Can my spirit handle it?
Why would I want to do it?
Does it meet a need?
Who would lead a study written by me?
Who am I to write a study? Or is it pride?
"So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was."Mary and Martha wanted hope, they desired love. They made a plan - seek out Jesus - and he didn't not come to their add at a moment's notice. He waited. But then... then, there was hope:
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”John 11:11Jesus decides it is time to act. The disciples are nervous... it's a dangerous trip to visit their destination (Judea) because the last time they were there, there was an attempt to stone Jesus. They think they are going to wake up a sleeping man, but Christ clarifies: they are going to go and wake the dead.Jesus arrives, and is strong for Mary and Martha. He seeks out their faith, almost testing them. The time has come for Christ to heal his friend and - before he even gets to the actual tomb, as he comes upon the location, we have one of the most memorized passages in the Bible:
"Jesus wept."John 11:35What was His emotions at this point. Christ waited, letting his friend die. Christ's best friends essentially say they expected more of him ("if only you had been here"). And Christ, in his infinite wisdom, knew the danger, the excitement, and the torment He was about to unleash upon the crowd... and upon Lazarus.Lazarus was dead. Jesus knows what's on the other side of death... whether it is Abraham's Bosom or Paradise or Purgatory or nothing until the resurrection... Jesus knew what He was bringing Lazarus back from. Lazarus would breathe again, but he would also feel pain again, one day, ultimately, die again.
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would 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 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 11:40-44And that's the end. That's all we know. We don't have Lazarus thanking Jesus. We don't have Mary and Martha thanking Jesus. We don't have a recorded, personal moment of introspection or of joy or of life. Just "let him go."Why? Why is it like this?Jesus gave hope. He answered the prayer. I don't think he was simply healing a dead man. He was healing a family. He gave hope. I believe that's all He ever wanted to give.What about our friends Caleb and Joshua? They had hope of a promised land. Of twelve who went to scout the land, only these two believed it was theirs. They came to lead Isreal and the time was right to now take the land. They spied on the ihabitants, and found them afraid. They met a lady name Rahab, who would be included in the lineage of Christ. They had faith; and the people now had faith in God.The priests were sent first, carrying the Ark of the covenant. The were walking straight towards a flooding Jordan river. And once all their feet were in the water, not a moment before, the river stopped and the priests and warriors together crossed over to Jericho.
So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt SeaThat is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.Joshua 3:14-17Joshua and Caleb had hope. Mary and Martha were without their brother for four days. Joshua, Caleb, and the nation of Isreal were without their promised land for forty years.And what of Jesus? What hope did he find?When we left His struggle for hope, He had returned home and His childhood, adolescent, and twenty-somethings young adult friends offered Him no grand homecoming. They offered Him no faith or hope; just a lack of belief and a lack of miracles. Where did He find hope? Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
32A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3: 31-35, also Matt 12:46-50, also Luke 8:19-21.Christ's hopes, His family and loved ones were not his blood relatives, simply because they were blood they were His chosen family, the people who did God's will. Christ's hope was in his small group. His hope was in His community of believers. His hope was in His bride, the church.And their hope, our hope, is in him:
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”John 11:16
1 He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things?” they said. “What is this wisdom given to Him, and how are these miracles performed by His hands? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t His sisters here with us?” So they were offended by Him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household.”Christ was not expecting this. He was amazed at their unbelief. He didn't expect it and - if I might put a bit of imagination into it - he did not want to be rejected in this way. Chapter 6 immediately follows, obviously, chapter 5. In chapter 5 Christ healed a sick girl - so sick Jesus was told she was dead. Before that he met a woman whose faith led her to touch his robes, taking power from them. Before that he cast out the demon Legion. Before that, in chapter 4, he calms a storm and the waves. So going home you would think people would be happy to see you. But... they weren't. They rejected Christ and he felt rejected. These were the people he grew up with, who knew him day in and day out the past thirty years... and they made fun of him for it. How could Jesus be teaching and know such things... wasn't He just the son of Joseph? So maybe they were just friends. What about people who were sworn to protect your life, and you, theirs? What if you had fought battles together, time after time? And what if you and eleven of your best friends, people who would lay down their lives for you, were chosen to go and discover the future of your entire nation? Perhaps you ended up disagreeing and were in the minority. These are your best friends... surely you can solve the dispute civilly, right? Perhaps you are Caleb, and in the book of Numbers you report back to Moses and Aaron that the land flowing with milk and honey is a good land, and that your people can conquer it. Perhaps the whole community... your friends, your acquaintances, perhaps even your family members would decide that instead of listening to you, you should simply be killed instead (Numbers 14:10). This rejection, it is a hard pill to swallow.Our home might reject us. Our entire community might reject us. Surely, surely, Jesus would never reject us. He would have a warm heart and kind words to ease our troubles. He would come like a rushing wind to our aid. Christ is our redeemer, our Lord, our friend. We expect that when we call upon Him, He will intercede. He will make a change in our lives, or the lives we pray for. If you were some of his best friends, you could say something that would surely stir His soul to reaction: "Lord, the one you love is sick," was the message sent to Christ my Mary and Martha in John, chapter 11. But His response was not one of immediacy or comfort. Chapter 11, v6: So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Mary and Martha went to Christ to heal Lazarus, and as far as they could tell, in that moment, He had rejected them. The most painful rejection comes from those who love us the most.
