What’s wrong Jesus? Why did Jesus choose Judas?

What’s wrong Jesus?

Why did Jesus choose Judas?

John 13 v18-21 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: “He who shared my bread has turned against me.”19 ‘I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.’ 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

v 21 “After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.” (Message)

We have been seeing on the way to the cross Jesus being visibly upset a few times. Here, John writes Jesus was troubled and we remember how he entered this state concerning his own death in 12:27. But also before that in 11:33 when he becomes angry over the impact of the power of death on people who loved Lazarus. But here Jesus goes on to explain it is because of Judas though the disciples don’t understand at the time.

So why did Jesus choose Judas?

  1. For the prophetic Scripture to be fulfilled.

We love how the Bible prophesies so much about Jesus. Where he was born, where he would live and where he would die. In fact we love the promises of the Bible. We underline them, we buy fridge magnets of them and we post pretty pictures on social media about them. I have yet to see this Bible promise of David anywhere being held on to, I certainly don’t have it displayed:

Psalm 41:9 “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” Hallelujah?

From an early age Jesus had been underlining the prophetic Scriptures in his heart. He was aligning himself up on the path that his Father had laid out. Jesus had to choose a friend, a follower, one of the team to betray him.

The prophecy was originally set around David of course. He was running away from his own son, Absalom, who was trying to kill him. But the hurt for David was not only this but his confidante, counsellor and friend, Ahithophel who shared his table and ate his food was part of the conspiracy to kill him.

Jesus chose his Ahithophel and we saw it in Chapter 6 v70-71 “Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’  (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”

And we may think well that’s unfair on Judas, he had no choice. If we do then we have missed the prophetic insight. Jesus was chosen but was he forced to go the path of the cross, NO. He chose. The same applies to Judas.

If we still think it is unfair then here is another reason Judas was chosen.

  1. Judas is us!

Judas became disappointed in Jesus that he wasn’t doing what he wanted. Jesus was not turning out to be the Messiah Judas longed for.

Ever not had your prayers answered the way you wanted?

Judas had got to the point of ‘do this or I leave’. Ever threatened God?

The lifting of the heel is a picture of a horse kicking back. Ever tried to force something to happen? Judas so wanted Jesus to be a certain Messiah, he knew Jesus was innocent, but he created a scene, a stand-off that surely Jesus would rise and fight back physically against the religious regime and then ultimately Rome. The stand-off was really Judas v Jesus.

Judas helped himself to the money. No one knew. Everyone just saw Judas like themselves. Judas had sacrificed 3 years of his life. Had left everything and followed Jesus. Had taken part in miracles and life-changing stories. He was ready to die for Jesus, just like them. They liked him. He was one of them, a friend of Jesus.

Ever been let down by someone who was charismatic, full of faith, a friend and yet under scrutiny you heard how they had been fiddling their expenses, Illicit gain and dodging the taxes that you agree to pay? Judas is around us. And maybe you know how close this is to your testimony. Judas is us!

The gospel of John is written that we may know Jesus has taken our sins upon Him, even the sins of lifting up the heel, of betrayal against our friend of all friends. So that we may believe and follow.

 

The towel and the basin

The towel and the basin

John 13 v2-12 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.

 

This story was culturally unacceptable. That a rabbi would wash the feet of his disciples was unheard of. But Jesus showed from start to finish how:

The Son of God became a baby though he is a King.

The Son of God took an ordinary name though he has the name above all names.

The Son of God wrapped a towel around his waist and became a servant though one day every knee will bow.

The Son of God became obedient to death on a criminals low-life cross even though he sits on an eternal throne.

 

  1. To serve means to leave your elevated place. That may be the place God has given you (v3) or where man has placed you (v12)

We need to unroll the red carpets today. The Church are guilty of creating and promoting stars in what amounts to an amalgamation of the X factor and the Oscars. We build them up and then we knock them down.

We really are not that important. This is Jesus who knew where he was from, v3:

Right now around the throne are cries day and night “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come”

Beings are laid prostrate “You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.”

We really are not that important. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

  1. To serve means you forego your own appetite (v4)

From His position of who He is and of His power said “It’s not about me”.

When faced with temptation, Jesus didn’t say “because of my position, my experience, my title it is okay for me to fail a little because I know my father will command his angels concerning me to lift me up so that I will not strike my foot against stone.” NO, he said “Today it is not about me”.

