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The Gospel According to the Apostle John - Part 6
- The Gospel According to the Apostle John - Part 1
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
- The Gospel According to the Apostle John - Part 5
This is Part 5 in a series of bible studies in the book of John.The series will continue to take a look at the details of this Gospel as it relates to its prime subject - Jesus Christ.
The Good Shepherd
As we continue to move through the book of John we come to chapter 10. The chapter begins with Jesus claiming to be the Good Shepherd and closes with Him claiming to be God. In Bible times, and even still today in many middle eastern towns, the sheepfold was a public place. At the end of the day of grazing the sheep, the sheep were brought to the sheepfold to spend the night.
The porter would watch over them through the night and in the morning the shepherd would identify himself to the porter who would release the sheep. Jesus says in verses one and two that it is the shepherd who enters in by the door. A thief, or robber come in some other way.
Jesus is making a statement concerning Israel. He is saying that He entered the nation legally through the door. He came in by the door through fulfilled prophecy. He came in under the law (Galatians 4:4). He came through the line of David (Luke 1:32). He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). No one else carried His credentials. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes credentials this way. “CREDENTIALS, n. plu. [Rarely or never used in the singular.] That which gives credit; that which gives a title or claim to confidence; the warrant on which belief, credit or authority is claimed, among strangers; as the letters of commendation and power given by a government to an ambassador or envoy, which give him credit at a foreign court." So the power of working miracles given to the apostles may be considered as their credentials, authorizing them to propagate the gospel, and entitling them to credit.” Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be the Shepherd of Israel, but also the God of Israel.
Verses 10 and 11, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
First of all notice that Jesus puts forth His own sheep. Those not of His fold will not be led by Him. They have “another” shepherd. The shepherd would take his sheep to the sheepfold at the end of the day. Since it was a public sheepfold, the sheep would mingle together through the night. When the shepherd came back the next morning the sheep would be mixed together. There were no markings or brands used. The sheep were simply separated by the shepherd’s voice. As he would call each one by name they would leave the other sheep and come to their shepherd.
Jesus Identifies with His Sheep
Jesus puts forth His own and goes before them. He is identified with His sheep and His sheep identify with Him. Are you one of His sheep? There is protection here for the sheep. It was the shepherd’s job to feed and protect every sheep in his flock. David protected his sheep from the lion and the bear (I Samuel 17:34). Jesus takes His sheep from the mouth of the lion as he roars about seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).
Secondly, notice that the sheep only follow their shepherd. The sheep will not willingly follow someone who is not their shepherd. How foolish we are when we tune into teachings from other than the Word of God. A Preacher says this. The pope says that. This magazine makes this point. This book makes that point. The sheep only answer the voice of the shepherd. But if we are not true to the Word of God—if we consider teachings from other than the Word of God—if we do not rightly divide the Word of Truth, we will fall into error. We must only listen to the shepherd. The sad truth is that sometimes we are so far away from God that we cannot clearly distinguish the voice of the Shepherd and we may be tempted to fall for an impersonator.
Now follow this through. In verse 9 Jesus identifies Himself as the Door to the sheepfold. Actually there was no door that swung on hinges, but rather the porter would lay across the door way. He himself became the door. The sheep could not get out without going past him. No one could come in without going past him. If they attempted to come in some other way, they were a thief and robber, not one of the shepherds of the sheep. Jesus Himself becomes our Door of protection.
Psalm 23:4 tells us, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Jesus, the Door offers us protection not found anywhere else in the world. Why in the world do we not follow Him more closely?
His rod and staff comfort, but yet the rod was an instrument of correction. The shepherd would use the rod as a means to bring the sheep back into the proper line of behavior. Hebrews 12:7 tells us that God chastens His own. He uses the rod to correct inappropriate behavior. If you have never been corrected by the rod of Shepherd Jesus, you do not belong to Him.
The word “staff” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to support”. If a sheep would fall over an embankment, the shepherd could “hook” the sheep with the crook and lift him up. The Door offers protection by His support and chastening. Never be offended by the chastening of the Lord. Just obey Him.
Lazarus, Come Forth!
