What is it? Supernatural Bread From Heaven

As we continue our journey to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, we have established that Jesus is the New Moses who leads a New Exodus from the Holy City. The time is drawing nearer. As we consider the Old Testament foundations for this New Exodus, we look to the first Exodus to inform us. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11, that these things happened as examples for us. So, as we review Israel’s flight from Egypt, we discover that God offered His chosen ones provisions for their journey. Today, we turn our attention to the heavenly food given to sustain them during their pilgrimage – Manna! Read on…

Read Exodus 16:2-7, 13-15, 31-35

Six weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were unhappy! Hunger does strange things to people. Apparently unfulfilled appetites make one forget demonstrations of transcendent power – like the ten plagues culminating in the Passover/Death Angel experience, the parting of the Red Sea, the dramatic deaths of Pharaoh’s Army, the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night. It’s hard to imagine, but these displays of supremacy by Almighty God dissolved into displeasure as the Israelites sensed a rumbling in their tummies.

How much better it would have been if their request had been made prayerfully and reverently. Instead, with a strong sense of entitlement, the dissatisfaction of the people was voiced, and God heard their complaint. By this time, the Israelites should have known – the Creator would care for them – including their culinary concerns!

God instructed Moses that “bread from heaven” would be supplied each day but the Sabbath. Twice as much could be collected on Friday in preparation for Saturday. Each morning that the flaky bread appeared, they were to gather some for each person. Amazingly, regardless of how much they collected, it always measured an omer, or about 3 pounds – 6 pounds on Friday. At night, God provided quail for them to eat. According to verse 12, they ate manna in the morning and “flesh” in the evening. This was the diet of the Children of Israel for 40 years until they could eat the fruit of Canaan. Pervasive grumbling was met with God’s gracious provision.

When I attended college, several of my Bible professors spent a great deal of time telling us why the Scriptural accounts of miracles, like Manna, could be explained scientifically. One argument that circulated was that this flaky substance was naturally produced by a plant. This is implausible. Consider first that God calls this substance, “bread from heaven.”  Second, the people did not know what it was – it was new to their experience. If this were a plant residue, surely someone would have described it that way. Instead, they called it “man hu” or “what is it?” Third, the provisions were predictable over forty years of time. No plant could yield manna so consistently over this prolonged period. Not to mention the lack of production every Saturday! Finally, the collection of the bread, regardless of the amount, came out to one omer. This measurement phenomenon could not be explained by a plant.  Manna was nothing less than miraculous bread from heaven!

Manna, it’s what’s for dinner (actually breakfast)…and much more. Exodus 16:32-34 reveals a fascinating requirement of God. Some of the manna was to be placed “before the Lord,” that is, in the Tabernacle’s Most Holy Place. A jar of manna was kept within the Ark of the Covenant among the other “Holy objects”. Hebrews 9:3-4 makes this clear. “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” This jar of manna was to be retained so that the subsequent generations might see the heavenly bread that God had provided for the wilderness wandering. While this is the plain truth of Scripture, it is often missed. God intended for this jar of bread to be on reserve before Him as a holy and perpetual memorial.

Scripture offers us other clues about the nature of this supernatural bread. Psalm 78:23-25 tells us that, “…He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 He rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.” From this passage, it is clear that manna existed in heaven before “the doors of the heavens” were opened and it was “sent” to the Israelites. By referring to manna as the “bread of angels,” the Psalmist may well be implying that the angels have some role in keeping the manna.

One other passage is helpful. Revelation 2:17 also speaks of manna existing in heaven. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.” The earthly Tabernacle and later the Temple were scaled down models or replicas of the Heavenly Tabernacle/Temple. Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly sanctuary, “…is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”’ Could it be that God required manna to be “hidden” in the Ark of the Covenant, not only to be a testimony to coming generations, but also because there is manna within the heavenly temple? This is in keeping with “making everything according to the pattern” of “what is in heaven.”

Finally, we are told that manna tasted like “wafers of honey.” Exodus 3:8 shows us that the heavenly bread was actually a foretaste of the Promised Land. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” When the Promised Land was reached, the manna was no longer supplied (Joshua 5:10-12). So, while on their decades long journey, this supernatural bread from heaven served as a reminder to the Israelites that God would lead them to a new life in Canaan.

