Let not your hearts be troubled ...

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

One of the messianic titles ascribed to Jesus is the "Prince of Peace". In a very real sense he is a peacemaker like no other has ever been. Through his life, his ministry, his teaching and his sacrifice on the cross he ushered in a peace unlike any that has ever existed. Through Jesus we are able to have peace with God and peace with man. It reminds me of the lyrics of this chorus that we used to sing in church:
He is our peace ... Who has broken down every wall ... He is our peace.
The peace of Christ is not like the outward form that the world wants - it is not about coexisting with your neighbor and not being at war with them. The peace that Jesus speaks about is an internal peace that spills over into the cracks and crevices of our lives. This peace of Christ is one that shatters the walls that we have erected between us, God and people. This is true because the author of this peace is called the Prince of Peace.

Come O Prince of Peace. In the midst of turmoil I so need you today.

He will teach you all things ...

"These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The ministry and role of the Holy Spirit is often a controversial topic in modern day church circles. Some believe that the charismatic (i.e. grace) gifts spoken of by Paul in several of his letters ceased with the canonization of the scriptures. Others aver that they, especially the gifts of tongues and prophesy, are still in operation today. Whatever your view about such things it is obvious that the work of the Holy Spirit has not ceased in disciples today.

Consider what the apostle Paul teaches us about the fruit, or evidence, of the Holy Spirit. Listing such virtues as love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness and others Paul teaches us that the evidence of the Holy Spirit's influence in a believer's life is not limited to tongues, healings and miracles. Perhaps this is, in part, what our Lord means when he says that the Helper will teach us all things. Perhaps we cannot truly love without the help of the Helper.

I need you Holy Spirit. I surrender to your influence today.

I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

When we speak of love we sometimes embrace a definition of it that is more schmaltzy and touchy-feely than the one that Jesus speaks of here. In this passage he tells us that we cannot separate our love for God from what we do and how we live. Our lives are a mirror to the world of who or what we love the most. If we love God we will reflect his image.

Yet it is not we but the Holy Spirit who shines from deep within us. When Jesus says that he and the Father will "make our home with him" he speaks of how the Holy Spirit lives in our innermost being when we are spiritually born. In a sense keeping God's commandments is all about following the influence and leading of the Holy Spirit within us. 

I am listening Lord. Help me to hear your voice and keep your commandments today.

I will not leave you as orphans ...

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

This verse reminds me of that verse our Lord spoke to his disciples before he ascended into heaven.. the one where he said that he would be with them unto the end of the age. Both in that verse and in this one Jesus is speaking of the presence of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost the disciples experienced a powerful move of the Spirit and many, like me, have had similar experiences of being moved, and indwelt, by the Holy Spirit.

Even so I do not think that we should limit the moving, and work, of the Holy Spirit to such extraordinary experiences. I think that His presence can often be felt in simple acts like love, forgiveness, faithfulness and singing - I know that I often feel His presence when I am in worship. Yet He sometimes puts skin on and comes with the touch of a member of the body of Christ. And the truth is that He is there whether we feel His presence or not.

Abba. Dear Father. I am not alone. Thank you that I am not a spiritual orphan.

He will give you another Helper ...

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

There is a symbiotic relationship between our love for God, desire to keep his commands and the power of His Spirit in our lives. They are inextricably linked together because God does not control us, but leads us, by the Spirit. It is a matter of cooperating with the Lord. When we, from a heart of love, take a step of obedience the Holy Spirit rises up within us empowering us. What sometimes seems to begin naturally takes on the supernatural.

Consider how Jesus called out to Peter to walk on the water. If Peter did not cooperate he would have never experienced the supernatural. It is the same, albeit a bit less over the top, when we respond to the call of God in our lives. We begin with a heart filled with loved for God then begin to take a step of faith as we sense Him leading us. As we walk we experience the power of the Spirit take us to places we have previously not been to.

Where you go I will follow Lord Jesus. Lead me dear Holy Spirit.

