Patterns in the Bible John Chapter 11
In this series of Bible Studies we will concentrate on patterns in the Bible. Many people miss those patterns because they do not read the previous stories, they are looking for a specific answer to prove a specific point. They do not read enough of the Bible, or they refuse to spend the time required to understand the level the Bible was written. There could be a hundred reasons why people do NOT understand patterns in the Bible. It would be a waste of our time to try to think of all the reasons people do NOT search the Bible the way it was designed to be investigated. The fact of the matter is, the Bible can and will reveal certain patterns and consistencies beyond any and all human forms of literature. Among other things, Patterns in the Bible are living proof this world has a God who created this world, the universe, and has a rather large and soft spot in His heart for this planet that has gone astray.
We live in a world like no other in this Universe. We are the only planet that has fallen to sin and decided we can run this world better than God can run the Universe. Of course this world has made mistakes. No one can argue that point. Millions of people have given their lives to prove this world is not perfect. And there is nothing man can do to restore this world to its perfect state. We’ve lost sight of true paradise, and the God who created that paradise. What can we do to recapture that image of God this world has lost? The first step is to realize and admit, there is no way you can ever explain the image and personality of God you have found. There is no record of Enoch explaining the God he talked to, and transported him to Heaven. Elijah also went to Heaven. But Elijah’s view of God was distorted at best. God was great whenever He performed a miracle and showed how powerful He was. But a little while later Elijah forgot all about the God looking over him.
Elijah may be a rather poor source to study patterns in the Bible. We don’t have enough information about Enoch to study the patterns and consistency he saw in God. But we do have 66 books to look through.
Often times patterns are found in a series of stories. In the New Testament patterns are found in the events recorded about Jesus’ life on this planet. Jesus was a very consist teacher. Most people prefer to think Jesus jumped around from one subject to another. Or people Jesus met knocked Him off His course for a short time. But that was never true. As a human, Jesus could not look into the future any better than you or I can. But through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit coupled with total cooperation with God, Jesus had a very good idea concerning the missions He was on that day. Many of those missions included fulfilling hundreds of prophecies recorded about His life. Each and every one of those prophecies had to be fulfilled in the proper order, in the proper way, and on time. That was an awesome responsibility. There was a pattern that had to be followed. We have the ability to see and follow that pattern. The plan of Salvation is in sense a pattern. We can see that pattern only after reading about the plan of salvation from all the different view points recorded from Genesis through Revelation.
I can show you little bits and pieces of that pattern to help prepare you on what to look for. But I cannot show you all the patterns in the Bible. The Holy Spirit can and will show you more patterns in the Bible if you chose to spend some time studying scripture at the Spirit’s side. That is our choice.
John 11:1-57 NLTse A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. (2) This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. (3) So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” (4) But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” (5) So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, (6) he stayed where he was for the next two days. (7) Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” (8) But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” (9) Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. (10) But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” (11) Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” (12) The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” (13) They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. (14) So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. (15) And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” (16) Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” (17) When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. (18) Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, (19) and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. (20) When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. (21) Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. (22) But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (23) Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” (24) “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” (25) Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. (26) Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (27) “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” (28) Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” (29) So Mary immediately went to him. (30) Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. (31) When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. (32) When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (33) When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. (34) “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” (35) Then Jesus wept. (36) The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” (37) But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (38) Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. (39) “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” (40) Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (41) So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. (42) You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” (43) Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” (44) And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” (45) Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. (46) But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (47) Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. (48) If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” (49) Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! (50) You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” (51) He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. (52) And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world. (53) So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus‘ death. (54) As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. (55) It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. (56) They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” (57) Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.
Here is one chapter in John consisting of one major story. Based on what we’ve seen in other chapters, we have to look at the story as a whole and compare details to the story as a whole. Here we see Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. At first Lazarus was sick and finally died. Jesus waited a few days to go see Mary and Martha. Why did Jesus wait? Many people seem to think Jesus waited so there wouldn’t be any question Lazarus’ death. That wasn’t the only reason.
