Tag Archives: stone

CONVINCED OR NOT CONVINCED?

CONVINCED OR NOT CONVINCED?

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ He said. ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’

“Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When He had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'” John 11:38-44 NIV.

What a moment! What went through the minds of the two sisters, of the bystanders when Jesus ordered them to remove the stone? ‘No! It can’t be! Is He out of His mind? Is He really going to go in there? What is He going to do?’ As the heavy stone was moved, so the stench of death wafted from the mouth of the cave and they involuntarily stepped backwards.

Jesus was oblivious to the smell of putrefying flesh. He took a step forward and turned His face heavenwards. In a strong, confident voice He addressed His Father, ‘Abba, we’ve already talked and you have heard my request. Now I want all these people around me to know and believe that it is you who sent me.’ When did He speak to the Father? All the time, no doubt.

Then, without hesitation He addressed the corpse — in a loud voice that Lazarus would hear wherever he was — ‘Lazarus, out!’ The bystanders watched and waited, hardly daring to breathe. Was this just a big show? The seconds ticked by, then…out of the darkness a figure emerged, naked but for the strips of cloth around his hands, his feet and his face and probably encasing his body as well. He shuffled towards the entrance, unable to walk because of the linen ties around his feet.

Miraculously, the odour had dissipated. Lazarus was very much alive but still wearing the evidence of his departure encasing his body. Instead of the stink of decay, the fragrant spices of his sisters’ loving preparation for burial still clung to him, released by a fresh breeze which blew away the last vestiges of his untimely death.

Trying in vain to free himself of his encumbrances, Lazarus shuffled out of the tomb. The people stared at him, speechless with shock and disbelief. Only one person was with it enough to speak sense in the situation. I can imagine that Jesus was amused by the bizarre scene — dozens of people gawking like beached fish while a man tied up in burial cloths, hands and feet firmly immobilised, and unable to see where he was going, tried to get free of his bonds and speak to them!

‘For pity’s sake,’ I can imagine Jesus saying, ‘Untie the poor guy and let him go.’ With a jolt, someone would come to and take off the bandages from Lazarus’ feet and hands and untie the cloth around his face so that he could breathe freely again and see.

The Bible abruptly halts the story right there. John was not about telling a story. He was about providing convincing evidence that Jesus was the Son of God, sent by the Father to reveal His Father’s glory. What did the Jews think about that? Was this magnificent sign enough to tip the scales, the climax of the signs John had recorded to reveal the nature of the Father and convince his readers that Jesus was indeed God’s Son, perfectly reflecting Him in everything He did?

We have to read on to the conclusion that unfolded in the next few days to discover the depth of wickedness in the hearts of Jesus’ opponents that drove them, not to believe but to plan their murderous end to the story!

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – CORNERSTONE!

CORNERSTONE!

“But Jesus didn’t back down. ’Why, then, do you think this was written?

“That stone the masons threw out –                                                                                                     It’s now the cornerstone!                                                                                                                      “‘Anyone falling over that stone                                                                                                          will break every bone in his body;

if the stone falls on anyone,                                                                                                                    it will be a total smash-up.’

“The religion scholars and high priests wanted to lynch Him on the spot, but they were intimidated by public opinion. They knew the story was about them.”  Luke 20:17-19.

“There are two kinds of people in the world…!” Ever heard that statement?

In this incident, the two kinds of people are – those who use criticism wisely and those who want to silence the critic! Jesus’ antagonists fell into the second category. Even destructive and unkind criticism can be beneficial if one “eats the meat and spits out the bones.”

In this instance, it would have been eternally beneficial for them if they had taken Jesus’ words seriously. His intention was neither destructive nor unkind. He had tried everything to get them to wake up and realise where they were headed, but to no avail. They belonged to the category of unteachable people, those who were too proud to admit they were wrong and to want to know the truth more than to preserve their egos.

The only thing that stopped them from carrying out their murderous intention was their fear of public opinion. Of course, that was right in line with their general attitude anyway. They always played to the crowd, but in this instance, public opinion would only drive them underground until the time was right and they could get the crowd on their side.

In the heat of this furore, once again Jesus kept His cool. He knew He was right because He always stood on the side of truth. But His being right was not an image or an ego thing. It was an earnest plea to heed His words because of the consequences.

He was quoting Psalm 118:22, a fragment from a Messianic prophecy. The religious leaders would have been familiar with the Scripture and the insinuation that Jesus was the cornerstone, which would have riled them even more. Therefore they were enraged on two counts, His outright exposure of their intended plan to kill Him, and His Messianic claim which they interpreted as blasphemy.

The cornerstone of which Jesus spoke, not only supported the entire structure, it was also the test everyone has to pass or fail on their way to eternity. Every person either “falls over” the stone or will be crushed by the stone. This sounds like a heartless statement, and it would be except for one reality – everyone has a choice.

The way we respond to the “cornerstone” is the way we understand and treat the mercy of God. He has provided a way of escape from the inevitable result of our rebellion against Him. He warned the first pair that disobedience would bring death, but they did not believe Him. Because of their rebellion, death came on the whole human race. God sent His own Son, the “cornerstone”, to pay the debt we all owe Him so that we can go free.

That does not mean that we are free to do our own thing because there is no longer a penalty. It means that God will have mercy on those who return to Him and recognise and come under His authority by accepting His offer of forgiveness and entrusting themselves to His love. When we fall over the cornerstone, we are broken of our stubborn self-will. We submit to Him by choice and we are on a new road to true freedom.

