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Monday, January 31, 2011

Jesus Rises From the Dead John 20:1-18

Jesus Rises from the Dead

Journeying through John (chap, 20: 1-18)

The Resurrection distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Jesus not only died for us but He conquered death by rising from the dead. We serve a risen Savior. And “because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19) No other religion begins to compare!

There were Scriptures in the Old Testament that foretold that a rich person would have something to do with Jesus’ burial or death. (Isaiah 53:9) And that is what happened. “When evening came there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus… When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock, …” (Matthew 27:57,58a,59,60a)

Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea to provide for Jesus’ burial. “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, came when He died bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” (John 19:39) Nicodemus’ gift of one hundred pounds of spices for Jesus’ burial was a very large amount such as was used in royal burials. Jesus’ disciples all ran away (Mark 14:50) and left His burial to these rich men who were part of the Sanhedrin and had secretly been following Jesus. If we had been there when He died, would we have run away with His disciples?

There are two places in Jerusalem that Christians believe might have been where Jesus was crucified and buried. An ancient church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in old Jerusalem stands over the spot that was believed to be the hill of Calvary where Jesus was crucified. In about 325 A.D. the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built where ancient wisdom and tradition designated was the place where Jesus had been crucified and buried. Thousands of Christians visit this place each year remembering their Saviors’ death.

Visitors can walk uphill through the old city from the ancient excavated ruins of the Praetorium where Pilate judged Jesus, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be where He died. The old narrow cobblestone lane called the “Via Dolorosa” winds uphill from Pilate’s Praetorium through the walled city of Jerusalem and on to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Many Christian pilgrims travel to the old walled city of Jerusalem and walk along this narrow lane, just several layers above the old lane that Jesus may have been forced to walk carrying His cross so long ago on His way to die. The words “Via Dolorosa” mean the “way of sorrows”, and each year thousands of believers from around the world come and walk this lane of sorrows trying to follow in His footsteps and remember His sorrow.

The second place in Jerusalem where some believe may be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial is a spot just outside the old city walls. This site is in an ancient garden that is next to a hill where the rock formations look somewhat like a skull (Golgotha- the place of the skull). There is an ancient tomb dug into the hill near the skull like rock formation. Since Jesus died shortly before the Sabbath, Jewish law prescribed that His body be buried quickly before sundown. So His grave would have had to be nearby. Scripture describes this place almost perfectly. “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. And there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” (John 19:41-42)

Before daybreak in the morning after the Sabbath, a group of women made their way to Jesus’ tomb bringing spices. When they arrived they found the large heavy stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Jesus’ grave clothes were inside the tomb but His body wasn’t there. Two angels stood inside the tomb and spoke to the women. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen…” (Luke 24:5b-6a)

The angels reminded the women that Jesus had already told them that He would rise again on the third day! Had they all just forgotten? Had they not believed Him or taken Him seriously when He had assured them that He would conquer death? The angels spoke: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”. (Luke 24:6b-7) Do we make the same mistake they made? When things go wrong do we forget the promises the Lord gives us and despair as they did?

Mary Magdalene stood outside by the tomb weeping. She didn’t understand what the angels were telling her. She didn’t understand that Jesus could come back from the dead, even though He had told her that He would. But then she turned and saw Jesus standing there beside her. For a moment she thought He was the gardener, but when He spoke her name, “Mary” she recognized Him. In her shocked amazement and joy she grabbed Him and clung to Him whispering, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher).

When Jesus rose from the dead with power, the very first person He showed Himself to was a woman! (Mary Magdalene) Jesus asked Mary Magdalene to go tell His disciples and Peter that He had risen and she quickly obeyed. But even though she came running to their door trembling with the exciting news, the disciples didn’t really believe her! (Mark 16:11) Women were second class citizens in that patriarchal society and what they had to say was not taken seriously. They were thought to be liars. If Jesus had wanted the word of His resurrection to get out quicker with more media coverage, why did He give a lowly woman the job of spreading that news? After conquering death, Jesus could have first appeared to a wealthy important man to make a better impression. But as usual, our Lord broke the rules.

Even though the disciples forgot that Jesus had promised that in three days He would rise, the chief priests and the Pharisees didn’t forget! The Pharisees asked Pilate to make the tomb secure by posting guards. (Matthew 27:62-66) Surely the armed guards with their swords and spears could keep Jesus from rising!

