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Message 29 March 2020 – Jesus’ compassion and the hope we have in Him

Readings: Psalm 130; John 11:1-45

Message

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People are sometimes fascinated by bible statistics. Like the longest and shortest verses.

If I were to ask you what the shortest one is you may say 1Thess 5:17  “pray continually”. Or the verse before that verse 16: “Rejoice always”.

In the Old Testament NIV its Job 3:2 – “He said”. It’s a grim passage. I think the translators who did the verses were having an off day really. Although in that chapter he says quit a lot of bad stuff.

Most people would go for “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It certainly is powerful in its brevity.

Here’s the passage where you find it: Joh 11:33  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Joh 11:34  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Joh 11:35  Jesus wept. It’s interesting how “come and see” keeps cropping up in John’s gospel.

In the current crisis the world finds itself in – and our version of it in New Zealand, one of the burning questions is this: how long will it be like this?” Hope is dashed for many – jobs have been lost – plans wrecked – and loved ones taken too soon. And it’s a waiting game in many ways – wait and see. And so the first thing to consider in our readings today, and especially in this story in Bethany –  is this:

  1. How do people deal with losing hope and waiting, waiting, waiting.

It’s an interesting scenario really. Up to this point waiting for Jesus to come would have been tough for Mary and Martha. Jesus – when first told about Lazarus being sick (v3) we are told that he “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v5). Intriguingly he stays on there another two days. You get another classic kind of double talk. Nicodemus and the two births. The woman at the well and two kinds of water. Here Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” Joh 11:12  His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”

There it is – the mystery of two different realms – that fourth dimension. John goes on:

Joh 11:13  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. Joh 11:14  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Joh 11:15  and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Mary and Martha must have struggled. Like we do – when we are holding on to hope – praying desperately. There are hundreds of thousands facing that kind of waiting for news of critically ill patients around the world.

Psalm 130 we heard read today speaks about waiting for the Lord. It starts off quite desperately too: Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;  O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. (verses 1-2)

And in the hoping and waiting there is often impatience. When Jesus gets to Bethany three times people have a go at him – if you’d just got here quicker.

Jesus always knew the bigger picture of Lazarus being raised to life again.

  1. He still wept

Jesus’ compassion is always a help for us. His humanity means he knows and feels it all as we do. He still does when you are facing troubled or challenging times. Twice in the John passage it says Jesus was “deeply moved”.

There is of course another angle on this as well. Jesus weeps elsewhere over Jerusalem and their lack of faith. But the translations hide an angle on his response. “Deeply moved” is also translated as terribly upset, groaning in himself and very sad. The NLT and the message pick up the other meaning of this emotion:

Verse 33: (NIV84)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

 (NLT)  When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

(MSG)  When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.

Verse 38: (NIV84)  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

 (NLT)  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.

(MSG)  Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.

There’s a great debate about why Jesus would be angry – their unbelief, the power of death, a realisation that he would face it too. This pandemic with rows and rows of coffins also shoves death in your face doesn’t it.

But he refocuses on what he’s there for and gets them to role away the stone.

There’s another short phrase here- yes its not a whole verse – but basically the people there say (in the King James Bible) “he stinketh”. This is  real earthy stuff – that’s why when they’re use an ice rink to store the dead, its grim and surreal. This is the wage of sin – death. From Adam to today. BUT – as Paul reminds us – the gift of God is eternal life. Lazarus will rise – but he will die later and eventually be raised again forever. Like Jesus.

  1. Resurrection is the bigger picture

Jesus uses every opportunity to teach his followers the bigger picture. In every sign he performs in John’s gospel, profound teaching follows. Think of Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and later “doubting” Thomas. In this case

interacting with Martha he says this:  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). It’s a great question for us to consider as well today.

If people start dying here in New Zealand – we must share our hope for the life to come with people.

Later in John 14:1 he says “Trust in God, trust also in me.”

That’s all we can do. And of course he tells them about those many mansions – rooms – baches – that he will prepare for us, and  then come back for us so we can be with him.

Don’t lose hope. Remember Jesus’ compassion. And his victory over the last enemy -death. Wait on him. Wait for him to work in every situation which promotes death – let’s be  ready to give a reason for the hope we have and tell others about the eternal life that is given to those who believe in God’s one and only Son given for the world he loves.

Amen.

 

Tuesday Church 14th April 2015 – Testifying to the resurrection

Readings: Acts 4:31-37; John 3:7-17

Message

In the time of Jesus people lived under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. They were taxed by Rome, ruled by Rome, controlled by Rome and Roman soldiers.

It would be like having an army from another country taking over control of our lives. Imagine Australian soldiers taking over here – watching us all at every moment. Perish the thought. Especially if they could make you carry their packs for a mile at random. And if they were crucifying people outside New World Shop as a warning to us to behave.

You can imagine that someone would want to overthrow those Aussies and send them packing. And there would probably be some group who would train in the hills somewhere and plot to overthrow the oppressive occupying army. Singing “God defend New Zealand” would be banned by the oppressors, but people would sing it in secret, and honour the kiwi flag.

In Jesus’ time there were all kinds of people who took on the Romans. Lots of them were arrested and crucified. Look at Barabbas as an example.

Most of those young Jews who were regarded as Messiahs died by crucifixion. They were actually expected to wage war or terrorism against the Roman army. When they died, one of their followers would probably have taken their place, or found another messianic leader prepared for battle. Judas Iscariot was possibly a member of a group of these zealots who carried daggers. They were called dagger-men or sicarii. They carried sicae or small daggers under their cloaks and bumped people off.

Jesus is the only young Jew who was hailed as a Messiah – who was resurrected after crucifixion. The resurrection sets him apart.

If you look at the Acts reading today, the early church was a completely different community – even sharing their wealth so that everyone was looked after. They shared everything and really cared for each other.

What was their message though? Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

The resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from any other person claiming to be a Messiah.

And in addition, the reading from John shows us that Jesus is completely unique because of who he was:

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus was the Son of God. There is no other who had that position. And, uniquely, he defeated the evil of the Roman tyranny with love and sacrifice. His Kingdom is completely different from the powers of this world – as they were then and as they are today. We see this especially in his conversation with Pilate when he was arrested:

Joh 18:33  Then Pilate entered again into the governor’s residence and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:34  Jesus replied, “Do you say this from yourself, or have others said this to you about me?”

Joh 18:35  Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your people and the chief priests handed you over to me! What have you done?”

Joh 18:36  Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.”

Joh 18:37  Then Pilate said to him, “So then you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Joh 18:38  Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.

Joh 18:39  But it is your custom that I release for you one prisoner at the Passover. So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:40  Then they shouted again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

Jesus stands alone as one who was resurrected – and one who claimed to be the Son of God. He makes the most unique claims – like this spoken to doubting Thomas:

Joh 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  Joh 14:7  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.”

And to Martha when Lazarus died: Joh 11:25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, Joh 11:26  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die [forever]. Do you believe this?”

And only he speaks of eternal life. We have eternal life through him now: Joh 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The most important thing I can tell you is this – you can know God through Jesus – you won’t perish – you will have this eternal life and relationship – you can have it!

Now. Because Jesus is raised – resurrected and lives forever. He is truth. As he says to Pilate: For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37)

Joh 8:31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Joh 8:32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We too can live forever. This is the truth. He is the truth.

He is alive and is here today. And if you allow him into your life – he will be with you always!

Amen.