Prepare Our Hearts – Day 5

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Text: John 11:45-53
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

I’m not sure if you are like me, but so often I read the stories of Jesus or other miracles in the Bible and think to myself, “It would be so much easier to believe if I would have been there, if I could see these things with my own eyes.”  But in our passage this morning, we see that being an eye-witness to the works of Jesus did not at all guarantee faith in Him.  While it is true that “many” who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead “believed in Him,” not everyone did.  In fact, some of those present not only did not believe in Jesus, but after seeing the Lazarus walk out of the tomb four days after being laid to rest forever, they were deeply upset and went straight to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.  The religious leaders became extremely alarmed as well, because they knew that if Jesus continued to do miracles like this then soon everyone would believe.  If the masses flocked to Jesus, it wouldn’t be long before the Roman Empire would inevitably mobilize their highly-skilled army to crack down on the perceived rebellion.  Left unchecked, Jesus had the potential to upend every aspect of life as they knew it.  So in fearful jealousy, they began to plot ways to take Jesus out of the picture.

In hindsight, it is fair to wonder what was happening in the hearts of the chief priests and Pharisees.  As highly trained, highly educated, religious leaders and scholars, they were the ones who should have been in the best position to recognize that Jesus was who He claimed to be, the promised Messiah, who had been foretold from the very beginning in the history of God’s people.  Yet, it seems that the main problem for them was that Jesus didn’t fit into their preconceived perceptions of what this Messiah would look like and where He would come from.  As the “illegitimate” son of a carpenter, from Nazareth of all places, Jesus lacked the formal education and prestige that they personally enjoyed.  He did not come from a wealthy family, and He was not a “professional” Jew like they were.  In truth, they were awaiting a Messiah that looked like them.  One who would affirm them for who they were and what they were doing.  One who would continue in their long established extra-canonical traditions.  But Jesus didn’t fit into any of their categories, so even though He was both working and teaching with undeniable power and authority, they were unable to see Him for who He really was.  And despite the fact that there had already been a prophesy by Caiaphas, one of their own, that very year which proclaimed that Jesus should die on behalf of the Jewish nation, they believed that His death would save the people from further escalating the oppressive Roman military presence.

As I read this passage anew today, I must ask myself this question, “Where do I fit into this story?”  Am I like the religious rulers who heard and saw all that Jesus did, but can not accept Him for who He claims Himself to be because it might disrupt my life too much?  Am I like the people who witnessed the miracles and instead of believing in wonder, ran away in fear to a crowd of skeptics to confirm my own previously held biases against Him?  Or am I like the others in the crowd, completely amazed at what Jesus had done, unlike anything I had ever seen?  Just think, if Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life, what might He be able to do in my life? 

The truth is that all of us have barriers inside us that prevent us from readily ascribing to Jesus the authority He deserves in our lives.   I have all sorts of selfish reasons for keeping Jesus at a distance, things like pride, fear of giving up habits or patterns of behavior that I have grown accustomed to, fear of loss of control of my own life, or even fear of the harm following Jesus publicly might cause to my established family or friend relationships.  These are just a few of mine, there are many, many more barriers to me accepting Jesus as He is presented in the Bible.  The pertinent question for all of us remains the question Jesus asked to Mary, “Do you believe this?”  If we really do, the implications for our lives are limitless.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we confess today that we at times struggle to believe that You are who You say You are.  We also recognize that even though we may claim you as our Lord, we often try to hold back portions of our lives for ourselves.  Help us to believe that the plans and purposes You have for us are better than anything we would ever be called to leave behind to follow You.  We pray once again that you would increase our faith, help us to believe.  Be working in our hearts to do the work of resurrection and restoration that only You can do.  We pray that you would be glorified in all of our thoughts, words, and works today.  Amen.