Compare introductions from a series of chapters in numeric sequence, such as chapter 9 and 10. If chapters share the same or similar introductions, it is a repeat of the same lesson. The inspired author is drawing attention to the same subject because additional information is being provided. The series of stories in each connecting chapter are arranged to add details and emphasis to the same lesson.
Jesus wanted to emphasize the waiting period which encompassed a vital part of Jesus’ ministry as well as our personal ministries and life in general. Waiting is what Jesus had to do. As we’ve seen in previous chapters, Jesus had to wait for the right time to go to Jerusalem during the Festival of Tabernacles. He had to wait for God’s Spirit to establish the proper sequence of events to reach the right people as well as teach lessons the way they needed to be presented and taught.
Jesus’ longest and most difficult wait was for His sacrifice and death. Imagine knowing how and when your going to die. Few people can put themselves in that position to feel what Jesus felt. Condemned prisoners and some people with certain diseases are among the few. Imagine sitting there, helpless to a large degree, hoping, praying something would happen to save you. What goes through your mind as days, hours, and minutes tick away and there is nothing you can do to stop time?
I’m in the Real Estate business and I often run across this scenario of waiting and hoping. When people have equity in their homes and miss a few payments, banks have procedures to follow. Some of them are not that pleasant. The bank demands payment while adding fines and penalties. They may offer a restructured loan but often times when the bank is in a position to take back a home where the loan amount is far below fair market value, it is in the bank’s best interest to foreclose and resell at a profit. So the bank uses laws to protect itself while making it impossible for the homeowner to dig their way out of that financial pit. After three months the bank offers a restructured loan with terms the homeowner cannot afford to pay. The bank demands payments of 150% of the original loan payment for a period of six months to bring the account back in order. After six months the same offer is made to pay back 150% of the original loan amount for a year. If the homeowner cannot afford to pay, the back refers the loan to an attorney. New fees and penalties are added to the loan amount and the foreclose goes through the court system. After that, the homeowner has one hope, to pay the entire loan amount plus thousands of dollars in fines, penalties, and extra charges in one lump sum. The only hope is to sell the property to make the payment.
Months, weeks, days, and hours tick by as the homeowner waits for an offer. Buyers in the real estate market are looking to make a killing. Any buyer who finds out the home is in foreclosure wants to put pressure on the homeowner to sell at the break even point. After years of making payments and building equity in a home, the world wants to steal it all and justifies their actions based on the simple battle cry from the enemy, “everyone does it.” Hours tick away as prayers go out to send one buyer with a sense of justice while the world tries to squeeze the homeowner into submission.
Many people don’t realize what it takes to sell a house. Most often a sale relies an the sales of the buyer’s existing home. Now here is how the world likes it to work. The buyer thinks he should get thousands over market value for their house while they want the seller to sell for thousands under fair market value. It is a difficult profession to work in when you have to constantly explain what fair market value is, and it is not right to expect others to perform a major sacrifice for another person to make a major profit. In other words, it is not right to expect others to sacrifice for your benefit. But isn’t that what Jesus did?
When I look at this world and how one portion of the plan of salvation works, I am shocked at what I see. I have no idea how the world approaches God with ideas to restructure His offer. Look at how it is supposed to work. God will bring down a city He called New Jerusalem. It is roughly half the size of the United States and a few hundred feet tall. The size of the city is beyond imagination. How do people react to that? All God wants people to do is give up their puny homes in exchange for a free place to live. Of course we need to give up everything else but look what we get in return. Free food, clothes, and everything we need. Compare the quality and nutritional of the food God will provide to what we find in stores. There won’t be any comparison at all. In Heaven our clothes won’t wear out. That doesn’t compare to the clothes we get here. We don’t know the cloths we’ll get from God, but we know we’ll also be giving up expensive prices and defects, as well as obsessions to keep up with the latest styles. Not to mention slave labor often used in the manufacture of fashion clothing. People who are saved have a million reasons to leave this world without looking back. If they can see the world for what it is.
