Saturday, August 8, 2015

John, Chapter 11:17-32 comments: the problem of faith

    17 ¶  Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18  Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19  And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20  Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21  Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22  But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23  Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24  Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27  She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28  And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30  Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31  The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32  Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Lazarus had been in the grave four days by the time Jesus and His disciples had walked the 15 furlongs from Jerusalem to Bethany. A furlong was between 600 and 700 feet. Jesus delayed a trip of about two miles clearly to make sure that there was no question that His friend was truly dead by human measurements. Even today we keep pushing back the concept of death as our knowledge of how the brain works and how cells live and die changes. There must be no question that Lazarus was dead.

Martha complained to Jesus that Lazarus would have still been alive if He had not tarried. But, she acknowledged that, even now, she knew God the Father would grant Jesus whatever He wished. The assumption can be made that she was certain Jesus could, if He wanted, raise Lazarus. This faith is an important one in the Bible. The question comes to mind with regard to Abraham of what nature was His faith when He was willing to offer up the child God had promised him as a sacrifice at God’s command. The Bible gives us the answer.

Genesis 22:2  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him… 7  And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8  And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

Hebrews 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18  Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

(The phrase, “in a figure,” means for our purposes, in type, or, as a type. See 1Peter 3:20,21 to see how Noah’s Ark and Christian baptism are types of our eternal salvation but baptism is not a saving agent in and of itself, but merely a type.)

Jesus made a promise to Martha in verse 23. Lazarus would rise again. Like any good Christian Martha acknowledged that she knew he would rise again at the resurrection at the end of history. This resurrection is spoken of several times in the Bible.

From writings close to 2000BC;

Job 14:14  If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. 15  Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

Job 19:25  For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Isaiah, writing around the 700’s BC, speaks of a resurrection.

Isaiah 26:19  Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

Daniel, writing around the 500’s BC, speaks of a resurrection.

Daniel 12:2  And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Hosea, in the vicinity of Isaiah in time, speaks of a resurrection.

Hosea 13:14  I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

And Jesus makes it clear that the God’s dead have not ceased to exist and the following passage makes it plain that the Jews knew of the resurrection, although some did not believe, as it is today.

Matthew 22:23 ¶  The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, 24  Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 25  Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: 26  Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. 27  And last of all the woman died also. 28  Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. 29  Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30  For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. 31  But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32  I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. 33  And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

The Jews believed in a final resurrection. But, Jesus isn’t talking about far-off. He is speaking of right now. Soon, Martha shall see with her own eyes the power of God over death.

Verse 25 is the foundation of eternal salvation.

25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Paul words it thus;

Romans 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

This is what it means to, “believe on.”

John 3:36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Acts 16:31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Martha gave the correct answer although this understanding was still difficult to grasp.

27  She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Notice the declaration of the Ethiopian eunuch that was converted under Philip’s guidance.

Acts 8:36  And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

(Acts 8:37 is removed or questioned in modern post-Enlightenment Bibles as it was omitted from later manuscripts due to the growing institutional church practice of relying on baptism as a sacrament, a saving agent, which it is not. Here, in verse 37, belief precedes baptism so that infant baptism is an absurdity. The verse is found in the Old Latin manuscripts and the Vulgate, is cited by Irenaeus around 180AD in Book III, Chapter XII of his Against Heresies and Cyprian around 250AD according to an early work entitled The Life and Passion of Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr by Pontius the Deacon in paragraph 3. It clearly was in the Bibles they used.)

This declaration that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God or God in the flesh, the Messiah who should come into the world, is the declaration of the believing Jew and the believing Gentile.

Mary also complains in verse 32 what Martha said in verse 31, that if Jesus had been present Lazarus would not have died. Clearly, like a Christian today who has faith and trusts that God can do all things but whose faith is incomplete, Mary and Martha also have an incomplete faith.

God can prevent your loved one from dying of cancer and God will raise them to Him if they are saved. But, does your faith and trust in God continue if He permits Satan to kill them? Do you trust God’s judgment and is your belief that, in the end, no matter how painful things are now, that God’s will is just and good?

Understand from the oldest book written in the Bible, the Book of Job, that Satan has control, if given so by God, over destructive weather that kills, evil men that murder and rob, and disease. See Job, chapters 1 and 2. You are unable to tell who is doing what to you by your experience. We know only what we are told in God’s written word. Satan has the power of death, though if God grant him that power, it might as well come directly from God, as the result is the same.

Hebrews 2:14  Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

The Bible makes it clear how indistinguishable God’s authority and Satan’s actions are to us. Who in the following was responsible for David’s sin?

1Chronicles 21:1  And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

2Samuel 24:1 ¶  And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

So, when God permits evil to have its way with you, will your faith still say, I trust in God, like the Hebrew captives of Nebuchadnezzar said?

Daniel 3:17  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Or as Job admitted even in his self-righteous justification of his own goodness;

Job 13:15  Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

Or will you say, “Lord, if you had been here,” or, “were real, this wouldn’t have happened.” I assure you, God never left and is very real. I have read atheists complain against God’s right to have authority over their lives in such a way that it seems that they really believe in God but deny His authority over them. What about the Christian who has faith as long as things are going his or her way but when they are not, begins to doubt? What are you thinking about God when tragedy strikes or is imminent?

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