So many things yet left to study in chapter 12 and today, it right away, verses 9 and 10 caught my attention.
Does anyone else find it interesting that the chief priests make plans to put Lazarus to death? The men who were the religious leaders of the day and who zealously held people to following laws and traditions, the ones who were waiting for the Messiah……. they were the ones who wanted to destroy the evidence of Jesus’ miracle. Isn’t it incredible that they wanted to kill a man who had just been raised from the dead? And why? Well it seems that they were really very concerned that they were losing followers to that troublesome miracle-worker, Jesus. Job security and power were more important to them than the very convincing evidence of who Jesus was. Power, prestige and crowds are what motivated them. Hmmmmmm….something to think about.
Little sentences like this shake me up and wake me up to the reality that just because someone is a religious leader, it doesn’t mean that they are really seeking after the truth. There was the Word among them, living out what their Scriptures foretold, and they could not see Him because they were blinded by their agenda. Jesus had incredibly strong words for these religious leaders of His day. White washed tombs. Blind guides. Fools. Hypocrites. Snakes. Children of the devil. Evil and adulterous. If religious leaders, who actually walked and stood in the presence of Jesus were leading people astray, how important is it then that we learn to be discerning of our religious leaders? How important is it that we do not blindly follow our teachers? How important is it that we examine the Scriptures to see if what we are taught is true?
Increasingly, I see how important that I truly know the Scriptures so that my convictions are based on an intimate knowledge of the word of God. How easy would it be for me to be led into a pit by a blind guide if all I do is trust what I have been told? Consider for a moment that John 12:15 quotes a Scripture about the king coming sitting on a donkey’s colt. Immediately following, verse 16 says that when this actually happened the disciples did not understand that these things were then unfolding before their eyes. It was only after Jesus’ resurrection that they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him. Kind of makes me wonder…..were they paying attention in Sunday school? 😉 How did they miss it when it was unfolding before their eyes. Seriously, though….don’t we so often ask ourselves, why did these guys struggle so much to see the truth of who Jesus was? How did they not get it? How did they not see? And then reluctantly, I realize that I should really point the finger at myself? What would make me any different?
I sometimes think about how things would be if life as we know it in the US were to suddenly change, similar to how it changed for my parents in Europe when communist rule took over. What if all of a sudden it becomes illegal to own a Bible? What if they are all confiscated and destroyed? This is actually what my grandfather experienced in his lifetime. Escaping this kind of government is what brought my parents to the United States. These is just one of the stories I grew up hearing: one day, totally unexpectedly, a man walked into my grandfather’s office and removed his Scriptures and a crucifix he had hanging on the wall. I have to ask myself, if this happened to me today, do I know the Scriptures well enough that I would be able to recognize Jesus when He returns? Would I know how to read the signs accompanying His second coming? Those Jews were waiting for their Messiah. They were expecting Him. They knew He was coming. And yet, when He was standing there right in front of them, doing amazing things, they did not recognize Him.
In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns us to “beware of false prophets, who come to in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. …. He goes on to explain that “they can be recognized by their good fruits.” Do I even know what is being referred to when the Scripture’s talk about “their good fruits?” And if I don’t, how can I possibly recognize true or false teachers? In fact, in Matthew 24:3-5, the disciples specifically ask Jesus what the end times will look like saying “what will be the sign of your coming and the close of the age?” Jesus’ reply: “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and they will lead many astray.” How incredibly scary! What will keep me from being led astray? Will I follow the crowd? Will I be confused? Will I know what to look for?
Jesus clearly indicates that the other people that are coming and claiming to be Him, will be very convincing. They will succeed at leading people astray. These will be religious leaders, false prophets sounding all spiritual, and maybe off by only that 1 degree Mark talked about this past Sunday. But if I don’t know God’s teachings, that 1 degree difference is more than enough to carry me way off target. It sincerely frightens me to see how unfamiliar most professing Christians are with the Scriptures. Why do so few actually examine the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is really what is in the Scriptures? Often it seems that people are just content to have someone spoon feed them and read Scripture to them without ever cracking open a Bible. If this is true during worship, then what does that mean when the distractions of life flood us at home? Each day, I realize to a greater extent how incredibly blessed I am to actually have the Scriptures in my home. They are so accessible and I dare say we all have several copies in various forms. We may even have it on our phones and our computers. But how often do we read and study the Word of God – not commentaries and not books about the Bible, but actually the Bible? This exercise in going through John in a month together with you has been so very good for me. It has forced me to be disciplined. It has forced me to not make excuses. It has forced me to think deeply. It has forced me to have daily spiritual conversations with my family over our meals. I hope and pray that this will become our daily habit, as much a part of our daily routine as is eating and sleeping.
There is much more that I could share about chapter 12, but I do not want to overwhelm your time or your inboxes. I wonder, how do you feel about studying the Scriptures like this? I often feel I could go on and on about little treasures I am newly aware of, like something new I learned about the Triumphal entry or a turning point I see in Jesus in this chapter. It’s like watching a movie and the music changes and we know that something is about to happen……His focus and His tone are noticeably different. Do you notice it?Have you ever wondered why in a week’s time, Jesus went from being a hailed hero to a condemned prisoner – by the very same people who were shouting Hosanna and fawning over Him? What is the significance of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem? What is the significance of the colt? What was Jesus, who knows the hearts and minds of all men, thinking about the people who were throwing down their cloaks and palm branches in front of.? All four gospels relay this account. Why was it so significant that it is recorded four times?
So many things we could discuss, but, I will stop for now. 🙂 Perhaps we can return to this chapter sometime in the future. On to chapter 13.