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Monday, June 4, 2012

On John 11:45-50

            Last evening, I was reading in the Bible, the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 45 through 50.  This tells us important things about how God works.  Immediately previous to this passage, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  Verse 24 shows that Martha had sat under the teaching of Jesus, in that she indicates that she believed in the resurrection of the dead, but the rabbis of that day would not have allowed a woman to hear teaching of the Law from them directly.  Verse 37 indicates that some who were there did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and were skeptical, saying that he could have showed up before Lazarus died.  Verse 39 makes it clear that Lazarus’ body would be deteriorating.  After four days in a hot climate, an unburied cadaver (yes, it was in a cave, but that’s not the same as being buried, albeit necessary for what is to follow) would be moving close to its maximum amount of stench.  In verse 44, Lazarus emerges alive.  There is no naturalistic explanation for such a thing, except miraculously.  I point this out in that some miracles have a possible, albeit extremely unlikely to the degree of being miraculous of itself, naturalistic explanation.

            Now, to what I wish to get to.  Verses 45 to 48 tell of two reactions.  Verse 45 indicates that some people saw the miracle and believed that Jesus was who he indicated he was from it.  I am as much a person as any who likes the precision of how what God presents in the Bible has a miraculous degree of theological order, but I know that sound theology doesn’t touch many persons’ hearts to lead them to faith in Jesus (me included).  Conversely, Jesus doing the naturally inexplicable, both then and now, does bring people to faith in him.

            Verses 46 to 48 tell of another reaction.  Some people went and told the status quo religious leaders who, more the most part, had already rejected him in their hearts. What conclusions did they make?  First, they said, if left alone, “everyone will believe in Him.”  While I, as a person who has come to follow Jesus, feel this is quite logical, it isn’t true, and they were their own examples of its falsity.  They didn’t believe in Jesus, and “just” because he could raise a man to life who had been dead four days didn’t change their minds, or, more relevantly, their spirits.  Second, they say why they rejected Jesus—the Romans would take away their position of influence (as it turned out, they would lose that position of influence a few decades later, anyway) and the nation (they already were unpopular among the commonplace Jews), which would be scattered after populist Jews organized a military force against the Romans (twice) and lost (twice).  The allure of fame, money, and power always overrules logic among some.

            In verses 49 and 50, Caiaphas, the high priest, by accident, prophesies of the importance of Jesus’ death while urging His being put to death.  God’s penchant for the contrary and paradox should be sufficient to keep those who believe humble.

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