to be the door means his sheep, we humans, will follow him through the door to God’s Kingdom. But we must know his voice. Those who do not know Jesus—more accurately, believe in him—will not follow him and, like goats, will go their own way. See Matthew 25:31-33, where Jesus expands the parable.

Many Christians believe that Jesus created parables, but that is not true. Jewish teachers, later called rabbis, told parables to teach difficult lessons through the centuries. Many of the parables Jesus told were variations on one’s rabbis used in the first century. Jesus heard them growing up and used them for his teachings.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Evangelical Heritage Version

Over the centuries, Christians studying John have taken seven of the sayings of Jesus that begin with I am as crucial to his Christology and theology. The first was the bread of life (John 6:35), and the second was the light (John 8:12). Now we have number three: I am the door for the sheep.

Doors do two things; they allow access to the interior and prevent entry to outsiders. Naturally, it is not that simple in the real world, but that is the basic idea upon which Jesus expands.

His first point is that many have come preaching and teaching, but the people have ignored them. He might mean the Pharisees and leaders standing in front of him. The word all gives us some trouble. The Greek has the same all-inclusive meaning as our English word. Does Jesus mean Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and even the Baptizer are thieves and robbers?

No. Jesus means Jeroboam and Rehoboam and all the corrupt kings to follow. All the centuries of false prophets, teachers, and, yes, the rabbis and Pharisees before him. Those who are faithful to God stand with Jesus.

Jesus tells us that entering through him is the only way to get in, but enter what? He never says Heaven in this speech, but when we follow him to the cross and beyond, his meaning is crystal clear; for those who believe. The last sentence of verse 10 does point in that direction.

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. ESV

We now have the fourth I am by Jesus. All seven repeat the name God gave to Moses in Exodus 3:14. 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” NIV

Now Jesus points to his crucifixion with, lays down his life for the sheep. No one would have realized it at the time, not even his inner disciples, but they remembered his words when they saw the risen Jesus. His disciples and the others who heard his words that day envisioned the heroic shepherd who would fight off a wolf with his staff. While shepherds were looked down on socially, people respected them for their dedication and bravery.

It is natural to ask, ‘who is the hired hand?’ I do not think Jesus would say that the rabbis and Pharisees were hires. He would say they were misguided, but they worked hard at what they thought God wanted them to do. Here, Jesus may simply be using the common notion of a day worker who has no devotion to the job.

I think the hired hands of today would be people who seldom read the Bible or attend church but consider themselves authorities on Christian living. For the most part, they care little for the followers of Jesus; they seek to preserve their sense of righteousness. They are not thieves and robbers, but they have only fair-weather faith.

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. NET 

The earthly relationship between a shepherd and the sheep is one of knowing; they know each other and understand each other. Just as the sheep know very little about the shepherd, we know very little about the Son of God. By reading the Gospels, we get a good picture of the Son of Man, but that is merely a glimpse of God.

Jesus tells us that God knows His Son and His Son knows Him. We then can understand God better than people could before the birth of Jesus. Before we get puffed up, we are like sheep compared to Jesus and perhaps like rocks compared to God.

16 “And I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. I must lead these also, and they will hear my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd. Phillips

We do not know how the Pharisees and Temple leaders took this statement. It seems likely that they thought Jesus meant the Jews living in Egypt, Greece, and the Empire. For those of us who have read to the end, he talked about Samaritans and Gentiles. Many were called God-fearing by the Jews; they were just waiting to hear the voice of the Good Shephard.

There are today 2.382 billion Christians who belong to one of the hundreds of denominations worldwide. Sadly, infighting began even before John wrote the Fourth Gospel; it was one of the reasons for writing it.

The Coptic Church, headquartered in Ciro, Egypt, was founded by the Apostle Mark in 42 CE. Early records support the history and the discovery of Coptic language scriptures dating to the early second century in Egypt, one being the Gospel of John, also supporting the history.

More than 45,000 sheep folds belong to Jesus in the world today. Jesus visits each in different languages and cultures, but always with the same level of love and grace.

17 This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. 18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father.” NET

William Barclay states three things we learn from this passage. 1) It tells us that Jesus saw His whole life as an act of obedience to God. 2) It tells us that Jesus always saw the Cross and the glory together. 3) It tells us in a way that we cannot possibly mistake that Jesus’ death was entirely voluntary.

