Posts Tagged ‘Carson’
John 17:1-5 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 76)
1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
DA Carson wrote, “To see God’s glory, to be given eternal life—these are parallel, and, lest the reader miss the point, the two themes are drawn together in v. 3. Eternal life turns on nothing more and nothing less than knowledge of the true God. Eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One” (The Gospel According to John, 556).
The first thing that must be remembered about what is preserved for us in John 17 is the nature of what is said. That is, John 17 is not merely a history or a biography or a transcript of some conversation or parable of Jesus (I’m not implying that those things are bad or inferior.) What I’m concerned about here is this: If Jesus is who he claimed to be in John’s Gospel, namely, the Great I Am, and here in John 17 he is praying, then what a prayer this is! Furthermore, we should take careful note of his words, the what of his prayer. The what, though, is only important to the extent that we understand the who and the how.
Simply put: This is the Great I Am praying a prayer! It seems to me to be of utmost importance to pay close attention to this prayer, but as prayer before content. What are the words that Jesus uses? What are the ambitions he prayers for? What is he concerned enough about to pray for? What matters to him when he prays? And, if this is true, are his concerns important enough that perhaps we should model our own prayers after his? Bryan Chapell has written a little book called Praying Backwards: Transform your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name. In the introduction he writes,
“How would your prayer change if you began where you normally end? We habitually end our prayers with the phrase ‘In Jesus’ name, Amen.’…When we pray ‘in Jesus’ name,’ we pray for his sake more than our own. We still present our desires and concerns to God, but we do so in the context of yielding our priorities to Christ’s priorities. The final phrase of our prayer reminds us, as well as commits us, to submit all our requests to the glory of God. Yet that is not always the way we pray. Often we focus on asking God to ease our worries and satisfy our wants before adding ‘in Jesus’ name’ as an obligatory spiritual seasoning to make our petitions palatable to God” (13).
If that is true, then shouldn’t the content of our prayers be the content of Jesus’ prayers? Should we not imitate the one who taught his disciples to pray? This is precisely the point of Don Carson’s book A Call to Spiritual Reformation even though Carson expands the well of content to include the prayers of the apostle Paul that are scattered throughout his writings. Carson writes that the ‘greatest need for churches today is a deeper knowledge of God’ (15). Carson says that when we pray the prayers of the New Testament our prayer priorities change—he believes that we actually start knowing God better. How can this be? Well, if Scripture is the Word of God, God breathed, then what better thing than to pray the very thoughts of God back to God? The shape of our prayers change, the content of the prayers change, the priorities change. I might go so far as to suggest that even our posture will change. Certainly our attitude will change. Perhaps then our prayers will be more lucid, less frenetic, less frantic. Perhaps we will be more trusting in God’s Sovereignty.
“….Jesus is not like a genie in a bottle whom we can command by invoking his name. When we pray, we should be doing more than looking heavenward, believing with all our might that our wish will come true, and instead of repeating, ‘star light, star bright, bring the wish I wish tonight,’ saying, ‘In Jesus’ name, amen.’ Two problems immediately arise when we treat prayer like a surefire wishing star. First, we limit God by the wisdom of our wishes…The second problem with making prayer a wishing well is forcing the conclusion that prayers, like wishing wells, are fantasies…When we pray ‘in Jesus’ name,’ we have the assurance that he will answer our prayer in a way that brings glory to Jesus and furthers his kingdom” (13-14, 15).
So the idea of praying the Scripture is not so far-fetched after all and it makes all the more sense when we see the way that Jesus prayed. What comes first? Does a renewed recipe, invigorated content, of prayer lead to a renewed vision of the Greatness of Christ? Or does a renewed vision of the Greatness of Christ lead to renewed recipe and invigorated content in our prayers? Maybe it is somehow linked together in ways we don’t really understand.
What about the content, then, of Jesus’ prayer in John 17? Well, if the content of this prayer doesn’t revitalize our content and renew our vision I suspect very little will. Let’s look at it briefly.
First, Jesus was concerned about God’s glory, and not his own. Yes, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your Son, in order that…” Jesus is not concerned about himself. He is concerned about God’s glory—an important theme in John’s Gospel (see 12:27-34). Jesus’ first prayer priority is the Glory of God. When you pray, is this always your priority? Is this always your first request, petition, thanksgiving, and prayer?
Second, Jesus was concerned with the things of eternity. “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” Jesus is not merely concerned with the temporal. His plans are ambitious so to speak. He has a grand vision. I think sometimes our prayers on earth are far too temporal, far too mundane, far too ‘things of man, not things of God.’ Just imagine for a minute: The Son of God prayed about our eternal destiny. He prayed the big picture—do we?
Third, Jesus prayed that we might know God: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” Carson is surely right: Eternal life is not just about living or existing. Someone commented the other day, “Won’t we get bored doing all that eternal living?” My question is, “How could we get bored spending an eternity knowing the Infinite God? How could our knowledge of Him, His mysteries, and Jesus Christ ever be exhausted?” Surely this is eternal life! Surely, this is Living!
Fourth, Jesus again prays about the glory of God and about “…completing the work you gave me to do.” But even this work that Jesus prayed about was still very concerned with God being glorified. Maybe sometimes we pray that God will help us finish or we do finish something just so it can be done or so we can get some praise for ourselves. Jesus says that he finished the work God gave him to do so that God would be glorified. This is a difficult lesson to get into our heads, but get it into our hearts we must. What greater work can we be about than the work of bringing glory to the Name of God?