The other option is to be crushed by the cornerstone. For God to be perfectly just, He has no alternative. He must be true to His nature and to His word. Imagine His heartbreak when He has to consign rebels to destruction because they decided to reject His offer when they could have had life!

He Saw And Believed!

HE SAW AND BELIEVED!

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him.'” John 20:1-3a NIV.

John’s story sounds so true-to-life, doesn’t it?

Mary Magdalene is so distraught about the death of her Master that she can’t sleep. She gets up before daybreak and hurries noiselessly through the dark streets of the city until she comes to the tomb. What is she going to do there? She probably doesn’t know. She just wants to be there one more time, to be near her beloved Master.

In the light of the full moon, as she nears the tomb she notices that something is amiss. Instead of the huge round stone sealing the entrance, it has been rolled away, leaving a gaping hole. She stops for a moment to assess the situation and then turns and runs, as fast as her legs can carry her, back to the city. Her first thought? ‘I must tell Peter! He’ll know what to do.’

With rasping breaths she gasps out her story. ‘He’s gone! They’ve taken Him away. I don’t know where He is.’ That’s all. The stone has been moved. Something’s wrong.  Without even going inside the tomb to check whether He is still there, the only conclusion she can come to is that His body has been stolen.

“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but he did not go it.

“Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple who reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead) Then the disciples went back to the others where they were staying.”  John 20:3b-10 NIV.

Peter and John wrap their cloaks around them and rush off to see what the woman is talking about. By this time it is beginning to get light. John, the younger man, outruns Peter and reaches the tomb first. The stone has been rolled away, just as Mary had said. He stops at the entrance, hesitant to go in. He bends down and peers into the gloom. As his eyes become accustomed to the dark, he sees something strange. The grave clothes are still lying there, intact but empty. The body has gone.

Peter arrives, panting and, true to character, goes straight into the tomb. He also sees empty grave clothes but sees something else even more puzzling. The cloth over Jesus’ face is lying, not with the grave clothes but by itself, almost as though the body had melted out of it, leaving it in place where the head had been.

John joins Peter in the tomb and stares at the strange sight. Slowly the truth begins to dawn on him. This is no act of grave robbers. No one can remove a body without disturbing the grave clothes. Why would they take the corpse and leave the burial cloths behind? He hears the echo of Jesus’ words in his mind, “…Rise again on the third day! …Rise again on the third day,” and at last it all begins to make sense.

Finally everything Jesus had told them fell into place and John believes. What a life-transforming experience! “He saw and believed!” The evidence is beyond dispute. He is an eyewitness to the most earth-shattering event in history. A dead man comes back to life as He had predicted. That can mean only one thing — everything else He had said was true.

Many people have made outrageous claims about themselves and their beliefs and, on the strength of those claims have started religious systems which others had devotedly followed. One thing is missing, though — the evidence. Jesus alone produced the proof that He is who He said He is, and that faith in Him is the only way to the Father.

Tell It With Your Life

TELL IT WITH YOUR LIFE 

“Again His Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'” John 10:31-33 NIV.

How nonchalant could Jesus be? Almost with tongue in cheek He challenged them. ‘For which of the good works I did are you wanting to stone me?’

Slowly but steadily the case for blasphemy was building against Him — unless, of course, He was telling the truth. If the Jews had had their way, they would have stoned Him there and then, but for one thing — it was not His time.

As far as they were concerned, He was guilty and didn’t even need a trial. Unlike Nicodemus and the blind man He had recently healed, they refused to recognise the Father as the source of the miracles Jesus performed. He was evil because He “broke” their Sabbath rules by healing on the Sabbath and then compounded His guilt by claiming to do His good works through God. What more evidence did they need?

Unfortunately for them, their action only compounded their guilt and not the other way around. Jesus had already indicted them for being blind. It was their wilful blindness that exposed their guilt because they refused to recognise Him for who He was. They had the Scriptures; they knew the Scriptures but they chose not to believe Him although it was clear that He was the one the Scriptures pointed to from Genesis 1.

In order for Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world, He had to be innocent of all sin, and especially the sins of law-breaker and blasphemer of which He sworn enemies accused Him so that His death would be a perfect substitute for sinners.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are “gods”?'” John 10:34 NIV.

What is the point of this quote from Psalm 82:6? In Hebrew rabbinic teaching, this is called a remez — a hint. It is a portion of a portion of Scripture that makes no sense outside the context of the whole portion. Psalm 82 is an indictment of God’s people for their idolatry. They followed the gods of the surrounding nations and became like them — cruel, unjust, and oppressors.

God’s law taught them to treat all people with dignity because they were all created in the His image. They were to reflect the nature of their God by the way they treated their fellow men.

“God presides in the great assembly; He renders judgment among the “gods”: ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. The “gods” know nothing. They walk about in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High,’ but you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.'” Psalm 82:1-7 NIV.

If the religious leaders knew their Scriptures, they would have understood that Jesus was turning their accusation back on them. They were accusing Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God which He evidenced by doing what God required of a son.

They were supposed to be sons of the Most High by being generous and merciful, yet their very behaviour negated their claim. Like their ancestors, their lives displayed who their “god” was — their selfish and greedy selves. They were “gods” in the sense that they were being what their “god” was and doing what their “god” did. For all the vehemence of their accusations, their words did not stick because their behaviour spoke louder than their voices.

Instead of the case building against Jesus, it was building against His accusers. The day would come when they would put the final nail in their own coffins and the judgment of God would fall on them and their children. “His blood be on us and on our children.” Matthew 27:25 NIV.

Who is your God? Tell it with your life, not your lips!