Believe on account of the works themselves.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

When most think about the works of Jesus they go directly to the amazing miracles and healings done at his hands. It is hard to consider these things and not remember how Lazarus was rescued from death and walked out of the tomb at Jesus' command. Yet, in light of the Lord's reference to believers doing greater works, I have to wonder if these are the works that Jesus speaks of or if the works are of a different nature.

Many affirm that such miracles are prevalent today through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and evidence the "greater works" that Jesus spoke of. I am certainly not disparaging such things but wonder if these works are the ones that cause cynics to believe. Could it be that the motive behind these works is somethings greater than the works? Is it possible that the amazing love of God, expressed through believers, is what causes skeptics to believe?

Help compassion to flow in my life Lord. Cause love to express itself in amazing works.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

It seems that, since the beginning, humanity has always wondered about God and what he is like. Some embrace the image of an angry God.. some see Him as a taskmaster demanding obedience to His laws.. and while some see Him differently. In one sentence Jesus tells his listeners, and us, that we need to look not further than Him to know what God is like. And if we read through the gospels we see this image of God:
  • Powerful Prophet: When Jesus calms the sea, changes water into wine and does some amazing miracles we see that God is not constrained by physical laws.
  • Caring Shepherd: In almost every confrontation with the religious elders we see how God views hypocritical religious leaders who do not care for the flock.
  • Compassionate Father: Jesus' demeanor towards the hurting, the sick and the poor is unmatched by any religious figure and gives us a peek into God's heart.
  • Wise Teacher: The teaching of Christ is unmatched in history. The sermon on the mount reveals to us the true wisdom of God and how He is interested in our heart.
The image that Jesus gives us in the gospels is a glorious picture. Really, would anyone find fault with this picture? Who would prefer the wrathful and intolerant view of God that some embrace? And who would prefer a tribal deity over the One who loves the whole world? Jesus takes my breath away. When I read of his miracles, his courage, his teaching and his compassion I stand in awe. How can anyone not be in awe of Jesus Christ?

Lord, help me to embrace your image today in the way that I live.

No one comes to the Father except through me.

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

For many years I read this verse and believed that it was all about us. I did not see that the verse is all about Jesus. It is not about our theology or doctrine. Consider these excerpts from a post that Keith Brenton shared back in March:
What if He means by “no one comes to the Father except through Me” is that He is the one who decides who’s in and who’s out?
Is it possible that when Jesus says “no one comes to the Father except through Me,” He is talking about Who He is, what authority and influence and power He has … rather than something that is required of people in response to a truth they perhaps have not even heard, or maybe just haven’t fully understood?
I confess this is a new idea for me but it does return us to the idea that eternal life is all about knowing Jesus - the way, the truth and the life. And I wonder if it is possible to know Jesus but not know his name. That makes sense to me because knowing God has never been an issue of knowledge or intellect. Perhaps when Christ says "whoever comes to me I will never cast out" he is speaking of some who come but do not know his name?

Knowing you Jesus - there is no greater thing.

Let not your hearts be troubled.

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going."

Speculation about the nature of heaven has been fodder for theologians and song writers for ages. Imagery of mansions and streets of gold permeate such things and captivate our minds. Yet what captivates me more is that Jesus himself is preparing heaven for us. Referencing the prophet Isaiah, the apostle Paul describes it this way:
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Heaven is truly unimaginable. It is the divine eternal response to all who are weary and weighed down in this life. To those who struggle.. to those who stay faithful in trials.. to all who persevere Jesus says to not let our hearts be troubled. Jesus will come for such as these.. he will be there when they die.. and he will one day come for the living.

We O Lord are those who have hope. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Will you lay down your life for me?

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Until this moment Peter, along with all of the disciples, embraced a messianic imagery that would soon challenge each of them to their very core. Peter himself would take up a sword when guards would come for Jesus in the garden. Peter was genuine in his desire to lay down his life for his friend. But Peter did not have a clue what that meant. When the guards eventually came Peter was not ready to hear Jesus tell him to put his sword away.