Fifth, Jesus prays very simply, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” So we understand that Jesus gave up something in order to come here. I can’t imagine this because we humans cling tenaciously to what little glory we have. A little lower than the angels we may be, but we are not going any lower (and fight with the angels if we could)! We are just not as able to let go and let God. Jesus did just that. Can you imagine being strong enough to so entrust yourself to God? Can you imagine being so emptied of pride, ambition, and self that you pray, “Father, I’ll leave it up to you to glorify me in whatever way you choose”?
Thus it comes full circle. Jesus begins by praying that God be glorified, his prayer is filled with concern for God’s glory, and he ends with God’s glory. It does make one wonder amidst the prayers for healing, bill paying and world peace where God’s glory fits in doesn’t it? And if we dare to suggest such a thing as God’s glory is more important, most important, we are ridiculed and God’s Name is blasphemed. But God’s glory will not be surrendered, nor will it be sacrificed, and it makes perfectly logical sense that our prayers will be filled with this same priority as Jesus’ was.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15″Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
This scene must have been utterly amazing and ironic. There in the shadow of Rome, filled with Roman soldiers, sat Jerusalem: The City of God. This iconic place was the great city of the king, the city of David. There on the hill sat the temple: Grand and Mighty, spectacular. There were the pilgrims ascending the mountain into Jerusalem: Singing the Psalms, shouting joyous Hosannas and quoting from the prophets. They were celebrating the arrival of their great King, their General, the Long Awaited Messiah. There was no doubt now about Jesus: The [miraculous] sign of raising Lazarus had sold them on Jesus: The whole world had gone after him!
And the news was spreading.
I wish I could have been there and seen it. It had to be one of the most amazing things human eyes had ever seen. What a triumphant scene! And I wonder what people were thinking as Jesus entered into Jersusalem? I wonder if they thought something like, “Finally, now the Romans will be summarily dismissed, conquered, defeated, overthrown! Now we will take our place and David’s throne will be restored!” I don’t know if they thought that, but maybe they did: “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Later on someone else would make reference to the ‘King of Israel.’ They would say, “We have no King but Caesar!” People are so strangely fickle like that. Pilate also had some thoughts on the ‘King of Israel’: Above Jesus on the cross, “Here is the King of the Jews” he wrote in three mocking languages.
The King of the Jews. It’s hard to comprehend sometimes the breadth of such a statement. It was the miracle of Lazarus’ raising that provoked this rally-cry. The whole world, evidently, was shouting it too. Either that or the Pharisees were speaking hyperbolically. But where was that ‘whole world’ later? What happened to the ‘whole world’ when Jesus was on trial, being crucified, dying? The ‘whole world’ was easily swayed and as lite as dust in the wind.
Well the Pharisees had to do something. They were losing; big time. The whole world was going after Jesus! I sense that their angst was fueled in part by their ongoing loss of an audience. Jesus was getting more and more and more attention and that is what was making them supremely angry. They were jealous.
Let’s be honest: People are still jealous of Jesus. Muslims are jealous of Jesus. They are jealous that there are some Christians who simply refuse to convert to Islam and would rather be put to death than to give Jesus’ glory to another.
Film makers are jealous of Jesus so they go out of their way to make the most offensive films possible. They simply cannot stand the fact that there are people in the world who refuse to be indoctrinated with their propaganda against Christianity. John Lennon was jealous of Jesus one time too. More recently, Kathy Griffen was.
I think some Christians are jealous of Jesus too. So in their efforts to steal back some glory for themselves, they do everything but preach the Gospel of Christ crucified. They preach about how to have better sex or how to run a better business or other such things. Some preachers, I contend, simply cannot accept the fact that the cross is the center of the Christian faith and that Jesus Christ Crucified and thus go out of their way to avoid it. It’s all jealousy.
DA Carson asks, “Is the cross truly at the center of your ministry?” (See his The Cross and Christian Ministry). I agree, and I’ll take it perhaps step further: If it’s not, then your ministry is purely and simply not Christian. That sounds harsh, but I didn’t say it. The Scripture did: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I take this at face value, prima facia. I might ask, “If it was enough for Paul, how much more for us?”
There are many other Christians who are jealous of Jesus too. They are the ones who simply cannot understand the absolute claim that Christ has on their lives. They cannot understand that Jesus calls the Christian to unconditional surrender. They cannot understand that Jesus makes a categorical claim on our existence. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. But those who insist on living their own way, in denial and in spite of Scripture, which is the Word of Christ, are living lives in competition with Jesus Christ. They are fighting a battle that they simply are unable to win.
‘Kicking against the goads’ is how Jesus worded it to Paul.
I’m not about saying that this unconditional surrender is easy or even comprehensible. I’m not saying we can do it in our own strength. I’m not saying we can do it at all. I am saying, however, that it is very apparent those who still ‘kicking against the pricks’ (Johnny Cash’s paraphrase). I think perhaps over time we learn how to completely surrender to Jesus as he continues to take back ground that we gave up to the control of the Enemy.
I hope I have not made too much of a leap, but we also know exactly what path the Pharisees took because of their jealousy of Jesus. We know what direction they went because the ‘whole world went after Jesus.’ I don’t know which is more ironic here: The whole world going after a man riding a donkey or the rest of the world jealous of it.
And imagine how surprised all of them were when Jesus didn’t fight back.
All along there was a group of people following along who were bewildered by all this: Jesus’ disciples. They simply did not know what to make of any of this “blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” and “Blessed is the King of Israel,” and “Hosanna!” I suppose it all must have looked very strange to this group of folks.
Yet they persisted. They kept following perhaps out of curiosity or because they were swept up in the crowd as it went along. Later, however, these things made sense. But where? “Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” ‘Glorified’ here, I think, means when he was crucified. Only, then, through the cross does any of this make sense. It’s only when we, too, put ourselves in a position to look at all that happened in light of the cross will it make sense. I can’t exactly explain it. All I know is that if I live my life in competition with Jesus I will always be jealous. And if I live my life as if Jesus is the conqueror of everyone but me I will always be disappointed and later shout that I belong to someone else.
