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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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John 11

Was Doubting Thomas Really Doubting Thomas?

Doubting Thomas. We have serious doubts about that guy, don’t we? Poor Thomas really gets a bad rap from Christians sometimes. I mean, the resurrected Jesus walks in a room, and Thomas doesn’t even believe that; he demands that he be able to touch the wounds in our Lord’s side before he will believe. That big dummy!

Friends, are we being fair to poor Thomas? I challenge any Christian who has never had doubt about anything in their own Christian walks to step forward and enlighten the rest of us as to what makes them such super Christians. We all doubt, and that is fact. We may not doubt God’s existence, His grace or His salvation; yet, we doubt something. Did you worry today about anything? Boom…you have doubted God. I say we cut Thomas some slack, here.

I do it too; it makes me feel like super Christian to cast aspersion on the solidness of another’s faith. If their faith is wobbly, then by comparison mine must be really strong, right? A while back I wrote a series of devotionals on the story of Jesus and Lazarus, and Thomas came up in the course of it. Read this from John 11: 

Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

I sort of mocked Thomas myself, paraphrasing Thomas’ works something like this: “Okay, Lord, let’s go to Bethany. Even though we are going to just get killed, let’s go. Sigh.” Clyde over at Clydherrin.com made a really good point that maybe I had been too hard on Thomas. It was a great point.

The text never actually presented Thomas as saying what he said in the way I said he said it. In fact, it was all the other disciples who were naysaying Jesus when He said they were  out to Bethany, and Thomas who stepped up and said, “Hey, let’s go!” I think what we see there is a statement of resolve and support rather than doubt.

Doubt is normal, my friends. We all have it. What matters, in the end, is not that we have it, but that we act despite it. Once we go in a God called direction despite our fleshly doubts, what has just happened? We have ceased to doubt!

Let’s cut Thomas some slack. He was willing to go, despite himself. Are we?

The Decision of the Council

John 11_55

John 11:53-57

At this point, things took a rather serious turn for Jesus and His disciples. The decision was set, the proclamation was made and the path to the death of our Lord was laid. There would be no turning back now. The culture and powers of the time were pulling out all of the stops to stamp out what would eventually become the Christian Faith.

Friends, God has told us there is nothing new under the sun, and there still is not. The decision has been set, the proclamation has been made and the beginning of a likely systemic campaign to rid the world of religious faith, particularly the Christian faith, has seemingly begun. Society in large part screams for our silence; where that does not work legislation is put in place to legally mandate our silence. This will only get worse as we near then end, as it got worse as Jesus neared His earthly end.

In this, as all things, our Lord provides our example. Note that he “therefore walked no more openly among the Jews.” Jesus did not become silent or disappear; however, He did become more circumspect in His actions. That is, until the time was right for Him to act and move, which He did upon His triumphant return to Jerusalem. Friends, in this hostile world we also need to choose our battles carefully and yet be prepared to leap into action when The Lord says the time is right.

The Council of the Chief Priests

John 11 50 and 51

John 11:47-52

Not everybody was happy when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, to say the least! As usual, the Pharisees and the religious powers of the day saw only the threat that Jesus saw to their position, and not the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Immediately afterward, all of these right way started plotting how they could remove this threat to their place of control and influence.

As is also the norm, we quickly see that God had things well in hand, even when things seemed grim and without hope. God is not sitting back, just watching things unfold and hoping they work out okay. Today, we again live in a world that does not want to see and accept that Jesus is the promised Messiah, but wants to hang on to their position of control. Now, as then, many plot ways that they might impede or even destroy the work or our Lord and His people.

The world continues to be an unfriendly place for the children of God, and it is getting worse rather than better. Friends, God is working His plan and His promises are secure. All things which happened are either caused or allowed by Him to happen. Remember that, when the powers and Pharisees are coming after you that now, as then, God uses everything in the furtherance of His sovereign plan.

The Sorrow of Mary

john 11 28 and 29.JPG

John 11:28-34

As in the past, Martha and Mary have distinct ways of reacting to things. Martha ran out of the door and way down the road to more or less confront Jesus. Mary simply waited; she never left the place she was until Jesus called for her. Martha seemed to understand fairly clearly that Jesus could make things right; she said so. It is not clear from the story how much Mary really understood, as we are not told that. Mary seemed to understand that Jesus had things in hand, even if she did not know precisely how.

Mary’s reaction is telling, though. Despite her possible lack of complete understanding she did something; when Mary did meet Jesus, she “fell at His feet.” She simply surrendered herself to her Lord, reaching out to Him for comfort and trust that somehow He could make things right.

Mary waited. Jesus called. Mary came running and threw herself at Jesus’ feet. Friends, there is a great lesson here. We will never always be in full comprehension of God’s plan, and sometimes waiting rather than charging forward blindly is the best course. Eventually, Jesus will call, and when He does we also need to come running. Finally, sometimes we simply need to surrender and reach out to Him with trust and faith. When we do that, we may be granted to see God’s plan unfold in all of its glory. As this story continues, we see that this is what definitely happened.

 

Jesus Reaction to Lazarus’ Sickness

John 11_4

John 11:1-7

The next verse in this story, we see, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Clearly, our Lord had a special relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters; yet upon hearing his dear friend was sick Jesus waited two days to go to them. We know from other places that Jesus could have simply spoken healing and Lazarus would have been healed; Jesus actually had no need to go there at all. This must have seemed shocking and even callous to the sisters.

There is so much depth to this story that we could explore it for pages, but space won’t permit that, so we can capture just a couple of quick thoughts here.

Thought one is that we often lose sight of just what the point of things is in this life. As much as God loves us, and desires us to life joy filled lives, the point of our lives is not some “personal fulfillment,” as many preach. The ultimate point is always God’s desire, God’s plan and finally God’s glory.

Point two is that, as we will see as we explore thoughts this week; no saved child of God will ever remain dead, but will be finally resurrected into a glorious eternal life that we cannot even imagine. As with Mary and Martha we may not understand it all here and now, but also like them if we are just patient and persevere, one day we will understand it all.

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