Back From the Dead: John 11:1-44

Focus Passage: John 11:1-44 (CEV)

    1-2 A man by the name of Lazarus was sick in the village of Bethany. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha. This was the same Mary who later poured perfume on the Lord’s head and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 The sisters sent a message to the Lord and told him that his good friend Lazarus was sick.

    4 When Jesus heard this, he said, “His sickness won’t end in death. It will bring glory to God and his Son.”

    5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and brother. 6 But he stayed where he was for two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Now we will go back to Judea.”

    8 “Teacher,” they said, “the people there want to stone you to death! Why do you want to go back?”

    9 Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in each day? If you walk during the day, you will have light from the sun, and you won’t stumble. 10 But if you walk during the night, you will stumble, because you don’t have any light.” 11 Then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, and I am going there to wake him up.”

    12 They replied, “Lord, if he is asleep, he will get better.” 13 Jesus really meant that Lazarus was dead, but they thought he was talking only about sleep.

    14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead! 15 I am glad that I wasn’t there, because now you will have a chance to put your faith in me. Let’s go to him.”

    16 Thomas, whose nickname was “Twin,” said to the other disciples, “Come on. Let’s go, so we can die with him.”

    17 When Jesus got to Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many people had come from the city to comfort Martha and Mary because their brother had died.

    20 When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Yet even now I know that God will do anything you ask.”

    23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will live again!”

    24 Martha answered, “I know that he will be raised to life on the last day, when all the dead are raised.” 25 Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. 26 And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die. Do you believe this?”

    27 “Yes, Lord!” she replied. “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.”

    28 After Martha said this, she went and privately said to her sister Mary, “The Teacher is here, and he wants to see you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up and went out to Jesus. 30 He was still outside the village where Martha had gone to meet him. 31 Many people had come to comfort Mary, and when they saw her quickly leave the house, they thought she was going out to the tomb to cry. So they followed her.

    32 Mary went to where Jesus was. Then as soon as she saw him, she knelt at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

    33 When Jesus saw that Mary and the people with her were crying, he was terribly upset 34 and asked, “Where have you put his body?”

   They replied, “Lord, come and you will see.”

    35 Jesus started crying, 36 and the people said, “See how much he loved Lazarus.”

    37 Some of them said, “He gives sight to the blind. Why couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

    38 Jesus was still terribly upset. So he went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone rolled against the entrance. 39 Then he told the people to roll the stone away. But Martha said, “Lord, you know that Lazarus has been dead four days, and there will be a bad smell.”

    40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?”

    41 After the stone had been rolled aside, Jesus looked up toward heaven and prayed, “Father, I thank you for answering my prayer. 42 I know that you always answer my prayers. But I said this, so that the people here would believe that you sent me.”

    43 When Jesus had finished praying, he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had been dead came out. His hands and feet were wrapped with strips of burial cloth, and a cloth covered his face.

   Jesus then told the people, “Untie him and let him go.”

Read John 11:1-44 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Of the several things that stood out in this passage, the one I will focus on in this post is what isn’t said in any of the gospels, and something that makes me wonder a little bit, because it would be a question that Lazarus would have been asked dozens, if not hundreds of times: “What was death like?”

What surprises me is that any significant answer to this question would have spread like wildfire and probably would have reached Luke, who I’m a little surprised doesn’t even reference this event in his gospel at all. Matthew was there, so why isn’t this event in his gospel either?

Even broader than this single passage is the lack of information from anyone who Jesus raised from the dead sharing what death was like. Our modern culture would have us think it is like flying into the light and entering heaven, but if this is the case, being resurrected at any time would be one of the cruelest things for Jesus to do.

I’m inclined to distrust culture, because rarely do we ever get things “right”. Instead, what if death was simply a pause button on life, and those who were raised had nothing to share about death because they didn’t experience anything? Would being resurrected be as cruel then?

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The Second Call: John 21:1-14

Focus Passage: John 21:1-14 (NIV)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Read John 21:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Following Jesus’ resurrection, John records in his gospel an interesting event that I am a little surprised the other gospel writers don’t include. In this event, we find a group of Jesus disciples back by the Sea of Galilee headed out to go fishing. John describes what happened at the start of the last chapter of his gospel.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (v. 1-3)

This event, with just a couple more individuals added to it, begins to look like an earlier event that another gospel writer records early on in Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps catching nothing was something that happened regularly, so it may not have been as abnormal, but I also wonder if the disciples were pestering each other saying they must have gotten out of practice having not fished for a few years.

John continues by saying, “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (v. 4)

I wonder if it was because of the distance that made the disciples unable to recognize Jesus, or perhaps He was dressed differently. John had already shared that this was the third time Jesus had appeared to them, so at the very least, some of them would have seen Him before.

