Sin always takes us further than we want to go. The leaders had planned to kill Jesus and now they would have to kill Lazarus as well. How many others would have to die before the movement was stopped? We don’t know because Christians are still being killed today for their faithfulness to Jesus. The persecuted church of today will tell you that it is much harder to live for Jesus than it is to die for Him. Would we suffer and die for Jesus? Jesus said that we must be willing to do that. 34 Then Jesus called the crowd to him, along with his followers. He said, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. 35 Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me and for the Good News will have true life.–Mark 8:34-35 (NCV) Have we made that commitment? Can we say along with Paul: 10 I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death.11 Then I have hope that I myself will be raised from the dead.–Philippians 3:10, 11 (NCV) The great thing is that for us, it is a win-win situation. Paul put it this way: 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.–Philippians 1: 21 (NLT)
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
Early Christians had to suffer various kinds of persecution. They were beaten, imprisoned and insulted. They were also dressed in animal skins and used as prey for the dogs and the lions in the Coliseum to entertain the ruling class in Roman society. Eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. We here in America know little or nothing about being persecuted for our beliefs. Until recently, we have enjoyed true freedom of worship and religious expression. That is changing now, Christians are being forced out of their jobs because they refuse to accept immoral principles that are in direct conflict with our Biblical beliefs. We need to stay in prayer, studying God’s Word and encouraging one another. Jesus told us that the time was coming when we would be tested.
9 “Then they will hand you over to those who will torture and kill you. All nations will hate you because you are committed to me. 10 Then many will lose faith. They will betray and hate each other. 11 Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.–Matthew 24:9-11 (GW)
We already see this happening in many parts of the world. But remember what Paul said to encourage us. If we remain faithful. God is faithful to do what He has promised.
1 “I have told you these things to keep you from giving up. 2 People will put you out of their synagogues. Yes, the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering service to God. 3 They will do this because they have not known the Father and they have not known me. 4 I have told you these things now so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. “I did not tell you these things at the beginning, because I was with you then. 5 Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?–John 16:1-5 NCV
Jesus is warning His disciples and us that there will be times when the path will not be so smooth. There will be times when we are mistreated and offended for the Gospel’s sake, but we need to press on. Paul thought he was doing a service for God when he was persecuting and killing Christians. He was walking in darkness but he encountered a powerful Light that changed his life. As long as Jesus was here with the disciples He knew that He would be the target for all the abuse. But now that He was leaving, He knew that He had to reinforce the things He had been teaching them. We need that same encouragement every day in our lives. It is easy for us to become frustrated and want to give up, but we have a friend that sticks closer to us than a brother. He is always with us. As Paul learned after his life-changing event, we must suffer with Christ. There is a cross for each of us to bear. But we must remember and hang onto the conclusion that Paul came to in his journey. 18 The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us. 19 Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely.—Romans 8:18,19 NCV
6 God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again–Philippians 1:6 NCV
7 Then Jesus said to his followers, “Let’s go back to Judea.” 8 The followers said, “But Teacher, the Jews there tried to stone you to death only a short time ago. Now you want to go back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the daylight, he will not stumble, because he can see by this world’s light. 10 But if anyone walks at night, he stumbles because there is no light to help him see.” 11 After Jesus said this, he added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him.” 12The followers said, “But Lord, if he is only asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus meant that Lazarus was dead, but his followers thought he meant Lazarus was really sleeping. 14 So then Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes I was not there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him now.” 16 Then Thomas (the one called Didymus) said to the other followers, “Let us also go so that we can die with him.”—John 11:7-16 (NCV)
The followers of Jesus asked a reasonable question, one that we would most likely ask had we have been there. Why would anyone want to return to a place where the people had tried to kill him? While the question shows their love for Jesus it also shows again their lack of faith in His ability to protect them and Himself. Had they not just walked away before? How quickly we forget the goodness and mercy of God when danger seems to lurk at our next step. Jesus uses the illustration of natural sunlight, but the followers had much more than that to watch over them. They had the Light of the world leading them. Jesus knew that Lazarus was dead and the purpose for which Lazarus had died. “And I am glad for your sakes”! Think of it, the followers are concerned, but Jesus is rejoicing! They will see the miracle of a friend being raised from the dead and their faith will be strengthened. Walking in the Light of Jesus, we are always safe from harm. If we live, He walks with us and if we die, we walk with Him. We should rejoice and be glad! Jesus does all things well and in His timing. 36 You must hold on, so you can do what God wants and receive what he has promised. 37 For in a very short time, “The One who is coming will come and will not be delayed. —Hebrews 10:36-37 (NCV)
6 Jesus told the people this story, but they did not understand what it meant. 7 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the door for the sheep. 8 All the people who came before me were thieves and robbers. The sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door, and the person who enters through me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I came to give life — life in all its fullness.—John 10:6-10 (NCV)
Jesus explains to the people that He is telling the truth and He is the door, there was only entrance to the sheepfolds. There is only one way in to the safety and security that the fold provides for the sheep. Jesus explains that others before have claimed to be the Messiah, but they were thieves and robbers. They were there to lead the sheep astray, but the true sheep, the elect, would not listen to them. Later on, Jesus makes this statement, Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.–John 14:6 (NCV)
Only those who come to the Father through Jesus will be saved.We must come through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, there is no other way, The thieves and the robbers had come to take what wasn’t theirs and destroy all those that they could deceive. Following them would lead to death. 12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.—Proverbs 14:12 (NASB)
Jesus came that we might have full, abundant life. The Greek word used here is zoe and one of the definitions of zoe is that it is” life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ.” It also carries the idea that there is more to come than we have here and now. Zoe points forward to our life with Jesus after the final resurrection. This is the hope that makes Christianity totally different from those other beliefs that the world calls religion. When we walk through the door called Jesus, we have a relationship that will lead to a better life eternal. No more sorrow, no more pain, better everything than we can imagine.
25 Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27 But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”—John 7:25-27 (NLT)
The people knew Jesus was the man the Jewish leaders were trying to kill. They wondered how He could preach in public without being arrested. Did the leaders really believe this man was the Messiah? They decided that that was impossible since they knew where Jesus had been born and raised. If they knew this and they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah, how could they possible come to the conclusion that no one would know where Messiah came from? After all, there were hundreds of prophecies fulfilled by the birth, life and death of Jesus. It should have been crystal clear to them that Jesus would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, that He would be of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David. Messiah must be born of a woman to fulfill the prophecy in Genesis. 15 From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”—-Genesis 3:15 (NLT)
But we should not be surprised, even today, with the myriad of historical and Biblical proof there is available, people still find ways to disbelieve. It is our job to pray and to speak the truth in love. We must follow Paul’s example. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.–1 Cor. 9:23 (NLT)
14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. 16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obey it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”—John 7:14-19 (NLT)
It doesn’t seem to matter how many miracles Jesus had performed or how many times He had spoken, the people were always surprised when they heard Him. Jesus told them that the message He was giving them was not His own but it came from God the Father who had sent Him. Jesus reminded them that they had Moses law which said “Thou shalt not kill” but the leaders were determined to have Him killed, thus disobeying the law handed down by Moses. In today’s world, we must follow the example Jesus set. We must deliver a message based on truth as given to us by the Holy Scriptures. Our message should not glorify us, but it should glorify our Father, who is in heaven. As John the Baptist said: 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.–John 3:30 (NLT)
When we speak the truth as it is given to us by the Holy Spirit to speak and that message is rejected, it is not us that is being rejected, but, rather, it is Jesus that is being rejected. So, don’t be concerned about being offended, just speak the truth in love and God will take care of the results.