Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preparing for His Death (Jn. 11:47-12:8)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 23 October 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 11:47 – 12:8

John said the law came from Moses but the grace of salvation came from Jesus Christ. One who could not understand the New Testament cannot really understand the Old Testament. Through Jesus Christ we understand God’s salvation in human history. We see this principle in Lu. 23:24. Jesus appeared before His disciples and explained the Psalms, the Prophets and the history books. The starting point in understanding the Old Testament is from the resurrection of Christ.

After He resurrected Lazarus, the Jews plotted to kill Him. At the end of John 11, He withdrew temporarily and was not easily found (Jn. 11:54). This is not a flight to safety. He would appear again before the Passover. This would be the forth time within 3.5 years of ministry. The first time He went to Jerusalem, He cleansed the temple. The forth time, He cleared the temple again. In His last visit He would be crucified.

Many people put their faith in Jesus because of Lazarus’ resurrection and many Jews also wanted to kill Jesus because of this. The Pharisees and priests had ordered that anyone who saw Jesus should report to them so that they might arrest Him (Jn. 11:57). They wanted to kill Him but because murder is against the law they used Pilate to kill Him instead. Pilate told the Pharisees to judge and punish Jesus themselves according to their own law and the Pharisees said according to their law they could not put Jesus to death.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived. Martha served and Mary prepared a perfume. Here Mary poured Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. This is 6 days before Jesus’ death. This is the guidance of the Holy Spirit. She was very sensitive to God’s timing. The servant of God should do things according to God’s will and timing. Most people do not understand this and end up doing things in their lives out of line with God’s ways and timing.

The perfume was worth a year’s wages. Our her love for Jesus, she saved all her money and bought the expensive perfume to anoint Him for the death of Jesus. This true High Priest would be crucified soon for the sin of the world. Who would anoint Him? God has prepared this woman to anoint Him. No one else knew He was about to die.

Jesus was born from the womb of Mary who was submissive to God’s will. She was anointed for His death by another Mary who loved Jesus. And Mary Magdalene, the woman out of whom Jesus cast out 7 demons, was the first woman who saw the resurrection of Jesus. The most obedient and the most defiled were all used by God. These women were blessed indeed.

She broke the bottle. She did not want to leave anything behind as a memory for her contribution. The way Martha and Mary loved Jesus were different. Martha was always visibly the hardworking one who served. Mary was unreserved and quietly working hard and saving up to anoint Jesus with all she had. This sacrifice is very rare. Jesus said when the gospel was preached to the end world, what Mary had done will also be told in memory of her.

Judas protested, saying the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Judas himself did not help or care for the poor but he rebuked Mary for not using the money to give to the poor. John said Judas said that because Judas was the money keeper and often stole. Who realised Judas was the thief? Even on the day He was betrayed, His 11 disciples still did not know. They were simple-minded. But Jesus knew.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, 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.” (Jn. 12:7-7) The lesson here is we should seize the moment to serve God or we will lose the opportunities.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jesus Resurrected Lazarus (part 3) (Jn. 11:11-46)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 16 October 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 11:44-53

Jesus calmed the sea, showing Himself to be the Lord of nature. He raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walked, showing Himself to be the Lord of life. So His disciples believed Him to be the Son of God.

The biggest miracle happened in John 11 where He resurrected Lazarus who had been in the tomb for 4 days. After this, there were bipolar reactions. One side believed in Him and the other side determined to kill Him. His destiny has been set. Many people put their faith in Him but many wanted Him dead. They wanted to kill Lazarus too. Why did they react that way? On what basis did they oppose Him after such a miracle accomplisment?

From John 2 onwards there had been two reactions against Him, those who believed and those who opposed Him. However, even to those who believed, the Bible said Jesus did not give Himself over to men for He knew the hearts of all men (Jn 2). Again in John 3, when Nicodemus came to Him and said nobody could accomplish the miracles He did if he were not from God, far from being flattered Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you are not born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Self-righteous intellectuals will find it hard to humble themselves to learn the truth.

John 5-11 record many debates which are not recorded in the synoptic gospels. Jesus received stern response from the Jews. He was called demon-possessed, an illegitimate child, looked down upon as a Galilean where no prophet had ever come from. Judging Jesus from these human angles they never understood who Jesus is. Our Lord is patient and continued to discourse with the Jews. He challenged if any of them could convince Him of sin and nobody could. Finally in John 11, He performed the greatest miracle by raising Lazarus, and from then on they were determined to kill him.

