Just about halfway there! Look at you…sticking to your commitments and adding healthy rhythms to your life! Way to go!
Jesus Christ, King of the metaphors…and also the world.
Jesus loved to help people understand complex theological truths by using story and metaphors. One common theme in biblical metaphors is the sheep and the shepherd; that is because it would have been such a familiar topic for those listening ears in that day in that location. Now, I don’t know about you…but I don’t know a TON about what it takes to shepherd sheep. Most of my sheepherding knowledge comes from extensive watching of the film, Babe the Gallant Pig. Although, there is much in Babe that can help us understand Jesus’ analogies as well. You see, Babe became an award-winning sheepherding pig (spoiler alert) because of the simple fact that he earned the trust of the sheep. While dogs were aggressive and got the sheep to do what they wanted using fear and…umm…teeth, Babe was gentle; he took the time to get to know the sheep and they got to know him and learned to trust him. This is not much different than what John is saying in chapter 10. The sheep (us) trust the shepherd (Jesus) because he knows us and we know him. Because we’ve come to know his voice and his character, we know that he is going to lead us through GOOD pastures because he loves us and wants us to experience LIFE to the FULLEST.
Do you know your Shepherd in this intimate way? Do you recognize his voice easily? Do you know his heart? Does he know yours?
“Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Many other translations use the word “abundant”. The greek word here is “perissos” which means “excessive, over and above, more than is necessary, superadded” That is the type of life God wants to give you. I love the way Hosanna Wong describes this in her book “Superadded”. Imagine a child (or maybe yourself) at a self-serve frozen yogurt bar. When it comes to toppings, do they put a small scoop of rainbow sprinkles and say, “that’s enough!” NO WAY! They add rainbow sprinkles, then a scoop of chocolate sprinkles…then probably some marshmallow sauce, some peanut butter cups, and gummy worms…always gummy worms. They just keep adding and adding and adding one good thing after another. One might say “SUPERADDED” Excessive? Probably. But that’s how Jesus describes the life he wants to give you. Good thing, piled on top of good thing, piled on top of good thing. And in the economy of the Kingdom there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.
Isn’t that what you want? Good pastures and a rich and satisfying life? Do you believe that Jesus has all these things and wants to give them to you? This is what we mean when we say we want you to live FULLY ALIVE in Jesus. Do you want that life?
The other character in this analogy is the thief, the enemy of the sheep, and the one trying to take from the shepherd what is rightfully his. The thief is never motivated by the wellbeing of the sheep. While Jesus wants to give us a SUPERADDED life, the enemy wants you to settle for a life that’s “good enough” or even mundane. All the great things Jesus wants to give you (metaphorical rainbow sprinkles) the enemy wants to snatch away. How does the thief do this? The same way modern-day thieves (“Nigerian princes”) steal…through lies.
How have you seen the thief work in your life? What lies has he told you in order to get you to settle for an average, less-than-abundant life? Have his lies worked in the past? What was the result?
Jesus takes this shepherd analogy to a whole other level when he says he’s the GOOD shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. That is DEFINITELY not something the thief would do. There is so much foreshadowing in this passage of scripture. Jesus is laying it all out before them…pretty much everything they can expect in the coming days. Yet, they still are stunned when he goes to the cross. He literally says “I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.” Resurrection??!! John points out all these things. WHY? Say it with me now…so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah and have life in his name.
Another foreshadowing statement is when Jesus says he has other sheep that are not in this sheepfold. Indicating what we know now…the the kingdom of God is about to explode beyond the borders of Jerusalem, beyond just Jewish people. Jesus is opening up his gates to all sheep who hear his voice and respond. One giant flock of all different types of sheep! Glory to God! Are you grateful to be included in the flock? Who can you invite through the gate? There’s plenty of room in the pasture!
