Blabbing and Believing; Entry and Exit (John 11:45–57)

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

—John 11:45–47

Bethany was a pit stop en route to Jerusalem. Jesus could stop at Lazarus’ grave because He was going to the cross. When Jesus purposes to return, He doesn’t say to the disciples, “Let us go to Lazarus,” or “Let us go to Bethany,” but “Let us go to Judea again” (v. 7). The disciples understand Jesus initially not to be going to a dead man, but to be going to His death. They question, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” (v. 8). Even after Jesus explains that they are returning to Bethany because Lazarus is dead, Thomas says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). That expectation hangs in the air when we are told, “Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off” (v. 17).

Jesus didn’t come simply to raise Lazarus, but to lay His life down. If Jesus were not journeying to the cross, He couldn’t have stopped off at Lazarus’ grave. The future is determining the past. The future light of the risen Son is casting light backwards over the cross onto the grave of Lazarus.

But now will we see that the past also made way for the future that was determining it. The raising of Lazarus prepares the road into Jerusalem and out of it. The raising of Lazarus explains both the triumphal entry and the shameful walk to Golgotha. It tells us why Jesus came into the city as He did and why He left it as He did. The raising of Lazarus made way for the laying down of Jesus’ life. As one looks at the remainder of chapter 11 and beyond into chapter 12, we see both why Jesus was welcomed as a Messiah, and crucified as an insurgent. It is the shouting of “Christ!” that leads to the shouting “Crucify!”

We see this in the two different responses to Jesus in the wake of Lazarus’ wake and wakening, (v. 45). Some believed and some blabbed. Some trusted and some tattled. Now which of these make way from the raising of Lazarus to the laying down of Jesus’ life? Both! And it is actually the believing that does more than the blabbing. It is not the people’s blabbing that terrifies the Jewish leaders, but they’re believing. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him” (v. 48). When large crowds start to go out to Bethany, not only to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus, we read, “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:10–11). At Jesus’ triumphal entry, we hear the Pharisees despairingly telling one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (12:19).

This blabbing would ultimately then only lead to more believing. Their plotting to kill Jesus would lead to the world going after Him (v. 52). Our Lord is Sovereign over sinners, for the salvation of sinners. The sins of men against the Savior, are sovereignly used by Him for the salvation of sinners. The raising of Lazarus made way both for the triumphal entry, and thereby, for the shameful walk to Golgotha. The raising of Lazarus thus, made way for the cross, and thereby, it made way for our raising as well.

The Exegetical Systematician: The Free Offer Rides the Wave Divine Soverignty

It must be said without reserve that there is no limitation or qualification to the overture of grace in the gospel proclamation. As there is no restriction to the command that all everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30), so is there none to what is correlative with it. The doctrines of particular election, differentiating love, limited atonement do not erect any fence around the offer in the gospel. No text is more eloquent of the pure sovereignty of both the Father and the Son in the revelation of gospel mystery than the words of our Lord in Matthew 11:25-30: ‘Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so. Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.’ Here is the sovereign will and differentiation of the Father. ‘He to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.’ This is the witness to Jesus’ own sovereignty in revealing the Father to men. But the immediate sequel is: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.’ The lesson is that it is not merely conjunction of differentiating and sovereign will with free overture, but that the free overture comes out from the differentiating sovereignty of both Father and Son. It is on the crest of the wave of divine sovereignty that the unrestricted summons comes to the labouring and heavy laden. This is Jesus’ own witness, and it provides the direction in which our thinking on the question at issue must proceed. Any inhibition or reserve in presenting the overtures of grace should no more characterize our proclamation than it characterized the Lord’s witness. —John Murray, The Atonement and the Free Offer of the Gospel

Creating Word, Sustaining Word, Redeeming Word (Colossians 1–20)

Jesus created the spheres and circles of the universe and set them spinning. From the macro-cosmos of Jupiter its 53 named moons, the Sloan Great wall of galaxies, and the colossal star UY Scuti, to the micro-cosmos of uranium 235, protons, and quarks—all things visible and invisible—all were made through Jesus.

Further, Jesus is no deistic spinner of the watches He has made. He is no grand designer of perpetual motion machines. The universe was not an epic pitch of the omnipotent one, wherein he wound up and let go. Jesus not only creates, he sustains. By His word creation is—always, at all points of its is-dom. It came into being by His word and is sustained in being by His word (Hebrews 1:3). You walk around on, breath in, and are made of nuclear energy. Micro-cosmos, capable of undoing you a million times over, are not simply held together by His hand, they are by His hand. They don’t have an independent existence. Jesus doesn’t simply do maintenance on the stars. He does stars at every point of their existence.

Jesus doesn’t complete the watch to set it in motion independently of Him. He motions it at all times. Man makes a generator because he is limited. He can’t produce electricity. Man isn’t more intelligent than God because he can make a hands off machine. God is unlimited in wisdom and power, such that, nothing works without Him; including you and your generator. God never has too many irons in the fire.

