How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 3

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21

So far we have learned that the way to overcome the fear of abandonment is to focus on…

– The promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16).

– The permanent indwelling of the Spirit of truth (John 14:17-18).

The third way we can overcome the fear of abandonment is by focusing on THE PROSPECT OF LOVE FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON TO THOSE WHO OBEY (John 14:19-24). Jesus says to His eleven believing disciples, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19). Jesus says that “a little while longer” when He goes to the Father’s house after His death and resurrection (cf. John 13:33, 36; 14:2-3; Acts 1:9-11) “the world will see” Him “no more,” but His disciples will see Him through the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus had revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ (cf. John 15:26; 16:14, 16). The coming of the Holy Spirit would be evidence that Jesus was alive and in heaven with His Father (John 16:7).

When Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also,” He was saying that His bodily resurrection would guarantee the bodily resurrection of all believers in the future (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-58; I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Since Christ rose from the dead and had conquered sin and the grave, He could share His resurrection life with His followers through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would connect them to the Trinitarian God.

Christ explains, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). “At that day” when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost (Acts 2), the disciples will know by experience the indwelling of the Trinitarian God: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ would live in them and the disciples would “see” Him (John 14:19).

Because the Holy Spirit would soon indwell His disciples, Jesus anticipated a new intimacy with them. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. In order to “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said.

When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest” or reveal more of Himself to them. God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special sense (John 14:21, 23; cf. 13:23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with the Father and the Son.

“If you listen to a radio station in your car, you know that the further you get from the broadcast station, the worse your reception of the signal gets. Many people have difficulty connecting with God because they’ve wandered too far away to pick up his signal. But if you come back home in obedience, relating to God through Christ in love, He will disclose more of Himself to you.” 1

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (John 14:22). “Judas,” the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), expected Jesus to manifest His Davidic rule to the world. He was looking for a political and physical manifestation of Christ. But Jesus was referring to a spiritual manifestation through the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’ ” (John 14:23). Christ would only reveal Himself to those who loved Him by keeping His “word.” Not only would the Holy Spirit take up residence in them, but so would God the Father and God the Son. The reality of the Father and Son indwelling a believer was conditioned upon obedience. This is a picture of fellowship or closeness with the Godhead – “and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” The issue here is not salvation. A believer’s disobedience does not take away salvation. Christ is talking about discipleship in this verse. The more we love and obey the Lord, the more we will enjoy close fellowship with the Trinitarian God.

The word “home” (monḗ) is the same word Jesus used of the “many mansions” in the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2). The link between verse 2 and verse 23 is that the current dwelling of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in an obedient believer’s life is a foretaste of God’s dwelling with us and in us in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Revelation 21:1-3). 2 “Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!” 3  Notice that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not based upon obedience, but upon belief in Christ (cf. John 7:37-39).

Christ then said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:24). If there is no love for Jesus, there is no obedience. Love to the apostle John is not an abstract emotion, but an action. Those who disobey Christ will miss out on knowing Him more intimately. Their relationship with Him will be more superficial. If you disagree with Jesus, He informs you that you also disagree with His Father who “sent”Him because Jesus’ teaching originated from His Father in heaven.

How many of you are married? How many of you believe you know your spouse better today than you did on your wedding day? How did that come about? Through shared time and experience and communication. Jesus says if we keep His commandments, He will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to us (John 14:21, 23). This is much like a friendship with another person. Through shared time and experience, the person opens up to you in a more intimate way. Also, as we obey Jesus, we will experience God the Father’s and God the Son’s love for us in a deeper way. So to know God intimately is to know His love more intimately since “God is love”(I John 4:8). If we are not developing a more intimate relationship with Jesus, it is probably because we are not living in obedience to Him. If that is the case, simply confess your sin to God (I John 1:9) and trust Christ to help you obey Him.