A violent earthquake erupted in Jerusalem early Sunday morning. An angel came down from heaven to the tomb and rolled back the stone and sat on it. “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:3-4) Later when the guards recovered a bit, they ran away and went and found the chief priests. They poured out their story of how the earth had shaken and how Jesus had risen with power and how an angel whose appearance was like lightning had rolled away the stone. Scripture tells us that even when the evidence was right in front of them the religious leaders still refused to believe. They gave the guards a large sum of money to bribe them to keep quiet and to not tell anyone that they had witnessed Jesus rising from the dead.

The men and women who were there- back when Jesus was crucified buried and resurrected- all played their parts. One man carried His cross. Peter denied Him three times. Many stood by and mourned and wept. Some ran away. The high priests schemed and lied to get Him arrested. Pilate let Him die. The crowds shouted “Crucify Him”. The soldiers mocked and beat Him. When He rose from the dead the women rejoiced. The guards shook and became like dead men. The disciples were slow to believe that He was alive. The high priests paid for a cover up. Jesus’ death and resurrection affected both His followers and His enemies. Each had the choice to be for Him or against Him. No one could be neutral.

After all these years, Jesus’ death and resurrection is still center stage and we each still have a part to play in it. We can take up our cross and follow Him. Or we can deny Him and work against His kingdom. His death and resurrection affects every person in every generation. Everyone is either for Him or against Him. (Matthew 12:30) No one can be neutral.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jesus Dies on the Cross for our Sins

Jesus Dies on the Cross for our Sins

Journeying Through John (chapters 17-19)

The terrible story of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion are told in these three chapters of John. But Jesus in His prayers mentions the glory of His coming death. “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life…” (John 17:1b-2) His terrible death paid the price for our glorious salvation! Was His crucifixion both terrible and filled with glory?

The last thing Jesus did before He was taken away to die was to pray for us. There in Gethsemane He sweated drops of blood, agonizing over His own followers. (Luke 22:39-46) Instead of worrying about Himself, He was praying for us! One of the last things He asked was that we believers would be united and loving to one another. I wonder are we disappointing Him?

And He also asked that God would keep us from evil. (John 17:15) The Lords’ prayer also teaches us to ask for deliverance from evil. (Matthew 6:9) And real evil is out there! We will come across temptations, trials and traps along life’s pathway that can bring us down. We must pray and be on guard, keep the commandments and take extra care when we are passing one of these pitfalls. There are places we believers have been forbidden to go and we need to heed the warnings.

When Jesus finished praying, a detachment of soldiers stormed into the Garden of Gethsemane. They surrounded Him with shouts and drawn swords and lighted torches. Judas, the betrayer, led them in and they bound Jesus and took Him off to the Caiaphas, the high priests’ house for questioning. The religious leaders all joined together in Caiaphas courtyard to accuse Jesus. (Mark 14:53-54)

When we were in Israel we visited the ruins of an elegant house that archeologists have uncovered on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Archeologists have estimated that the ruins we saw were standing during Jesus’ time. After studying ancient texts and scrolls that give descriptions of Caiaphas’ elegant home, some Bible scholars believe that the ruins we visited might possibly be those of Caiaphas’ house. These ruins were found on an ancient main road near the heart of old Jerusalem. Could these ruins possibly have been Caiaphas’ house?

The ruins we visited had an elegant courtyard outside-perhaps like Caiaphas’ courtyard described in Scripture as the place where Peter denied Jesus to the group and the rooster crowed. – But the real surprise came when we went inside the ruins of the house... Inside we found large round holes in the floors which were the openings to underground caves beneath. Prisoners back then didn’t sleep on cots in lighted cells behind bars. Instead they would be let down through a hole in the floor of the high priests’ house to a cold underground cave. According to the archeologists’ reports, many of the wealthy homes in Jesus’ day had these underground prison cells. After being judged, spit on, and slapped around by the priests and religious officials in Caiaphas’ courtyard, Jesus had been imprisoned there in the house overnight. I had never thought about where Jesus slept that night at Caiaphas’ house.

While inside the ruins of the home we climbed down a ladder into the dark dugout below and saw imprints on the walls of the cave where prisoners long ago had been tied and beaten. It was an emotional moment for us as the lights were turned off and we stood alone in the darkness of this dreadful place. Did Jesus spend His last night in chains in this very underground hole, or one like it?

Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house the morning after His arrest and led to Pilate’s court, the Praetorium, by the angry religious authorities. “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas house to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28) Just one little line here tells us so much! These legalistic priests were afraid of defiling themselves by going inside the Praetorium on their holy day. While these supposed men of God were plotting to murder the Son of God they were careful to stay “pure”! Back then Jesus hated this kind of self righteousness. Does He have reason to still hate it today?