When faced with trial and taken down a path marked with suffering he didn’t stand and say “I’m not having this. I will call on father who will pout at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels.” NO, he said “Today it is not about me.”

  1. To serve means you may actually look like a servant (v4)

If God undressed so must we. God is to be found in flesh, in humanity of pain, tragedy of life, spit and dust of the earth. We have to remove our self-sufficiency, our desire to be wealthy, for exotic spiritual experiences, our pride and right to be heard.

We must become vulnerable to the core.

  1. To serve means your work of service may not be appreciated at the time (v7)

“No one appreciates me” is a drug and you can be addicted on the praises of man. If you spend your whole life wanting to please man, waiting for their response, craving their approval you will die a disappointed man.

  1. To serve means some of your closest friends may insist you don’t (v8)

Your friends need you to be a certain type of person which will not show them up for who they are. They don’t want you to look differently and speak in a certain way etc.

  1. To serve means you may have to serve someone who will later hurt you (v11)

Judas was there!

Let us go and pick up the towel and the basin.

Will you miss it?

Will you miss it?

John 12 v37-13 v1

  1. Isaiah saw, believed and witnessed, but his generation missed it, v41. “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ gloryand spoke about him.”

King Uzziah died in 740BC under God’s judgment, a leper buried not in the King’s tombs because of his skin disease. He died a broken man and Isaiah the prophet speaking for God during his reign is disappointed because of the way the King ended his life. Isaiah has a sense of failure, he is unclean, a prophet with unclean lips. He is disillusioned with God’s people who disbelieve the promises of God, they are also unclean.
It is this man, disappointed, a failure, disillusioned, who is granted a renewed vision of the Lord and it shows that it is sometimes in the place of brokenness where we find what others miss.

 

  1. Jesus came and walked among them, but the generations missed it, v37 “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him”

They had seen the signs. They saw more than what we have ever seen.

They see the provision miracles of water into wine and the feeding of the crowds but they miss the significance of them pointing to the great heavenly banquet that awaits us.

They see the blind man seeing but miss the fact that Jesus has come to open our self-centred eyes to others.

They see the royal official son’s healing but miss the power of the word as the Word of God.

They see the paralysed man walk again but miss the fact that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

They see Lazarus raised to life but miss that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

That God would temporarily harden the hearts of His people to who He really is in Jesus for the sake of the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles (which the apostle Paul understands fully) is amazingly gracious!

They could not believe, v39-40 “For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: He has blinded their eyes …”

They would not believe (because they loved their life too much), v42-43 “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

 

In what has to be the most outrageous thing Jesus had ever said, he says something like this, “I’m fine with that because it’s not me that you are missing but the one who sent me.”

V44 “Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.”

“Believe in me, believe in God; look at me look at God; listen to me listen to God; disobey my teaching disobey God” He was saying if you miss me then you have missed God. You are to blame.

 

  1. John says there is one more sign, will you miss it? 13 v1 “It was just before the Passover Festival.Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

If people miss what Jesus says and do not understand what the miracles point to then will they miss this last sign?

Yesterday as I buried a friend and colleague in ministry I wondered how people could miss the love of God that was in him. In giving so much to so many would this impact their lives?

Four months ago, I led the funeral service of another Pastor, again a friend and also on my team. Over the months leading to his death he touched and spoke of his faith to many. Did they come to faith? Did they choose to believe? I hope so.

There is one more sign. Our death. Whether sudden or slow, how were we living our life when we left this earth? For ourselves or for others? Were we demonstrating Christ?

John says: Jesus is the Passover lamb, the sacrificial substitute for the sins of the people; Jesus goes to the Father, his Father and the connection is made again; Jesus demonstrates his love by choosing to lay his life down for the world.

Now if we miss this then there is no place left to go?