Like many of us Peter wanted to engage the enemy on fleshly turf. Yet the battle would not be fought then, or is it fought now, on human terms. Even after three years in the company of God incarnate Peter did not understand the nature of spiritual warfare. He did not understand how his spiritual mettle would soon be tested. Such is nature of life - many who seem the strongest in the flesh are ill equipped to engage in the warfare of the spirit.

Lord, help me to trust you instead of myself. Show me how to engage in spiritual warfare.

A new commandment I give to you ...

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

From the very beginning it seems that love has been what God has desired from mankind. To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself are the cornerstones of the Judeo-Christian ideology. Yet in this passage Jesus elevates what it means to love when he says to love each other in the way that he loves us. This is certainly a new commandment because this kind of love is a greater love than the love we have for ourselves.

For the Christian love means so much more than loving your neighbor as yourself because we will never love others more than our own lives. To love others in a Christlike manner means to love their lives more than our own. It is such a radical idea and one that few embrace. Yet this is the kind of love that Jesus says will cause the world to know that we are his disciples. It is a wildly radical message of a love that can change the world.

My love is insufficient. Teach me to love as you love Lord Jesus.

Where I am going you cannot come.

When he (Judas Iscariot) had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.'

Judas has left the supper table and our Lord's first reaction is to speak of his own glorification. He will go on to speak to his disciples (sans Judas) of heaven, the Holy Spirit and living connected to God as branches are to a spiritual vine. He will end this time of intimate fellowship by praying for his followers. There is a sense that Jesus was now able to share at a more intimate level now that his betrayer was no longer present with them.

The ultimate revelation of the glory of God is found in death - it was for Christ and it is for us. In this life we get small glimpses of God's glory. We see lives changed by the gospel. We experience the love of God through the body of Christ. Yet there is an expectation of a greater glory to be experienced when we die. When we pray for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven we intercede for the glory of God to be revealed among us.

Lord, be glorified in your body today.

One of you will betray me.

I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.' I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."

The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."

Can you feel the heartbreak of the Son of God as he speaks of betrayal? He begins speaking in generalities of how the scripture will be fulfilled then cannot restrain his sorrow as he reveals that his betrayer is sharing this last supper with him. I wonder how the writer of this passage knew that Jesus was troubled in spirit. I wonder if the Lord wept at the thought of being sold out for thirty pieces of silver. What was it like around that table?

It is so interesting how the one who once cast out a legion of demons could not prevent one of his closest chosen disciples from giving in to this satanic temptation. It speaks to me of how limited God is when it comes to the will of man. Judas was loved by Jesus and had access like only a few had. He saw Christ like very few have ever seen him. Jesus was his friend. It boggles my mind how such a man could give in to betray such a one as Jesus.

Help me to stay true to you Lord. Let your will be mine.

You also ought to wash one another's feet.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

I remember reading a passage in the book Ben Israel: Odyssey Of A Modern Jew where the author, Art Katz, was picked up on a rainy day as he hitchhiked in Greece. The man invited Art into his car and listened to him pour out his heart. Art was an atheist disillusioned by life and in search of something different. When he ran out of words the man replied saying:
"You know, Art, what the world needs?
-- those who are willing to wash one another's feet."
Art replied that he had never heard anything more beautiful than that. I so agree with Art about the beautiful simplicity of this act. Yet if we focus in on the actual act, as some folks do, we will miss the greater message of this passage. In the same way that Christ served the disciples so also should we serve each other. It is a simple and beautiful message.

Lord please show me the nasty and dirty feet that needs to be washed today.

What I am doing you do not understand ...

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean."

This passage is one of the sweetest in all of human history. The setting is an intimate dinner of friends. Jesus disrobes, kneels and does what it is common for a servant to do. I cannot imagine the impact that this foot washing had on the disciples. I think that Peter's reaction is representative of those who felt the refreshing splash of water on their feet. Feeling Jesus' hands on their feet must have been a shocking and surreal experience. Who can resist the humility of this servant king who washes the feet of the one who would betray him?

