Sunday, August 29, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:12-19

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They 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!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At 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. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” ” (John 12:12–19, NIV)
It is called the Triumphal Entry of Jesus because that is literally what it is. The palm branches laid at His feet were a traditional greeting reserved for soldiers who were returning from a victorious battle. It was a hero’s welcome of the highest magnitude.
But notice what Jesus does with the pomp and circumstance. How easy it would have been for Him to ride the emotion of the crowd, mount a white stallion and ride in victorious, sword in hand, as the King of all Kings. For in fact, that is who He is.
Yet Jesus was not a king who came to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom. The donkey He rode in on was a sign of humility. A symbol of peace. Jesus had not come to be exalted on a throne but lifted up on a cross.
But oh how the crowd wanted something different. They like the idea of a Savior on their terms. A valiant King who performs miraculous signs and wonders. A King who overcomes the oppression of their enemies and restores the nation of Israel to a place of prominence among all other nations. They want a King who dominates their enemies and so they shout out to Jesus, “Be our King”, “Save Us”, “You have been sent to us by God”.
Yet in just a matter of a few hours, this very same crowd who is calling out to crown Jesus as King will raise their voices once again to crucify Him as a criminal. They want victory through dominance, Jesus will provide victory through sacrifice. They want deliverance from their enemies, Jesus will provide deliverance from their sin. They want peace through a ruler on earth, Jesus will give peace through His rule in our hearts.
It’s a choice we still make today: Do I serve God on my terms or on His? Do I bow before Him as Lord and Savior or do I simply call on Him when I get in a bind? Does my obedience flow out of worship or out of obligation?
Take time this week to approach the throne of grace with humility and worship God on His terms. Recognize His self-sacrificing love, His peace through forgiveness and His joy in redemption. Worship these attributes of our Savior and… then go and do the same.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:1-11

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. ” (John 12:1–11, NIV)
Martha and Mary. We are first introduced to these sisters in Luke’s gospel where we find them bickering with one another for “not doing their part”. Actually it was Martha who was bickering because Mary is just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus rebukes Martha's harsh words and explains that Mary has made the better choice.
Apparently she got the message because we see them here again with a different outcome. Martha is still serving and Mary is still at Jesus’ feet.
But there is no rebuke from Jesus this time because the service that Martha is rendering was never the problem…it was the heart behind the service. Last time she was complaining because Mary wouldn’t help. This time, she allowed Mary to worship at His feet while she worshiped by serving Him at His table. There is a new attitude of humility and meekness with Martha, and it has made all the difference in the world.
But, Mary is not only at the feet of Jesus. She has taken a vile of very expensive perfume which John tells us it was worth about 300 denarii – the equivalent to about one year’s wage. Mary takes it, breaks open a $30,000 bottle of perfume, and used it to wash the feet of Jesus.
Judas, a thief, sees money he could have pilfered, go down the drain and so he protests. Jesus turns His rebuke to Judas this time and says, “Leave her alone. She has saved this for the day of my burial.”…..
Did she? Did she know that in just 7 days, Jesus would be crucified?
No, probably not. But it is likely that she had saved this perfume for a special occasion. Some suggest maybe it was the dowry she would need in order to marry. What we do know, is that this is no small gesture. It is a self sacrificing act of adoration and Jesus uses it to reveal to His disciples what was coming.
Mary used it as an act of love. Jesus used it to reveal the ultimate act of love…His death on their behalf.
Stop and think about the 4 individuals in this scene and their interaction with Jesus: Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Judas. Three are worshiping, one is not.
Martha, still serving, but with a changed heart. In humble gratitude, she looks at Jesus with affection and expresses her love in preparing a meal for Him to eat.
Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead, is probably looking at Him and still wondering, “How did you do that?” Do you think he was worshiping? Most definitely! He knew firsthand the power of God and something tells me he was still in awe.
And Mary… such self sacrificing adoration. She just gave more than a bottle of perfume for Jesus. She gave Him all her hopes and dreams.
But then there is Judas. He’s not worshiping because he is more concerned about what he could gain than what he could give.
Now you tell me, which one are you? A worshiper who eyes are fixed on Jesus…serving with your hands, serving with your testimony of His power, serving with your obedient love.
Or are you more concerned about what you can gain than what you can give?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:45-57