This next section in John 10 shows a common theme of John…people just simply not getting it. They keep asking him to tell them he’s the Messiah and to prove it by doing miracles. But he has been doing just that for some time now and they still don’t believe. Jesus says, “I have already told you and the proof is in the miraculous pudding.” (my own translation) There is some sort of spiritual block for many people. Ice has formed around their hearts and fogginess over their eyes. Why do you think that is? Jesus simply says that they aren’t his sheep. They don’t know him or recognize his voice. Perhaps it’s their pride that is blocking Jesus’ voice from penetrating their hardened hearts. Perhaps it’s skepticism or unrealistic expectations, or simply a lack of faith. Whatever it it, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the kind of sheep that stubbornly waits outside the gate refusing to enter until all my doubts and questions have been completely dissolved. I don’t want to wait on the outside as the other sheep get to experience the superadded life Jesus promises to the sheep who know his voice.
How do you think we can become more like the sheep on the inside of the gate? What is the posture of their heart? How would you describe them?
Jesus says to “believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me.” What evidence have you seen in your own life or the lives of others that Jesus is exactly who he says he is? As people living in the 21st century, we didn’t get the opportunity to see Jesus walking on earth as a human, as these skeptics did. We often think…if I had seen with my own eyes, then I would believe more fully. Yet these people got that exact opportunity and yet they let their doubts win out in the end. Why do you think that is? Do you think it speaks more to the posture of the listener than the works of the Messiah?
Read through the entire account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection. Try to picture the scene as best you can. Try to think about how each individual was processing, thinking and feeling.
Jesus gets word that his dear friend is gravely ill and what does Jesus do? He just hangs out for the next few days! He doesn’t rush back even though he (and Mary and Martha) know he could heal Lazarus. Verse 5 says, “although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus” he made them wait. Have you ever been in a season of waiting? It is no fun at all…in fact in the words of the great theologian Tom Petty (kidding), “The waiting is the hardest part.” But this scripture says that Jesus made some of his dearest friends wait. It says even though he LOVED them, they waited. When we are in a season of waiting it can be easy to feel forgotten or overlooked by God or even that somehow his love has ran out. However, that’s simply not the case. Our emotions and human understanding can sometimes (many times) lead us astray from God’s truth. The truth is, despite your circumstances, you are still deeply loved, just like Lazarus. And as we see from this story, sometimes the waiting simply brings about the opportunity for and even greater miracle.
Think back to a time where you were waiting on Jesus. Maybe you’re in that season now. How did it feel to wait and wait and watch as your dream die? Did you feel abandoned? Do you think Mary and Martha felt the same. How can you take comfort in God’s love and provision despite the feelings of your circumstances?
When Jesus FINALLY gets to Mary and Martha, they both say the exact same thing to him: “If only you had been here!” How many times have you cried this out to God. If you’re like me, it’s many. There are so many times when life doesn’t go how we think it should and we cry out to God…”if only you had stepped in and changed this trajectory!” If only you had healed my loved one. If only you had saved my job. If only you had changed my spouse’s heart. If only, if only, if only. How does Jesus respond to Mary and Martha as they question Jesus’ lack of intervention in their time of need? John gives us a rare glimpse into the emotional state of Jesus. We see that Jesus responds with a complicated mixture of sadness and anger. Some translations say that Jesus was deeply moved, while others say a deep anger welled up within him. The word “enebrimēsato” implies indignation and was often used to describe the way horses would grunt and huff when provoked by an enemy and about to charge. So what is Jesus angry about? Because this righteous anger is mixed with sadness, it seems like he is indigent about the fact that there is even a reason for all the weeping. In other words, Jesus is provoked and angered by the mere existence of death itself, as 1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death “the last enemy”. You see Jesus was there at the beginning (see John 1) he knows that death was never intended to be a part of the human experience. We were created to be eternal. Jesus is expressing frustration that these people he loves so deeply have to experience the sting and pain of death.
And he also weeps. John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in all the Bible (congrats you just memorized scripture) and yet one of the most profound. Jesus knew he was going to raise up Lazarus. He KNEW death would not have the final say…and YET….he wept. Why? Jesus is not only filled with compassion but also empathy. He feels what his beloveds are feeling. So if you’re a sympathetic crier, congrats! You are a bit like Jesus!