In this portion of Scripture, John chapter 11, Jesus performs another miracle, this one of life changing proportions. Lazarus is raised from the dead. Word comes to Jesus that Lazarus is sick and dying, and we are told in verse four, “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
According to Barnes’ Commentary he says of verse 4, “This sickness is not unto death - The word “death” here is equivalent to remaining under death, Romans 6:23. “The wages of sin is death” - permanent or unchanging death, opposed to eternal life. Jesus evidently did not intend to deny that he would die. The words which he immediately adds show that he would expire, and that he would raise him up to show forth the power and glory of God. Compare John 11:13. Those words cannot be understood on any other supposition than that he expected to raise him up. The Saviour often used expressions similar to this to fix the attention on what he was about to say in explanation. The sense may be thus expressed: “His sickness is not fatal. It is not designed for his death, but to furnish an opportunity for a signal display of the glory of God, and to furnish a standing proof of the truth of religion. It is intended to exhibit the power of the Son of God, and to be a proof at once of the truth of his mission; of his friendship for this family; of his mild, tender, special love as a man; of his power and glory as the Messiah; and of the great doctrine that the dead will rise.”
Notice these last thoughts. This miracle was meant to show the power of God. Only God has power over life and death. Jesus had that same power. Even suicides can not be “successful” unless authorized by God.
It gave proof of His mission. His mission was (along with the great doctrine that the dead will rise again) was to give eternal life to all who would accept Him. This was a visible picture of that doctrine. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
It showed His friendship to the family. Remember please that the Savior is not only your Savior, but also your friend, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
It also was a show of His special love as a man. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
It certainly speaks of the power and glory of the Messiah.
In verse five we see that Jesus was in no particular hurry to go rescue Lazarus. After two days He says to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again” (verse 7). Remember that the Jewish leaders wanted Him dead. The disciples also remembered (verse 8).
Back in our first lesson we discussed the simplicity of John’s writing, but yet the deep profound truths that it expressed. Here, in verses 9 and 10 we have one of those examples. Jesus never speaks more than two syllable words, but yet think of the thought He expressed.
Light is necessary to see, and God gave us a period of light each day (Genesis 1:5). Ecclesiastes 3:1—“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The very God who created it all would now live by His own creation. He, the Light of the World, would use the natural light to His advantage. It is not time for Him to die yet. Looking back to the crucifixion, those events began in the dark, in the night. To every thing there is a purpose and a time, including His time to die and our time to die. You are completely protected from death until it is time.
Thomas the Doubter speaks up in verse 16 suggesting that they all go and die likewise. They would kill Jesus and no doubt kill his followers.
Verses 19-25 tells of the backdrop behind Jesus statement that He is the resurrection and the life (verse 25). Martha exhibits her faith in verses 21, and 22. She exhibits her lack of understanding in verses 23, and 24. Jesus helps her to understand in verses 25 and 26. We realize that Jesus is our resurrection and life. That was the deeper truth that was being taught, but the present truth was that Lazarus would rise again. Jesus was and is the resurrection and the life and anyone that believes in him will be resurrected. Lazarus was a believer, and Jesus by a living object lesson was about to teach His message.
Hebrews 9:27 tells us, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. There were other resurrections that took place in the Bible. Elijah raised the widow’s son (I Kings 17:17-24). Peter raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43). Now Jesus would raise Lazarus—but it is appointed unto man once to die.
In any case of Biblical resurrection there is no mention of a second death. Could it be that the ones that had died and were resurrected were then translated directly to Heaven at some point like Enoch and Elijah? I do not know. I will not go further into the secret things of God. It would seem to me that if someone “truly” dies their soul is escorted to one of two places—either Heaven or hell (II Corinthians 5:6-8; I Thessalonians 4:16, 17); Luke 16:25, 26).
Do you believe Lazarus died a second time?
If this is true then there has to be some explanation for the many near death experiences (NDE). It seems that it is common practice to resuscitate or “bring back from the dead” those who have died. If Hebrews 9:27 is really true, that we die only once, then there is only one explanation. In the case of an NDE, true death does not take place.
Our faith is built on the facts of the Word of God, not experience or feelings. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). There may experiences that take place when one is very close to death, but that may not be true death. The soul separates from the body only once according to Hebrews 9:27. I believe the same is true for “out of body experiences”. Remember that satan has great power, too.
Verse 35 is the shortest verse in the New Testament. Simply put, “Jesus wept”. Again the profoundness of His statements shows through. The crowd of onlookers thought Jesus was weeping because Lazarus had died. In reality He was weeping for them and others that miss the point of His message.
Is Lazarus truly dead? It has been four days now (verse 39) and corruption would be setting in. Nevertheless Jesus calls him forth from the grave to live again (verses 41-44).
This brought the desired result among some of the Jews as they believed on Him (verse 45). Others went to the Pharisees (verse 46). Do not go to religious leaders. Go to God. The Pharisees continue to plot His death in verses 47-53. Night was coming.