Dave Ayling a follower of Jesus

Dave Ayling a follower of Jesus

John 12: 24-36 “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. 27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34 The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain for ever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”? Who is this “Son of Man”?’ 35 Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.’ When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”

Today I am privileged to conduct the burial service of a friend and colleague of 30 years. Dave Ayling was known by many in the UK and around the world, a local Church Pastor with a global apostolic heart. I will stand (within the social distancing requirements) with his amazing wife Julia and their fabulous boys, Ben and Tom along with Dave’s siblings as we lay to rest his body. Though I know Dave is having a fantastic time in heaven I will grieve and weep with the family. I am thankful that today we can read the above verses of not only a description of the death of Jesus but the comfort it brings to all the followers of Jesus who will enter heaven the same way that Dave has done, through death. Unless we are alive when Jesus returns we all will go the same way. Some will go aged 54 years, others a lot younger and others older. Some will go immediately, tragically or after a long illness. The way we go will seem unfair or a relief from the suffering, but we will go that way. However, how we really die is determined how we have lived and whether or not we have died beforehand.

Dave lived as a follower of Jesus. He had died to himself, surrendering his life to live for God and for others. Death had no final victory. Eternal life did.

For whoever follows Jesus:-

  1. Death is a planting, v24-26

Jesus cleared the pathway for us to follow. God honours us as we follow Jesus in life and death. Most people live their lives for themselves or for their very own. Dave lived for Jesus and in surrendering he was buried in Christ a long time ago before today. Jesus said that this kind of death (and a position followers need to keep fixed) is like the planting of a seed.

Today not only the wonderful Derby City Church but the many people from across the world, especially leaders in the Church, will be pausing at 11am to give a prayer of thanks for the life of their loved friend who died in Christ. They are where they are today because of the impact Dave had in their yesterday. People like my son, Daniel, who will be with me today ministering in the service. I saw how Dave poured his life into my son as his assistant Minister. People like Matt Atkins, now a Pastor in Birmingham, who sent me this moving blog last night: https://mattatkins1.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/leaving-a-lasting-legacy/

I could list so many people. So many seeds.

 

  1. Death is still painful, v27

Jesus says he is troubled about his own death and in doing so we are greatly encouraged.

For Jesus, the Incarnation of God to be troubled as we all are is a huge comfort.

Within days of these verses Jesus will be in anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, but John has this recorded before.

The one who could do incomparable miracles, healing people, raising them from the grave, is troubled by his own death.

You see the story isn’t pain free. Perfect isn’t without trouble.

Some cannot cope with weakness and they certainly cannot believe in a weak God.

Others are confused and they debate and discuss (was it an angel, thunder or God?)

But others, like Dave, know that this trouble leads to something beautiful.

 

  1. Death is Glory, v28-36

Power and might, boasting, pushing others down, desiring to be seen and heard and known, this doesn’t bring Glory.

Sacrifice does.

The love that surrenders our own desire, wants and ambitions for the sake of the Kingdom, for others, this is what brings the Glory.

Love that is generous and kind. Love that smiles and is fun.

This is the death that magnifies God, that brings His presence into situations and that causes the Glory to fall.

This is the light.

The call is to walk in the light, believe in the light and become children of the light.

For one day, like Dave did, we will walk into the Light of Heaven.

The hour has come

The hour has come

John 12: 19-23 “So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

We have already read a few times that the time for the reason of Jesus coming was not yet. This is the moment and it took some curious Gentiles to confirm to Jesus that this was it. “The hour has come.”

  1. The hour has come for the old wineskin to lose its control, v19.

The Pharisees are dismissive, their words are full of contempt and they have lost control. Self-righteousness has fully come to the surface. What was hidden is now in the light. The motives and agendas for promotion and advancement have been exposed behind the rules of religion.

Let go of control.

 

  1. The world wants to see Jesus, v20-21.

These Greeks who probably attended their home town synagogues were pilgrims in the city but were not permitted access to the whole Temple. They would have their own court of the Gentiles and a dividing wall separated them from the Jewish area of the Temple. They came to Philip who along with Andrew was from Bethsaida. John puts that in as a reminder, maybe to indicate the Greeks came from that area also or to show us that Philip spoke their Greek language and that’s why they went to him. Bethsaida was where Jesus healed a blind man and also performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000. Who do they want to see?

They don’t ask to see the High Priest or the religious leaders to discuss religion. They don’t ask to see the rest of the Temple. They didn’t even ask to see Philip. They wanted to see Jesus.

Let go of narcissistic, inflated self-importance.