Pilate didn’t find anything wrong with Jesus even though the religious crowd tried to threaten and pressure him. Finally Pilate asked the crowds which prisoner should be released, Barabbas, a murderer, or Jesus. The fickle crowds who had waved palm branches and hailed Jesus as their king earlier that week shouted out their answer. Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.

A crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head and He was beaten and forced to carry His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and outside the city walls to Golgotha. On the way Jesus fell under the weight of the cross and Simon the Cyrene carried it for Him. The Roman soldiers crucified Him on the hill of Calvary as the crowds mocked and jeered. Jesus hung there on the cross in terrible pain between two criminals for nine hours before He finally died.

Even nature responded to this terrible sacrifice that the Son of God was making. “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mark 15:33) The earth couldn’t keep quiet at that terrible moment. Just when Jesus died an earthquake shook Jerusalem and the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. As this happened even the Roman soldiers standing by proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. (Mark 15:38-39)

The curtain in the temple, now torn down, had long separated a sinful people from their holy God. Several millennia in the past Moses had been instructed by God to place the heavy curtain in the temple to keep sinners apart from a righteous God. If sinners got too near they would be consumed. The curtain of separation had been there in the temple through the ages. But now at Jesus’ death it had been torn in half!

When Jesus died that terrible day, the price for our sins was paid and the wall of separation keeping us from God was torn down forever. Our sins were washed away and can no longer keep us apart from our heavenly Father. “There is therefore now no condemnation (separation) to those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1a) We can now freely come into the presence of God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior! He did it all for us! Hallelujah!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jesus Warns His Followers of Rejection but Asks Them to Love

Jesus Warns His Followers of Rejection but Asks them to Love

Journeying Through John (chapters 15-16)

Jesus’ disciples had been with Him constantly for three years and Jesus knew that that was about to change. Within hours He would be arrested and put to death. Jesus still had so many things to share with the disciples (and with us) and there was so little time left. After their last supper together, He continues talking to them as they walk down the valley and climb up the hill to Gethsemane.

Jesus is telling them that He is the vine and they are the branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He emphasizes that His followers are meant to do good and make a difference. (bear fruit). But He also insists that they (we) can’t do anything in our own strength! After all, we are branches and a branch broken off or out of contact with its vine withers and is lifeless.

Some of us may have a hard time believing that we are just branches and we can’t do anything on our own. We think we have most of the right answers and we trust our own abilities. We live in a individualistic culture that encourages us to think highly of ourselves. But Jesus pleads with the disciples not to strike out on their own; “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself: it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4) No rugged individualism here, our job is to remain, to stay (do everything, keep His commands) in Him.

Jesus adds that if we remain in Him : “…whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 15:16b) He also tells the disciples that if they remain in Him that He will give them joy! “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) Worshiping God and believing His Word brings a joy that nothing else can come close to. Over and over again I have seen that joy shining in the faces of God’s people. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and it follows after believers.

But then Jesus warns the disciples (and us) that because they (we) belong to Him , they (we) will experience rejection. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) “If they persecute Me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20b) And “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. …I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you…” (John 16:2 and 4a) The believer’s whole being, his new life comes from God and he is not the same as those who oppose God. Persecution is inevitable because Christians do not belong to the world and don’t fit in. So Jesus is warning His disciples (and us) not to be surprised when we are hated and rejected, because He was hated and rejected. Every Christian must take up his/her cross and follow Him. And sometimes that cross includes the pain of rejection.

Sometimes for believers the rejection can surprise and shock us by coming from places we would have never expected – our family and loved ones. Jesus speaks to us again on this subject in Matthew 10:34-36. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Heavy words! But I have known more than one Christian who through no fault of their own has been cruelly rejected by children/parents. As Matthew 10:34 warns, was it because of their faith? Perhaps!