But if I follow, sometimes confused and bewildered, and keep the cross before me and understand Jesus in light of the cross and understand myself in light of the cross, then all this nonsense starts to make sense. In light of the cross unconditional surrender makes sense. In light of the cross all the irony makes sense. In light of the cross Jesus’ absolute claim on my every breath is perfectly clear. In light of the cross, Scripture makes sense. Paul even writes later that it is only in Christ that the Scripture makes complete sense (see 2 Corinthians 3-4).
This is why we preach the cross. Any other sort of preaching will leave us empty, hollow, and under a complete misapprehension about who Jesus is and what he demands of us. We go to the cross. Only after Jesus was glorified did all this King talk and donkey riding and Pharisee plotting make any sense. And I think this too: If your life makes no sense, try viewing your life from the cross. There it will make sense, be understood, and become.
20 Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let those who boast boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31, NIV)
Soli Deo Gloria!
ps–only 31 Days to go!
[Friends, I am sorry I have not posted these for a while. I will do better this week. Unfortunately, I got a wee bit sidetracked in some conversations with certain unbelievers. Check back for more this week.–jerry]
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 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.” 40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
“Because death, as we have seen, is fundamentally God’s impose limitation on human arrogance, his stern ‘thus far, and no farther,’ the deepest terror of death is being cut off from him forever. But where there is reconciliation with God, where faith in the Son of God and his death on the cross has brought a man or woman into vital union with the living God himself, death no longer holds all its old threats. Death has not yet been abolished, but it has been stripped of its power. ‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law’ (1 Cor. 15:56); but where sin is atoned for, and the curse of the law set aside by one who died in our place, we respond, ‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). (DA Carson, How Long O Lord, 114-115)
Jesus is still angry at death in verse 38. “Once more” indicates that He is experiencing the same outrage that He experienced just prior. But I like Jesus’ approach: Deeply outraged, he came to the tomb. Jesus approaches death head on. This is no time to turn back, no time to be afraid. Here we have a preview of the Cross: Jesus confronts death on its own turf. Jesus came to the tomb. It reminds me of the story of Jesus going to the region of the Gerasenes and confronting the man named ‘Legion’ who ‘lived among the tombs.’ Isn’t it encouraging to know that Jesus is not afraid to go straight into the graveyard and confront death?
Now in this case things are a bit different from Jesus’ own resurrection. In Jesus resurrection the stone was rolled away not to let someone out, but rather to let someone (the apostles, and certain woman) in. In this case, the stone is rolled away to let someone out. So the stone is taken away. Some objected. If the stone were to be taken away, we might be offended by what’s inside the grave. But Jesus dismisses this concern, which I take to mean that not only was Jesus about to give Lazarus back to his family and friends, but that he has also reversed the causes of decomposition that would cause Lazarus to emit strong ‘death odors’ in the first place. This resurrection was the real deal: Lazarus was made completely alive by Jesus.
In this miracle Martha, Lazarus’ sister, saw the glory of God. Jesus always did that which pleased the Father and this miracle, this sign, was certainly no different. In bringing Lazarus back to life Jesus put His Father on display: Through his power, his prayer, and through this sign people were able to see exactly who Jesus was. Jesus says as much in his prayer: I say and do these things so that people will know that You Sent me. This is the stated goal of the book as recorded in John 20:30-31: That people believe in Jesus and have life in His name. I suspect, and I believe, that this is still the purpose behind the retelling of this sign: That we might believe in Jesus. After all, if Jesus can and did raise Lazarus from the dead after four days, how much more can we expect him to raise us from the grave also? And then we will shout: Praise be to God!
Why did Jesus shout Lazarus’ name when he called him out of the tomb? Someone suggested, and I don’t have a source, that if Jesus had just yelled ‘come out’ that everyone in all the tombs would have come out that day! Jesus had to make certain, the logic goes, that only the one he wanted to come out came out: That being Lazarus. And then the dead man Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus and came out of the tomb. He said elsewhere that a day would come when the dead in Christ would hear his voice and come out of their graves. There will come a day when we too, like Lazarus, will resurrect to the new and glorious dawn! Our hope is this: We will not be left orphans of the grave, but we have hope that someday we will hear the shout and the blast of the last trumpet and we raise to walk once and forever in the glorious Name of Jesus.
I don’t know how Lazarus came out of the tomb. Was he carried along by the Spirit? The Bible says his feet were bond with strips of linen and thus it would have been rather difficult for him to walk. Carson suggests that perhaps Lazarus would have had to shuffle along or hop. Imagine that picture for a minute. Imagine Lazarus being called out of the tomb: He hears the voice of Jesus, he sits up in darkness, throws his legs over the edge, tries to walk but falls down, then decides to hop out of the tomb! It might have been humorous and you know what, I hope it was. You see, I cannot imagine a scene such as this being a scene of anything but joy and happiness. I imagine that all the tears stopped, the wailing ceased, the moaning and mourning halted. I’m a bit surprised Jesus had to instruct them to take Lazarus’ grave clothes off his face and body, but perhaps they all stood around in utter disbelief and surprise. What could they do? This was something beyond imagination, beyond expectation. No one that day expected Jesus to do what he did.