What amazing, miraculous, and tasty supernatural bread! Could there be bread any greater than this? We will find out tomorrow on the Pathway to the Passion.

 

Christ, our Passover

Today marks the beginning of a new theme. Over the next few days we will discuss “Provisions for the Journey.” Jesus is the New Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15, 18), coming to lead a New Exodus, it stands to reason that there will be a New Passover. In order for us to understand the “New Passover,” we would do well to review the original Passover Feast. In reading the account of that first Passover, recorded in Exodus 12, it is difficult to miss the typological connections to Jesus and what He would do in the upper room and on Calvary’s Cross!

Read Exodus 12:1-14, 24-28, Numbers 9:13 – The First Passover

As we examine the Passover, we’ll see that it was a focal point of life for the Israelites. Much like Christians look to the cross as the defining saving action of God, the Hebrew people point to the Passover as the central saving act of God on their behalf. The Passover is the first “provision” given by the Lord for the Children of Israel as they escaped their captors in Egypt. What’s more, it became a yearly springtime remembrance of the great Exodus from Pharaoh and 400 years of slavery.

What resulted from the yearly celebration of the Passover Feast? The Israelites remembered and reconnected with their past. It was a remembrance. But this does not mean it was simply to summon fond memories of a past event. This was an active remembrance that helped each generation identify with the Exodus as if they were there.

So, this feast insured that the message and memory were passed down from one generation to the next. Further, in this yearly celebration, the Israelites renewed their covenant with God. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He called them, “my first born son” (Exodus 4:22).  This sonship was established by covenant. Through sharing the Word and repeating the Sign of the Passover, the covenant relationship was renewed. Finally, in keeping the yearly feast, they obeyed the command of the Lord that the Passover should be a yearly remembrance. And, as Numbers 9:13 indicates, this is not an optional celebration. Those who fail to share in the Passover, “…will bear the consequences of their sin.”

Let’s take a closer look at each step in the ancient meal of remembrance. Step one included the choosing of a lamb. Exodus 12:1-6 gives us the background. No ordinary lamb would suffice for this all important meal. This lamb had to be a male. It had to be one year old, that is, in its prime. And, the lamb had to be unblemished, or “spotless.”

In step two, according to Exodus 12:6, the lamb was sacrificed at twilight.  Verse 46 of Exodus 12 tells us that the sacrificial lamb could have no broken bones. For each family, the father would preside over the meal. Verse 3 tells us that, “…each man is to take a lamb for his family…” Later, after the Golden Calf incident, the fathers were stripped of their priestly roles within their families. The Levites, who remained faithful, were set apart to lead in the sacrifices (Exodus 32:25-29). The Priests (who were all Levites), and the Levites (who were not all priests), carried out the ceremonial killing of the lambs and the application of the blood to the altar (2 Chronicles 30:15-16).

Step three called for the applying of the blood to the doorposts (Exodus 12:7). After the lamb was sacrificed, the blood would be drained into a basin or a bowl. Verses 21-23 instruct us that the blood would be spread with a hyssop branch. The application of the blood was a visible sign of the sacrifice and it was absolutely vital! The Death Angel would “Passover” only if he saw the blood over the doorpost.

In step four, God required that the flesh of the lamb be eaten, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8-11, Numbers 9:11). The lamb was to be eaten the same day it was sacrificed. God instructed them to roast the lamb and to eat all of it. If some was left over, it had to be burned.

Step five of the Passover was the establishment of this day as a yearly remembrance. God commanded that the Israelites do this as a festival unto the Lord. Passover became a yearly “liturgy.” Each spring on the 14th of Nissan the feast was convened.  It was celebrated as a lasting ordinance, meaning that this yearly remembrance did not have a termination date. After God establishes Israel in the Promised Land, Exodus 13:14 instructs the fathers, “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” This meal of remembrance connected each generation with the central saving action of God on behalf of the people. In sharing the Passover Feast, all of the Israelites could “participate” in the sacrifice that initiated the Exodus. And, in a real sense, through the Passover, they could take part in that great pilgrimage to the Promised Land.