So how does Jesus react to us when we are going through a season of grief and also questioning his lack of intervention? Like with Mary and Martha, he responds with empathy. He, like us, is frustrated and sad that we have to experience this type of pain. He doesn’t rebuke us for our lack of faith. He doesn’t tell us to get over it and move on. No. He simply sits with us. Enters into our mess of emotions and weeps alongside us. Not because he doesn’t have hope, but because he loves us so much.
Through his indignation and grief, Jesus does what he set out to do when he arrived. He calls Lazarus out of the grave! Lazarus was not just dead. He was 4 days stinky dead. And yet, that was not a hurdle to large for Jesus to overcome. Throughout this miracle Jesus says and does things “for the sake of all the people standing there.” He knew what he could do. He knew who sent him. He knew Lazarus would die if he waited and he knew death was not something he couldn’t defeat. This miracle wasn’t for his sake. It wasn’t even necessarily for Lazarus’ sake entirely. This act was for the sake of all who were paying attention. You could even say that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead so that you, yes you, sitting in the beautiful Central Coast of California more than 2,000 years later, would come to believe that Jesus has the final say over death and that he is, in fact, the son of God, and that you can have new life in him. So what do you say? Are you paying attention? Do you believe?
Now, most of us have not experienced physical resurrection like Lazarus. However, many of us have been called out of the “grave” and risen to new life in Christ. It is interesting that when Lazarus is called out of the grave he was still bound in grave clothes. I think it’s important to point out that Jesus gives 2 commands. First, “Lazarus, come out!” and second, “Unwrap him and let him go!” What if Jesus didn’t give that second command? Lazarus would have been alive, but he would have still been bound by the things that were put to death with him. What if when the others started to unwrap him Lazarus said, “Nah, thanks, I’m good. I think I’ll hang on to these graveclothes for a while!” It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? And yet, it sounds like what so many of us do when we experience new life in Christ. We’ve been raised to new life, yet we still cling to the things that were buried in our old life. We still hang on to bad habits or old patterns of thinking. We still doubt the power of the resurrection in our life and keep one foot in the past. But that past is dead and gone. It’s time to shake those grave clothes of and enter fully into your new life! What grave cloths are still clinging to your resurrected body? What is it finally time to let go of?
It’s interesting that the command to unwrap Lazarus wasn’t directed at Lazarus himself but at those who had witnessed his resurrection. It’s amazing that Jesus invites others into the resurrection process. He does the same today! Jesus is the one who raises people to new life, but we as the people of God have a role to play too! We get to be a part of the process of unbinding people from death…from calling them to walk in freedom from the past and into the abundant life Jesus has promised them. Have you witnessed a resurrection but see that person still clinging to pieces of their old life? How can you encourage them to shake off their grave clothes too? How can you help unwrap them and help them to walk in freedom?
So Jesus raising a man from the dead was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. This miracle was too awesome, too grand, too obviously anointed, for the Pharisees to sit back and allow Jesus to continue his ministry. They officially began the plot to arrest him and have him killed. They couldn’t have some rabbi running around displaying his power over death! That would attract too much attention and cause too many people to believe in him. In this passage the Pharisees reveal their true motivation. Jesus was a threat to their political power. Israel was an occupied nation. The Romans had given the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders certain privileges and authority over the Jewish people. But if Jesus kept going around giving people hope to believe in the power of God over the power of Caesar, the Romans would quickly snatch away all the religious leaders power and put Israel back under their harsh thumb. They couldn’t have that The Pharisees were so shortsighted. They only saw their circumstances and the threat to their power. How have you been motivated like the Pharisees? Have you been afraid of change or afraid to loosen your grip on power or privilege or leadership? What if letting go of your position allowed so many more the opportunity to experience Christ and his resurrecting power? Do you need to take a few steps back and a few peeks outside yourself to see the bigger picture?