Most Christians say they’re waiting for Jesus’ return. But are they waiting for His return with that same feeling of watching the minutes and days go by with any type of anticipation? Many Christians look at Jesus’ return with the same type of emotions as the homeowner waiting for the bank to foreclose. Most of them won’t admit it, but they look at Jesus’ return as a time they have to give up everything. Not as a day they gain everything. Look at those previous chapters. How could Jesus offer all those groups eternal life, understanding, and more, while their first and only reaction was to turn it down? There was more at play than traditions and doctrines. There was a whole lot of selfishness at stake. There is a lot of this world they don’t want to give up.
People try to explain the delay in Jesus’ return, but how many people try to understand it? How many people ask Jesus why it is taking much longer than most people expected. People try to convince themselves this delay is another example of God’s love. They may be right on one aspect. But why limit the delay on the first thought that comes to mind? What about examining Jesus’ delay from other aspects.
The best place to begin is in the mirror. Are you ready? In return for giving us everything, all God asked in return is to have everyone follow His laws. That shouldn’t be difficult. There are only ten of them. It should be easy enough for a child to memorize. But some people want to wheel and deal with God. They want to rewrite those terms. I got news for them. It doesn’t get any better than free. As far as following the law, what kind of Heaven do you want? A lawless society with absolutely no laws. Imagine a world like that. Sounds like a science fiction story. Every man for himself. Soon people would create a society worse than Sodom. It wouldn’t take long to become a lawless society where the strongest ruled. How long would it take for them to make their own laws? And people teach something like that would last an eternity. The question is, are you ready to accept God’s law? His Kingdom’s happiness depends on everyone keeping all His laws.
What does all that have to do with Jesus raising Lazarus from his tomb? This story goes beyond physically raising a dead man. It gives us a glimpse of looking at many situations where people had had to wait, including ourselves.
Once again, I’d like to take a look at how John led us into this story about Lazarus. Remember, John didn’t write this book with chapters. He wrote his book to tell us steps Jesus took in His ministry and how Jesus received instructions from God through the Spirit. Here we have a great source to learn from.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author lead from one event to the next.
Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” And many who were there believed in Jesus. (John 10:37-42 NLTse).
What a way to lead into this story. Jesus just told them to watch the work He does for His Father. Actions always speak louder than words. Jesus didn’t tell them what was about to happen, but He did tell them to watch and learn. Could anyone else raise a dead man other than God? If we look closely, we can begin to understand the underlying lesson of timing. We also see another factor of timing. Jesus had a lot of people following Him at that time. That detail was a factor. Did God want to perform such a fantastic miracle without witnesses?
John began this story with a detail we see in other books and chapters. Most people miss this detail because it’s not the answer they’re looking for. John gave us some background on the main story in this character. John told us about Lazarus’ family. On the spiritual side, this puts the lesson into context. John told us this is a close, personal family matter. John took that concept a step further by telling us a little about the relationship Mary had with Jesus. Which of course is an extension of the family relationship introduced in the previous sentence. Not only does one chapter and story blend together, so do sentences within those stories.
Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus reminding Him Lazarus was His friend and was in need of His help. What does that tell us about people Jesus met? It should mean a lot when they considered God’s Son their friend. After all, wasn’t that part of Jesus’ ministry? John made certain to point out all three members of the family were involved.
Jesus immediately pointed out, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” Jesus gave the glory to God from the very beginning. Jesus also pointed out something had to change with the way many people perceived Him. One of the things Jesus was trying to teach is how He and God worked together. People have to first understand that concept before they can move to the next level, working with God themselves.