As we transition from the Exodus passage to Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper, we will see how the first Passover lays the foundation for the New Covenant Passover Feast. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “…Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the feast…” As God made provision for the Israelites in the first Exodus, so too, Jesus offers us provisions for the journey of the New Exodus that He leads from Jerusalem to the Heavenly Promised Land.

Read Luke 22:7-15 – The New Passover

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus spoke to Moses about the “Exodus” He would lead from Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Now, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. Events were about to unfold that would lead to the New Exodus. Jesus, the New Moses, instructs His followers to prepare the Passover. They were to make arrangements in an upper room. When the “hour” came, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” On that night, they would share the Passover Feast, but it would be different than any they had ever experienced!

Before we examine the differences, let’s focus on what the Passover would have been like in Jesus’ day. First, recognize that it was 1,500 Years after the original Exodus. Liturgies develop over time. Some elements are retained while others fade away. For instance, applying blood to the doorpost, so central to that first Passover in Egypt, was not done in Jesus’ day. On the other hand, four cups of wine became a central part of the meal as the Passover developed. Rather than families sacrificing their own lambs, they were sacrificed by a priest at the Temple. Also, the feast was celebrated exclusively in Jerusalem. Pilgrims came to Jerusalem to sacrifice their lambs and to celebrate the feast. Josephus, the Hebrew historian claimed that during Passover, some 2.7 million worshipers came to the Holy City, and over 250,000 sacrifices were made. It is also important to realize that Passover was first a sacrifice, and then a meal. After the temple was destroyed in 70 AD by Titus, the sacrifices could no longer be made.

So, on that night, Jesus would have been among the throngs who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. But, in the upper room where Jesus met with His disciples, the Passover wouldn’t be subtly developed; it would be radically reinterpreted and transformed! Passover normally focused on the covenant with Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wandering and entering the Promised Land. That night, Jesus spoke of a New Covenant. Normally the Passover liturgy revolved around the body and blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb. Jesus shifted the focus to His own Body and Blood, as if He was the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29). Normally the lamb’s blood was poured out on the altar.  Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for…the forgiveness of sins.” This would have reminded any Hebrew of Moses’ words on the mountain when the Sinai Covenant was ratified. Jesus was not only keeping the Passover, He was deliberately altering it thereby instituting a New Passover. This is the New Passover of the Messiah, Who, according to rabbinical tradition, would come on the night of the Passover.

When Jesus took the bread, He said, “This is my Body.” When He took the cup, He said, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” By placing His own body and blood at the heart of the New Passover, Jesus is stating that He is the new Passover Lamb! Consider these uncanny typological fulfillments. The Passover Lamb had to be a male, in its prime (one year old). Jesus was a 30 year old male – in the prime of his life. The Passover Lamb had to be spotless, or unblemished. Jesus is the only “spotless” or “sinless” man. The Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. The blood of the Passover Lamb had to be applied. Jesus’ blood has to be applied. “…Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. In the first Passover, they had to eat the lamb. At the Lord’s Table, Jesus offers us a way to “eat” the New Passover Lamb. The first lamb could have no broken bones. When Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers did not have to break His legs because He was already dead. The Passover is a thanksgiving meal. Jesus, “gave thanks,” before sharing the New Passover Feast. Both the original and the New Passover Feasts are covenant establishing meals, and by repeating them, the covenant was/is renewed. Jesus instructed the Apostles to, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In saying this, Jesus instituted the New Passover as a repeated ordinance, just like the first Passover was to be an everlasting ordinance.

Finally, both the Passover and the New Passover are meals of “remembrance.” But, this is far more than just summoning a sad thought about a past event. This is an active remembrance (anamnesis) whereby later generations can experience the power of a past event. In the first Passover, those far removed from the Exodus could say that they came out of Egypt as well. For those on the New Exodus, we can also experience the power of the Passion of Christ even though it was 2000 years ago. Of this, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” This “remembrance” far exceeds looking back fondly on a historical occurrence. Here is an example. When the thief was on the cross next to Jesus, he said, Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He was not asking Jesus to think back to their times on the cross together. He wanted to reconnect with Jesus on the other side! This is the “remembrance” of the first Passover and the New Passover – instituted by the Lord Jesus.

