The sisters Martha and Mary send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick. He has fallen ill in some unexplained form or fashion. Interestingly, the sisters just simply inform Jesus of Lazarus’ illness. They don’t request anything of Jesus. But behind their words is this sense of expectation. The words create this sort of dramatic tension in the story. Will Jesus come to heal Lazarus? Jesus’ response is odd in a sense. He turns the attention away from the illness and instead turns it into an opportunity for revelation.
This illness will not lead to death because Jesus will bring life to Lazarus. The point is not the act of healing itself. It is to give glory to God. The gift of life that Jesus brings to Lazarus will reveal the glory of God. That is, in Lazarus’ healing, the character and identity of God will be made known. What the people present don’t realize is the implications of what Jesus is saying. There is an irony to his words. God’s purpose made manifest in the person of Jesus is the gift of life for all humankind, not just Lazarus. The glorification of the son of God is thus reference to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. While the illness will not lead to Lazarus’ death, it will lead to Jesus’.
In Revelation 21, John sees a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The old earth, with all of its brokenness, has passed away, and the new is here. Not only does John see this, but he hears a voice from the throne that declares that God’s dwelling place is with humans, and He will be with them as their God. The voice promises that at this time, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Not only that, but death shall be no more!
Really, in this passage, we are intended to see a contrast. The contrast is between the current state of the world and this new heaven and new earth. In our present-day, we experience death, mourning, crying, and pain. We experience the brokenness of the human condition and the traumatic violence that ensues. We commit sin that brings pain and suffering to others. We are harmed by the sin that is done unto us. And every day, when we turn on the news, we hear stories of sin in the world around us. All of these cause death, mourning, crying, and pain. Yet we have hope. We cling dearly to the hope that comes in verse 5: “Behold, I am making all things new.” The former things have passed away, and we will now live in the presence of God. Let us cling to that hope as we go forward today. The hope of things yet to come.
Psalm 103 is one of the most familiar and well-loved of all the psalms. For good reason too! One of the most repeated words throughout the psalm is the word “all.” The word is used so much because Psalm 103 is intended to be comprehensive in nature. It is meant to affirm that God, who rules over all and does all good things for those who are in need, is to be praised by all in all. That can be a confusing way of stating it. Said another way, the repeated use of the word “all” connotes a holistic form of worship wherein we are called to give the entirety of our being in worship to God. Now, why would we do so? The psalmist tells us that God has forgiven our iniquity, he has healed our diseases, and he has redeemed us from the pit. Instead of condemnation, God now crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.
This theme is the most apparent in the cross of Christ. Throughout the Biblical narrative, we see God’s righteous demand for obedience. We also know full well that human beings are incapable of living up to God’s standard of righteousness. So in the cross of Christ, we see the immeasurability of God’s grace demonstrated for us in his willingness to die on a cross for our sin. His willingness to do what we could not do for ourselves. The cross indicates the great cost to God and demands all of our lives as well. Worshiping God with all of our being is our response to God’s great grace.
In this story, we are introduced to a man who has been sick for thirty-eight years. For some of us, that is an unfathomable amount of time. For others of us, that is the reality we currently live in. Many of us live in chronic pain or have dealt with long-term illness. So for those who know this man’s reality, it is easy to place yourself within the story. On the other hand, for those of us who don’t have this lived experience, I would encourage you to (in an admittedly imperfect way) place yourself in this man’s situation.
Jesus walks up to you and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” The answer is obviously yes, but it is understandable why we would respond, like this man, in a way that suggests what Jesus offers is impossible. The man interprets Jesus’ question through the lens of what he sees as possible and therefore can only respond with pessimism. Jesus responds to this man’s pessimism with three imperatives: get up, take up your bed, and walk. The man is immediately made well.
After this story, John tells us that the people reject Jesus on account of this miracle. Their complaint is that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. But in reality, what is off-putting to the Jews is that this healing miracle challenges conventional ways of thinking about how the world is ordered and gives concrete embodiment to new possibilities. To put it plainly, this sort of healing is an affront to our logical, realistic brains. It just doesn’t make sense. But what we need to realize is that what Jesus offers is not what is always the most logical or realistic to us but something more. So I ask again, do you want to be healed?
In Isaiah 53, a picture is painted of a character who has become known as the suffering servant. In this middle section of the chapter, the first thing we should notice is that the suffering servant is bearing the consequences of actions that do not belong to him, meaning he is not at fault. We can infer this because of the use of the words “we” and “our.” The use of this inclusive language is important because we, as the reader, now see that we have a place in the story that is being told. We realize in this picture that we are the ones who have transgressed, and we are the ones who should be suffering the aftereffects of our iniquity. This is a tragic scene. The great tragedy is that someone else, Jesus, suffers and pays the price for our sin!