 

  1. It is time for glory, v23.

This is the moment for Jesus. The sign that will take him forward. He will go on to speak of being lifted up and that is how he will be glorified. He will again tell his disciples to follow him, to lay their life down too. This is it. The crux of the matter. The Gentiles and the Jews, the world, will see Jesus on the cross, dying and glorified. That is where the body of Christ is. That is where God still wants the Church to be. For the world to see Jesus then the Church needs to stop chasing the glory and be glorified on the cross of surrender.

Let go of chasing glory and be glorified.

The hour has come

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown: Part Two – We will see through the lens of sacrifice.

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown:

Part Two – We will see through the lens of sacrifice.

John 12: 12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

 

I’m not sure whether this is desire, wishful thinking or bordering on the prophetic, time will tell. But there is an opportunity during lockdown for the Church to change. Restricting myself to these beautiful verses which will be read and used around the world next week as we celebrate Palm Sunday I share these thoughts, hopes and prayers today.

We will see through the lens of sacrifice, v16

Yesterday standing in a queue outside a supermarket I was talking to someone (2 metres apart) regarding the current crisis of covid-19. The person seemed to have strong opinions on what this was and likened it even to the days of World War 3! I didn’t have the heart to question how this was possible. Understanding the times we live in is something that is important to the Church. “This is that” is our mantra often. It gives comfort to be able to be in control by knowing what this terrible season actually is or means.

In the passage of what we call the Triumphal Entry the disciples are not understanding the times at all.

They now see Jesus welcoming the applause as the Messiah where over the last few years he was dismissing or hiding from it. What does this mean?

They had already missed the fact that Jesus had made plans prior to this arrival into Jerusalem: the loan of a donkey; the hire of a room for the Passover meal; that he had been following the prophecies of Zechariah in riding a donkey.

They see the procession of praise but are aware he has been weeping with words of judgment over the city just beforehand and that he would bring a sentence of doom on the Temple almost straightaway.

They cannot understand.

It is only after his death do they get revelation. His death opens their eyes to see. It is the lens of God. So much so they call it the glory of Christ.

2020 is a year where we will see so many deaths that we had not anticipated. We will hear of many stories of sacrifice from those who throughout the crisis risked their lives at the community foodbanks and the frontline workers who every day got up to face death. We will hear of stories like I heard yesterday from a friend whose wife closed her business and as a previously qualified nurse went back to the NHS to help. A year of death and sacrifice.

People of all faiths will have their stories of course.

But so will the Church and it will mirror that of the gospel, of our Lord.

The gospel is not demanding how people live but telling of how someone died.

Sacrifice could make a come-back in the Western Church. With it will come not only understanding but the glory of God that we have all longed and prayed for.

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown: (Part One) – Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised.

 

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown:

Part One – Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised.

 

John 12: 12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

 

I’m not sure whether this is desire, wishful thinking or bordering on the prophetic, time will tell. But there is an opportunity during lockdown for the Church to change. Restricting myself to these beautiful verses which will be read and used around the world in a weeks-time as we celebrate Palm Sunday I share these thoughts, hopes and prayers today.

Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised, v12-15.

It was the wrong season. It wasn’t Hanukkah it was Passover. It was the time for the lamb not for palm branches. But when you desperately need a hero, a guru and a celebrity it is amazing what one will do. The story of Judas Maccabaeus is fascinating. The retaking of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple is certainly heroic and inspiring. The heroes of the Church will change. Trying to re-invent one will look and feel strange because a new hero is being birthed right now. During my lifetime I have lived through many heroes of the Church, major Church celebrities have emerged because we have made them so. I enjoyed doing so, bought their books, dwelt on every word and loved it until I discovered they all like me had feet of clay. Some will still want to try and bring Hanukkah out at Passover but it won’t last and it will look ridiculous because the new heroes will be the plethora of frontline workers who every single day with courage went out to work amongst the pandemic. Some of these ordinary people will become famous again like did Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and interestingly Joseph Lister who in the 1860s promoted sterile surgery and the practice of washing hands before surgery. But other heroic stories will be told of Pastors and Church leaders such as one posted online yesterday by my friend Mike:

A testimony by Dr Julian Urban, a 38-year-old doctor in Lombardy

Up until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists…I always laughed at my parents when they went to church. Nine days ago, a 75-year-old pastor came to us for medical help. He had grave respiratory problems, but he had a Bible with him and it impressed us that he was reading the Bible to the people who were dying and holding their hands.