John told us, Jesus stayed where He was for two days. Later we see Lazarus was dead for four days. Jesus must have been at least one day journey from Bethany. If it took the message a day to reach Jesus and another day for Jesus to travel to Bethany, Lazarus must have died a short time after Martha and Mary sent for Jesus.
When Jesus told His disciples it was time to go to Judea, his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” We can see the time frame of this story did not take long and closely followed the previous story. The time frame plays an important part in this story and also the spiritual implications it covers. This is such an important lesson showing how Jesus used time as a symbol. Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”
Jesus wanted to point out a mistake the disciples made because they weren’t paying attention. He already told them how Lazarus’ sickness was meant to bring glory to God and Himself. Now you have to ask yourself why the disciples would want to keep Jesus away from the glory He just told them about. You can see, the disciples remembered what happened a few days ago, but forgot what Jesus told them a few minutes ago. They obviously didn’t get the message the first time. Jesus remembered the past few days in Jerusalem and how He had to keep repeating Himself. Now He finds Himself with His disciples getting the same response. What was He going to do? Jesus walked around the group with His head hung low facing the ground. The disciples could see the disappointment in Jesus’ body language. Jesus gave them time they needed to think and review what He already told them. Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
When something is unusual, it is time to pay attention.
When God repeats Himself, it is time to pay attention.
Jesus introduced a new symbol. One the disciples should have known and recognized. Jesus was a little surprised at their answer. The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. Jesus kept looking at the ground as He shook His head. Jesus knew the disciples answered quickly because they really weren’t thinking. He wondered where they got that habit from and how He was going to cure them of it. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
This is kind of a strange story when we look at the details. Jesus was about to rise Lazarus from the grave. God could give Jesus the power to bring a man back from the dead, but he couldn’t get His disciples to slow down and listen. It’s not like they weren’t dedicated. Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” They wanted to do a good job supporting Jesus any way they could. They wanted to serve Him and follow Him, but it seems they always fell short. They had too much of the world in them.
John didn’t record what they talked about on the road, what Jesus taught them, or how He prepared them for what they were about to see. Jesus knew what He was going to do. He already gave the disciples a hint.
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. John has a way of recording certain details. To catch the spiritual meaning, we have to pay attention. When we see lesson after lesson repeated, we have to pay attention. God has a sense of humor and His own way of pointing us back. He wants us to remember how He likes to use contrasts. In this case God is using a contrast to teach. God wants to show how we can review details, look back, and learn. Then consider the way all those people, including His disciples applied what Jesus told them.
John wanted us to know they were close to Jerusalem. He didn’t abandon them, but kept His distance. We have to remember, God is about to perform a miracle and news will quickly spread. Jesus just showed us how we have to back away and let God’s Spirit work with the little work we’ve done for Him. This is an illustration showing how all things work together for the good of God.
John also showed people came from Jerusalem to comfort Martha and Mary. This should remind us about the summation in the previous chapter we reviewed. So we can see how John’s account of the story is reminding us of what we need to do to see the whole story, or confirm whar we have read. To accomplish that task, we need to follow the correct steps.
Something strange happened when Jesus arrived. When we look back at another story, Martha was so busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, she didn’t have enough time to sit down to listen to Jesus. This seems like a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t seem to fit into this lesson. When we look at what Martha said to Jesus, it appeared Martha listened.
When Martha got word Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”
Martha must have learned about the resurrection from some where? Was it from her sister Mary who listened to Jesus? Or did they have their own copy of scripture to study? Another detail we have to remember is the Old Testament was translated to Greek and freely distributed more than two hundred years before Jesus’ birth. John didn’t fill us in on the details, but he did point us to another important detail.
Even Martha misinterpreted Jesus when He tried to comfort her. But in an understandable way. Not many people would have expected Jesus to raise Lazarus from the grave. We see how Jesus tried to comfort Martha when He repeated the word believe. It was good for Jesus to hear someone tell how much they believed in Him. That comforted both of them.