Yet many of us, like Peter, object to this image. In truth we do not want a God who washes our feet and challenges our humility. History has proven that mankind is driven by pride and self achievement. Even service to others can take on a fleshly spin where we boast of our charity like we are in competition with each other. Christ's foot washing is repugnant to man yet the message of it is so needed. Would that our governmental leaders learn to wash each other's feet. Would that I would learn this essential lesson as well.

I am prideful Lord. Show me how to wash men's feet.

His commandment is eternal life.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.

In a sense the miraculous works and teachings of Christ judge the world yet today. When one reads of his compassion and shuts up their heart to it they pronounce a judgment on themselves. Every time a person dismisses one of his miracles as a myth they further embrace judgment. When I think of this I think about these actions I think of a person that builds prison walls brick by brick until they are no longer able to see the light of day. They have imprisoned themselves by their own judgments of Christ.

Thanks be to God these prison walls can be broken down by the power of Christ. When one believes the walls are broken down, the darkness is gone and the glorious light of Christ shines and illuminates all. When one receives the teachings and miraculous works of Christ they receive the Father himself. These are given, as Jesus teaches us today, eternal life. No longer imprisoned in the darkness of disobedience these are free to embrace the commandment of the Father - the life giving commandment of eternal life.

Teach me today Lord to embrace the commandment of eternal life.

Whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me."

I love how Jesus always honors the Father when he speaks. Instead of pointing people to himself our Lord shines, as a magnificent beacon of light, to heaven. That kind of humility is what endears so many of us to Jesus. Yet he does not mince words and tells us plainly that if you see him you have seen the Father. If you believe in him you are believing in God.

The Apostle Paul says that Jesus is :the image of the invisible God and the writer of Hebrews says that He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Since the very early days Christians have believed that Jesus was more than a man. While some hold him to be a great teacher Christians have always believed him to be more.

The reactions to Christ in this passage are interesting - some openly believed, some secretly and some did not believe at all. Some might read the words quoted from Isaiah and deduce that some can actually not believe. I think that is not true at all. Yet I do find Christ to be a polarizing figure - some are drawn to his glory while others are blinded by it.

Help me Lord to be a reflection of your glory today.

Walk while you have the light ...

So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

It is so interesting how those who seemed to understand so much about what the law said about the Christ appeared to be clueless concerning what the prophet said about them. Consider these verses about the Christ that come after the one John quoted from Isaiah:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
These same Jews who questioned Jesus would soon be a part of the crowd that fulfilled the prophetic word. These who seemed to walk in the light of the Law would soon walk in utter darkness and demand a criminal be released and Jesus be executed.

Yet the healing prophetic word of Isaiah prevails today. We too can be healed in the same way that those in the crowd demanding crucifixion could be healed. We too can believe in the one crucified. We need not walk in darkness. We too can walk in the light.

Open my eyes Lord. Help me to not be blinded by my own understanding of the scriptures.

For this purpose I have come to this hour.

"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

The resolve of our Savior is compelling. His soul is troubled as he envisions being lifted up on a cross. Yet he does not seek his own salvation but understands that he has come for the salvation of the world and the glory of God. And in an amazing affirmation God the Father speaks from heaven telling all that his name would be glorified in Christ.

Expounding on his glorious death on the cross Jesus speaks of how a sinful world would be judged, the old ruler cast out and a new regime would take hold. To many these words come across as hyperbolic. Yet to some of us that day when Jesus was lifted up changed everything. In death he freed us from the bondage of sin and brought new life.

The heart of the message of the cross is both death and life. This message is true on a personal level. In our lives we too must first judge the sinful ways of the world to be wrong. And not only that but we must embrace the life giving truth of the scriptures. Yet to be successful one must embrace this message with the same resolve that we saw in our Savior.

Help me to die to sinful ways today Lord that I might embrace eternal life.

Whoever loves his life loses it ...

And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus has made his final entry into Jerusalem seated on a donkey. The crowds are ecstatic and many are wanting to hear what he has to say. Even Greeks have come and to them he gives a glimpse of what would shortly come to pass. Jesus teaches us an amazing lesson about spiritual life when he speaks of a seed needing to die before it can give birth to luscious fruit. So it is with us - something fleshly needs to die in us so that we can truly live.