Jesus had much to say to His disciples just before His death, and He admitted that there wasn’t time to teach them everything they needed to know, but after He left them physically, the Holy Spirit would come and lead them into all truth. (John 16:12) In the same breath that Jesus was warning His disciples to expect rejection, He was also commanding them to love one another. “”My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. “ (John 15:12)

On that last terrible night before His arrest, in one breath Jesus asks the disciples (and us) to love one another, and in the next breath He warns them (and us) to expect rejection. Did He put these two teachings about love and rejection together that night for a reason? When we have been rejected, don’t we need to be reminded to love? When evil comes against us, don’t we need God’s help? Scripture says: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) We need God’s help to overcome evil by returning good for evil. It’s so natural to return evil for evil and to reject the people who reject us. But Jesus commands us to live differently and love. And He never commands us to do anything alone but He always supplies the means and the help. So He promises the Holy Spirit in our lives to strengthen us and give us that supernatural love when ours has run out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jesus Kneels Before Us with a Towel and Basin

Jesus Kneels Before Us with a Towel and Basin and He Gives Us Many Promises

Journeying Through John (chapters 13-14)

We read in the twelfth chapter of John that the crowds turned back from following after Jesus. This gave the religious leaders the freedom finally to go ahead with their plans of having Him arrested and killed. Jesus knew that His time to die was near and He gathered His disciples together for a last meal. Scripture says, “---Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” (John 13:1b)

Right after dinner Jesus got up and wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water into a basin. Then He began washing His disciple’s feet. Peter saw the Lord coming with the towel and basin and he shouted: “No, you shall never wash my feet.” (John 13:8a) And Jesus replied: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:8b) What is true for Peter is also true for each of us. We cannot be His follower unless we allow Him to wash us.

Jesus told Peter: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet: his whole body is clean.” (John 14:10) We may be a Christian but we still seem to mess up some each day. Our sins have been forgiven and we are clean but our feet still get dirty. Jesus comes each day and kneels in front of each of us with His towel and basin. He asks to wash our dirty feet —the sin that sticks so easily to us as we walk along life’s way. The bitterness we feel toward the person who hurt us or the anger we let simmer toward a race or political group that we love to hate. Jesus is kneeling down before us waiting to clean us up. (1 John 1:9)

After Jesus had washed His disciple’ feet, He told them to follow His example and serve others,- to be humble and stoop to do the dirty jobs. They (and we) are to be servant/leaders. Then He tells the disciples that soon He will die. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” (John 13:31) Other Scripture passages also refer to Jesus being glorified in His sacrificial death. Certainly His terrible death paid the price of sin and resulted in our glorious salvation!

Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment. He asks them (and us) to love one another as He has loved us. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Then Jesus comforts the disciples. They are upset because He said that He would have to leave them and go back to heaven. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I am gong there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

Thomas was really confused by now and he asked Jesus; “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” And Jesus answered: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) It seems that Thomas wanted a map or directions showing the way, and Jesus was saying that He is the Way. Jesus is the Way to eternal life and He is the Way to the Father. He is the only Way, not one way among many. We don’t have to find our own way, we just find Him and He is our Way.

One of the ways that Jesus keeps us on the Way to eternal life is by giving us His Holy Spirit. He promised the Holy Spirit to the worried disciples the evening before His arrest. This is what He told them: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever---the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.”(John 14:15-18) “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)

Jesus promised to give the Holy Spirit to His followers and that promise is for us too, if we believe in Him. He promised not to leave the disciples on their own like orphans and we can claim that promise too. When we feel like we’re all alone we need to stop and remember that He has promised to be with us, His Holy Spirit in us to guide us into all truth. We need to wait on Him and listen to hear what He is saying to us. He won’t leave us in the lurch.

Jesus also promised the disciples that He would prepare a place for them in heaven and He would come back to take them there. That promise is for us too. That night, as recorded in John 13-14, just before Jesus was to be carried away to His death, instead worrying about Himself, He took those last hours to give the disciples (and us) these magnificent promises!

Jesus promised us (and the disciples) eternal life and a place in heaven. He also promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us to guide us. Perhaps Jesus comforted the disciples with these promises that last night because He knew they would need to stay strong when He had to leave them. And He also wants us to stay strong until this earthly battle is over. We need to listen for the Holy Spirits’ guidance and allow Jesus to wash us whenever the need arises. And we can stay strong by remembering His promise of eternal life and of our place in heaven. He has given us so much. We are wealthy indeed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why Did The Crowds Stop Following Jesus? Journeying through John (John 12)

Why Did The Crowds Stop following Jesus?

Journeying Through John (John 12)

The eleventh chapter of John tells the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. After Jesus brings Lazarus back to life several dramatic things happen. First the crowds go wild. Word gets around that Jesus has raised Lazarus from the grave and hundreds of people flock to Jerusalem expecting that Jesus will be their knight in shining armor and put down all of their enemies. They will proclaim Him their earthly king, and expect Him to free them from Roman rule. And the second thing that happens is that Jesus’ enemies, the powerful religious leaders, become all the more determined to put Him to death.

