Author Archives: Jena Ashby

Ascension

Introduction

In January of 1967, there was a launch pad test of Apollo 1, which was to be the first flight of a three-man Apollo capsule into Earth’s orbit. Somewhere in the capsule’s 31 miles of wiring, a wire had been stripped of its insulation. The bare wire happened to be near a cooling line, and there was a violent chemical reaction between the silver in the wire and the ethylene glycol. Within seconds, flames spread across the cabin ceiling. At 6:31 p.m., astronaut Roger Chaffee said, “We’ve got fire in the cockpit.” A few seconds later, the transmission ended with a cry of pain. All three astronauts died. Two years later, when Apollo 11 got ready to carry human beings to the moon, President Nixon asked William Safire to write a speech entitled, “In Event of Moon Disaster.” If anything went wrong on the moon mission, Nixon would read the speech on TV, the radio communications with the moon would be cut off, the astronauts would be left alone to die, and a minister would commend their souls to “the deepest of the deep.” But that’s not what happened. On July 20, 1969, with less than 30 seconds of fuel left, the lunar module landed in the Sea of Tranquility, and Commander Neil A. Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the gray, powdery surface of the moon. It was the first time a human had ever gone to another celestial body. After their return to earth, the astronauts had parades and dinners held in their honor in Washington D.C. President Nixon gave each astronaut the Presidential Medal of Freedom. What a celebration! The human race had just accomplished its greatest technological achievement of all time. Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today

Read Acts 1:6-14

The great risks of ascending into outer space and reaching for the moon were worth it to those who took up the challenge. In the same way, Jesus’ ascension caused all who witnessed it to take of a risky, high-stakes adventure that would change the world forever. We must understand what the ascension might mean for our knowledge of who Jesus is and our understanding of what Christians are expected to be doing with themselves.

Waiting and Praying

Before Jesus departed to his home outside of space and time, he promised again that his followers “will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come.” Jesus said that God will empower them to be witnesses, beginning right where they were. Eventually, they will spread deep and wide with the good news, even to “the ends of the earth.”

Jesus’ promises affirmed that his ascension was not the end of the story; rather it is the next chapter in the story of God’s salvation. Jesus only made one request, to remain in Jerusalem for the time being. The rest of his words are descriptive, almost matter-of-fact. He told them what God will do, and what their lives will look like as a result. No requests. No orders. No threats. No exhortations.

Jesus’ ascension took him to the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-35). Meaning, Jesus ascended to all power and authority. He is the king, the lord, our leader. Jesus reigns over all creation. It is his. Christ holds it all together (Colossians 1:17). His departure does not put Jesus out of the picture until the end of time. His plan and the kingdom he initiated are not on hold. The Book of Acts assures us that Jesus departed so that he could execute his authority and influence over all things.

When the two angelic figures called the apostles back to their senses, they did not order them to get busy. They simply gave the scene a conclusion and assured them of Christ’s return. With that knowledge, they went back to Jerusalem, waited, and prayed. They thought and talked about what Jesus said; about the kingdom of God, forgiveness of sins, release from sin’s power. After sufficient prayer, rest, and waiting for the guidance of the Spirit they began moving outward to bear witness with the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s easy to overlook the waiting period. But, this little part of the story serves to remind us that even the apostles had to wait and wonder about God’s timing. We know they would eventually witness the birth of the Church through the widespread disbursement of the Spirit. We know that they earliest believers expected Jesus to return very soon after his departure. But God waits. God waited to deliver the full measure of the Spirit and launch the Church. God waits to authorize Christ’s return. We pray and rest and then watch for God to respond, but God often waits.

Waiting builds our character and we learn, or begin to learn. We learn to wait and see what God initiates so that we can join God in it. Waiting has an active quality to it. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, the apostles took care of important matters while they watch for signs of the Lord’s movement. The apostles went to the “room upstairs,” where they were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” They set themselves apart in seclusion, but expected God to act. While they waited they obeyed Jesus. Nevertheless, they were ready for whatever came next.