A story in Leadership magazine illustrates how the Holy Spirit can help us when we feel all alone. “Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.” 4

How often has our Helper, the Holy Spirit, given us the support we needed when we felt abandoned and all alone? Maybe we were discouraged and ready to quit, but then we sensed His comforting presence. Or perhaps He gave us the support we needed through a Christian friend. Jesus wants us to know that we can be certain the Holy Spirit is always standing alongside, ready and able to help. If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside, you can stand any battle on the outside.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the free gift of everlasting life which is received simply by believing in You alone. But to enjoy deeper fellowship with You, I must obey Your commands. Lord, You know my heart better than anyone, including myself. You know that I like to be in control because I feel so vulnerable when I am not. Because I long to know You and Your love more intimately, I want to surrender all control to You. Right now, I voluntarily surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. The more I love and obey You, the more I can experience closeness with You, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Although I sin every day, Your shed blood on the cross makes it possible for me to enjoy close fellowship with You the moment I confess my sins to You (I John 1:7, 9). Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1803.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 446.

3. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1 (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 353.

4. https://bible.org/illustration/2-timothy-18.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 5

“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” John 13:16

One of the greatest dangers in our churches today is for religion to replace an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. By religion, I mean anything you may do for God that does not come from a heart that is intimately connected to the Lord.

How can we develop a more intimate relationship with Christ? So far we have discovered that we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ when we…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

– Resolve to apply Jesus’ cleansing grace to others (John 13:12-15).

The fifth way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ is to REVERE CHRIST’S LORDSHIP (John 13:16). The apostle John now emphasizes the Lordship of Christ. “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (John 13:16). Jesus reminds His disciples of their status as “servants” and the “sent.” If their Master and Sender does lowly services, then they the “slaves” and “sent ones” must not consider menial tasks beneath their dignity. Christ submitted to His Father and we are to submit to Him. If we refuse to follow Jesus’ example of humble service, then we are exalting ourselves above Him. We cannot experience intimacy with Christ if we refuse to place ourselves under His control as our Lord and Master.

We can say that Jesus is our Lord and Master but the true test is our actions. Christ said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). We can talk all we want about the Lordship of Christ in our lives, but if our actions do not align with His will, our words are empty and meaningless. Our behavior expresses what we truly value. If we are not humbly serving others as Jesus did, then we are not placing ourselves under His Lordship.

Surrendering to Christ’s Lordship in our lives will happen more naturally as we grow in our relationship with Jesus. Relationship, not rules, is the basis of surrender to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are my source of joy and peace, not religious rules and rituals. Thank You for reminding me to keep my focus on You and not religion. You are my Lord and Master, and what You say to do is what matters most. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 2

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.” John 13:3-4

Jesus is in the final week of His life before His crucifixion. It is Thursday, our time. We are learning in John 13 how to experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Jesus Christ. Last time we saw that we are to recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2). Today we discover we are to RECKON WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST (John 13:3-5; cf. Ephesians 2:10).

What happens next is incredible. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God…” (John 13:3). Jesus knew that His Father in heaven had given Him a position of absolute authority (“the Father had given all things into His hands”). He knew His origin (“He had come from God”) and His destination (“and was going to God”). He knew who He was and where He was going. From this position of strength and security, we see Jesus taking the role of a lowly servant.

Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.” (John 13:4). “In Palestine the roads are dusty, and though guests would normally bathe before a social gathering like Passover, after a walk across the city their feet would be dirty. A basin of water and towels were customarily placed at the door of a home for washing. The task of washing guests’ feet was generally assigned to a household servant. A basin of water and towel had been left in the upper room for the disciples’ use, but not one of them took responsibility for washing the others’ feet. They were too busy thinking of themselves to think of others.” The disciples’ refusal to put themselves in the place of a servant reveals their own insecurity.

We are told that Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments.” Pentecost observes that “there are several hints from Scripture concerning the outer clothing which Christ wore. From the record given to us at the Crucifixion, we know that He wore a seamless robe. This would have been an unusually costly robe. Normally robes were made of strips of cloth that had been woven on narrow looms; these strips were sewn together to make a garment of sufficient size to be wrapped around an adult. But the robe that Christ wore had been especially prepared at great cost… We also notice that when Christ during His ministry went into a strange synagogue He was greeted as a rabbi and welcomed in that assembly. A rabbi was normally designated by the color of the tassels or ribbons sewn onto his robe. It may be that Christ wore the robe of a rabbi. Such a robe would have entitled Him to respect and honor. In Israel only the priest was held in higher esteem than the rabbi… It was such a garment as this that Christ laid aside in order to wrap a towel around His waist. A towel was the sign of a servant. A servant had no position and no honor.” 2