I’m not sure people expect it today either and that’s why we are all like Lazarus before he was called out of the tomb: Wrapped in grave clothes that we refuse to take off. I think we spend too much time preparing for death and not nearly enough time preparing for life. So how many want to be buried naked because they anticipate getting new clothes? How many want their caskets left open, unlocked, because they expect to be called out by Jesus? I do. I have very few expectations about life except this one: I want to be called out of the tomb by Jesus’ voice. I want to hear my name called. I want to hear his voice. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. I’m banking on it. I have no other expectation or hope in this world except to be called out by Jesus from my earthly tomb. I don’t want to have to even waste time taking off my grave clothes so that I can get back to my living clothes: Just bury me naked.
Perhaps it is a bit over the edge, but what else can it be? Jesus said if we believe in Him we will have life and he will raise us up at the last day. I’m not interested in living life so that I can merely die some day and be done with it. I don’t want to live and live and live and die. I don’t want death to be my epitaph or have the last word on or in my life. I don’t want the last thing I hear to be the funeral director clicking the locks on my casket. I want the first thing I hear when I take my last breath, to be my name spoken by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Bright and Morning Star. I have this hope; so do all who hope in Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I just finished reading DA Carson’s How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. This is a well written book (as all of Carson’s books are) and it is a good introduction to the subjects of suffering and evil. I came across this paragraph near the end of the book and I thought that you might enjoy it:
The sad truth is that science has taught many of us to adopt some version of the ‘God-of-the-gaps theory.’ In this view, God sets everything in motion and allows it to chug along in line with the laws that he himself sets in place. But every once in a while God intervenes. He actually does something. We call it a miracle.
Biblically speaking, of course, this is nonsense. I would never deny that God has created an ordered universe. But the biblical view of God’s sovereignty is that even now, at every second, he sustains the universe. Indeed, he now mediates every scrap of the infinite reaches of his sovereignty through his Son (1 Cor. 15:25), who now is ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Heb 1:3). A miracle is not an instance of God doing something for change; it is an instance of God doing something out of the ordinary. That God normally operates the universe consistently makes science possible; that he does not always do so ought to keep science humble. Above all, this view of God’s sovereignty means that we should draw comfort and faith even by observing the world around us–as Jesus did.” (216-217)
I thought this would be a good reminder to everyone who visits of just exactly where we stand in this world. Thank God that all things are held together in Jesus. Thank God for Jesus: The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thank God for salvation through Christ alone. Thank God for his mighty work of Creation. Thank God for evolatheists who remind us each day of the wonders of our hope in Christ and the Will of God.
Thank God that the suffering and evil in this world is not entirely without meaning. Thank God that though we have trouble in this world we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.
Soli Deo Gloria!
28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34″Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Death. It is a terrible word. It is a word that makes me shudder with apprehension, recoil in disbelief, grow nauseated in disgust. Death is not a happy word. Down through the ages, death has reigned. Ever since the Garden. Sadly, evolution has not found a way for man or any creature to overcome death. “It is appointed for each man [person] to die once, and after that face judgment.” We live each day, each moment, with the prospect that death is looming large, like a shadow we cannot escape. Death is always near. And death’s purpose is very clear: It is hungry, never satisfied, always lurking, waiting, hoping for another taste, another victory. Then came along one day Someone who changed all that. Along came One who turned death’s purposes upside down. One day, Someone came along and used death. Oh, yes. He used death to accomplish His own ends. Thus death became a tool, a pawn, another piece of the plan.
“For the believer, the time of death becomes far less daunting a factor when seen in the light of eternity. We have already seen that, granted we lived under the sentence of death, the exact timing seems less foreboding a subject that it does for people who feel that threescore years and ten are their due. But now something more positive can be introduced. Although death remains an enemy, an outrage, a sign of judgment, a reminder of sin, and a formidable opponent, it is, from another perspective, the portal through which we pass to consummated life. We pass through death, and death dies. Christians whose hope is genuinely lodged in what it means to be ‘for ever with the Lord’ cannot contemplate what the world would see as premature death with the same indignation. Indeed, from one perspective, such death is a great blessing.” (DA Carson, How Long O Lord, 133)
Along came Jesus.
You see, death was never part of the plan. Life was the plan. That’s why God put in the Garden the Tree of Life and not the Tree of Death. Although he certain gave an option in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: On the day you eat of it you will surely die. And die they did. It is perplexing though why, even then, we were more intrigued by death than we were consumed with life. But for some reason, that day, the day of Adam and Eve, they were hungry for something they had not before tasted: Death. So they ate; and all were satisfied.
I’m not a big fan of death. I have no particular interest in involving myself in any studies of death any time soon. I have no particular reason to want to do a thesis paper on death or write a doctoral dissertation on death. I don’t happen to think that Jesus was particularly enamored with death either: Death was, to Jesus, the greatest enemy. And part of his work on this earth was to destroy that enemy once and for all.
Mary said the same thing to Jesus that Martha had said: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Neither Mary nor Martha knew that it was precisely because Jesus wasn’t there that their brother would live.
Jesus looks around and what does he see? He sees scores of people weeping and grieving and mourning. Great distress had overtaken these people at the death of Lazarus. Jesus saw it and, John tells us, He was ‘agitated and angry.’ He was terrible bent out of shape, so to speak. He saw this death of Lazarus and he was outraged at the hubris of death, enraged at the coldness of death, beside himself at the capriciousness of death. Death is no friend of humanity and Jesus makes that known by his actions. Jesus was not weeping because he had lost a good friend or because he saw the others weeping at their lost friend. Remember: Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do (see verse 4). Jesus was weeping here at the outrageousness of death, at the implacability of death, at the violence of death. But even they misunderstood Jesus’ tears that day.
You see our greatest enemy is death. And can you imagine that the Son of God saw that and wept?