Waiting can cause us to grow impatient with God and dismissive of God’s plans, or it can cause us to be more attentive to God, so that we can be ready to respond when the time is right. We, like the apostles and believers before us, wait amidst enormous expectations – many of which are not easily understood. It is an uneasy time of the new realities and unknown timing. Like the astronauts mentioned earlier we must exercise courage, knowing that we may not survive to see the victory from this earthly perspective. We persevere and wait because we expect great things to come from God; many things that God asks us to take part in.

Conclusion

The ascension of Jesus and the pronouncement of the angels assures us that Christ is alive and in control. The events remind us that we are still waiting for his return. The actions of the apostles inform us that waiting and praying bears fruit, especially when we are watching for God to initiate the process that God intends for each of us to be part of. The presence of the Church today and the long history of its impact upon humanity is evidence of the struggle to wait, seek, and fulfill God’s purposes. Therefore, we are obliged to follow the best examples of the bible and Christian history, or risk repeating the biggest mistakes.

The Family of God

Read Acts 17:22-31

Introduction

One of the best-known sentences in English literature is taken from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s famous play. “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” The awareness of ‘being’ is the unique state of humanity that the French philosopher, Rene Descartes famously summarized in the statement, ‘I think therefore I am.’ This suggests that if one knows he/she is alive and is conscious of his/her existence there is “being” within the body. “Being” is our awareness of the inner person, or the soul. As Bible-believers we consider that the image of God. Now, Paul reminds us today that as born-again people, saved by God’s grace we are no longer the owners of our “being.” It is Him – that is God – that we have our being. That’s powerful news. If the saved believer has transferred the title to his/her being to God, then God has ultimate authority over our lives. God is the “Father,” the head of the family.

The Family DNA

You’ve seen the commercials on TV that urge you to order a kit, spit into a cup, and then await results of a DNA test so you can find out who your predecessors are. The Apostle Paul told us to do the same thing almost two thousand years ago. Your soul’s DNA has been changed by justification through Christ. Therefore, we who have been made new in the by the Spirit will all trace our spiritual ancestry back to Jesus Christ. “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

The ancestry DNA tests help by giving a sense of belonging. With knowledge of genetic heritage one can claim a tribe and maybe even learn its culture and traditions so that life has new meaning and purpose. It is good to know who we are and where we come from. It’s good to have added purpose and meaning in our lives. When Paul regards the other gods of Athens he is respectful, even commending them. Yet, with skillful rhetoric that rivaled the famous philosophers of Greece he points out that it is their monument to an unknown god that proves their sense of inadequacy. If the other gods could have met all their needs for meaning and purpose there would have been no need for a monument to the unknown or unknowable.

 Church as Family

Over the last ten years or so I have experienced a steady evolution in my understanding of the Church as “family.” Like, many people I found it easy to think of those who call themselves Christians as brothers and sisters – even seeing Jewish folks as cousins. In my thought, it was more of a concept than a literal state of being. With so many divisions amongst the believers it seemed like the only thing that united us was a common enemy. As I’ve served local churches I have always felt affection for people with whom I’ve shared so many sacred moments. They have become like so many extra mothers, fathers, and siblings. Nevertheless, it disturbed me that so many local churches consider themselves a family. I felt that, by doing so, they risked being too exclusive. Of course, that is often the case when the idea of family is limited to affinity. That is, when we call ourselves a family but what we really mean is “club.”

Seminars, books, and other church growth materials often say that we should speak of the church as a community, since that seems more inclusive. I confess that I have experimented with that language for a season. I eventually gave it up because it seemed to cause some subtle changes that felt wrong to me. The truth is, this is a family. It is a family in that we are children of God because of the grace of God. Like all families, we have our characters; we have our children, and elders. As with all families there are appointed roles. There are disagreements and tender moments of deep compassion. From time to time, emotional, spiritual, and physical illness takes away one of our family members. But, we long for them just as in any family in times of sorrow and grief.