But I want to remind you, just as I was reminded this week, that this scene is ultimately not tragic because God had the final word. That final word included even the promise that not just us but the servant himself saw something of God’s healing purpose within his agony and was satisfied. That is why we can rejoice as we make the statement: by Jesus’ wounds, we are healed. When we see Jesus through this lens as the one who suffered for you and for me, it brings new weight to how we live as a result of experiencing the redeeming love of Christ.
If someone I have had a friendship with begins to withdraw their fellowship from me, I sense a deep sadness in my spirit.
I wonder if I have done or said something to offend them. God is faithful to show me when I have been at fault and I have to go and ask for forgiveness and try to reconcile.
Other times, if I haven’t done anything wrong, I feel like I need to go to them and do what I can to make things right.
When I do that before the Lord wants me to go to them, I have oftentimes made things worse. I am in need of His guidance in those situations because my relationship with Him and my friends are more important to me than anything else.
I pray He will guide me to accept my responsibility at the right time and in the right way.
When I used to do things that I thought would bring me pleasure, the gratification was always short lived. I had to find something else that would bring me enjoyment.
I never considered that I had very little self-respect and didn’t give much thought about the Lord.
When I started following Jesus I found that my gratefulness for what He did for me at Calvary also brought a tremendous respect and reverence for Him and my Heavenly Father. I began to place value on things I had previously regarded as insignificant. The more I engaged in doing new activities that were much more rewarding, the fruition of the effort I made to do them brought lasting satisfaction.
Now, by trying to honor Him in everything I do I am experiencing His peace, contentment and joy in much greater abundance than ever before. I pray that He will give me more of His wisdom so that I will be able to see life increasingly more from His perspective.
Despite the disciples’ doubt, distrust, and denials in Jesus’ resurrection power, He not only lovingly forgave the disciples as He appeared to them following the cross, but he also chose to use them to be a part of His continual mission on earth through the establishment of His church. The same disciples that scattered the night He was betrayed…including Peter, who directly denied knowing or being associated with Jesus three times. I find it so encouraging to my heart that not only am I a child of God, not only am I totally forgiven, but I’m also created on purpose and for a purpose. Created on purpose and for a purpose, despite my shortcomings and tendencies to drift away. Despite failing to follow God’s way, despite my best intentions. Despite the occasional doubts that God’s will truly is the best when everything in me wants to take control and figure things out my way.
Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy, grace, and love despite my brokenness. Thank You for wanting to use me to be a part of Your purpose and plan here on earth despite my past, present, and future wrongs. Please align my purpose with Yours…striving to bring You glory through Your grace and forgiveness.
The more I think about the forgiveness we’ve received from Christ, the more counter-cultural I notice that gracious reality is. In a world where everyone is harshly judged and defined by past choices we’ve made, there’s little to no room for error to gain the approval of the world. It’s brutal. It’s relentless. It’s exhausting.
But I’m so thankful to God that He pours out His mercy and forgiveness on me unconditionally…without any hoops to jump through, formula to follow, or extensive ritual to recite. His peace comes from surrendering and receiving…something a to-do list lover like me has a hard time resting in. He’s done all the work. His grace is so much more than anything I could ever conjure up or earn myself. I need to simply focus on receiving His forgiveness instead of trying to work harder for it. It’s freeing!
Lord, please help me remember these passages when I’m feeling low, tired, or full of shame. Please help me extend the same grace and forgiveness to others…seeing them as forgiven new creations just as You see and made me.
This is such a good passage I don’t read as often as I should. I can’t help but think about the areas in my life that need to hear this simple yet profound truth…that I am a child of God. Typically any frustration, worry, or disappointment in my day can be traced back to forgetting or not always believing that my worth truly is locked in already. Not based on what others think of me or how much I accomplish today…no matter what, I am His. It’s such a simple truth, but one that the enemy relentlessly, and often subtly, tries to discredit or distract me from on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. I think about the way the serpent first tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit…saying, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). Sometimes, it just takes a small seed of doubt for me to find myself operating entirely out of a sense of insecurity and scarcity when the truth in this passage remains true yesterday, today, and forever.
Lord, please help my wavering faith in the truth of this passage and the way You see me. May I further grasp Your love for me today more than ever before and live in secure confidence as I seek to love others.