Sunday Morning Bible Study
March 24, 1996
Last week we started a story about Jesus and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
Jesus had been ministering in a place called Bethabara, staying away from the area of Jerusalem because of all the people that wanted Him killed.
Bethabara is down at the Jordan river, 3500 feet below Jerusalem, and anywhere from 18 to 60 miles from Jerusalem.
While there, a message arrives that Jesus' friend, Lazarus, is sick.
And Lazarus happens to live in Bethany, only a mile from Jerusalem.
Jesus pronounces that the sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.
And we were told that because Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus so much, that He delayed doing anything about it for two days.
:7-10 Jesus heads back to Judaea
:7 Then after that ... Let us go into Judaea again
I kind of get the feeling from this story that Jesus is kind of keeping track of the time, and now that two days have passed, it's time to go to see Lazarus.
:8 Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee
The disciples are being realistic.
Jesus is not a very popular guy with the Jewish leadership.
If Jesus goes to visit Lazarus in Bethany, it could be very, very dangerous.
What's the sense of walking into danger and risk being killed, when it makes more sense to play it safe, and have a longer life and ministry?
:9 Are there not twelve hours in the day?
Apparently the Jews at this time divided up their daylight hours into twelve parts, or hours.
They had a saying, "twelve hours are a day".
If it was winter, and the daytime was shorter, then the hours were shorter. If it was summer, and the days were longer, then the hours were longer.
But each day always had twelve hours to it.
This is an interesting thing to keep in mind in other passages such as Mat.20:10-16, hiring the laborers during the day.
The point is, that Jesus is asking them an obvious question, one that they would answer with, "of course".
Another important clue:
We've seen in the gospel of John how the end of Jesus' life was referred to as His "hour".
»John 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
»John 7:30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
see also John 8:20; 12:23; 13:1; 17:1
:9 If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world
Jesus is using the language of a parable.
The "light of the world" here is the sun.
When a person goes for a walk in the daytime, while the sun is shining, he isn't likely to stumble and trip over things as he would if it were night.
:10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him
Again, in the sense of the parable, if you went walking at night time, and the sun isn't shining, it's more likely to trip and stumble over something.
After all, this is a time in history where there are no streetlights, flashlights, electricity, etc.
A person doesn't have light inside them, they need the sun.
What's this parable mean?
It seems as if Jesus is talking at two different levels here.
Use the time you have left!
He only has so many "hours" left in His earthly ministry, and He's going to use them the best He can.
Even if it's a little risky, He's going to Judaea.
He's got this work to be done in Lazarus' life, and since the clock is still ticking, He's going to go do something about it.
This is kind of what Jesus meant back in chapter nine, when He healed the blind man:
»John 9:4-5 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
The day is while He is alive, the night, when He would be dead.
Jesus is saying that He's only got so much time left in His earthly ministry, and He wants to spend that time doing what God has sent Him to do.
Sometimes we are presented with situations that only have a small "window of opportunity".
If may be witnessing to a friend or loved one who isn't going to be around long.
It may be an act of kindness as small as cleaning up your buddy's lunch trash, and act that God might use to melt their heart.
It might be stopping to pray with a person who has poured out their heart to you, and the temptation is to just tell them you'll pray for them, when you should be stopping to do it now.
Sometimes God is gracious to give us a second chance with some situations, but not all situations get a second chance.
A young Jewish girl named Esther found herself winning beauty contest and wound up becoming the Queen of Persia.
But one day it was discovered that an evil man was plotting to have all the Jews in the kingdom killed.
And Esther was faced with a choice of whether or not to help herself and her people.
Maybe it doesn't seem like a hard decision to us, but in reality she was risking her life in approaching the king without him asking for her first.
Her uncle, Mordecai said this to her:
»Esther 4:13-14 ... Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Sometimes you have to take a few risks, and just jump into the situation with both feet!
There's only 12 hours in a day you know!
There's safety in walking in the light.
Walking in the light/dark seems to refer to walking in God's leading, in God's ways, in God's will.
»John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
It's letting God shine His light on your footpath, showing you where to step, and where not to.
A person who is walking in the light doesn't stumble like a person who is walking in darkness.
They see what's up ahead.
They avoid the pitfalls.
These ideas of walking in the light/dark are very vague, so we want to look a little at a few snippets of what it means.
What's it like to "walk in the day"?
»1John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Two aspects of walking in the light mentioned here -
1. Fellowship with one another - a place of safety.
When we're following God's path for us, one of the things it includes is a relationship with others along the way.
There must be a sense of "being a part of one another".
Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkle wrote the following lyrics:
Don't talk of love, I've heard the word before;
It's sleeping in my memory of feelings that have died.
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain.
If I never loved, I never would have cried.
I am a rock; I am an island.
I have my books and my poetry to protect me.
Shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room,
Deep within my womb,
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock; I am an island.
If that's the way you feel, it's a pity.
You don't know the true joy that fellowship is.
And you're not walking in the light.
2. Cleansing from sin - a place of safety
Part of walking in the light means that the light will from time to time expose problems, and sin in our life.
And because we're in God's light, we come to Him and ask His forgiveness, and He washes us and cleanses us from our sin.
And not just some sin, but ALL sin.
Dealing with Guilt.
I think one of the greatest contributors to mental and emotional problems is guilt.
And the Bible has the answer!
It's not talking yourself out of feeling guilty.
It's by admitting your guilt, and allowing God to wash you clean, to forgive you!