Nevertheless, I’m still troubled by the exclusiveness that enters too easily into church families. But, I think I know what needs to change so that we do not fall into that trap. We need to make more babies! How did your own family grow? Babies were born, households were grafted together through marriage, children were adopted, etc. In the same way, the church family grows when new disciples are born of the Spirit. The DNA of Christ is written in to her/his being and, like us, they are children of God. The cure for exclusivity in church is discipleship.

Being and Seeking

Our mission is plain, “Being Disciples, Seeking Disciples, Changing the World.” Discipleship is made of grace and discipline. We became disciples of Christ because we accepted his grace and then agreed to follow his discipline. In all families, there are moments of discipline and grace. In all families, there are differing levels of authority and responsibility. This is true of God’s family too.

Sometimes conflict arises in the church family because of the tension between temporal family expectations and spiritual expectations. For example, consider 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (1772): See how Paul plainly states that it isn’t about Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or even himself. “I follow Christ” he says. With discipleship as the goal, one only must ask, “does my attitude honor Jesus?” “Do my wants and desires serve His purposes?”

Conclusion

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a beautiful hymn that seems to sum up what we have been talking about today. It’s called, “The Family of God.” The words say,

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God, I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here, It’s because we’re a family and these are so near; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God, I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.

            I suppose some folks are more into, “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. But, the sentiment is the same; Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are one with our Lord and one with each other. We are not a dynasty, but we are sons and daughters of the King. We are not special because of our blood, but we’re made so by His blood. While we are not always in agreement, we are of one accord, so that we are His servants and He is our Lord.

None So Deaf

 

Read Acts 7:55-60

Introduction

A mother can certainly relate to the scene presented in today’s reading [today is Mother’s Day] – a group of people having a temper tantrum! The problem is, these are supposed to be adults, supposedly the wise religious leaders even. Yet, during their angry resistance to his Word Stephen is not intimidated by them. He is not even afraid of his imminent martyrdom. This infuriated them even more.

Anger is one of five primary emotions (Mad, Sad, Glad, Fear and Disgust).  Surprise is often seen as a 6th primary emotion. Apart from Glad (and Surprise), the other primary emotions are primitive threat detectors the job of which is to alert us to the presence of a threat that could “kill” us and to prepare our bodies to deal with the threat. Anger, as an emotion, tells us that we perceive a threat that we believe we can eliminate if we throw enough power at it.  Anger elicits the release of Adrenalin (and other neurotransmitters) which prepares us to go to battle. (http://psychologydictionary.org/primary-emotion)

Today’s bible reading demonstrates the quintessential emotional-psychological threat response. The religious leaders are responding to Stephen’s words in the same way an animal responds to what seems like a precursor to being eaten by an aggressor. However, Stephen is a confident, Spirit-filled preacher whose purpose is to teach them. He is filled with the grace of God, that is love for those to whom he speaks. So, why are they afraid of his words? Why are his hearers reacting as if they will die if Stephen is not silenced?

The Disease of Comfort

Religion, by its very nature, is a system designed to give comfort. It contains rights, rituals, and spaces that can make us feel safe. In a world wherein change is a constant threat to our sense of well-being as governments change hands, where happiness is subjective, and where technologies present new challenges daily there is a great deal of comfort gained from traditions and beliefs that never change. Religion is a means of maintaining these comforting systems. Therefore, religion is often the least adaptable institution in society. It’s understandable and it’s tragic. Religion becomes a refuge, even an island.

Recently, I heard a great leader of a local service agency say that she and her team would not allow their institution to become a silo. Her use of the word “silo” seemed novel to me since I had never heard it in that context before. I gave it a great deal of thought. Using my imagination and a plethora of visual aids in this farming community I easily grasped her meaning. A silo is typically tall and narrow. Like a skyscraper in the city, silos stand tall but are not very wide. Thus, they maximize containment in one small space. This concept seems to fit religion of those persons who silenced Stephen. To them, it was as though Stephen intended to break open the bin to let the precious contents spill out.