Martha is the symbol of someone who really believes and follows Jesus. In her grief she reached out to comfort Jesus. She would have done it for anyone. It is a quality all of Jesus’ followers posses. The ability to always look to God and find a way to use grief and a trial to help others. We see this confirmed when Martha left Jesus, found her sister, and told her where Jesus was. We can see Martha’s personality when she stayed in the house with the guests who came to comfort them.
We can see another contrast when we see Mary’s meeting with Jesus. It was quite different from Martha’s. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She almost blamed Jesus for her brothers death. Now when we look at that other story about Martha and Mary, things really seem odd. Mary was the one who sat a Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. Now we have a strange scenario to consider. How can the sister who appeared to be listening to Jesus not really know Him, but the one who appeared to miss what He was teaching knew so much?
This brings us back to those copies of the Old Testament distributed all over the known world. There were also Hebrew copies of the Old Testament sold for a much higher price. Based on Mary’s reaction, it doesn’t appear Martha learned what she said from Mary. We also have another possibility. Martha developed a close relationship with God’s Spirit. A combination of God’s Word and His Spirit is the most obvious answer and the best we can hope for.
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.
I remember having an on line discussion about Bible Study. I was introducing a few simple study methods to help people get more out of the Bible and draw into a closer relationship with God’s Spirit. One man opposed everything. He complained it was too confusing to learn. He accused me of making up the rules of context. He insisted the Bible is literal with no hidden meanings or spiritual messages. In other words, each verse explains itself.
He used this verse as an example, Jesus wept. Since it is the shortest verse in the Bible, he thought his comment was safe. But why did Jesus weep? We can’t tell from two words. A single sentence can express the emotion and anguish, but when we don’t learn from trials, we’re doomed to repeat them. With that in mind, we have to pay close attention to trials Jesus faced.
Looking back for information works the same way and teaches the same lesson the disciples had to learn when it came to healing and helping people. Looking back relies on God’s Word and His Spirit.
One of the rules of context tells us to look back for answers. This takes attention off preconceived ideas and things we’ve been taught. Some times we have to consider the source. When we look back at what made Jesus weep, we don’t have much of a problem seeing how people didn’t want to listen. People wanted to arrest Him, stone Him, and tried as hard as they could to discredit Him. They didn’t want to believe or accept the miracles He performed. We also saw how Jesus knew what He was going to do before He traveled to Bethany. What reasons did Jesus have to weep? He was looking into the future and saw how many people wouldn’t accept the miracle He was about to perform. Jesus looked forward to His return where millions would be raised from the grave. Jesus saw how many people would be missing. Why can’t we see the future like Jesus saw it?
Why did Jesus stay at the tombs instead of traveling all the way to Martha and Mary’s house to see them? There must have been a good reason. What was at those tombs? Jesus taught us, we have to face our demon’s alone. After Jesus was baptized, God’s Spirit led Him into the wilderness to face Satan alone. But He was never alone. God was always with Him. That was one lesson we all have to learn from every trial, with every demon we face. Why alone?
If we face those demons around people many things can go wrong. We could accept poor advice. Demon’s can use people we think we can trust and draw as further under their control. Demons will find new ways to block out communication with God. Our only safe way of defeating them is to trust totally in God and totally unite with Him. Other people may support and encourage us, but only God should give us direction and orders.
The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” John showed us how some people trust in Jesus and some people doubt Him. How can we know for certain which Christians are for real and which are not?
Miracles are another matter. Miracles need witnesses who believe. Notice how John pointed out believers were present before Jesus raised Lazarus. Some people have come up with some strange interpretations about this story to explain how Jesus raised only one person in a graveyard. They question God’s power and this miracle He performed. By questioning, they miss a majority of the spiritual lessons associated with this miracle.