Imagine the look of shock on the disciples’ faces when Jesus stood up and laid aside His robe of honor to wrap Himself in a servant’s towel to wash their feet. Yet, even after Jesus took the position of a slave to wash their feet, no one offered to do the task instead. They were too embarrassed or too proud to perform a house servant’s task. This is the extent of Jesus’ love for His own disciples. He is willing to humbly serve them. Humble servanthood is not an expression of weakness. It is actually a show of strength. The more we embrace who we are in Christ and where we are going because of His amazing grace, the more we can serve others from a position of strength and security. This means we must lay aside our robes that entitle us to honor and respect and put on Christ’s love with which to serve others.

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13:5). The “towel” was long enough to wrap around Jesus’ waist and use the free end to dry His disciples’ feet. This was a tremendous expression of love! Jesus loved them enough to become their servant and minister to them. You would have thought that Jesus needed them to minister to Him as He faced the cross. Instead, we see Him reaching out to them and meeting their needs. He knew that in a short time they would reject Him, but here He is serving them. What an amazing Savior and Lord we have! The more secure we are in Christ’s love and our identity in Him, the more empowered we will be to serve others.

When Jesus took the position of a lowly household servant, He made Himself extremely vulnerable. He knelt down before men who would betray Him. Among those feet were Judas’ and Peter’s. One man would betray Him and the other would deny Him before the night was over. Still, in love, Jesus knelt down before them. Today, God’s love kneels down before us wherever we are. And as He does, He urges us to bare ourselves before Him, to be vulnerable before Him with our dirty feet (i.e. sinfulness). Jesus’ security and strength to humbly serve these men (John 13:4-5) was based upon His knowing His absolute authority from the Father, His origin, and His destination (John 13:3).

Likewise, as we discover and believe who we are in Christ, we can also make ourselves vulnerable to serve others even when it involves washing dirty feet. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The word “workmanship” is the Greek word poiēma from which we get our English word “poem.” God has made us a heavenly piece of poetry on this earth. We are His masterpiece, not a mistake. The more we see ourselves as He sees us, the more we can “walk in the good works, which God prepared beforehand.” You and I are not defined by our sin and shame, we are defined by God’s view of us recorded in His word. The more we embrace the way God sees us, the more vulnerable we can become in serving one another.

What are the “good works” God has “prepared beforehand” for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10)? I believe some common “good works” for all Christians to walk in involve going into all the world and preaching the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15) and making disciples or followers of Christ by baptizing those who believe in Jesus and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20). Christ’s gives all Christians the “authority” to do these works for His glory (Matthew 28:18).

Do you want to experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ? Then recognize Jesus’ loyal love for you and reckon who you are in Christ. When you do, you will be in a position to humbly serve our Lord by serving others. The world could use a lot more of this right now.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what a beautiful picture of Your love when You got up from the table and made Yourself extremely vulnerable by taking the position of a lowly household servant to wash the dirty feet of Your disciples who should have been washing Your feet. Even though they would eventually abandon You in Your darkest hour, You chose not to abandon them. Lord, none of us deserve this loyal and unlimited love from You. But we gratefully receive it because we need cleansing from our own sin and shame. Thank You so much for meeting us where we are at. Please help us to see ourselves through Your eyes so we can serve others from a position of strength and security. We have been given Your authority to represent You on earth as Your ambassadors (Matthew 28:18; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We have been entrusted with Your gospel message to boldly share it with a lost world (Mark 16:15) and then make disciples of those who believe in You (Matthew 28:19-20). Because You made Yourself vulnerable for us, we can now make ourselves vulnerable for others. We love You, our Lord and our God. In Your gracious and loving name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 239.

2. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 428.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 1

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1

We can look good from head to toe with the right hairstyle, clothes, and makeup when we are around people. But when it comes to our feet – well – the façade is over. Because feet get dirty and stink. We all have dirty feet. If you don’t believe me, check your neighbor’s feet out right now. It’s impossible to keep your feet smelling and looking good all the time. We are uncomfortable with people seeing our feet up close. You may wonder, “What will they think when they see my feet? Will they notice any toe jam or fungus? Will my feet stink? Will they still like me or will they run away from me?”