Yet God's message to us is one of life not death. The Lord tells us that those who serve him will live forever. He says that he will be with us and the Father will honor us. Yet trials and suffering often surface a bit of darkness in us and reveal how much we love our lives in this world. Trusting God in those times sometimes requires us to bury our dark fleshly understandings of what it means to truly live. It is the challenge to live from our new heart.

Help me Lord to remember that my life is a seed to be sown.

The poor you always have with you ...

Mary therefore took a pound1 of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” ...
Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Are there more depressing words than the title of this post? The essence of it is really true. Throughout history people have been born poor or have become poor. And despite the efforts of many in, and out of, the church poverty remains one of the greatest problems in the world today. The verse reminds me of this verse in Proverbs:

    Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

I think that the poor have a special place in the heart of God and when we help people such as these we put our hearts in agreement with His. Knowing that Jesus is no longer with us in the flesh I think of what he taught us in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Consider what he says of the sheep who cared for the poor, the sick and the imprisoned.

    Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

We may not have Jesus with us as in the days when he walked among men but we certainly have him with us in the form of the poor. And I believe that it is like pouring fragrant perfume on the feet of Christ when we are generous to the poor. It is a matter of perspective. Will we be generous like Mary or selfish like Judas? Will we act like sheep or goats?

All that I have is yours Lord. Teach me to be generous.

Leave her alone ...

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, "Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

Generosity will never make sense to bean counters. An act of love or kindness will never be seen on a ledger or balance sheet. Mary's act will always look foolish in the moment. Generosity can be so challenging at times. I received bad service at a restaurant this week and the temptation was to take it out on the waiter. Thankfully I was reminded that generosity is needed most in times like those and grace is always unmerited.

This image of Mary's generosity is so moving. I can see her coming into the room and seeing the one who brought he brother back to life. I can sense the wave of emotion that came over her as she walked towards Jesus with that pound of nard in her hands. The fragrance of her generosity fills my nostrils and I am inspired again to live generously. For I was once dead and am now alive. The new life I have in Him compels me to be generous.

Lord, help my life to be filled with the generosity of the Holy Spirit.

Lazarus, come out.

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.

Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

The scene has been set and the stone has been removed. I once heard it said that every grave would have been opened if Jesus had not called Lazarus by name. That may be a stretch but it speaks to the Lord's power over death. Consider what the resurrected Christ spoke to John on the Isle of Patmos in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation:
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
I stood at the side of my dying wife Ellen and watched her take her last breath. I prayed with everything in me that she would be raised from death and she yet lay silent. There is a finality to death - few have ever come back from its clutches. Yet we understand that Lazarus was raised because Jesus knew that it was not God's will for him to remain dead.

Can it even enter your mind what it must have been like to witness Lazarus walk from that grave? The closest I have come was when my wife Ann was removed from a ventilator about a month ago. I am moved to tears as I remember it - everything changed that day. Yet some will refuse to rejoice because of a Pharisaic tendency to discount what the Lord has done.

Lord, with Mary, Martha and Lazarus I rejoice today at the gift of life.

Take away the stone.

Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"

One of the truly amazing events in all of history is about to unfold. The drama begins as Jesus tells the bystanders to take away the stone. Martha's words echo the shock that reverberated throughout the crowd. Who could have imagined what would soon happen? Who would have thought that a miracle was just moments away? Yet those present would soon witness the incredible and unimaginable glory of God.

What goes through your mind when you think about the glory of God? Do you think about something miraculous like Lazarus walking out of the tomb? Or possibly your mind contemplates that day that Jesus burst from the grave? Interesting how he too was raised from death to life. To me, the glory of God is seen every day as God utterly transforms people and brings life from death. For these he calls out and the stone is taken away.

Lord, thank you for the day you called out and the stone was removed from my heart.

Where have you laid him?

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

I think that the two words, "Jesus wept", paint a moving picture of the humanity and the heart of Jesus. Many times in the gospels we read how Jesus was moved by compassion to heal a hurting soul. When I read those passages I wonder how the gospel writers knew that. Could it be that the writers saw compassionate tears flowing from the very eyes of God incarnate? I think that compassion is the heart of what we see in this moving passage.