But many in this life are still on course for communion with death. People continue to lead reckless lives that are filled with the same hubris and madness that characterized Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden. People are hungry for death and they don’t even take time to notice how offensive death is. They court death. They taunt death. They sneer at death. What they don’t do, sadly, is take time to realize that death can be, has been, and will be overcome at last. What evolution has failed to do: increase life expectancy to any significant degree, Christ has done. What evolution has failed to accomplish: the defeat of death entirely, Christ has done completely.
We preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in the hopes that more and more people will realize that death is conquered only in Christ. That apart from Christ, people are living dead, dying while they are walking, dead before they die. My hope is that all people will surrender to Christ and rise to walk in newness of life. Jesus hates death, and only Jesus has the power to do anything about it. As he will show us in our next meditation.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Friends, I do apologize for the delay in publishing these meditations. I have been sorting out some other details of life and work, not to mention the kids are going back to school soon, and I have been preoccupied. I shall endeavor to continue publishing these until we have reached our goal.–jerry
1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4When 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.” 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8″But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
“However hard some things are to understand, it is never helpful to start picking and choosing biblical truths we find congenial, as if the Bible is an open-shelved supermarket where we are at perfect liberty to choose only the chocolate bars. For the Christian, it is God’s Word, and it is not negotiable. What answers we find may not be exhaustive, but they give us the God who is there, and who gives us some measure of comfort and assurance. The alternative is a god we manufacture, and who provides no comfort at all. Whatever comfort we feel is self-delusion, and it will be stripped away at the end when we give an account to the God who has spoken to us, not only in Scripture, but supremely in his Son Jesus Christ.”—(DA Carson, How Long O Lord? 95)
And what we are presented with in John 11 is perhaps confounding; we may not like what we read, who we see, what we learn. Here is Jesus: He learns of a sick friend and he, God, delayed. He waited. He didn’t rush right off and help his friend. We are confronted in these Scriptures with the God of the delay, the God who makes us wait, the God who did not answer in their time a request for help.
Yet we are also confronted with a God who, in his wisdom, knows that no matter what we see on earth, what He knows and does is more powerful. He was always concerned with doing God’s will, what pleased God (8:29). I have to venture a guess here and say that this delay pleased God. Indeed 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.” Much of this was said of another, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (9:3). I think this is the hardest aspect of life for most people to come to grips with, this notion of God ‘using’ us for his own glory. We think things like, “How can God be glorified in allowing a man to be born blind? How can God be glorified by delaying for two more days and allowing a friend to die when it is within his power to heal him even from a long distance? What sort of God is so mean, so cruel, so capricious as to value his own glory more than the well-being of man?”
It is not as difficult of a philosophical problem as we might at first think. Fact is, the Bible begins this way: “In the Beginning God…” Fact is, the universe exists because of God, for the glory of God. I suspect that is why the Bible begins the way it begins. It is not a theological problem either. We exist to bring glory to God and we do so in whatever way he chooses for it to happen. But this God is no mean or capricious God. No, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The delay is thus a problem only for those who cannot accept that this universe belongs to God. The delay was a calculated move on the part of Jesus to a) please the Father, b) bring glory to the Father, c) do a greater miracle than just healing Lazarus. The humanist cannot reconcile this in his head; the Christian must.
Why must we? Because then we understand that there will be times in our lives too when God has called us to wait. It is a matter of being willing to say, “Lord whatever it takes to please you, to honor you, to glorify you.” It is a calculated move on our part to deliberately wait on the Lord, to cast our cares on Him, to trust in the Lord with all of our heart. But are we willing to ‘permit’ the delay that God may be glorified? Is God’s glory more important to us than our own comfort? This is the position of the martyrs who with uplifted hands endure the scourge of the enemies of God in order that they too may bring glory to God. This is the point that Jesus made later about himself and his friend Peter. Jesus will say in chapter 12: “Now my heart is trouble, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Jesus showed us the path: He would be crucified to bring Glory to the Father’s Name. He said the same thing would be true of Peter (John 21:17-19). We must ask ourselves, and pray to God: “Do I have enough weakness to allow God to glorify himself in me, regardless of what it costs? Father, give us strength!”
Jesus knew he was going to do something that no one else knew: He knew he was going to raise Lazarus. He purposely waited until Lazarus was dead to go to him. Can we wait? Will we wait?
I’m not saying that this is an easy idea or practice. Waiting on the Lord is always a very complicated and difficult practice. Paul wrote about this, “And we rejoiced in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” In other words, the waiting we endure is not meaningless. God has himself redeemed waiting and blessed it. The unbelieving world does not understand these things. They don’t understand why we wait, why we endure, why, when we suffer, we don’t, in the words of Job’s wife, ‘Curse God and die.’ I think what the Christian is enabled by the Spirit to do is look through the circumstance (s) and see God. I don’t mean merely see the ‘good’ that he is working out for those who love Him. I mean, we see God. We are like Abraham (Hebrews 11), and Isaiah (John 12), or Moses (John 5) who saw God, not merely God’s purposes. We look forward, but we also look through. We see Jesus who endured the cross and scorned its shame for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12). The unbelieving world cannot do this. This is why the atheist has to reduce suffering to meaninglessness or the inevitability of nature taking its course. For the atheist, suffering has no meaning and is proof of no god at worst or an impotent god at best.
But it is not this way for the Christian. We see God’s delay through different eyes. We see his hand and purpose behind it, in it. For the Christian, because of Christ, even suffering has meaning and has been redeemed. We have a hope that the unbelieving world cannot, sadly, comprehend or appreciate or partake.