Silos give comfort since they are signs of security. A full grain bin represents wealth and provision for the future. However, as Jesus said, “The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. So, he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’ This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:16-21)

Comfort results from a sense of security and security is a result of effective defenses. When Stephen’s words threatened their defenses the religious leaders reacted violently because they had spent their lives investing in the defense systems of their ancestors. They knew their political status was precarious since they had been oppressed countless times, by rulers from within and without the nation. The religious defenses were designed to withstand this political oppression from the world, but they couldn’t stand up to the force of the Spirit.

Knowing When to Defend and When to Surrender

              Stephen’s audience, which included a man who would become the Apostle Paul, felt justified for defending the faith against this new heresy. As far as we know, Paul was the only person in the crowd who eventually repented and surrender to the Lord. (Acts 9:1-19) When Paul became convinced that he’d been fighting for the wrong reason he surrendered. Sadly, most of those persons who killed Stephen would suffer horribly at the hands of the Romans at the siege and destruction of Jerusalem just a few years later. They fought Stephen and other Christians to protect what the thought was sacred and eventually lost everything, even hope.

              When we feel threatened it is tempting to put our fingers in our ears and proclaim, “I can’t hear you!” However, it is far better to take the time to listen, pray, and reason with others. Eventually, we can know whether to defend or surrender. There are times when resistance is called for – times when, like last week’s example suggests, the flock must be guarded against weeds and bitter water. At other times, because of prayer, patience, and thoughtfulness surrender opens vast possibilities. Perhaps the silos can afford a little risk from time to time. Wise investors often maintain what they would call, “risk capital.” What if some of the religious leaders who heard Stephen that day had been willing to risk having their minds changed? It’s not unprecedented; consider Nicodemus (John 3) and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42), or Ananias (who received Paul despite his reputation – Acts 9:10-19).

Conclusion

              This message comes on Mother’s Day, so it should probably connect to moms in some way or another. I will risk it by suggesting that mothers are often the best example of this concept. In the wild there is nothing so dangerous as a mother defending her young.  The mere suggestion of a threat can cost a hapless wanderer dearly. In our homes, there is a similar commitment to the safety of our precious little ones. Yet, as they grow older we are forced to let them go. We risk letting them out of our silo as they go wide into the world. Our children challenge us with new ideas to which we sometimes respond with the fullest of our defenses and at others we relent. Our love for our children is the key ingredient. Love causes us to listen thoughtfully and to pray.

              I am convinced that the religious leaders in Stephen’s case had no love for God or they would not have been able to respond the way they did. Love for God causes us to respond to others with love. Sometimes with tough-love and sometimes with tender grace. It is the way in which the Lord has dealt with us. It is the love that saves us from God’s justifiable wrath. If this love is within us then we would be reluctant to turn to wrath with each other. Rather, we would take direction when needed and, at other times, stand courageously when needed.

             

The Fellowship of Believers

Read Acts 2:42-47

Introduction

The Book of Acts tells the story of how Christianity began and spread. As with any historical narrative, Acts omits many details in favor of selected facts that are most important and the events that played critical roles in the development of later situations. In this case, Luke has interpreted the events and presented them in an organized way that demonstrates both history and faith. Historically, the book serves as a vital link between the Gospels and the epistles. It bridges the gap between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. In the Gospels, Jesus is preaching; in the epistles, Jesus is being preached.  (Michael Morrison)

The book of Acts may be read for history, and it may also be read to strengthen our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. As we read, we can put ourselves in the apostles’ sandals, to feel their boldness in preaching the gospel and their fears when facing persecution. We can marvel that the apostles, right after being flogged, were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus]” (Acts 5:41). And by reading about their faith and perseverance, we can be a little more emboldened to face our own crises with the help of the same Holy Spirit.

Key Qualities of the Fellowship

            They devoted themselves to the Apostles teachings – This is an indication that the believers sought and honored the authority of those upon whom the call and charge had been placed. The early Church accepted the leadership of the Apostles. In turn, the leaders cared for the fellowship and guided the use of their resources for a common good. The fellowship’s devotion to Christ and each other occurred daily.