We see how often the key words dead and tomb are repeated. John made certain they couldn’t be missed. Anyone reading this story will see that point. One word we don’t see repeated is angry. Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
John used an unusual Greek word to express Jesus’ anger at the time. It is a physical but subtle display of anger. Not a verbal display, but translated as a snort or sigh. Jesus told some men to roll that stone away. Another reason Jesus needed people present. This showed how we play a part in miracles. A small but important part. Notice how Jesus had the disciples distribute food when He fed thousands. Don’t you think God could have easily taken care of that detail if He wanted to?
Martha told Jesus about those four days to display her doubts. This is one of the things we face before God is about to perform a miracle. Don’t we all have a shadow of doubt when things look darkest and it appears there is nothing to do but give up? That is how it is going to be just before Jesus returns, but much worse than we could image. God will send signs. Most of them will be ignored. Or the enemy will find ways of explaining them, covering them up. Like people at that tomb, there will be a lot of people who follow Jesus but will express doubts. There isn’t enough doubt in this world to stop God.
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Jesus gave out one last call and demand. Once again Jesus had to repeat Himself. Jesus reminded us how He repeats Himself when something is important. Jesus pointed out another key word, believe.
Jesus remained by the tombs. He went away by Himself to pray for a while before Martha, then Mary and the others would come to see Him. When they arrived, they found Jesus among the tombs. There were many of tombs in that graveyard. Some with stones covering the entrance. Others were open, waiting for someone to fill them. Many of them were in different states of preparation. Piles of stones lay near their entrances showing how one thin layer of stone was cut from the tomb like layers of stone covering the heart of a nonbeliever ready to be released.
It was early spring. The cold bitter winter had passed. New life was sprouting up from the ground everywhere. Even in a graveyard there are reminders of new life. Jesus’ familiar image was easy to distinguish among the rocks and tombs. People flocked to Him. Some with anticipation, others with doubts.
As soon as they were gathered and settled down, Jesus said a silent prayer to His Father. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
Jesus allowed people to express their doubts before He proceeded with that miracle of a life time. Some accepted their doubts as a trial and learned from it. With all the proof Lazarus was dead for four days, no one could argue or deny God’s power. The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
This story shows how some people will not believe no matter what God does. They doubted all of the other miracles they heard about and witnessed. They doubted their eyes. They were spiritually blind, their hearts harder than the rock that entombed Lazarus. Where did those people go? Right back to their religious leaders.
We see the same scenario today. People see a miracle, they learn something new. Instead of investigating the matter themselves, and with God’s Spirit, they run off to their religious leaders for advise. They have demons, but refuse to face them alone on God’s ground. They can’t accept what they’ve see with their eyes, yet they prefer the advise of men over God’s miracles. What a twisted faith they follow.
Jesus repeated another lesson to show the role we have in miracles. We not only have a small role in the preparation of a miracle, our work extends past the act of a miracle. Moses told the people to remember what they saw in Egypt and tell it to their children so they can tell it to their children.
Now Jesus had the leading priests and Pharisees on the ropes. How could they explain Lazarus’ resurrection? “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” They immediately jumped to conclusions expecting the worse. They failed to pray and ask God what it all meant and where it would lead.
Next John recorded a very unusual lesson. But one we see repeated throughout the Bible. No matter how vialed a person is, no matter how far away from God they’ve run, God’s Spirit can still reach them. Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He did not say this on his own. As high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.
God has a way of using some of the strangest people as prophets. People love to place a personal interpretation on a prophet. But God has His own spiritual interpretation of a prophet. The two definitions don’t necessarily agree. You can look back in the Bible on your own to see some of the people God used to deliver messages or put events into motion to perform miracles and bring glory to God.
So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus‘ death. As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. John pointed out how doubt casts a shadow on Jesus, the miracles He performed, and slows down Him ministry. Doubt, fueled by jealousy and hatred can stop the message from reaching places. In this case Jerusalem was used as a symbol. At that time Jerusalem was the religious capital of the Jewish faith much more than it is today. Like that day Jesus rose Lazarus, that same jealousy, hatred, and greed still blocks Jesus from a major portion of Jerusalem.
