Leadership 3

Servant leadership is never a saucer where surface

Why Kill Lazarus?

wolf-yellowstone-aspen.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to read the sentence without some incredulity.

John records, “…The chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death…” (John 12:10).  Think about that word–“priests.” It’s plural.  One spiritual leader didn’t scheme to murder Lazarus; many spiritual leaders schemed to murder Lazarus. And these guys were supposed to be the religious right–the moral elite of ancient Jewish society!

The ESV says, “…The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” “As well…” In truth, they didn’t want to murder just one man, but two. They wanted to kill Jesus (cf. 11:53) and Lazarus.

“Why?” you may ask. Re-read John 12:9-11. A great many Jews believed in Jesus. And why did a great many believe in Jesus? Because Lazarus had been raised from the dead.

Remember that the Sadducees taught that there was no resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-28). Unfortunately for them, Lazarus illustrated that their dogma was at obvious variance with the Biblical data. He was a living, breathing entity despite the fact that he had been entombed for four days (11:39).

Lazarus was concrete evidence to the contrary; he was the doctrinal deathblow to their misguided, man-made tradition.

It was impossible for the chief priests to argue with or against him. Any sane, thoughtful, sincere individual wouldn’t even attempt to debate with Lazarus. He was absolute proof that Jesus could perform miracles. He was the undeniable corroboration of the divinity of Christ (cf. John 20:30-31).

And that’s why the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus and Jesus.

A few thoughts rattle around in my neocortex as I ponder this curious incident:

  • If Jesus could resurrect a dead man, why did the chief priests entertain the idea of killing Lazarus in the first place? Couldn’t Jesus resurrect Lazarus again, if he so desired?

    What this teaches me is that you can’t expect coherent thinking and behavior from people who insist on upholding their agenda over truth.

  • If Jesus could, and obviously did, bring a dead man back to life–as Jesus had also done on previous occasions–e.g., the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-56)–wouldn’t that serve as affirmation of His divine power? Had the chief priests really thought about the futility of trifling with the miracle Man of God?

The chief priests in John’s story remind me of a critical point: unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence; unbelief is due to a lack of conviction. People don’t reject the truth because there are no facts; they reject the truth despite the facts.

Even when there is incontrovertible testimony, some folks simply choose not to believe. If their hearts are hard and their motives are impure, you can expect them to be antagonist towards truth and to engage in sinful, destructive behavior.

On the other hand, if their hearts are soft and their motives are pure, you can expect them to investigate, believe in, and follow the Lord.

  • Was the world created in six literal days?
  • Is there life beyond this transient walk?
  • Is immersion necessary in order to be saved from sin?
  • Is it possible to live in adultery?
  • Is homosexual behavior sinful?

It depends. It depends on whether or not a person wants the truth and is willing to follow it to its inevitable conclusion.  The chief priests weren’t willing to do that.  Dear reader, are you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10)?

God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

Can Pain Be a Blessing?

heel

DR. PAUL BRAND was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in treating leprosy in India and Louisiana.  Leprosy (or Hansen’s disease) is a disfiguring disease cause by a bacterial infection.  Once considered incurable, leprosy can now be cured with antibiotics.  One effect of the disease is that it destroys the nerves and causes numbness–a lack of pain sensation–in the limbs.

On one occasion, at a time when the disease was still considered incurable and the antibiotic treatments were still unknown, Dr. Brand was traveling by train in England.As he was getting ready for bed, he removed his shoes and socks and discovered to his horror and dismay that he had no feeling in his heel.  He rubbed his heal, and the numbness persisted.  He took a pin out of one of the shirts in his suitcase and jabbed into hard into the heel.  Blood beaded up from the puncture wound, but still he felt no pain.

His mind awhirl with fear, Dr. Brand spend most of the night lying awake, imagining his new life as a leprosy victim.  He would have to live in isolation from his family and suffer the progressive deterioration caused by a then-incurable disease.

In the morning, he sat up in bed and decided to conduct one more test.  He took the pin, jabbed it hard into his heel–and cried out in pain!  It hurt!  Thank God, it hurt!

Then he realized what had caused the numbness the night before.  During the long train ride along the English coast, he had hardly gotten up once to stretch his legs.  The long period of immobility had numbed the nerve leading to his heel.  From then on, Dr. Brand would often speak of what he called “the blessing of pain.”

We tend to think of pain as a curse, not a blessing, and that’s understandable.  Pain hurts.  Pain brings pressure to bear upon our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits.  But God sometimes has a purpose in our pain that we cannot see.  And He is always present in our pain even when we can’t sense Him there.