As Jesus leads the New Exodus out of bondage to sin, death and hell, He gives us provisions for the journey. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus offered His disciples a New Passover Meal – the Lord’s Supper. This meal has been called a great mystery. But, by considering the first Passover, we are given a great deal of information to help us understand the New Passover Feast. As we approach Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the New Passover!

            

If I Be Lifted Up

Snakes are not my favorite creature. How about you? On some level, they just seem evil. This is no coincidence. From the first appearance of a snake in the garden, we read that they are accursed. In Genesis 3:15, God says, “Because you have done this (tempted Adam and Eve to sin), cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Whether this applies to Satan or all snakes is, perhaps, a matter for debate. But, after several encounters with snakes, I have my opinion! 

In today’s devotion we read of an unlikely typology. We will discover that snakes in the Exodus were actually a foreshadowing of Jesus in the New Exodus. How can this be? Read on…

Read Numbers 21:4-9

As the Children of Israel continued their pilgrimage through the wilderness, something occurred that is quite familiar and far too predictable! Once again, the Israelites complained about their provisions. They whined that there was no bread, no water, and that they abhorred the manna that God provided for them. Beyond their incessant grumbling, they said something far more insidious. Verse five tells us that they spoke against God and Moses. And what was their accusation? They claimed that God had brought them out into the wilderness to die. What a statement. Clearly, the people assign to God the intent to kill them! Imagine, charging God with attempted murder. This is nothing less than ascribing to God the works of Satan – that murderous and slimy old snake.

How did God respond to this affront? If the people believed God to be Satan, then it stands to reason they preferred to have Satan as their travelling companion through the wilderness. So, God gave them exactly what they wanted. He sent snakes among them. These venomous snakes did what snakes are quite capable of doing. They bit the people and many of the people perished.

After the unleashing of the snakes, the people had a dramatic change of heart. They approached Moses and confessed that they had sinned when they leveled their accusations against Moses and God. The people asked Moses to add them to his prayer list! They wanted Moses to plead their case before God so that God would take away the deadly snakes. God’s Prophet acquiesced to their request and prayed to the Lord on their behalf.

God’s response offers a stunning, almost jarring “type” or foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. Moses was instructed to fashion a bronze snake and place it on a pole. As an antidote to the snake bites, the people were instructed to look to the snake and be healed. Moses lifted up the snake and the people who were bitten were healed from the bites that would have surely killed them. Could this be God’s way of humbling the people? Since the Garden, snakes had been associated with evil. Now, they were looking to the image of evil for their healing. In order to live, they had to follow God’s prescription, no matter how distasteful they found it! Suddenly, their complaints were replaced by their compliance.

Read John 3:14-15

John 3:14-15 connects the lifting up of the snake to bring physical healing, and the lifting up of Jesus, to bring spiritual healing. John quotes Jesus as saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” The analogy is quite compelling, at least concerning the shared outcomes. Looking to the bronze serpent and to Jesus brings healing. But, how can Jesus be compared to a snake? Consider that when Jesus was on the cross, He was, as John the Baptist describes, “…the Lamb of God, who takes upon Himself the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus took upon Himself our sins. Paul wrote of this, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, it is no stretch to say that when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, He appeared as a snake – because He took the sin of humanity upon Himself. Through this act of self-sacrifice, Jesus offers us hope of healing. When we look to Jesus, we are healed spiritually!

Just as the Children of Israel were humbled by looking to a snake for their healing, so we are humbled and broken by looking at the Son of God who took the form of a snake for us. How horrible that our sins are responsible for this atrocity! And yet, when Jesus was lifted up, when “He became sin for us,” this was done to express God’s love to sin sick humanity. This is the love that ultimately brings our healing. For God so loved the world…

All of us have turned our backs on God and His provisions for us. Therefore, all of us are infected with the venomous sting of sin. Only through the sacrifice of Jesus and His glorious resurrection are we offered forgiveness and restoration. When we are “in Him,” we, “become the righteousness of God.”  That is, we are made “right” with God. As we draw nearer to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we recognize that Jesus is the only antidote for the poison within us. Therefore, we should, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Do You Believe This?

In preparation – read Ezekiel 37:12-14

Have you ever sent a card or letter to your pastor? Over the years, I have received quite a few notes from church folks. Most of the letters have been encouraging. Every now and then, they are, shall we say, quite memorable. Some of the best ones come from children. Allow me to share some genuine messages from children to their pastors. 

Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven one day, because I know my brother Arnold won’t be there. Sincerely, Sally – Age 9 

Dear Pastor, I know the Bible tells us that God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. Yours truly, Arnold – Age 7 

Dear Pastor, Please pray for our little league team. We need God’s help, or a new pitcher. Thank you, Alexander – Age 9 

Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson – Age 8 

Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished. Sincerely, Ralph – Age 11

While on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus received a message one day. It was from some of his dearest friends. To find out what it said…

Read John 11:1-3

Jesus had a special relationship with this family. Verse 5 tells us that He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The Scriptures record His visiting this family on a number of occasions. Just as we visit grandparents or parents for holidays or birthdays, Jesus would travel to visit this family because they meant so much to him. The Scripture says, “He loved them.” These dear ones were from Bethany, a city almost two miles outside Jerusalem. The name Bethany means one of two things. It may mean “place of affliction.” Or, it may mean “place of grace.” We will see as this narrative unfolds……that both of these names are appropriate.

The first thing I want you to realize, is, The Love of JESUS.

Read John 11:3-6

Have you ever received really bad news? Jesus was sent word from the two sisters that their brother Lazarus, one that Jesus loved, was sick. Imagine that you hear one of your children or grandchildren is sick and needs you. What would you do? Most of us, if we can, will drop everything to go to them.

What does Jesus do when he finds out his dear friend is ill? Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he waits two days to go to him!! This is completely counter intuitive! It would be like calling 911 and the dispatcher says, “We understand you have an emergency. Don’t worry, the ambulance has been dispatched and should arrive sometime early next week.”Jesus’ love for Lazarus is so clearly established and yet, Jesus does not go to him right away. Instead, Jesus lingers two extra days before going to his loved one, Lazarus.

Why did Jesus delay? Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Can it be that Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he wanted Lazarus to be a part of glorifying God in a dramatic, miraculous way? No doubt, Lazarus would barely be a bit actor on the stage of Salvation History without the unmistakable spotlight that was about to shine on him.

Should we view our difficulties, challenges and suffering in a similar way? Do you ever see suffering as an opportunity to glorify God? Might our darkest days be ways for God to receive glory? If so, suffering for the Lord becomes a privilege! You see, even if we die, “for us to live is Christ, to die is gain!”

Noted Christian author, Malcomb Muggeridge wrote, Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.

 When we suffer, God may well be teaching, forming and shaping us. But, there may be something else going on as well. He may be using our suffering as a sign to others. Lazarus sickness and physical death, as we will see, made an eternal difference in the lives of others! We are still talking about him today!

Some of you are experiencing great suffering in your lives. One dear lady I know has recently been diagnosed with cancer. At the hospital, before a procedure recently, she said, “I just want my journey to be a blessing to others.” That’s exactly right!

Because Jesus loved Lazarus so much, He said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” We have seen the Love of Jesus, now let’s consider the Faith of MARTHA.

Read John 11:17-27 

When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead four days. The Hebrews had a traditional belief that after three days the spirit of the deceased departed. The point of mentioning the four days is simply this: without question, Lazarus was dead! Notice the response of Martha when she sees Jesus. “If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died!” Jesus does not seem to mind this question. We might learn from this that questioning the Lord is okay! But, this must be done in faith, trusting that God’s desired outcome is for the best.

Martha then asks Jesus indirectly to raise Lazarus from the dead. She asks in faith, believing that God will grant any request that Jesus might make. Jesus said, your brother will rise again. Martha says, “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.” Martha, like the Pharisees, believes in the general resurrection at the culmination of the age. Jesus’ response is one of the most profound statements ever uttered. He said, “I Am (ego eimi) the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is not talking about the general resurrection at the final judgment. He is talking about a personal resurrection that is offered to His followers.  Those who are united to Him in His death, says Paul in Romans 6, will also be united with Him in His resurrection. If we are buried with Christ, we shall also be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life! Jesus ends His statement to Martha with a question. Do you believe this?  Get this question right, and death is no longer an issue!

There are many in the world who get this wrong. Archaeologists have dug up first century cemeteries in Greece and Rome and have found many tomb stones that bear the Greek or Latin inscription for, “No hope.” Imagine living your entire life with no hope! Imagine going to your death, to that eternal night, with no hope!