In this event, Jesus then calls out to them in the boat, asking “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (v. 5a)

Probably with a bit of discouragement in their voices, they answer “No.” (v. 5b)

At this point in the event, we begin to see the biggest parallel to an earlier event. Jesus then responds to the disciples by saying, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (v. 6a)

With this statement, Jesus echoes an earlier direction that led into a miracle leading up to the first fishermen disciples being called. Luke describes this earlier event as Jesus heading out to fish with these disciples after they have had an unsuccessful night of fishing. While discouraged, these first followers obey and they have one of the best catches of their career. (Luke 5)

Here at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we find a similar event, and when the disciples obeyed Jesus, “they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (v. 6b)

This event echoes how the first group of fishermen disciples were called. I wonder if this after-resurrection event was a new call for these followers to reset their relationship with Jesus and start fresh with Him. After they all had abandoned Him in the garden, I wonder if Jesus intentionally repeats this earlier miracle to give them a new call and invitation to restart their journey again with Him. When we choose to come to Jesus after failing, He is willing to forgive and start fresh with us!

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Answering Our Prayers: Matthew 7:7-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:7-20 (CEV)

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

12 Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.

13 Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. 14 But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.

15 Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. 16 You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. 20 You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

Read Matthew 7:7-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In one of the most famous parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we find one of the most amazing promises that Jesus shared during His earthly ministry. Within this section of the message, many people have found both encouragement as well as reason for doubt.

This section begins with Jesus saying, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks.” (v. 7-8)

The self-help movement within Christianity sprang up around these two verses because in them, Jesus shares a repeatable process and principle. I think these two verses are also incredibly popular because they work without Jesus as well. When looking at these two verses, there is very little here that points to Jesus.

But Jesus hasn’t finished sharing on this topic. He continues by saying, “Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.” (v. 9-11)

With this explanation, Jesus brings faith into the discussion, while He also brings in a framework for understanding how God answers prayer. In these three verses explaining this concept, Jesus helps us understand the answers we may receive that are not what we would have wanted. All the “No’s”, “Wait’s”, and substitution answers may feel like God is ignoring our requests, but this famous set of five verses holds the key to how God answers prayer.

The key to understanding how God answers our asking, seeking, and knocking has to do with what our request is, and the best possible response. While Jesus rhetorically asks whether a parent would give a bad gift to a child when he/she asks for something they need, the same could be said in reverse. What parent would give their child something that will harm them if the child asked for it? If you knew a gift would injure your child, would you still give them the gift?

God, being the perfect parent, knows what the best response to every request we ask, every goal we seek, and every door we knock on. While it might feel like He is rejecting or ignoring our requests, these responses may be Him telling us that the timing isn’t right, that we need to grow more, or that what we are asking for will ultimately harm us in the long run. Faith comes into play regarding whether we are willing to accept His answer to our request.

And this promise isn’t reserved for just Christians. God loves everyone He created, and He “is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.” (v. 11b)

So while we are called to ask, to seek, and to knock, we are also called to trust God the Father’s guidance and His direction. He will open doors that will help us; He will help us find the best things for our situation, and He is happy to give us things that truly will bless us. He loves us, and He cares for our eternal future above all else.

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Finding Jesus before Dying: John 8:21-30

Focus Passage: John 8:21-30 (NIrV)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘You can’t come where I am going’?”

23 But Jesus said, “You are from below. I am from heaven. You are from this world. I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.

Read John 8:21-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of Jesus’ conversations with the crowds that followed Him, John tells us that Jesus said some perplexing things. In this conversation, I believe Jesus hints at something important, and something that is very challenging.

Jesus opens up this passage restating an idea He has previously shares. John tells us that “Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.’” (v. 21)

The phrase that really stands out in my mind in this larger statement is when Jesus tells them, “You will look for me, and you will die in your sin.” (v. 21)

On the surface, this sounds backward. After all, shouldn’t we be looking for Jesus?

Perhaps Jesus knew He might be misunderstood, so a few verses later, He restates this idea using a slight shift in wording. John records Jesus’ restating this as “I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.” (v. 24)

When comparing these two statements, we begin to see that seeking Jesus does not always mean we will end up placing our faith in Him. Not everyone who seeks Jesus will believe He is the Messiah. There will be those who seek and find Jesus, but who ultimately choose to reject Him. These people will die in their sins.

However, there will be those who put their faith in Jesus and believe He is the one who God sent for us. Those of us who believe in Jesus and believe Him to be our Messiah do not die in our sins. Instead, we have Jesus’ promise of heaven and eternal life.

I believe that Jesus should be where our belief is focused, and that belief in Jesus is the only way to have eternal life. But I also believe that not everyone will be saved, and that not everyone will choose Jesus when they have found Him. Looking for Jesus is important, but believing in Him is the only way to find salvation for eternity!

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