It would be easy for us to believe that Jesus, as the Son of God, could do what he wanted to do, but that is not what he tells in the Gospels. While on earth living the life of a human, he never turned away from God. He never had to repent, as we always need to do. There are thousands of stories from the last two millenniums of people who were so dedicated to doing the work of God that they allowed themselves to die for Him. But Jesus was totally different; Jesus did his assigned work perfectly. He never did anything wrong. He never misunderstood anyone else’s meaning or took their actions to be other than what it meant. Unlike every other human who has ever lived, he did not deserve to die.

We know almost nothing about Jesus before he began his ministry, other than that time in the Temple when he was twelve, so we cannot say he always knew execution waited for him. But it does seem safe to say he knew it by the time he began his ministry. His every word and action prepared for the day he would report for his execution. The Jews did not kill Jesus; he encouraged them to take his life because it was God’s plan for our salvation. If he had not died on the cross, he could not have taken my sins with him to the Father of Lies and told him to keep my sins and report to the Lake of Fire.

19 Once again, the Jews were in two minds about him because of these words, 20 many of them remarking, “The devil’s in him and he’s insane. Why do you listen to him?” 21 But others were saying, “This is not the sort of thing a devil-possessed man would say! Can a devil make a blind man see?” Phillips

This repeated exchange of the Pharisees and others who listened to Jesus adds no new information but does connect us again to healing the blind man. Can a devil make a blind man see? How could that statement not convince the Pharisee scholars of the Word of God?

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” ESV

At the beginning of chapter 7, we read that Jesus decided to attend the Feast of the Tabernacles. Everything in 7, 8, 9, and 10 through verse 21 occurs at the time of that Festival in the fall.

Suddenly, we find ourselves in winter, December on our calendar. Several attempts have been made to stone Jesus or arrest him; all failed because of the protection of God. Yet, the four-chapter conflict continues.

The Feast of Dedication is now called Hanukkah and sometimes the Festival of Lights. In Jesus’ time, it had an essential subtext of Jewish independence. We should note that John has placed Jesus during events surrounding the Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles, and now Dedication. All the Feasts and Festivals were so important to God that He dictated details about them Four Times!

We Christians understand Passover to save Hebrew children in Egypt and of all children with the Passover death of the Son of Man. We also, sort of, observe Sabbath, even if not on the right day. It is a day dedicated to God. The Feast of Tabernacles includes the celebration of the fall harvest of grapes and other fruit. It is the third harvest feast. The first, Passover, celebrates the barley harvest. Pentecost celebrates the wheat harvest. The first day after Passover, the priests thrashed barley as the first harvest. That day, Jesus rose from the grave as the first harvest of souls. The first day of Pentecost was celebrated with a loaf of wheat bread as the Holy Spirit blessed the disciples. The Tabernacles involves the final harvest of all human souls.

Many have argued that John blamed the Jews for killing Jesus and gave up being Jewish. This Gospel is replete with Jewish references, and we should be watching for them. Like Paul, I believe that John remained a Jew who followed Jesus.

Why does John bother to mention the colonnade of Solomon? Solomon was the son of David, and Jesus was also the son of David. He will be [is] the new King in the line of David. The other important symbol is that the authorities attacked King Jesus in the hall of the first son to replace King David.

‘Are you the Messiah?’ The authorities (not all Jews) decided to attack straight on. Jesus had used a great deal of OT language that led them to believe he was claiming that title, but they wanted him to say it openly so they could arrest him and end his threat to them.

Many passages describe the image of God as the Good Shepherd. Some of the prophets linked the image to the Messiah that God would send to clean up the world once-for-all-time. When Jesus stated he was the Good Shepherd, few Jews could doubt that he claimed the unique OT title linking himself to the Messiah and God.

25 “I have told you,” replied Jesus, “and you do not believe it. What I have done in my Father’s name is sufficient to prove my claim, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep recognise my voice and I know who they are. They follow me and 28 I give them eternal life. They will never die and no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. And no one can tear anything out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are One.” Phillips

Jesus is again repeating himself. ‘I have told you.’ As a classroom teacher, I experienced the same deaf ear every day. ‘Turn to page thirty.’ ‘What page?’ I was not always as patient as Jesus.