Martha’s statement of faith reveals that she gets it right. Do you believe this? “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” That is exactly right! Martha’s confession of faith rivals that of Peter – “You are the Christ,” and Thomas – “My Lord and my God.” 

How we answer Jesus’ question makes all the difference. If we answer “yes” to Jesus, then we can say with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We have seen Jesus Love and Martha’s faith. Let’s move on to the Tears of MARY and JESUS

Read John 11:28-38

Martha was always known as the worker bee. Mary was the more contemplative one. She is the one who will later anoint Jesus with expensive perfume. Jesus was calling for Mary so she quickly went out to Him. When she meets him, her words echo her sister’s. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” How does Jesus respond to Mary who is crying for her brother? He asks where they have laid Lazarus. Then, the shortest verse in the Bible follows, “Jesus wept.”

John’s Gospel, more than the other three, goes to great lengths to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus. The eight “I Am” statements – the seven miraculous signs – all reveal that Jesus is God.  But here, we can see His humanity. Jesus is moved deeply by His friend’s death and by the grieving of his mourning sisters.

But, would you notice something else about Jesus’ emotions. In verse 33 and again in verse 38 we learn that Jesus was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled”. The Greek here may be translated that He was angry! Why would Jesus be angry? Could it be that he is upset at sin’s effect on mankind! The wages of sin is death – and Lazarus has died. Death and sin are the enemy. So, i may be that Jesus is angered that the enemy has touched one he loves! 

But, quite clearly, Jesus had other plans, for sin and death would not have the final say. The glory would belong to God!

After the tears of Mary and Jesus comes the Raising of LAZARUS

Read John 11:39-44

Again, Martha’s obsession with cleanliness and pragmatism shows up. Jesus says, “Take away the stone,” to which Martha warns, “Lord, by now there is gonna be an odor after all, he’s been in there four days!” Jesus isn’t worried about tidying up and spraying Fabreeze around the tomb. He is consumed with showing forth the Glory of God! Jesus then lifted up his eyes – a common prayer posture, and cried out to the Father to hear his prayer. His desire was that everyone there would believe!

What were they to believe? In our Old Testament reading, Ezekiel 37:13 says, You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. At the conclusion of His prayer, Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” In that instant, Lazarus came out of the grave! His hands and feet were bound – Jesus said unbind him. The Greek word for unbinding is used In Luke 13:16, 1 John 3:8 and Acts 2:24 to mean being loosed from Satan’s power and death. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead! And, He had given a vivid display of God’s power of sin, death and Satan! Bethany, the place of affliction had indeed become a place of grace!

This is the sixth and final sign before Jesus would experience His own death and resurrection (the seventh sign). By the power of God, Jesus would overcome death and be raised to life. This resurrection power is shared with His followers which we see this quite clearly in the raising of Lazarus!

Let’s conclude with the Response of the PEOPLE

Read John 11:45

Why would Jesus express his love for Lazarus by allowing him to die of his illness? It is simply this: by Lazarus’ death and resurrection, many believed in Jesus. If you are suffering…if you are struggling…would you simply trust God with your situation. Recognize that His plans are not always our plans, nor are they easy to see.

In the mid 1980’s, a young man was playing center field in Jessamine County for his high school team. It was a very pretty day with only a cloud or two in the sky. Out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning struck the young man and killed him instantly. His family, who happened to be strong Christians, trusted God through it all. At the funeral of their son, a large church sanctuary was filled with the young man’s classmates. That day, many of those young people believed in the Lord Jesus and gave their lives to follow Him. “Death was swallowed up in victory!” What does God want to accomplish with your life? Yield to Him and allow your suffering to become your mission.

Jesus is, indeed, the Resurrection and the Life! And this resurrection is offered to us as well. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth!” Take out Lazarus and put your name there. _____________, come forth” If you are still “dead in your trespasses and sins,” I pray that you will hear His voice calling for you! As Ezekiel said, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.”

As you journey with Jesus on the Pathway to the Passion, listen for His voice. And when you don’t sense that He is near, remember that He loves you. He might just be waiting a few extra days. There is no telling what He will accomplish in the lives of those He loves!