Jesus healed a paralytic on Sabbath day in John 5. He healed a blind man on Sabbath in John 9. Far from breaking the Sabbath, Jesus brought people into true Sabbath. The greatest rest had occurred for these people who were never able to enjoy true Sabbath in the past. The Jews who plotted to kill Jesus were the ones who truly broke the Sabbath. Jesus said they saw the speck into their brother’s eye but could not see the plank in their own eye.

According to the Jews who opposed Him, Jesus broke the law by breaking Sabbath. As a result, they wanted to murder him. But paradoxically, their intent to murder was breaking the law too. They killed Jesus not because Jesus broke the law but because He was a threat to their culture.

After resurrecting Lazarus, many believed in Jesus. Since the creation of mankind nobody has done this so He must surely be the Son of God. But is this true faith? In the eyes of God this is not sufficient. Jesus said, “if you do not witness miracles you cannot believe.” This is not true faith. So although they believe, Jesus did not give Himself to them. In John 8, Jesus said to the Jews that their father is not Abraham but the devil. Jesus said this to the Jews who believed in Him too, not only those who opposed Him.

We ought to examine ourselves. One day when we come before the Lord, would we hear Him say, “depart from me I never knew you”?

Apostle Paul said we are to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. If you think you belong to Christ, you need to search yourselves and think how you belong to Christ. If you only believe because you see miracle, there is no much value in such faith. We do not belong to Christ unless we have the spirit of Christ. Jesus said not all who called Him Lord would enter the Kingdom of God but those who do the will of His Father in heaven. This is not about salvation by works, but it implies that true faith results in obedience.

The Jews went to the Pharisees as they were concerned to see more and more people following Jesus. When the servant of God is not thinking about the glory of God but their own glory the church is headed for destruction. Many pastors are using the church as a means to make money. Who is willing to suffer for the Lord?

Caiaphas, the high priest of the year, said that it is better for one man to die for the people than the whole nation perish (Jn. 11:49-50). Caiaphas did not believe in Jesus and was speaking in nationalistic spirit to preserve Israel so they plotted to kill Jesus. But what he said indirectly prophesied Jesus’ death, which was God’s purpose so that His people might be saved from sin. Prior to His birth, it was already prophesied that Jesus would save His people from sin. John saw that Jesus would die not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.

The Jews wanted to kill him however because it is against the their law to kill, they get the Romans to kill him. This is the greatest political plot in history. Religion made use of politics to carry out the greatest injustice. It was religious leaders who killed Jesus, not the politicians, as Pilate himself acknowledged that he could not find any fault in Jesus and he washed his hands from that guilt. The Lord was calm under the judgement of the Jews. He would one day come back and be our Judge.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jesus Resurrected Lazarus (part 2) (Jn. 11:11-46)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 9 October 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 11:11-46

Jesus deliberately waited four days after Lazarus died. Sometimes we ask the Lord where He is when we are suffering. Christ is Lord. We should not grumble. He will never make mistakes, never miss the time. We can hardly find people who are obedient in all circumstances. Human timing cannot change God’s timing. Our one-sided view cannot control the will of God. If we cannot understand this, we cannot properly call ourselves Christians.

What motivated this delay? Jesus said, “I do this for your good that the glory of God may be manifested.” This motivation is God-centred and the glory of God is the final goal and it is for our good. We often see things through our narrow-minded perspective. Martha, Mary and the Jews did the same mistake. They said that if Jesus came earlier Lazarus would not have died. Jesus performed 35 miracles and the greatest of them all is this one. This is what Elijah and Elisha could not do. In the New Testament, Paul and Peter resurrected one person. Jesus resurrected 3 people.

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days. It cannot be a fake death after 4 days. The Lord would demonstrate that He had the power to raise the dead. Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” (Jn. 11:23). However, Martha understood that resurrection will happen on the Last Day. She said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v.24)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v.25-26)
If you believe you will see the glory of God. This is how faith works. We need to believe first then we will see. The world says seeing and experiencing is believing. But God says to believe first. The gospel of John is consistent with other gospels, the Acts and Hebrews 11.

After arriving at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus’ first command was to take away the stone (v.39). His second command was, “Lazarus, come out!” (v.44) and His last command was, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (v.45)

Lazarus’ resurrection teaches us that God’s timing is never wrong, that we should not judge God by our finite mind. Jesus’ 3 commands also teach us important spiritual principles. The first command indicates that we have to be prepared to work to see the glory of God. We need to roll away the stone of barrier that prevents people from hearing the gospel. The work of pre-evangelism is important, carried out through cultural mandate to remove barriers to the gospel.