»1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now that's a sense of safety and peace, when you can live your life free from guilt and condemnation.
»Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
What's it like to "walk in the night"?
Hating another person - a place of danger
»1John 2:8-11 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
If you have hatred in your heart towards someone, it's a proof that you aren't walking in God's bright SonLight.
Oscar Wilde told this meaningful story.
The devil was once crossing the Libyan desert, and he came upon a spot where a number of small fiends were tormenting a holy hermit. The sainted man easily shook off their evil suggestions. The devil watched their failure, and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson.
"What you do is too crude," he said.
"Permit me for one moment."
With that he whispered to the holy man, "Your brother has just been made bishop of Alexandria." A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit.
"That," said the devil to his imps, "is the sort of thing which I should recommend."
-- Gordon MacDonald, The Life That God Blesses, Nelson, 1994, p. 143.
Hatred is only going to hurt you and those around you:
Look at what happened to the first sons of Adam and Eve.
Cain hated his brother, being jealous of how his offering was acceptable to God while his own wasn't.
God warned Cain:
»Genesis 4:6-7 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
But instead of heading the warning, Cain went and killed his brother.
Hatred, like sin, only causes more trouble than it's worth.
OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: Two teen-aged robbers in Miami got a little carried away when they attempted to hold up a grocery store. The 18-year-old accidentally fired his gun, hitting his 16-year-old accomplice in the leg. The surprise and pain caused him to tightly grip his gun and it too went off -- hitting the first robber in the leg. "I've had robbers shoot themselves before, but I never had two robbers shoot each other," a police detective said after the two were arrested. "I knew there was a mistake," said Aijaz Rizva, a clerk in the store. "They were the only ones bleeding." (Reuter)
FLIPPED THE BIRD: Roscoe Crawford of Jonesboro, Ga., came home from church with his wife to find that a bird had flown into his daughter's bedroom. He tried to get it out, but the bird "attacked" him. So he went and got his 9mm pistol and shot the bird dead. But the bullet didn't stop there. It went through the wall, through the dining room and into the kitchen, where Crawford's wife Rita was doing the dishes. It skipped off the top of her head, causing minor injury, then headed outside. Police did not charge Crawford with any crime, but granted his request that they take his gun away from him. (AP)
If you are walking in the darkness of hatred, you're going to stumble.
:11-16 Lazarus dies
:11 Our friend Lazarus sleepeth
Jesus is telling His disciples that Lazarus is dead.
This is a common way to refer to death in the Bible, as sleep:
»1Kings 2:10 So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.
:11 I go, that I may awake him out of sleep
Jesus means that He is going to bring Lazarus back to life.
The Old Testament often talks about resurrection in terms of "waking up".
»Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
See also Is.26:19; Dan.12:2
:12 Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well
Hey Lord, sleep is good for you!
He'll be okay...
:14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
There are some who have taken this description of death as "sleep" a little too far.
Some teach "soul sleep" (as Jehovah's Witnesses), and that when a person dies, their entire self, body and soul, sleeps until the day of resurrection.
The Bible teaches that it's only the physical body that "sleeps".
When a Christian dies, their inner person (soul & spirit) goes immediately to be with the Lord, in heaven.
»Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
»2Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
It's not until the Rapture, that those who are already dead, will receive new bodies, bodies that are no longer "asleep":
»1Thessalonians 4:13-17 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
:15 I am glad for your sakes that I was not there; to the intent ye may believe
If Jesus had been at Bethany earlier, He may have had a hard time refusing Martha and Mary's requests to heal their brother.
But with Jesus not being there in time, Lazarus was allowed to die, and it makes for a greater demonstration of His power to His disciples.
It ain't over, til it's over!
You may be facing circumstances similar in magnitude to Martha and Mary.
Your brother is dead, and Jesus never showed up!
You may not see how in the world it's going to work out.
But it isn't over until God says it's over.
If Israel had not had such a hard slavedriver as the Pharaoh, there would never have been a Passover deliverance.
If Israel had not been trapped between two mountains, Pharaoh's army, and the Red Sea, then the Red Sea would have never parted.
If Israel had not run out of food and water in the wilderness, they would have never seen God's great hand to provide for them.
The Bible says:
»Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
»Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
»1Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
You may want to say to me, "But Rich, it really is over, my friend died, and all is lost!"
It ain't over until we get to heaven.
And even then, it's only just starting.
:16 Thomas, which is called Didymus
Didymus means "twin".
It is thought that Thomas must have had a twin brother.
:16 Let us also go, that we may die with him
Thomas realizes the danger to Jesus it will be to go to Bethany, so close to Jerusalem.
And so he's willing to go with Jesus, and if necessary, to die with him.
You've got to hand it to Thomas, he at least has guts, for a while.
The problem is, that when it really happened, all the disciples fled, abandoning Jesus.
Did Thomas mean what he said here?
I'm sure he did.
But was he able to keep what he said?
Not at all.
Think carefully when you make promises to the Lord.
Keep your promises to the Lord rooted a little better in reality.
I'm not against making promises to the Lord.
I guess I get a little cynical now when I hear someone proclaim, "I'm never going to do THAT again!"
I've been disappointed too many times.
We need to keep our own frailty in mind.
»James 4:13-17 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.
It's not wrong to make promises or state a purpose or goal, but keep it clear who you are depending on for that goal to happen.
Say instead, "If I can just keep holding on to the Lord, and receiving His help, it's my intention that I'll never do that thing again"