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him. Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. ” (John 11:45–57, NIV)
Isn’t that ironic! The religious leaders sought to kill Jesus in order to save their nation. Yet, God would turn this misguided intention into the means by which the whole world would be saved. Amazing is it not?!
You see, the goal of the religious leaders, while under Roman rule, was to keep the peace. As long as they maintained the status quo, the Jewish community had been given relative autonomy. But as soon as they started causing a scene, Rome would not look so favorably upon this religious sect. The religious leaders appointed themselves as those who must protect the peace.
And along comes Jesus. To say He was causing a scene would be an understatement. He was drawing large crowds, performing miraculous signs and making some amazing claims about being sent by God. Just days from now, he would be ushered into Jerusalem with palm branches, a traditional welcome for soldiers returning from victory in battle. They would shout “Hosanna” in hopes that Jesus was the long awaited king who would deliver them from the oppression of a foreign ruler who served foreign gods. They were beginning to place a great amount of hope in this man Jesus.
“Too much hope,” was the opinion of the religious leaders. They knew that Jesus was causing such attention that it threatened the autonomy of the Jewish society. In order to keep the peace, they would need to eliminate Him. It appeared to be the only satisfactory solution. One man must die for the peace of a nation.
But that was too small. God knew that one man would die for the salvation of all mankind. God would take the evil intention of the religious leaders and turn it into the gracious eternal purpose of God. The sacrifice of Jesus, at the risk of the peace of a nation, would become the means for ultimate peace with God.
Even today, there are those who would embrace His sacrifice with an understanding of what it accomplished on their behalf while others would choose instead to push it aside in hopes of maintaining the status quo.
Where are you? Too often, we are like the religious leaders who would rather not make any waves and so we choose to live life without incident. Just keep the status quo. We see that a life committed to following Jesus may cause more trouble than good and so we “eliminate” Him by turning our attention to all that the world has to offer instead.
Without question, following Jesus is a risky move. He may stir some things up in your own heart that you might rather He leave alone. Releasing your selfish desire for control can be a painful departure. It will require everything.
Jesus said,
“He who wishes to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:17-45

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” And 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.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When 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. When 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.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “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.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I 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.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The 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.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. ” (John 11:17–45, NIV)
“If you had been here...”
I am sure those words resonate in the hearts of so many who have faced deep disappointment in their life. Some have seen disease ravage the bodies of those whom they love so dearly. Others have seen their dreams change in an unexpected blink of an eye. And because we know what God has the power to do, it is easy for us to look at Him in our moment of grief and despair and ask, “Why didn’t you do something?”
We have in our mind what would be best…and when our expectations do not match His plan, we are disappointed and even hurt by what we experience. This must have been the emotion and Mary and Martha. They saw the life of a brother they loved end too soon. They see the man that could have changed their circumstances but He is too late.
They weep.
Jesus knew what was coming next. It was the reason for His delay. Lazarus would rise from the grave. And yet, when He saw the grief of His friends whom he loved, in their moment of pain, he joined in their sorrow as tears flowed from His eyes.
Jesus wept.
Despite His sovereign control of all things and His power to perform the miraculous, Jesus still felt the pain of seeing the suffering of those whom He loved. He does not turn a blind eye to the dark places of our life even when He knows the beauty of what lies ahead through His redemptive power. He meets us in our moment of need and He cares for us tenderly with great sympathy toward our limited understanding.
I know this to be true as I prayed this same prayer when my brother died of cancer. "God, why didn't you do something?" I have not received an answer to that question. And yet, God has tenderly taught me to trust in him even when I don't understand. He didn't arrive too late, He had something better in mind. He cared for me in the moment of need and the many moments to follow.
Take comfort in knowing this tender love of Jesus. Rejoice in His power to redeem. Trust in His perfect timing.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. ” (Titus 3:4–7, NIV)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:1-17

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” Jesus 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. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. ” (John 11:1–17, NIV)
Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. A man whom Jesus loved and a family that He regularly spent time with during His ministry. It makes sense, in a time of their greatest need, for them to call upon the One who has invested so much of His life into their lives. In a moment of desperation they cry out, “Jesus, we need you.”
When Jesus received the news, He reflected on what God had prompted Him to do. He regularly went before His Father in prayer in order to align His will with the will of His Father. He did nothing on His own accord and God was in sovereign control of His ministry on the earth. Since God had not directed Him to go to Bethany, when Jesus received the news, He did not react to the crisis. Instead, He trusted in the faithful guidance of His Father.
And 2 days later, God said it was time. Jesus prepared His disciples and told them they would be traveling to Judea, but the disciples protested. They were looking through the eyes of reality and based on what they had experienced in the recent past, Jesus and the disciples would be walking into a death trap. Something tells me that Jesus knew that the disciples were right about the death that awaited them. But what they didn’t understand was who was in control.
That seems to be an important point of this passage. You see, the timing of events indicated that Lazarus would have died before Jesus could have arrived even if He would have left right away. But if this were the case, everyone would have concluded that Jesus did everything He could but simply arrived moments too late. “It was outside of His hands,” they might say. “He did the best He could.”
His intentional delay, as guided by His Father, would reveal a different conclusion. It is not out of His hands…God is in control…and everything was happening according to His perfect plan. “Walk by the Light of the Lamp at your feet and God will guide your every step,” Jesus said. “But step away from His leading hand, and you will become lost in confusion and darkness.”
What a great lesson in trust. Are you walking in the light of the lamp at your feet?
This may mean that you can only see one step at a time. Do you trust His sovereign control? Perhaps the circumstances appear as if God has chosen something less than what is best. Do you believe that He ordains everything for His eternally good purposes, even if they do not make sense in the moment?
This was the lesson God intended for the disciples. I believe He is still teaching this lesson today. Trust in His sovereign control and His eternal goodness. As Thomas concluded, God’s plan for your life is worth dying for.