We see Jesus returning to the sheep metaphor, linking it to the early part of the chapter. ‘You are not my sheep; you do not have ears to hear.’ Domestic sheep are not known for their intelligence, so what does that say about the Pharisees and Temple authorities?

Verse 30, I and the Father are One. They wanted Jesus to claim to be the Messiah, but he went a giant step beyond that by claiming to be, if not God, then very like God.

Karen Jobes writes this about verse 30. Jesus claims to be of one nature with God the Father but yet distinguishable from him as a person. As Larry Hurtado explains, no New Testament writer “simply collapses the distinction between Jesus and God ‘the Father’” in a way that “flatly identifies Jesus as Yahweh of the Old Testament.”

Jobes continues with, in response to the challenge in 10:24, Jesus makes three points: (1) he has the authority to protect the sheep; (2) his Father has given him that authority and, therefore, his authority is equal to the Father’s; (3) the Father and Jesus are concurrently doing the same work.

I will let William Barclay have the last word on the verse. As usual, he focuses on the central idea and expresses it succinctly. Jesus’ unity with God came from the twin facts of perfect love and perfect obedience. He was one with God because He loved God perfectly and obeyed God perfectly. And He came to this world to make us what He is.

31 The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death. 32 Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.” NET

Stoning was a common way to deal with ‘wrong’ people throughout the Empire. But blasphemy as a specific charge is not straightforward in the OT. Leviticus 24:10-23 and 1Kings 21:8-13 are the only two passages that speak of it specifically. In Leviticus, the crime uses the tetragrammaton (Yahweh) instead of the substitute Adonai. Yahweh is printed in Hebrew but never spoken aloud. In the 1 Kings account, he ‘reviled’ God. Perhaps the Pharisees are saying that Jesus said nasty things about God.

Jesus would have been aware of the confusion in the OT, and he would have known what God intended. Further, Jesus knew what the leaders intended. He puts them off with his question about good deeds done by God.

I can hear them huffing and puffing. Notice the leaders accepted the idea that Jesus had done good deeds. ‘No, no, not a good deed.’ Look at their charge: ‘you are claiming to be God.’ Even so, neither passage of the OT mentions claiming to be God as blasphemy. Their inditement misrepresents Jesus’ statement that he and God are bound together.

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” ESV

Jesus says your Law. He is speaking of all the additions the Pharisees have made. Jesus said, in Matthew 5, 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill themNIV By fulfilling the Law, Jesus meant he was going to abolish all the human additions, getting back to the Law of God.

Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6. I had taken you for divine beings, sons of the Most High, all of you. JSB The Septuagint reads, I said, ‘Gods you are, and sons of the Most High.’  This is most likely the version nearly all Jews knew and used.

The meaning is not agreed upon but falls into two main camps. ‘Gods’ refers to lesser divine beings who were to keep the world running smoothly but failed; or, ‘gods’ refers to kings and other leaders of nations who failed in their duties given to them by God.

Job 1:One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. Job 2: 1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. Job 38: 7while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

This whole paragraph has Jesus using tightly linked logic. By using this Psalm, Jesus seems to be connecting the authorities with the ‘gods’ who failed in the past. Those ‘gods’ received the Word of God but failed to obey. He also uses this short text to show that God the Father created gods/rulers. Scripture records it, so you Pharisees cannot deny it. Therefore, how can I, Jesus, commit blasphemy when God the Father sent me? I have proven that God sent me by doing the good deeds he sent me to do.

His logic failed to convince them.

39-42 They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers. He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and stayed there. A lot of people followed him over. They were saying, “John did no miracles, but everything he said about this man has come true.” Many believed in him then and there. MSG

We cannot know how Jesus escaped, more than once too. He was building up the case against himself so that he would be sure to go to the cross when God decided it was time.

GJohn gives us a beautiful image by having Jesus return to the site of his baptism by his cousin, the Baptizer. The Baptizer had been his first witness. Now people who followed the Baptizer witnessed to one another by repeating what the Baptizer had said. Jesus has come full circle.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence