Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO 64850
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has regenerated us unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3, Recovery New Testament).
Today, we'll continue on into the twelfth chapter of John's Gospel, which offers more insight into the differences between religion and Life in the Spirit. Shortly before Passover, and His own impending death, Jesus arrived at Bethany where His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. "Bethany means house of affliction," according to a foot note in the Recovery New Testament. It likens Bethany to the church, contrasting the warmth, love and honor Jesus experienced among His friends over against the cold shoulder and murderous intentions Judaism had for Him. I see it as another sharp contrast between the rigid and codified religion of Judaism, and Life in the Spirit, which flowed from Jesus to the friends who loved Him and honored Him, at great risk to their personal safety. They were under surveillance by the Jews who were looking for ways to kill Him.
On this occasion, his friends had a dinner in His honor at the house of Simon the leper, presumably a man whom Jesus had healed (Mark 14:3). Martha served; Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, was reclining at table with Him, "Then Mary took a pound of ointment, of very valuable pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, ad wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filed with the fragrance of the ointment" (Vs. 3, RNT). This lovely picture of Mary's devotion and great love for the Master has, as Jesus said it would, been a blessing to all who love Him throughout the centuries since she honored Him this way. An NIV Study Bible footnote points out that "Mary's act of devotion was costly. It was also an unusual act, both because she poured the oil on Jesus' feet (normally it was poured on the head), and because she used her hair to wipe them (a respectable woman did not unbind her hair in public). Further, it showed her humility, for it was a servant's work to attend to the feet."
Like legalists everywhere, Judas talked the talk, but could not walk the walk. He criticized her for squandering the money on Jesus when it could be sold and given to the poor, saying "It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it" (Vs. 4). Jesus made short work of his bogus accusation, "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me" (Vs. 5). This story blesses me so much because it shows that love, real love does not count the cost; it throws everything on the altar, money, dignity, tradition, and societal rules to follow and honor the Lord. A year's wages is a lot of money, and that was the cost of the nard with which she anointed his feet. When we were in Israel, I bought a tiny vial of it ($3.95), thinking I might wear it on special occasions. It is so potent, however, that the tiniest amount enters the room before you, and I decided that using it as perfume was a bad idea.
Mary put a pound of the ointment on Jesus' feet, about twelve ounces the footnote says. The fragrance filled the house, and if the windows were open, it would have wafted throughout the neighborhood. Perhaps this is how the crowd of people found out what was happening in Simon's house. Even without CNN or the National Inquirer, word got out that Jesus was dining in the neighborhood. "Then a great crowd of the Jews found out that He was there, and they came, not because of Jesus only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead" (Vs. 9). Human nature has not changed that much. I can imagine Katie Couric sticking a mike in Lazarus' face and asking, "How did it feel to be dead? Are you glad to be alive again?" Sometimes I think reporters are attempting to find out what "normal" might be, since they haven't a clue themselves.
At any rate, the curious and admiring Jews came, and the treacherous ones were lurking about as well. "And the chief priests took counsel to kill Lazarus also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed into Jesus" (Vs. 10-11). This is a classic picture of religion's rigidity and control. We have a woman friend who belonged to a church which taught that the Holy Spirit went back to heaven after the last Apostle died, and with Him, went the gifts, the manifestations and of course, the miracles. This dear lady, attended a Woman's Aglow meeting one day, and was filled with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues. She hadn't a clue what had just happened to her, but she was transformed from a nervous and voiceless member of the church, into a fountain of light and glory as the Spirit's fire and power coursed through her. Later, as she attended a service at her church, the Spirit flowed through her, and she began to speak in tongues. I don't have to tell you what came next. The elders escorted her out and told her to repent and never do that again, or leave. She left religion's hallowed halls to follow the Lord's leading, and is still ministering to others today who got the left foot of fellowship from religion.
I think you call this the "kill the messenger" syndrome. The same thing happened to me and my sisters when we came back home after being baptized in the Spirit. We called the preacher and elders together and told them that what we'd been taught just was not true. "Hallelujah," we said, "the Holy Spirit did not go back to heaven like we thought. He's alive and well on planet earth." These men who knew me from a child, assessed our problems. One said we had become "holy rollers;" another said to me, "You were the best bible student I ever had. Your trouble is you quit reading the King James Version of the bible and went off into error." They also told my mother that she was not to teach any of this in her Sunday School class. Exactly like the chief priests, they were trying to stamp out this dangerous doctrine before it spread to others.
From Bethany, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover. Perhaps counting on safety in numbers, the adoring crowd, "took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out, 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!' And Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it, as it is written, 'Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your King comes sitting on a donkey's colt'" (Vs. 12-13). The bible is a treasure trove of rich analogies, metaphors, and symbols. I love the Old Testament, for it contains the types and shadows which were made real and fulfilled in Christ. This quotation comes from Zechariah 9:9. The study note there indicates that Zechariah was prophesying the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, of a Davidic type, Messianic King. The donkey was a suitable choice since it "was a lowly animal of peace....as well as a princely mount before the horse came into common use. The royal mount used by David and his sons was the mule (II Sam. 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33)."
The disciples did not understand all of this until later. "Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him" (Vs. 16). The life of Christ was all foretold in the Old Testament. They would have learned the facts of it growing up, but were astonished at how it actually played out in Jesus' life and ministry on earth.