There’s one last point here. The disciples tried to persuade Jesus from going back to Judea because ‘a short while ago the Jews tried to stone’ him there. Yet Jesus persisted. He would go and nothing would deter him from doing so. He would not be stopped. I have to confess that I find this to be the most encouraging statement he makes, this statement that he will go right into the heart of the place where the people had already threatened his life, this place where, at the end of chapter 11, we learn they were plotting his death. Jesus would not be stopped once he made up his mind. There’s a lesson here.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can thwart the work of God. Nothing will stop Jesus from achieving his goal. Nothing will stop his work from being done. Not unbelief. Not violence. Not fear. Nothing will prevent Jesus from doing whatever it takes to bring glory to the Name of God. Who can stand in the way of God? Will a human? Will threats against his life? Will impending danger? Will plots and conspiracies? No. Who can stand against the Lord? The One enthroned in heaven scoffs at the sword rattling of man. All the unbelief in the world will not amount to a single syllable of prevention of God’s plans.
I’m encouraged that Jesus, in spite of the danger against his life, went right back to help those he loved. Take courage in His delays, when He asks you to wait. Take courage in the means by which you will bring glory to His Name. Take courage when He asks you to be brave and blast right into the midst of those who oppose His Name.
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
(Psalm 34, NIV)
Soli Deo Gloria!
22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
I’d like to take this text in a direction that perhaps is not entirely obvious or necessitated by the context. Jesus made these statements to opponents (which in itself is revealing!), but he also made them to the Church which reads this Gospel according to John. We do well to pay close attention to the manner in which he speaks to his opponents, but we do much better to pay attention to the words he spoke to them. So, I may not be entirely within the scope of context, but I don’t think I have abused the text to make my point.
Isn’t that the problem with most people: You tell them plainly who Jesus is and they simply refuse to believe. There are a lot of reasons why people say they don’t believe, but it still boils down to unbelief. But there is no other way. They asked; he answered. He is the Christ, the Messiah. The onus, thus, is on them: they are the ones who don’t believe. Those who do believe hear his voice and listen to him. The benefits are great: Eternal life, no perishing, no one can take us from Him and wreck our salvation. We cannot be taken from Him because we are protected by the Father. Then: I and the Father are one. Right there is the single most plainly spoken statement about Jesus’ self-understanding, about His complete identity: He is God.
The implications of this statement are astounding, nearly incomprehensible. It is staggering, astonishing, and yet absolutely comforting and reassuring. The implications are quite revealing, not least because we are told that Jesus is the head of the Church (which necessarily means he is the head of every Christian). This means that the church, if the church functions (I realize that is a rather simplistic choice of words) with Christ at the Center, as the Center, defining the Center. We do not operate apart from His sovereignty or His governance. It also means that Jesus’ interest in the church is not some mere passing acquaintance. It means that his association with the church is the Father’s association with the Church. It means that His intentions for the Church are the Father’s intentions for the Church. It means that He and the Father are in complete accord when it comes to Church and those who belong to the Church. It means that we are answerable to Him, to Him alone, in our conduct as Christians and our membership in His Body. There is no other way but Jesus.
Well this is, frankly, astonishing because there are many nowadays who are quite convinced that, in fact, they run the church. So important people convene a meeting and begin discussing this subject or that subject. I suppose they pray and listen to position papers too. They do so gather in the Name of Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of the Holy God. So how do they come up with the idea that Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father and the Head of the Church, would tolerate sin in His body? To what God are they praying when they conclude that sin is A-OK in the Church and those practicing shall not be punished? Don Carson rightly asks how we think God ‘feels’ about the sin that cost the life of His Son. “How does rebellion appear to One so incomparably transcendent that even the superpowers appear to his eyes like the fine dust in a balance? How does rebellion appear to One who measures our sin by the death of His Son?” (How Long O Lord?, 86). I wonder: Christ died to make a people unto himself, pure and holy, a Kingdom of priests who will declare his praises and many in the church have turned the church into a place where any and every kind of sin is validated, justified, practiced, and applauded.
Jesus’ intentions for the church are no different than God’s because Jesus is, indeed, God. There is no difference of opinion on how things ought to be done: Jesus’ Way. There is no other way for them to be done: Jesus’ Way. There are no two ways about it: Jesus’ Way. Well, how do we know this? David Wells, in that lecture I mentioned in another post (The Disappearance of Evangelical Theology, pt 2) makes this point clear: For us to be Christ centered is to be begin by understanding the Scripture. Our Center, he says, is Christ: Understood theologically: Biblically Mediated, Biblically defined. In other words, we don’t have a right to redefine Jesus, or His Scripture in the way we wish that it looked. We have no right to challenge the Biblical Witness. We have no right to ‘re-imagine’ Jesus, or ‘re-imagine’ the Church. We have the Scripture: Our sole Rule of Faith and Practice. This is what Jesus said: My sheep listen to My Voice.
So we must understand His Voice. We must listen to His Voice. We must be careful to discern His Voice. We must be cautious not to stray from what is written. Again, Wells, “The Christian life is Christian only to the extent to which it is constituted and defined by the Word of God.” I submit to you that the Church, in her efforts to be ‘relevant’, has altered this and we thus have a disjunction between Scripture and practice. The Church has decided that it can do away with certain doctrines as antiquated, or irrelevant. The Church has decided that one must not be hastily or harshly judged for heretical teachings (on which see Albert Mohler http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=987). The Church must be tolerant, even of those who are openly practicing sin because we don’t want to offend them or drive them away from God’s love (with their wallets firmly squeezed between the material on their slacks!). After all, we are told, God loves the sinner and hates the sin. And who are Christians to judge! (But in the Church we are to judge!)