We don’t like it when people see our blemishes. We are afraid they will reject us. Think about it for a moment? Why do we even worry about what others think of our feet!?! After all, who doesn’t have dirty feet!?! We all have dirty feet! Jesus came to earth to clean dirty feet. All of us need Jesus to clean our feet!!! Amen!?!

In our study of the gospel of John thus far we have looked at the first twelve chapters which present seven miraculous signs to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. Beginning with chapter thirteen of John, the apostle will begin to present intimacy with Christ to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus. He also uses this section (John 13-17) to motivate Christians to experience the abundant life of Christ through a discipleship relationship with Him.

In John 13:1-17, Jesus is going to address the problem of dirty feet. From these verses, we will learn how to experience the blessedness of clean feet. Turn in your Bibles to John chapter thirteen. In the context of this passage, Jesus is in the final week of His life before His crucifixion. On Monday, He entered the city of Jerusalem triumphantly (John 12:12-19). This was the day the Passover lamb was selected. On Tuesday, Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12-13). He returned to Bethany that evening. On Wednesday, Jesus cursed the fig tree on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem and had conflict with the religious leaders (Matthew 21:18-23:36). On the Mount of Olives, He spoke of His Second Coming and predicted that in two days He would be crucified at the time of Passover (Matthew 24:1-26:2). In John 13, it is Thursday, our time.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? First, we must RECOGNIZE JESUS’ LOYAL LOVE FOR US (John 13:1-2; cf. I John 4:18-19), dirty feet and all. John informs us, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1). This does not refer to the Last Supper occurring before the Passover, but that Jesus “knew” before the Passover that His death was imminent. The time for Jesus’ hour of suffering did not take Him by surprise. He would suffer and die and go to be with His Father in heaven.

Christ had loved His “own” disciples “to the end” or full extent despite their shortcomings. Christ would reveal His loyal love through His humble service (John 13:1-17), His teaching (John 13:18-16:33), His praying for them (John 17:1-26), and finally His death (John 18-19). All four would reveal His love.

Christ’s love knows no limits. From this point on, Christ concentrates on those He loves intimately. The word “love” (agapaō) refers to doing what is best for another person. This was Jesus’ last evening together with His disciples before His death and He wants to express His love to them in a very special way.

“And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.” (John 13:2). The Passover “supper” had just finished. 1  Luke 22:24 tells us that the disciples had been arguing at this supper about who was the greatest when Jesus needed them the most to be available for Him before His sufferings and death. The disciples were imperfect, yet Jesus loved them despite their shortcomings. Satan had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus. Because Judas’ heart was open to the devil, he allowed himself to serve Satan. He was not forced to betray Christ, he chose to yield to Satan’s temptation. The other disciples had also opened their hearts to serve the devil by arguing about who was the greatest. Although the disciples had dirty feet, Jesus still loved them, including Judas who would betray Him.

And you know what? He still loves you and me although we often betray Him with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We are no different than Jesus’ imperfect disciples. And like them, we also need Jesus’ loyal love daily. This unlimited love of Jesus Christ beckons us to let Him cleanse our dirty feet; to wash our sin-stained lives clean with His forgiving grace. When we focus on the perfect love of Jesus, any barriers we have, especially fear or shame (cf. I John 4:18-19), will be cast out so that we will permit Him to see and cleanse our dirty feet (i.e. our sinful lives). Without the recognition of His loyal and unlimited love for us, it will be very difficult if not impossible to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I dread to think where I would be were it not for Your unlimited love for me. Because I know You love me regardless of how dirty and smelly my feet are, I can be open and honest with You about my sin and shame. You are not uptight or ashamed of my brokenness or sinfulness. You are more aware of these things in my life than I am. And yet You want to spend time with me and cleanse me of the sin and shame that so often interrupt my fellowship with You. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for loving me to the very end despite my unworthiness. You alone are worthy of all the glory and praise. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. There seems to be a conflict between the Synoptic gospels which teach that the Last Supper was the Passover meal (Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7-8, 13, 15) and the gospel of John, which teaches that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal (John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14, 31-36). This apparent contradiction between the Synoptic gospels and the gospel of John can be resolved when we recognize that in Jesus’ day there were two systems of reckoning the day: from sunset to sunset (Exodus 12:18; Mark 4:27; 5:5; Luke 2:37) and from sunrise to sunrise (Genesis 1:14, 16; Deuteronomy 16:4; Matthew 28:1; Acts 4:3; 20:7-11; 23:32). The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise to sunrise reckoning. Thus, according to the Synoptics, the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Since this day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Passover lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon on Thursday, Nisan 14 (cf. Exodus 12:6) and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the Passover lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of Nisan 14 and would eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread that night which had become Nisan 15. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him. This interpretation eliminates the difficulties presented in John’s gospel. First, this gives good sense to John 18:28 where the Jews did not want to enter the Praetorium so as not to be defiled since later that day they would slay the Passover lambs for those who reckoned from sunset to sunset. Second, John 19:14 makes sense for it says that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were on the “day of preparation for the Passover” and not after the eating of the Passover. Third, this fits well with John 19:36 where it speaks of the fulfillment of the Old Testament (Exodus 14:26; Numbers 9:12) when no bones of Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, were broken. After Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, He died when the Passover lambs were slain in the temple precincts.