We were all tired, discouraged doctors, psychologically and physically spent, and so we found that we were listening to him… We realized that we have reached the limits of what man can do. We need God, and we have begun to ask for his help, when we have a few moments free. We cannot believe that we who were fierce atheists are now seeking for interior peace by asking the Lord to help us…

The 75-year old pastor [has now] died. Despite the fact that in the last three weeks we have had over 120 people die in our unit, and we are all exhausted and feel destroyed, he succeeded, despite his own condition and our own difficulties, to bring us a PEACE that we no longer hoped to find.

The testimony was gathered by Gianni Giardinelli and translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino.

 

Jesus didn’t ride on a warhorse but an animal representing the common people. He rode from the house of poverty (Bethany) to the oppressed and the marginalised. There will come a day when He will ride a horse of judgment. But the scene is bizarre as all around him signs of Hanukkah is celebrated and yet He rides in saying ‘I’m not that kind of hero’. I’m here as a different king to the one you are used to. The tables have indeed turned. The true king has come and He is found in the marketplace.

Possible tensions during lockdown: the veiled offence.

Possible tensions during lockdown: the veiled offence.

John 12 v1-8 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

It is just 6 days before the Passover, it is close now to the reason why Jesus came and the tension of this incredible story is building. This is a difficult season with what seems the whole of the Jewish world against Jesus. He is followed everywhere. For some time now every word has been scrutinised and every action questioned.

There are times when the followers of Jesus should stay together and this is that time!

However what seems to happen is that the tension of the context pushes emotions to the surface and though we may not see the motivations we do experience fall-outs.

During this time of lockdown the petty squabbles of the past will fall away but at the same time the Spirit will permit hidden things to come to the surface. Post-lockdown the Church will be different because there will be a repositioning and revealing of what had been hidden.

Let’s go back to the scene.

Martha is rushing around serving the food as usual. Lazarus is reclining ready to eat along with the disciples. Then Mary does something which is outrageous. The offense that it causes to others outweighs the generous gesture.

Judas who in that home at that time everyone thought was a good man and they were happy with their treasurer speaks up for the rest.

One thing we need to remember about offence it is this:

The offended never speak about the real offence they always latch onto something that they think justifies their offence and which is understandable to the most. This is what I mean:

The offence: Mary wiped his feet with her hair.

This was embarrassing, the disciples didn’t know where to look for it was culturally offensive

The veil of offence: Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.

“That makes sense Judas. Well said. We need to look out for the poor. That’s what Jesus has taught us. We totally agree!”

This is akin to a misogynistic man walking out of the church because the teaching isn’t ‘deep enough’ or ‘correct theology’ veiling the truth that the man hadn’t known beforehand that the preacher was a woman! Yes, it has happened.

Veiled offence uses something that is accurate ie Mary could have given the perfume to be sold for the poor and this was wasteful; but uses that to cause division when the truth is that she honours Jesus in an offensive way by letting her hair down.

Whose side are you on?

Not now.

Put yourself in the scene. In the scene Judas is a good man.

Let me ask another question. Do you get offended? Are you today? Has someone said or done something that you carry a sense of injustice about; something obviously wrong and you have colleagues who can support you in this? Be careful of veiled offence.

The Spirit will permit our stupidity to cleanse the hidden scene of offence.

These are tense times for the Church. Everything has changed.

The followers of Jesus need to stay united together.

However certain followers may need to be exposed and then later repositioned.

How did Lazarus live post-lockdown?

How did Lazarus live post-lockdown?

John 12 v1-2; 9-11; 17-19

  1. His home and life honoured Jesus.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.”

We are all in our homes now. It feels strange to be here all the time. We have an opportunity to fill our homes with honour to Jesus for who He is. You may think of many difficulties to that based on who lives with you. However just like they honoured Jesus for the life of Lazarus so you can at least become even more thankful for what you have. They prepared a table of thanksgiving to Jesus and we can also lay before Him in thought, mind and words the things that we are grateful for. Every day we can choose something or someone to be thankful for.

  1. He lived free of intimidation

“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

People only fear what they have never faced.

When you have died once you are not afraid to die again.

The Christian has already surrendered their whole life to Jesus, all that we have and own we have laid it down and have taken up our cross and followed him. That is our position. We have no fear in death nor the threat of it.