But at what expense? What is the cost of listening to man centered theological extracts, heresy at best, and diminishing the Word of Christ? What is the cost to the Church, to the Gospel, of such a tolerance for sin and such an intolerance for the faith once delivered? What price will the church pay for it’s incomprehensible tolerance and justification of sin and heresy? Funny thing is, and I don’t know where I heard this, but the Word of God includes all the Scripture, not just the words in Red. In other words, it’s all binding on the Christian, on the Church. What has taken place in the Church is that people figure they can meddle, correct for culture, make adjustments on the fly as if God’s Word were not sufficient. Even the popularization of the Gospel in the form of ‘Christian fiction’ or ‘Christian psychology’ or ‘Christian (insert popular ism here)’ is a bastardization of the Gospel which was given to us that we might believe in Jesus and have life in His Name alone.
Much of what goes on in the church is shameful and embarrassing. It is disgraceful and an abomination to a Holy God. David Wells makes an important statement at the end of his lecture concerning the Gospel in the Church. He perceptively says, “Where would we be if there had not been men and women down through the ages who insisted on handing down the teachings of the Apostles in tact to the next generation? We wouldn’t be here!”
But he doesn’t leave it there. “Where,” he asks, “will the next generation be as we hand this truth on to them?” One wonders. What will be the theological legacy this generation will leave to the next generation? We have only one choice: We must, as His sheep, listen to His voice. I think it is safe to say that we can ignore the cacophony of voices we hear clamoring about the rights of this group and that group. There is only One Body. But which voice will we listen to? Which voice will we hear? Whose sheep are we, anyhow?
Soli Deo Gloria!
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
He is speaking here of glory. He was pointing to the cross: “The nature of that glorification, of course, is not in the public display some might have appreciated, but in the ignominy of the cross and consequent return to the glory the Son enjoyed with the Father before the world began (17:5)” (DA Carson, The Gospel According to John, 356). And Jesus has said earlier, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what please him.”
Isn’t that ironic? Jesus comes right out and says: I’m not doing any of these things for my own sake, for my own glory, but for that of the Father who sent me. And at this, they were ready to not believe him, and they were ready to kill him. Isn’t it ironic how, when someone is doing the right thing, the first thing to be question is their motives? Now, if Jesus had been doing all these things for his own sake, to lift himself up, to make himself look good, to gather a crowd around himself, to ‘make himself a public figure’ (7:1-10), the people would have flocked to him in droves. The would have hung on his every word. They would have obeyed any word he said. But here he is doing everything he does for the sake of the Father and people are bent on his destruction. Ironic.
But there is a greater irony involved here too. Jesus has been saying that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of his day, that is, Jesus’ day. And these folks, Abraham lovers that they were, were rejecting the very One that Abraham had been looking forward to. Thus they prove themselves out of line with Abraham. Thus they prove that they really wanted nothing to do with Abraham or the things that Abraham was looking forward to (see Hebrews 11:8-12). It is somewhat amazing that Jesus here says that Abraham ‘saw it’ (Jesus’ day), and it sets a precedent in John’s Gospel. John will say later, in chapter 12: “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” So Jesus was not entirely unknown to these OT people and yet their testimony about Jesus offends people and escapes their grasp.
Briefly, this should cause us to look at the Old Testament in perhaps a new light. If Jesus is saying that those characters from days gone by looked to his arrival, and ‘saw’ him, then perhaps it is true that their life stories, recorded in the Old Testament, are also testimonies to Jesus. I should hope so since Jesus, elsewhere, and after his resurrection, took the disciples on a whirlwind tour through the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Law and showed how they testified to Him (see Luke 24).
There is, perhaps, another irony here. Jesus said, “If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you.” What is ironic about this is that people are often so willing and ready to believe the lie. It is strange how these people he spoke with that day would have tolerated a liar but they would not tolerate the truth. He said as much in verse 45: “Yet because I tell you the truth, you don’t believe me!” Would they have believed him if he had spoken to them lies about himself, about God, about his mission? Why are human beings so prone to living and believing the lie? Why are people so prone to listening to the voice of the devil, the Father of Lies? Why are people so in tune with lies, and so terrified and offended by the truth? The more I think about this stuff, the more I think that perhaps we are incapable of hearing and understanding what Jesus said. However…
Make no mistake about it: They understood what Jesus was saying! He said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I Am!” At this, they wanted to stone him. Carson notes, “That the Jews take up stones to kill him presupposes that they understand these words as some kind of blasphemous claim to deity” (commentary, 358). They understood: still they refused to believe. This is the final irony. There are many people who perfectly understand what Christians are saying about Jesus and what Jesus said about himself: We say, “He is God”; Jesus said, “I Am God.” Jesus echoes Isaiah’s thoughts: “I, the Lord—with the first of them and with the last—I am he” (Isaiah 41:4).
Jesus took these things, the things Abraham saw or looked forward to (‘the Day of the Lord’), the ‘I Am He’ statements of the Lord, and he not merely applied them to himself, but announced that these things were talking about him to begin with. He was their embodiment, their fulfillment; it was He that spoke them to begin with! This offends people, even today.
People seem to want this sort of Jesus who embodies compassion, empathy, and some vague, unthinking version of tolerance. But it is never clearly defined by those who say such things how Jesus embodied or exemplified such things himself. Jesus was compassionate (See John 6:1-15), but when they followed him around, hoping for more bread, he announced, rather intolerantly, “I am the Bread of Life. Come to me to have life. Work for bread that endures to eternal life. No one comes to the Father but by Me,” and so on and so forth. So, can a case be made, from Scripture, that Jesus was in fact a tolerant individual in the sense that he never challenged people’s preconceptions and idols? Did Jesus tolerate the presence of atheists and God-haters and the demon-possessed? Or did Jesus call them to the same repentance that he called the thief, egomaniac, and adulterer to? I think Jesus very much did have a great deal of empathy for people but he did not neglect to show them the solution: Himself! What is compassion for the sake of compassion? But if I show compassion in the Name of Jesus then I follow His example: I’m not doing it so that I will feel good about myself, or so that people will honor me, but so that the Name of Jesus will be glorified!