How can we honor only Jesus? Part 2

“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.” John 12:2

About two to three weeks after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-53), He retreats to the eastern slope to Bethany of Judea where He has supper with some dear friends (John 12:1-8). From these verses in John 12:1-8, we are learning how we can honor only Jesus. The first way to honor only Jesus is to serve Christ out of thanksgiving for what he has done (John 12:1-2a). Today we learn that the second way to honor only Jesus is to SPEND TIME WITH CHRIST OUT OF JOY FOR HIS GIFT OF SALVATION (John 12:2b).

“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.” (John 12:2). As Martha served we are told, “but Lazarus” was reclining at the table with Jesus, the disciples, Simon, and Mary. This is a wonderful picture of fellowship with the Lord and other believers. The guests were laying back on couches with their heads near the table. They leaned on cushions with one arm and ate with the other. Notice the progression in Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus. First, Christ gave him life by raising him from the dead (John 11) so that now Lazarus can enjoy fellowship with Him (John 12). This is a great picture of spiritual birth resulting in fellowship or closeness with Jesus.

Before we became Christians, the Bible says we were “dead in trespasses and sins”(Ephesians 2:1). “Death” in the Bible refers to separation from God. Our sins separated us from the Lord who is holy, perfect, and righteous. God cannot be around our sin. But when we believe in Christ for His gift of eternal life, we are joined by the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism (Mark 1:8; Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:5; Romans 6:3-4; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:11, 13) so that now we can live a resurrection kind of Christian life and experience victory over sin (cf. Romans 6:4-14; Ephesians 2:4-7).

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, this is a picture of our conversion. All who believe in Christ for His gift of salvation are raised from the dead spiritually so that now they can walk in newness of life (cf. Romans 6:4). After God saves us, He invites us to enjoy fellowship with Him. The apostle John, who wrote the gospel of John, also wrote First John to explain how believers can experience the joy of fellowship with the Lord. He writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:3-4). God raised us from the dead spiritually when we were saved by grace through faith in Christ so we can now enjoy fellowship or closeness with Him.

I once heard someone say that “fellowship” is like two fellows on a ship. They are going the same direction together, sharing the same experience together on the ship. When believers are going the same direction as Jesus Christ, they can experience the joy of intimacy with the Lord and His children. In I John, John tells his readers that they can enjoy fellowship with God when they:

“walk in the light as He is in the light.” (1:7)

“confess” their sins. (1:9)

“keep His commandments.” (2:3)

“walk just as He walked.” (2:6)

 “love one another.” (2:10; 3:14; 4:7, 11-12)

“do not love the world or the things in the world.” (2:15)

“let that abide in… [them] which… [they] heard from the beginning.” (2:24)

“abide in Him.” (2:28)

“practice righteousness.” (2:29; 3:7)

“confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” (4:2)

“know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (4:6)

“confess that Jesus is the Son of God.” (4:15)

“keep … [themselves] from idols.” (5:21).