Meanwhile, the momentum was building toward a critical mass in His inexorable march toward the cross: "Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!" (Vs. 17-19). One of the main objectives of religion is crowd control; get them in hand; do it however you must, by threats of excommunication, peer pressure or worse. During Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it looked like the Pharisees had lost this round.
Jesus knew what was coming, and He made one of those mystical statements that probably made no sense to most who heard Him: 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. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me" (Vs. 23-26). We live in farming country here, where we witness the familiar process of planting a seed, which germinates, bringing forth new life as it sprouts. If you kept a wheat seed in the sack, it would never produce grain. Only by burying it in the ground, do you reap the life it has within it. Jesus was being kind to the admiring throng of people, by speaking in symbols. They believed He would be their King and overthrow the hated oppression of Rome. He was telling them gently and symbolically of His incarnation, his flesh being the seed, and His Spirit, the Life within it. Except His body go into the earth, He could not produce Life and multiply Himself in His followers, but they did not understand this until after His resurrection.
A grain of wheat will remain alone unless it is planted in the ground, "but if it falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit" (Vs. 24). Some want to limit the "crop" to the church, which has many members, but He did not limit the harvest to just the church. In fact, He makes this startling statement: "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw A-L-L men to myself" (Vs. 31-32). He was prophesying the end of Satan's reign on earth, and this was not just for God's chosen people, or believers, or church goers, but for ALL MEN, whom He would draw to Himself by His death on the cross. I want to tear out my hair when I hear people giving glory to Satan by saying, "the devil did this or that." Those who believe and confess such things have listened to the doctrines and fears of men, not the Holy Spirit, who tells us that "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14, RSV).
Until Christ came, the devil kept the children of men in bondage with the power of death, which he wielded to control them. Notice that it was THROUGH DEATH and His subsequent resurrection, that Christ destroyed the works of devil! The Apostle John tells us that "He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8, RSV). It is incongruous to me that people who affirm loudly that the bible is the genuine word of God, nevertheless, doubt that Jesus did what He came to do, and what John said He did do, i.e., DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL! Either that is true, or it is a lie, and if it is a lie, then we might as well give up now. We're condemned to a hell on earth.
The Jews did not understand what Jesus meant by his statement that when He was lifted up, He would draw all men unto Himself. They quoted scripture to Him to prove He was wrong: "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?" (Vs. 34). This reminds me of the Word of Faith teaching that you must quote scripture to God so He will honor it. What, did He forget? Is He so sleazy that we have to remind Him of His promises? That's either blasphemous or stupid or both. The Jews accused Him of sacrilege when He called Himself the Son of God (John 10:36), and then they grumbled when He called Himself the Son of Man. It's graphic evidence that you can never be a crowd pleaser and serve God.
In spite of the fact that He had done many miracles in their midst, including the raising of Lazarus from the dead, many would not believe in Him. This belies the belief held by many that a good miracle here and there will produce faith in those who witnessed it. Jesus said their unbelief was to fulfill the word of Isaiah, who said, "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (Isa. 53:1). Yet, unlike church leaders everywhere, Jesus did not blame them for their unbelief. He put the blame squarely where it belonged: on God's desk. Quoting Isaiah, He said of God, "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn, and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him" (Isa. 6:10, John 12:41).
What Lenny says about Isaiah's comments, which were quoted by Jesus and Paul (Mat. 13:14-15; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Acts 28:26-27), is, "It's all God's fault." Far from being disrespectful, he is giving God all glory and honor as our Sovereign Father, the only power in the Universe. To say that the devil is running amok on planet earth on his own volition, is like seeing God sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of some celestial retirement home for old and impotent gods. To say we have free will, and can choose to sin, is to say, that we have the ability to control our lives. Someone e-mailed us this comment: "We only want to talk to God as a consultant." I've had to plead guilty to that in times past. In fact, the Lord said to me once, long ago, "Get off the Throne, Jan. There is only room for one."
Mary exemplifies the main difference between Life in the Spirit and religion. She anointed the Lord, even as we do, when we choose LOVE over DOGMA, LIFE over DEATH. The Jews sought Jesus for the excitement of the miracles, for what He could do for them, not for who He was. Religion says, "This is what you have to do to please God." Life in the Spirit glorifies Christ, who said, "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (Vs. 49-50). On the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." This can only mean that He did what He was sent to do, i.e., save the world and destroy the works of the devil. We can rest in His ability to get the job done successfully. Father, You alone have the words of eternal life. Open our hearts to receive them. Amen. Jan Antonsson. To be continued....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Second Hand Religion, Part I"
"Statement of Faith, Second Hand Religion, Part II,
"Beyond the Veil, Second Hand Religion, Part III"
"Risen from the Dead, Second Hand Religion, Part IV"
"All things under His Power, Second Hand Religion, VI"
"The Kingdom Option, Second Hand Religion, VII"
"My Father's House, Second Hand Religion, VIII"
"Connected to the Vine, Second Hand Religion, IX"
"Chosen by God," Second Hand Religion, X"
"Labor Pains, Second Hand Religion, XI"
"Coming Home, Second Hand Religion, XII"
"A New Beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIII"
"Declaring the end from the beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIV"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 2/21/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/21/08.