The Christian message is essentially no different and the response of folks is no different either. Christians are still accused of being unsympathetic, intolerant, judgmental, and un-compassionate. Christians are supposed to ‘open their minds’ and hear the plight of the atheist who had a bad day in church as a child and consequently rejected Jesus, and anyone who follows Jesus. The implication seems to be, “We’d rather you lie to us.” That is, people would rather the Christian evangelist tell a lie about Jesus instead of the truth. I can talk about Jesus the healer, the forgiver, the feeder, or the empathizer; but I am forbidden to talk about Jesus the God, the Demander of Holiness, the Purveyor of Righteousness, the King, the Crucified, the One who calls sinners to repentance. If I, as a Christian, give a poor, hungry atheist a piece of bread, I am a good soldier in the atheists eyes. But if I happen to mention to the atheist that God loves him and calls him to repentance and salvation in the Name of Jesus Christ the Crucified and Resurrected, then I have overstepped the boundaries of etiquette. Then I am intolerant and judgmental! On the one hand, I’m empathetic and compassionate: “Feed the poor! Clothe the Naked! Slake the thirst of the drought stricken! But, don’t you dare mention the God in whose Name you do those things!” On the other hand, “Don’t tell us the truth about your God that we reject. We’ve no use for such intolerance.”
It is sad really that this is the response, but I hardly think the Christian is being intolerant for telling the truth. And I hardly think the Christian is unsympathetic because she does what she does in Jesus’ Name. And I hardly think the Christian judgmental when he suggests that people need to do more than merely listen to this Jesus or inanely ‘follow his example.’ But I also fully expect that, as Jesus said, if we do the things he did, speak the truth about him, people will respond the same way to us as they did to him: unbelief, incredulously, and with stones.
Soli Deo Gloria!
32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
DA Carson wrote in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, the following words of wisdom concerning John 7:
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior” (109)
The Pharisees heard that people were whispering such things like, “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?” So, in an effort to stave off such ridiculous ideas, such trivial scuttlebutt, they sent in the troops to do what others had been unable to do: arrest him (recall in verse 30 others tried to lay hands on him but he escaped them). I don’t suppose that the Pharisees’ guards would have any better success than any others had; still they try.
But the Pharisees also heard people saying things like, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” So, in their attempt to forestall such frivolous conversations the Pharisees did what they did best: They sent someone else to deal with Jesus. Oh, they wouldn’t dare go and try to arrest him themselves (remember later that Jesus’ trials were conducted at night, in secrecy). These Pharisees had no intentions whatsoever of letter people even have the hint of a hint that Jesus might actually be who he claimed to be. But it was not yet his time.
For me, it is Jesus’ response that is most intriguing. “I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the One who sent me.” It’s a response to those who were coming to arrest him. I wonder if he is saying something like, “Look, leave me be and I’ll be gone soon enough. I’m not planning on being here long enough for you to be making all this fuss. Let it be, let me be, and then I’ll be out of your way and you will have me to contend with no longer.” He could have been saying something like that. Then he adds a second phrase, “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” Where I Am?? What did he mean by that: Where I am?
But they glossed over all that too. They were more concerned about where he was going than about where he was. They knew where he was from, supposedly, but they did not know where he was going. They could go to where he was from, but they would not find him when he left. This conversation leaves one gasping for air. At some level Jesus was saying this: There will come a day when I will be gone, not as easily accessible as I am right now when you want to arrest me. On that day you will look for me, you will want me, you will need me, but I will not be found. He makes it clear: You will look for me. I have a suspicion that they will be looking for him for reasons other than to arrest him. I have a suspicion that there will be a little more fear of God in their eyes then than there was that day when they wanted to arrest him.
There is, to be sure, a time limit. We don’t happen to be privy to it. God has not, in his wisdom, decided that this is information that we happen to require while accomplishing his work. But there is a time limit. We don’t know when the thief will come in the night or when the Bridegroom will return. We don’t know when the archangel will sound the last trumpet and the Son of Man will descend with the clouds. We are sort of in the dark on this one. Jesus said there is a time limit: “I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am you cannot come.”
Later Jesus will say: “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them” (John 12:35-36). Clearly, there is a time limit. And yet still people refuse to come to Jesus to have life. It’s not a joke. It’s not a risk worth taking. If we don’t seek him while we can there will come a time when seeking will not be an option. Are you seeking him? What are you waiting for?
Their response demonstrates their ignorance and hubris: “What does he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me and not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” Translation: We can find anyone we want—you can go as far as the Greeks and we’ll find you. You can’t escape us, you mere human (“Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him?”). Who do you think you are? Are you magic? Are you a traveler? At least they were concerned about what his words meant—although, John provides us with no answer to their questions. They did not perceive that there might come a day when they would be cut-off from access to Jesus. Oh, humans are so flush with confidence! Scarcely a day goes by, nary a minute ticks away when some human, some place, does not boast of their ability to conquer any obstacle. Jesus was saying, if I read correctly, here’s one obstacle you cannot conquer because the only way to conquer it is through me and you reject me! Of course those who reject Jesus will not find him: Truthfully speaking, they won’t want to.
Be Blessed and a Blessing!
Soli Deo Gloria!
“No serious discussion of the relation of Christianity to other faiths can proceed very far without coming to grips with the towering figure of Jesus. Sooner or later, the blunt question put by Jesus to his followers–‘Who do people say I am?’ (Mark 8:27 NIV)–must be confronted.”-Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth, 235 as quoted by DA Carson in The Gagging of God, 315