It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.
John gave us a clue how far religious leaders will go to silence the competition. Arresting people for their beliefs? Does that make sense? Now look at the timing of this event. God’s timing may be one of the most difficult subjects to understand, but once you see how it works, it will open up the Bible like you never imagined.
God’s timing is best explained using what we view as a linear, or strait, one dimensional timeline. God of course has a different view of time. He knows nothing but eternity and has the power to see future events, as well as having a perfect memory of the past. Since we do not possess those qualities to the same degree as God, He arranged the Bible in a manner we should find easy to understand. The fulfillment of a prophecy represents one point on that linear timeline. As we study, using the basic rules of context, we find events and lessons intersecting that point. In this example, John’s conception and birth are intersected by the prophecy in Malachi chapter 4. Some fulfillments have a number of lines intersecting their point in time. Each intersecting line teaches a lesson. Each line travels on an angle in its own associated time period. In this case, the symbol, Sun of Righteousness, covers the same time period in one aspect of time, and much more.
In this example we have a number of events happening on the same day in the same sequence of time. Lazarus rose from the grave just before Passover. What does this bring to mind? It is a prelude to Jesus’ resurrection. We have a time line with one point, Lazarus’ resurrection. To see the extent of the full lesson we have to consider Jesus’ resurrection, which is one intersecting line. John pointed out another, Mary anointing Jesus. When we see how that story intersects this point in time and compare the stories, we learn a new series of lessons. Most of which we never saw before. Thomas also made an unusual statement. “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” This draws attention to Peter at another moment in Jesus’ ministry, adding another intersecting timeline and its associated lessons.
When you visualize a timeline like this, you have to see how Lazarus’ resurrection intersects Jesus’ time line when He died and rose from the grave. There are other associated events on those time lines that are related. When we compare them, we begin to see deep spiritual lessons and how one story helps to explain details about the other.
One of the subjects we see explained is how people doubted. This coincided with how people doubted when Jesus rose from that tomb. Another detail is the scenes and how they are described. Of course we have to compare the people who believed. Mary is one person linking the people at Lazarus’ tomb with those at Jesus’ tomb. That comparison showed a transformation. The point is, scripture is filled with details most people skip over when they’re reading God’s Word and not allowing His Spirit to guide Him. They don’t hear His voice, so they missed a lot of those details designed to open new understanding and a closer relationship with Jesus. We see those lessons in this story and the series of stories that led to this event. John repeated the fact many people didn’t listen for a reason.
Now that you’ve learned a few simple methods to study your Bible, pray and open it up. Take a look. What does God have to tell you? What are you willing to learn? It’s up to you. What you learn is only limited by time and how willing you are to listen. I know one thing for sure. Once you start, it’s hard to put down God’s Word. It may take only a few minutes a day, or an hour or so. Try writing. That will slow you down enough to hear God’s voice. You can study with a hard copy Bible or use a computer Bible program like I do.
Here is a Bible Study step you want to learn:
I use a free Bible Study program called E-Sword. With this free program, you can add a number of free Bibles. One you have to download is called the KJV+. This is the version containing Strong’s numbers and works with the Strong Concordance, a very important Bible Study tool containing Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. One of the Bibles you may want to buy is the NLTse (New Living Translation, second edition).
Using a Bible program allows you to highlight and underline texts, copy and paste, set bookmarks, provided a set of cross reference texts, and much more. You can quickly switch from one Bible version to another as well as look at definitions in the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries in the Strong’s Concordance. Bible Study programs can speed up studies as well as make it easy to organize your studies. You’ll also want to use a good word processor. I prefer the free version offered by Open Office. Linus offers a similar program called Libre. We have so many tools and when we look for new lessons, so much time. And if you don’t have enough time, remember, God can always make more.