            Peter and Paul emerged as central figures in Luke’s account of the Apostles and the early Church. In 1 Peter, we get a taste of the kind of leadership, or shepherding given by the Apostles: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (2:2-3). Later, Peter says, “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2:19) Peter says, that it is necessary for believers to grow up and buck up. Again, the obvious assumption in the letters of the Apostles is that they are being heard with respect and reverence for the One who sent them to teach and preach. Peter and the other Apostles gave their followers strong doctrinal instruction, but also encouraged them during great trials. The followers of Christ believed the teaching of the Apostles because they witnessed the shared suffering and experienced the anointed leadership. They were fed and cared for both spiritually and physically through the Apostles’ leadership.

            The same basic structure exists in today’s typical church. An anointed, appointed, spiritual leader shepherds the flock. Authority is given as a sign of faith in Christ as head of the Church. Each believer is part of the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:9) does not equate to universal authority. Each believer is subject to the teachings and leadership of the Apostles. Priesthood is understood as an extension of the Body of Christ.

The Shepherd

            Read John 10:1-10 (1666) – Jesus told the Pharisees that He was the gate. He said that anyone who goes around the gate is not the Shepherd, but a thief. Therefore, Jesus indicated that those religious leaders who denied Jesus as Christ were thieves among the sheep. As we read Jesus’ words it becomes clear that his shepherds are easily recognized and accepted as leaders of the sheep. Therefore, going around the shepherd is like going around the gate.

Psalm 23 gives a vivid description of the Lord as shepherd and describes the role of the shepherd of every flock that belongs to the Lord. Read Psalm 23 (862). See how the shepherd cares for the sheep. The shepherd provides for all their needs – not wants. It is the shepherd’s awesome responsibility and prerogative to drive the sheep away from sickening food, and dirty water. It is the shepherd who must give and accounting to the owner of the flock.

Consider what would happen as a heard of sheep moves through the valley of hunger, thirst, and danger and emerges in a place where there is water, but it is impure; where there are green plants, but they are bitter weeds. An alpha male and female of the flock presses ahead of the others even attempting to bypass the shepherd. The flock is tempted to follow, accept for the intervention of the shepherd. The shepherd speaks firmly to the sheep and pushes back the presumptuous ram and ewe. The ram is determined to drink wherever he wills and the ewe urges him on. The shepherd briefly battles over the matter of who is in charge, the sheep or the shepherd. Then, when submission is won by the shepherd the flock is led to sweet water and green pastures. For the shepherd to any less would be dishonoring to the owner of the flock.

Conclusion

            By now, it must be apparent that I have found a particular meaning in the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this week. As I studied them I felt compelled to interpret them in the way that I have.  Perhaps I have been led in this direction because I am leaving you soon and cannot help but reflect upon the years of service here, even as I anticipate my service in our next appointment. I am aware that in both places there has been some discord that resulted from discomfort with the pastor’s leadership. In some cases, persons have lost authority and influence over matters they cared deeply about. Some have lost projects and possessions. In both churches, there have been those who responded by leaving – at least until the pastor they disagree with is gone. When this happened, it saddened the pastor more than most people will ever know. Like most people, we wanted to be respected and loved; we want to be appreciated and understood as much as the body of believers. Yet, we cannot afford to forget that we are accountable to God for how we shepherd His flocks. We would rather risk the wrath of an angry ram or ewe than disappoint the Master. However, we love our flock and do not wish to see anyone wander away or go hungry.

 

Life Giver

Lazarus Was Already Dead Jesus was at Bethabara, about twenty miles from Bethany (John 1:28; 10:40). If the one traveled quickly the trip could be completed in one day. So, a messenger arrived with news that Lazarus was sick. Then, Jesus sent the messenger back the next day. Then Jesus waited two more days before leaving for Bethany. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Therefore, Lazarus had died the very day the messenger left to contact Jesus.