I find it so interesting how Jesus reacts so differently to Mary than he did to Martha. It is like he moves from the external aspects of his healing mission to something very internal and personal. He seems to break as Mary falls at his feet. He is moved deeply and begins to weep at her deep pain. This image comforts me. Knowing that God cares deeply about hurting hearts invites me to pray and share my pain with Him.

Lord, thank you for compassion. Help me to not hold back when I pray.

Your brother will rise again.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

As I read the words "if you had been here" I sense the deep disappointment that Martha was feeling. She had done everything she knew to do to save her brother from dying - she had even asked Jesus to come and he did not. In a human sense, we all feel the pain of her words and many of us can relate to her disappointment. Like Martha many of us anguish, hurt and grieve when our loved ones are hurting, sick and sometimes die. Yet unlike Martha, some of us have not had their loved ones healed or raised.

To Martha, and to us, Jesus speaks of words of life and resurrection. His words are filled with hope whether we see our loved ones healed or not. In my case his words comfort me because I have hope that one day I will be reunited with the loved ones who have died. Knowing that I will see them gives me comfort that I cannot really fully explain. There was a sense of robbery in me when my first wife died yet that sense gave way to an expectation of future joy. This hope is a universal one for those who believe in the Jesus.

In you I will hope Lord. You are the resurrection and the life.

I go to awaken him.

After saying these things, he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

Some take these verses and think that Jesus is speaking about an idea that many call "soul sleep".. the concept that people simply fall asleep after they die until they are woke for judgment in heaven. I do not think that Jesus is speaking about that. Yet I do think that there is a difference between Lazarus returning from the dead and Jesus being resurrected from the dead. Lazarus came back in the same body while Jesus returned in a different one. Even so it is a mystery to me. I wonder what Lazarus reported of his experience.

All that said I do wonder, in light of Thomas' response, if the Lord Jesus had really gotten through to his disciples. I doubt that any of them had a clue of what was going to take place in Bethany. When he spoke of being glad for their sake that he was not there they probably thought that it had something to do with the Jews wanting to kill Jesus. I can only imagine their reactions when they arrived at Bethany and saw the grief on the faces of Lazarus' sisters. They like the sisters could not imagine that a miracle was moments away.

Help me Lord to remember that a miracle may be just moments away.

If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble ...

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?"

Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."

Timing is so important in life. When I consider why the Lord waited to come to Lazarus' I often forget that he had other things on his mind. As his disciples indicate here, there was a proverbial price on Jesus' head - people were seeking to kill him. It helps me to remember that life is not all about me as it was not all about Lazarus and his sisters. This is a difficult message to hear when we are hurting and wanting God to answer our prayers.

When Jesus speaks of walking in the day I think about how much safer it is to walk about the city during the day - I avoid late night walks because I do not feel as safe as I do during the day. It reminds me of how John writes this in his first letter:
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ... If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
There is spiritual safety when we follow Christ. Interesting to note that the Lord speaks of the light not being in some. When we speak of following Christ we acknowledge that we have, and we follow, the inner light of Christ. It is a light of spiritual safety.

Lord help me to understand that there are reasons that you wait to come.

This illness does not lead to death.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

I think that the story of the resurrection Lazarus is a teaching in miniature on the sovereignty of God. The story befuddles many of us when we consider that the Lord could have come to Bethany earlier and healed Lazarus - perhaps that is a part of the story's subtle message. In my life I am often confused by God's timing. Like Mary and Martha I have asked the Lord to come and heal but He did not act in the way that I thought he should.

The story is as much about the sisters as it is about their brother. As the plot unfolds it is interesting to watch the reactions of the disciples, the sisters and others as Jesus waits instead of acts. Perhaps this waiting is the real message. How will we react when God does not answer us on our schedule? Will we be offended or will we continue to trust Him and wait for his glory to be revealed? Will we grow in faith or will something else grow inside us?

I surrender my offence Lord. I trust you in my trial even though I do not understand.