What a very strange thing to threaten a man who has already died with?

Lazarus was not concerned with the threats.

The people who are least afraid today regarding covid-19 are Christians.

Lazarus is now a hardened soldier. When the enemy pressed in hard he did not fear.

Satan wants to keep you locked-down in your fear and discouragement. But Lazarus people are unstoppable. If the grave could not hold them then petty arguments or threats from others are not going to stop them. The only thing they fear is not doing the will of God. I am not speaking about arrogance or dictatorial people. These could look and still feel very vulnerable at times but when the heat is on they rise to be giants for God.

I believe what intimidated us before lock-down will not anymore hold us back.

  1. He lived for others

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Large numbers of people were being impacted by his testimony. Even though Lazarus never preached he was a walking sermon. Satan wanted to keep Lazarus in lock-down for he knew the influence he would have if he was raised.

You were once locked-down. In your sin and misery of life. But Christ raised you to new life. Everything changed. No one can hold you back. So even now in the middle of a global crisis GO! Make a commitment to influence others. Be kind. Love. Serve. You made it now help others to get there too.

 

Possible lessons from the lockdown

Possible lessons from the lockdown

Only God knows how we will emerge from this year of the virus.

But in a short break from the story of Lazarus, John shows us that there are lessons we can learn when faced with a threat. Even if we see it through the Pharisees eyes and that threat is Jesus!

John 11: 45-57

  1. We will not be the same, v45-48

It is possible that the Church will emerge quite different post-virus. It needs to.

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

The Council meeting was about keeping things the same way. Antagonise the Romans with a Messiah and see a rise of terrorist followers and we have lost everything for they will clamp down on us. We must keep our positions.

I am writing almost daily to my Pastors at the moment to encourage them and last night I wrote of the changes that could possible take place:

“I think the church may emerge stronger in areas we were weak in and weaker in things we boasted in before the virus.
I think pastoral care will get a new lease of life.
I think the gospel will cost us less in cash but more in terms of commitment.
I think what intimidated us will no longer be important.
I think some will leave in the lockdown and there will be a repositioning of ministries and positions and God will dispense of a wineskin that we struggled to get rid of.”

 

  1. God was in the bad day, v49-51

One of the most moving testimonies is when the sufferer says that God was with them through their trial and trauma. How is that possible? How can God be in it and not make it better.

We often cannot see the good or God until much later.

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation …”

“It is better”

It is better that Jesus dies. It is better that the most horrible thing that could happen to a man happens to Jesus.

Who said that? Caiaphas, the High Priest. We might have known!

NO.

“He did not say this on his own.” It was a prophecy previously.

It was God saying it is better that we have this bad day.

This was not Romans 8 v 28 God making good from bad. This was God saying, it’s my idea.

The death of Jesus, God’s idea.

The bad day? We could possibly say later, much later perhaps, God was in that bad moment.

 

  1. There has to be a substitute, v51-53

“…but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

The thought of the Council was this: we are going to die under the Romans, so let’s kill Jesus.

The thought of God was the same except they would die at the hands of God!

God substituted His Son for us on that cross.

God still desires to substitute His Church, the body of Christ for the world, on that cross. Take up your cross.

The Church wants to live and God wants the Church to die.

We have to come through this virus on our knees.

We have to give our all for Him and the world.

If we knew lockdown would happen in 3 weeks-time and we would never re-emerge, what would we say to our neighbours?

 

  1. We need to regroup, v54

“Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.”

Jesus took refuge 30 km northeast of Jerusalem. It is in the hill country overlooking the desert wilderness.

John doesn’t tell us what he did there nor what was said to his disciples. They just went there as a group. Overlooking the wilderness. The wilderness which spoke to every Jew of the presence of God in a place where you least expect Him. Which spoke to every Jew of the Word of God, the Torah, the revelation of God, being birthed in the desert.

In the regrouping they were encouraged. And we need to regroup more and more. In fact during this season it will be all about small groups. Let us not let go of the power of the small group post-virus.

 

  1. We will understand the time, v55-57

There is a time for everything Solomon says.

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Right now we are not free to do what we want to do. All our calendar plans have been deleted. We were in control of the time, when things would happen and when they wouldn’t. Now the time controls us. Coming out of this experience we must understand the times we are living in.