Day 1—The messenger comes to Jesus (Lazarus dies).

Day 2—The messenger returns to Bethany.

Day 3—Jesus waits another day, then departs.

Day 4—Jesus arrives in Bethany.

The two sisters did not tell Jesus what to do in their request. They simply informed him that there was a need, and they reminded him of His love for Lazarus. Like the apostles, they knew that it was dangerous for Jesus to return to Judea. Perhaps they hoped that He would “speak the word” and their brother would be restored to health. We can all agree that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ sickness or even healed it from where He was; but He chose not to. He saw in this sickness an opportunity to glorify the Father. It is not important that we Christians are comfortable, but it is important that we glorify God in all that we do.

Two Sisters Jesus seems to have performed many miracles as an investment in the spiritual maturity of the apostles and his friends, like Mary and Martha (John 11:26, 40). Each experience of suffering and trial should increase faith, but such growth is not automatic. One must respond faithfully to the ministry of the Word and the Spirit of God. Jesus had sent a promise to the two sisters (John 11:4), and then he discovered how they received it.

The familiar story recorded in Luke 10:38-42 makes it clear that Mary and Martha had very different personalities. Martha was task oriented while Mary was the contemplative who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. Jesus did not condemn Martha’s service, but He did rebuke her for being “torn apart” by so many things. She needed to set priorities and center her activities on the things of God.

Martha did not hesitate to affirm her faith when she met Jesus on the road to Bethany. She used three different titles for Jesus: Lord, Christ (Messiah), and Son of God. The words “I believe” are in the perfect tense, indicating a fixed and settled faith. “I have believed and I will continue to believe!”

Mary is found three times in the Gospel record, and each time she is at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39; John 11:32; 12:3). She sat at His feet and listened to His word; she fell at His feet and poured out her sorrow; and she came to His feet to give Him her praise and worship. Mary’s only recorded words in the Gospels are given in John 11:32, and they echo what Martha had already said (John 11:21).

Mary did not say much because she was overcome with sorrow and began to weep. Her friends joined in the weeping, as Jewish people are accustomed to do. The word used means “a loud weeping, a lamentation.” Our Lord’s response was to groan within and “be moved with indignation.” At what was He indignant? At the ravages of sin in the world that He had created. Death is an enemy, and Satan uses the fear of death as a terrible weapon (Heb. 2:14-18).

It is interesting that Jesus asks in John 11:11, “where is Lazarus buried?” The Lord doesn’t seem to use divine power when normal human means will suffice.

“Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners. But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead John 11:11).

The one person who declared her faith was Martha (John 11:27), and she failed at the last minute, “Open the tomb? By now he smells!” Jesus gently reminded her of the message He had sent at least three days before John 11:4), and He urged her to believe it. True faith relies on God’s promises and thereby releases God’s power. Martha relented, and the stone was rolled away.

Conclusion A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not named Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery! Because of the great change in Lazarus, many people desired to see him; and his “living witness” was used by God to bring people to salvation (John 12:9-11). There are no recorded words of Lazarus in the Gospels, but his daily walk is enough to convince people that Jesus is the Son of God. Because of his effective witness, Lazarus was persecuted by the religious leaders who wanted to kill him and get rid of the evidence.

As with the previous miracles, the people were divided in their response. Some did believe and on “Palm Sunday” gave witness of the miracle Jesus had performed (John 12:17-18). But others immediately went to the religious leaders and reported what had happened in Bethany. These “informers” were so near the kingdom, yet there is no evidence that they believed. If the heart will not yield to  truth, then the grace of God cannot bring salvation. These people could have experienced a spiritual resurrection in their own lives!

John 11 reveals the deity of Jesus Christ and the utter depravity of the human heart. The rich man in hades had argued, “If one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). Lazarus came back from the dead, and the officials wanted to kill him! Miracles certainly reveal the power of God, but of themselves they cannot communicate the grace of God.

 

*Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.