Lazarus could enjoy intimacy with Christ now because Jesus raised him from the dead. Likewise, we can enjoy closeness with Jesus now because He raised us from the dead spiritually the moment we believed in Him for His free gift of everlasting life (John 11:25-26; Ephesians 2:4-9). What a joy to spend time with our gracious Savior who loves us and accepts us no matter what we have done or what others say about us!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, before I believed in You, I was dead in my sins without the life of God. I was in the gutter of my own sin and shame. No amount of my good works or religiosity could give me life or relationship with You. Thank You so much for raising me from the dead spiritually the moment I believed in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Only You could give me life that never ends. What a privilege I now have to spend time with You every day to honor You and You alone. I am so blessed to be able to sit at Your table and feed upon Your goodness and mercy. It is there that I can listen to Your voice of truth and give You my undivided attention. In Your presence I do not have to pretend to be something I am not. You delight in my presence because I am family. I am God’s child and You totally love and accept me as I am. I don’t have to perform to prove my value to You. You have already determined my value through Your shed blood on the cross for me. I praise You for Your love which quiets my soul. Help me to hold on to Your love for me and my love for You. Show me how I can love You and Your children better, my Lord and my God. Use me to introduce others to You so they also can experience the joy of spending time with You, the true God and eternal life. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 3

“Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.” John 11:54

We are learning from the conflict over the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44-57) how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. So far we have learned that…

– Plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48).

– God uses the plots of man to accomplish His purposes (John 11:49-53).

Today we discover that AT TIMES WE ARE NOT MEANT TO FACE OPPOSITION SO WE CAN PURSUE MORE IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS (John 11:54). Because of the plot of the chief priests and Pharisees to kill Him (John 11:53), Jesus withdrew from Bethany to a village fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem called “Ephraimwhich means “fruitfulness” (see diagram above). John informs us, “Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.” (John 11:54). Christ made no attempt to thwart the plot of the Sanhedrin. He chose not to move publicly among the people any longer but retreated to a village that was on the edge of the desert wilderness, into which Jesus could flee if necessary.

Christ would remain there until the appointed time for His crucifixion in another month. He “remained” or “stayed” (emeinen) there with His disciples for some time. Rather than face the opposition, Jesus wanted to spend time with His followers. This sets us up for the next few chapters of John. Christ spent some valuable time with those closest to Him prior to the catastrophe He would face at Jerusalem. Christ is not far from the mountain where the devil offered Him the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him (Matthew 4:8ff). The devil may have come again to remind Jesus of his offer in view of the present plight of the Lord.

What if Jesus had gone to battle against the Sanhedrin at this time? Where would that have left the disciples? They would have been without Jesus’ instruction in John 12-17. In fact, we would be without that instruction, too. We would jump from John 11:57 to John 18. Chapters 12-17 are very crucial teachings for Christ’s disciples. These are magnificent words from our Lord and Savior which He dispensed to them so they (and we) can experience greater intimacy with Him. That is the main issue here – cultivating intimacy with Christ through shared time and experience.

Jesus did not hang around to debate the religious leaders. He went to a secluded area because He knew He needed some time with His disciples. It was more important for Him to build into the lives of His disciples than to battle the hostile leaders.

What about you? Do you gravitate toward those who are teachable and want to grow more than toward those who just want to argue? Would you prefer to debate people rather than disciple them? Our need to argue with those who differ with us can be a way of avoiding intimacy with others. Perhaps we are afraid of getting close to others because we have been deeply hurt by people in the past. So instead of building a bridge to grow closer to others, we try to build a wall around ourselves to prevent us from being hurt.

Jesus wants to heal our wounds by having us focus more on developing intimacy with those who want to grow closer to Christ. There will always be people who want to argue and lead us away from what matters most to our Lord. Don’t waste your time debating with them. Invest your time in those who want to learn how to follow Jesus. Spend time with those who love and care for you so you can face your own pain and let Jesus heal you. The world will become a better place when you do.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I am so thankful You refused to go debate with the Sanhedrin so You could spend more time with those who mattered the most to You. As a result, we have some of the most profound teachings on what it means to have intimacy with You (cf. John 12-17). Precious Lord, when I am triggered to engage with those who oppose You and Your Word, please help me to redirect my focus on pursuing You which is far more important. Discipling others will accomplish much more in eternity than debating with those whose minds are already made up. Please lead me to those who want to grow closer to You, my Lord and my God. May Your Holy Spirit meet with us so we can experience Your presence and peace like never before as we humbly seek Your face. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.