The second commands show the dead will rise to life when hearing the voice of the Son of God. He is the Lord of life. He gives us life. When we preach the gospel, the Lord uses His Word to regenerate unbelievers. The spiritually dead will be born again.

The third command shows that after regeneration we need to be freed to live out your new life. After we are saved, it is not the end. We have a new life to live. Good tree will have good fruits.

Are we removing the stones? Are we preaching the gospel? Are we making disciples? This is the responsibility of the church. May the life of Christ come upon us.

Jesus Resurrected Lazarus (part 1) (Jn. 11:1-11)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 2 October 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 11:1-11

John 11 demonstrates the greatest miracle Jesus had performed, resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. In the Old Testament, Elijah resurrected one person. Elisha resurrected two persons. Elijah did 7 miracles. Elisha did 14 miracles. God answered Elisha’s great prayer in giving him a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. More than Elijah and Elisha, Jesus resurrected 3 persons.

The power of Jesus surpassed that of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah and Elisha would first call upon the Lord. But Jesus simply commanded the dead to come to life because He is God. The Father gives life and so the Son also gives life. The Father can resurrect the dead and the Son has the same power.

The first person Jesus resurrected from the dead is Jairus’ daughter, the second is a young man, the son of a widow about to be buried. Death came about because of sin. If you disobey the law you will die. Jesus’ power transcended the law and could raise the dead.

The third resurrection miracle performed by Jesus is in John 11. This incident is not found in 3 other synoptic gospels. This is most unique incident. The Scripture said Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Some day someone brought the news that “the one You love is sick”. Instead of saying Lazarus is sick, the person said “the one you love” is sick. This tells that they had a close relationship. Naturally if you were to hear this, you would immediately go to see the person you love, to comfort and serve him. But strangely, Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death, but unto the glory of God.” Christ often sees the glory of God through the presence of sufferings. This is lacking in many Christians’ lives. So the sickness has a purpose, God will be glorified. The Son of God will be glorified. Jesus had no anxiety. How can you look at sickness as an opportunity to glorify God? When Jesus saw the man born blind, he said neither he nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that God might be glorified.

When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days (Jn. 11:5-6). This seems very uncaring. But God has His own timing and we cannot impose our timing upon Him. He is our sovereign Lord. When His time has not come, when it is not yet the time for His grace to be displayed, we must wait, submit patiently and obey.

Jesus finally said to go to Judea (v.7). However that is a very dangerous place where many Jews wanted to stone him. Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” (v.9-10)

When God allows the sun to shine upon us, we should not be afraid of the coming darkness. When you are in the light, walk in the light. This is a very important statement. In 12 hours of day light, you see the light of the world and when you walk you will not stumble. Jesus is the Light of the world. If we walk with Him we will not stumble. But what has this got to do with Lazarus?

John speaks a lot about light, a theme not expounded in the synoptic gospels. The gospel of John was written 20 years after the death of Peter. Could it be because the time has changed? Peter and Paul died around AD 68. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded. Romans crucified the Gentile but wouldn’t punish the Roman citizen (Paul) in the same way. In AD 90 the church was in a mess. All the leaders were gone. Paul and Peter had died. The church was facing great persecution. How can it continue in its great faith?

Influenced by Gnostism, many false gospels appeared. The enemies of the church falsified the gospels. John was the only apostle left. He was the most important witness left who was a disciple of Jesus, who walked with Jesus and witnessed all His works. The entire Christianity would collapse in that 30 years without him. Jesus had long prepared him for this day. He was the youngest disciple. When he was young, he was impulsive. He was fervent for God. Jesus picked him and especially loved him. He referred to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. Jesus placed him in the inner circles of his disciples, Peter, James and John.

Christianity faced great challenges in AD 90. When John was about to be persecuted, he was alone. He was about to be burned alive, but in the end he was exiled to the island of Patmos, all alone. In that island, on a Sunday, heavens opened and God revealed the book of Revelation to him. Without him we do not know how the world would end.

He wrote about Christ coming in the flesh, but not the Christmas story. He did not write about Jesus’ birth. This is an unusual gospel. He has great memory and write the teaching of Jesus. In the matter of Lazarus, he recorded the greatest miracle, something absent from other gospels.