Ray C. Stedman, “The Pressure of Pain,” Let GOD Be GOD–Life-Changing Truths from the Book of Job, 37.

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”  Psa. 119:71

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

 

What Does “Father in Heaven” Imply?

praying_teen

I WILL SPEAK for me.

I probably need to spend more time thinking about what I’m actually saying in my private prayers.

“Father in heaven…”

If I am not very careful, the phrase may constitute little more than a thoughtless, repetitive expression.

Strangely enough, I don’t talk to my earthly father that way, but I tend to do so with my heavenly Father.

Does He ever get weary of my redundancy?

What am I really saying when I articulate the words, “Father in heaven…”?

First, “Father” means I am a member of God’s family.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Just as a suit which I put on envelops me and identifies my appearance, my immersion in water (Romans 6:3-4; cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21) was the culminating act of faith by which God added me to His spiritual household (1 Timothy 3:15) and identified me as His kin.

Second, “Father” means I am a recipient of God’s special provision.

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:9-11)?

If I, as an earthly father, endeavor to meet the dietary needs and requests of my child, how much more (cf. Ephesians 3:20) will my heavenly Father accommodate the requirements (cf. Philippians 4:19James 1:17) of my life (cf. Psalm 37:25)?

Third, “Father” means I am the beneficiary of God’s loving discipline.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12).

Because God is my Father in heaven, He, on occasion disciplines me for my long term good (cf. Hebrews 12:9-11). He wields the rod (Psalm 89:32Proverbs 22:15) of pain and corrects me as an expression of His special relationship (Hebrews 12:8) with me.

“Father in heaven…”

The phrase ought to be more than some rote recital of words. It should be an indelible imprint on my heart–that I have a Father who…

  • takes me in as his own
  • gives me all that I need
  • chastens me to help me mature.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”  –Mike

What About Nicodemus?

1 nicodemus

I HAVE A not-so-private confession.

I don’t know that I’ve ever said a good thing about the Pharisees.

Pharisees have always been easy prey. From my rather one-sided perspective, they–in totality–were the religious bottom-feeders of ancient Jewish sects. They were constantly peering over Jesus’ shoulder trying to find fault with His teachings and practices.

They claimed Jesus ate with the wrong people (Matthew 9:11); that His power could be attributed to demonic forces (9:34;12:24); that His disciples, and He by extension, were guilty of breaking sacred tradition (15:2); that He endorsed withholding income taxes from the Roman IRS (Luke 23:2); that He violated the Sabbath (John 9:16); and that, perhaps worst of all, He was not from God.

Jesus, the most loving man who ever walked the earth, called them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “serpents” (cf. Matthew 23).

If He could denounce them with such bold and unpalatable metaphors, then surely I could do the same in my sermons and Bible classes. And so I admit it, Pharisees have always been my first choice as go-to verbal punching bags.

The problem is–not all Pharisee’s were the wicked men I’ve always portrayed them to be.

Despite my enthusiastic willingness to stereotype all Pharisees as religious charlatans, not all of them could or should be so characterized.

Take the curious example of Nicodemus:

  • John 3 records a very respectful home Bible study between our Lord and a notable Pharisee (John 3:1ff). There was no acidic rancor, no deceptive or misleading questions, and no obvious condescension–in fact, quite the opposite. Nicodemus began his lesson with the Lord in a very respectful, honorable fashion. He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Don’t miss that–Nicodemus admitted, at the very least, that Jesus’ power came from above. Granted, he didn’t fully recognize the Lord’s identity, nor did he initially catch on to what was being said about the new birth, but his questions (John 3:4, 9) didn’t bear the obvious marks of Pharisaic hostility.
  • John 7 chronicles how the Pharisees at large sought to arrest Jesus because of His Messianic claims and the fact that many had believed on him (John 7:10ff). On this occasion, Nicodemus not only intervened on the Lord’s behalf, but he pointed out that his peers were about to break the very Law which they claimed to uphold. John writes in John 7:50, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’” While Nicodemus may have displayed a certain caution on this occasion, the fact remains that he did defend Jesus.
  • John 19 recounts how two men were involved in preparing Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:38ff; cf. Acts 9:37Mark 15:46John 20:7). One of those men, not surprisingly, was Nicodemus. Unlike the twelve who ran for their lives when the events of the crucifixion began to unfold (Matthew 26:56), this once seemingly discreet Pharisee came right out into the open and took part in this benevolent endeavor.

It’s a safe interpretation to say that many, perhaps even the majority of Pharisees, were closed-minded about the Lord. But it is not accurate to say that all Pharisees were so inclined. Nicodemus was a precious exception.