The priests and Pharisees are furious that the crowds are running after Jesus and they plot to kill Lazarus. (John 12:10) Maybe if they can get rid of Lazarus the crowds will forget that Jesus has raised him from the dead. They could cover this miracle up! There is no crime these supposed men of God wouldn’t stoop to in order to get their way. Later they will stir up the crowds with lies and threats! Scare them into believing that Jesus has blasphemed and is worthy of death. They’ve got to do damage control!

It would seem that these religious leaders didn’t want to believe, even when the evidence (Lazarus being raised from the dead) was right in front of their eyes. They refused to see the truth and then tried to cover it up with twisted lies. They had to reject the truth that Jesus had come from God. Too much was at stake for them. They might have to give up some power and status if they were to recognize Jesus! They might have to pay a price if they believed! Might be too risky!

In chapter 12 of John we read that a great crowd met Jesus as He was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. They waved palm branches and proclaimed Jesus to be their king, the King of Israel and the One who comes in the name of the Lord. But were these followers of Jesus fickle? The people who welcomed Jesus on a Sunday (Palm Sunday) might have been some of the same folks who were calling for Jesus to be crucified just five days later (Good Friday). How could this crowd change its’ mind so fast? What is happening here?

The crowds were looking to Jesus to give them wealth and earthly power and Jesus was thinking about dying and giving them spiritual life. Jesus knew that His time to die was near and He said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life---” (John 12:23-25) I believe Jesus was saying that in order to have life (or follow Him) a person must deny himself and not love their earthly life more than God. There is a price to pay in following Jesus. Was the crowd ready to pay the price?

Perhaps the crowds following Jesus turned away because they loved their earthly lives too much. Was Jesus warning them of that? They were following Jesus for the wrong reasons. They were looking for an earthly king and Jesus’ kingdom is the kingdom of heaven. These followers knew how an earthly king should act. They expected Jesus to take over and rule. But instead Jesus talked about sacrifice and dying. The crowds were looking for a political leader and Jesus wanted to lead them spiritually. Jesus told the followers: “---Now is the time for judgment on this world: now the prince of this world will be driven out. But when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:31)

The crowds didn’t like what Jesus was telling them and they complained that He should be with them forever and not be lifted up or taken away! Jesus told them to put their trust in the light so that they may become sons of light. (John 12:36) He told them that He only spoke what the Father told Him to speak. The crowds didn’t listen. Jesus wasn’t saying what the crowds wanted to hear. Since they didn’t understand everything He was telling them, they weren’t willing to trust Him with the details. It wasn’t working out! He left and hid himself from them. (John 12:36)

Scripture says that some of the religious leaders were impressed by Jesus’ miracles and actually believed that He was the Messiah, but they were afraid to share their beliefs with anyone. “---they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42b) Even though Old Testament prophecies foretold Jesus’ coming and though Jesus healed the sick and performed many miracles, the adoring crowds weren’t willing to stay with Him when the going got tough. He had set His face towards Calvary and the crowds weren’t willing to follow Him there.

Chapter 12 of John records the sad story of the crowd turning away from Jesus and then adds that this rejection had been prophesied in Isaiah. “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ (John 12:37-38) Isaiah also prophesied that because of the people refused to believe, their hearts would be deadened and their eyes blinded to the truth.

If we had been part of the crowd back then following Jesus, would we have turned back with the rest when He didn’t perform the way we had expected? If we had been there when He told the crowds that whoever loses his life will find it; would we have walked away with the others not wanting to lose anything? Would we have trusted Him enough to follow when we didn’t know where He was leading? Or would we have joined the crowd and given up? Would we have wanted to protect our reputation like the religious folk back then who believed in Jesus but didn’t tell anyone for fear of losing their positions in the synagogue?

If we’re going to follow Jesus we have to follow Him all the way. Following Him half way with a luke- warm faith won’t do! Scripture warns that God will spew us out of His mouth if we come with a cautious luke-warm faith. (Revelations 3:16) We need to be hot! We need to be willing to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. (Mark 8:34) (Matthew 16:24) If we deny that we know Jesus for fear our reputations will suffer, Scripture says that Jesus will deny us before the Father! (Matthew 10:33) Jesus told the crowd that if they were willing to lose their life then they would find it and have eternal life. (John 12:35) The faith that God is looking for in us is a faith that is willing to lose or abandon anything keeping us from Him. If we are willing to sacrifice to follow Him all the way, He will lead us to eternal life. Let’s give up anything that is holding us back and follow Him all the way!