5 So He was not able to do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He was amazed at their unbelief.
It's good to know that we as current day Christians are not the only generation to be faced with questions, misunderstandings, and confusing traditions about our faith. In our small group tonight, we're going to be discussing one of my favorite topics that is missing from your typical Sunday School upbringing: Melchizedek.Melchizedek appears only a few times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, there are direct references to him only twice (Gen 14:17-24 and Ps 110:4). He is a mysterious figure who could, seemingly, be nothing more than a brief cameo of a character in Abram's life. Melchizadek is much more, however; he is a key component in the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah.Melchizedek is, without question, one of the most mysterious characters in the Bible. He comes on the scene and then leaves so quickly with very little exposition to the reader about who he really is or why his blessing to Abram is so important. Jewish tradition surrounding Melchizedek only serves to further the mystery surrounding him (of course, as my wife reminded me to clarify, this is Rabbinic literature and not canon. I only mention this here because I find it interesting how many stories have accumulated about Melchizedek):
- In the Midrash, the Rabbis identified Melchizedek with Shem son of Noah. (E.g., Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.)
- Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised. (Genesis Rabbah 43:6.)
- Rabbi Eleazar said that Melchizedek's school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit manifested itself. (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b.)
- The Rabbis taught that Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam's robes to Abraham. (Numbers Rabbah 4:8.)
Central to our faith is the Christ is Messiah. Throughout the story of the Jewish people, prophets are given messages from God, many of which have a double meaning: a message for the culture of that day and a message that foretold the future. The lump sum of these messages come to prophesy the coming of Messiah, who would be a kinsman redeemer for the nation is Israel to heal the broken relationship between man and God from the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden.
This Messiah would be both a priest and king. We often hear of Christ referred to as the Son of David, as Messiah was to come from the root of Jesse. This is where the prophecy of Zechariah muddies things up: Messiah was to be both priest and king (Zec 6:13). Priests come only through the lineage of Levi, of which the kingly lineage (Davidic lineage, tribe of Judah) was not. So how could a man be both a priest and king?
With this need for Messiah to fulfill the prophecy and be both Priest and King, Melchizedek becomes a central figure to the validity of Christ as Messiah and, thus, a major character in the theology of our faith.Even more so, the priesthood of Melchizedek (the priesthood of Christ) brings us eternal hope. Looking back at the second reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament brings us here:
The Lord has sworn an oath and will not take it back:
"Forever, You are a priestlike Melchizedek." (Ps 110:4)
The great theologian, Paul, explains it to us thusly:
The priests of Levi were finite and imperfect. Ultimately, their priesthood was to be abolished because a better priesthood came not "based on a legal command concerning physical descent but based on the power of an indestructible life." (Heb 7:17). So the history of priesthood is as such:
- Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God, possibly reigning over the area of Jerusalem (as he was King of Salem, which some believe was the former name of Jerusalem)
- The role of priesthood was given to the descendant of Aaron, descendant of Levi
- The coming of Christ, through the power of an indestructible life, continued the priesthood of Melchizedek
Therefore He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7:25).