But what are all these ticks and tocks ticking and tocking towards? Has an alarm been set? Is a consummatory suppertime comming? Yes; one day this old creation will grow up, mature, and be born anew—a new creation, and then, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The cosmos isn’t an experiment. Men toy with magic and science and find power that undoes them. Jesus created and sustains that He might be preeminent in the redemption of all things by the blood of the cross. The Word delivers no impromptu speech. Every word—creating words, sustaining words, redeeming words—every word is scripted, with the basic plot outlined in the Scriptures.

The Dogmatician: The Inferiority of Sin (Continued)

Precisely because God is the absolutely Holy and Almighty One, he can use sin as a means in his hand. Creatures cannot do that; with the least contact, they themselves become polluted and impure. But God is so infinitely far removed from wickedness that he can make sin, as an unresisting instrument, subservient to his glorification. …For even when he wants there to be evil, he only wants it in a way that is holy: though using it, he never commits it. And for that reason, he has also allowed sin in his creation. He would not have tolerated it had he not been able to govern it in an absolute holy and sovereign manner. He would not have put up with it if he were not God, the Holy and Omnipotent One. But being God, he did not fear its existence and its power. He willed it so that in it and against it he might bring to light his divine attributes. If he had not allowed it to exist, there would always have been a rationale for the idea that he was not in all his attributes superior to a power whose possibility was inherent in creation itself. For all rational creatures as creatures, as finite, limited, changeable beings, have the possibility of apostatizing. But God, because he is God, never feared the way of freedom, the reality of sin, the eruption of wickedness, or the power of Satan. So, both in its origin and its development, God always exercises his rule over sin. He does not force it, nor does he block it with violence but rather allows it to reach its full dynamic potential. He remains king yet still gives it free rein in his kingdom. He allows it to have everything—his world, his creatures, even his Anointed—for evils cannot exist without goods. He allows it to use all that is his; he gives it opportunity to show what it can do in order, in the end, as King of kings, to leave the theater of battle. For sin is of such a nature that it destroys itself by the very freedom granted it; it dies of its own diseases; it dooms itself to death. At the apex of its power, it is, by the cross alone, publicly shown up in its powerlessness (Col. 2:15). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Inferiority of Sin

Sin may be whatever it is, but one thing is certain: God is the Righteous and Holy One who prohibits it in his law, witnesses against it in the human conscience, and visits it with punishments and judgments. Sin is not rational, nor is it lawful; it is lawlessness; it is not necessary to the existence of creatures, much less to the existence of God. The good is necessary even for evil to exist, but the good does not need evil, nor does holiness need sin, nor truth falsehood, nor God Satan. If sin, nevertheless, frequently serves to bring the good to fuller disclosure and to glorify God’s attributes, this occurs—against sin’s intent, not with its consent and cooperation—by the wisdom and omnipotence of God. Against its own genius, sin is forced to serve the honor of God and the coming of his kingdom. Thus evil frequently pays tribute to the good, the lie is overtaken by the truth, and Satan, to accomplish his deceptions, often has to appear as an angel of light. But all this is attributable, not to sin, but to the almighty power of God, who is able to bring good out of evil, light out of darkness, and life out of death. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Giggle Silencing Guffaw (Matthew 27:27-44)

Irony is a hollow point bullet that also has deeper penetration. It is a longer blade and serrated too. “Your not a king,” will not stab near as deep or jagged as, “Hail, King of the Jews!” when spoken in mockery. Sarcasm shells pierce to the bone and make a mess getting there. But don’t miss Matthew’s irony for soldiers’, crowd’s and leaders’, that is, don’t miss his mockery of their mockery. The supreme irony is that their irony isn’t ironic. Instead of being laughed with, they are laughed at. The joke is on them.

Jesus really is the King (Matthew 27:29, 37, 42). Jesus is building the temple by destruction (Matthew 27:40; John 2:19-22). It is precisely because Jesus is the Son of God that He will not come down from the cross in obedience to His Father (Matthew 27:40). It is only by not saving Himself that He can save others (Matthew 27:42). It is only because Jesus is lifted up that any believe in Him (Matthew 27:43; John 12:32-33).

Don’t get in a zinger competition with God. God’s irony always wins. He has the bigger sense of humor. He always laughs loudest. God’s victorious righteous guffaw silences the sinful giggles of wicked men. Play no pretend sarcastic homage to God’s King. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

Why do the nations rage
          and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
          and the rulers take counsel together,
         against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
                  “Let us burst their bonds apart
                  and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
         the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
         and terrify them in his fury, saying,
                  “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
         The Lord said to me,
                  “You are my Son;
                  today I have begotten you.
                  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
                  and the ends of the earth your possession.
                  You shall break them with a rod of iron
                  and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
         be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
         and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
         lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
         for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

                                    —Psalm 2 (ESV)

Triumph Veiled in Travesty (Matthew 26:57-68)

In the midst of this text Jesus’ words bring us back to reality. If you’re muted this trail, if your only using your eyes, you’ll be as blind as the judges were as to what was going on. We walk by faith, not by sight, and faith comes by hearing, and living by faith is not the futile attempt to live a pipe dream.

You may think Jesus is overpowered. You may think Him unfortunately misunderstood. You may think this nothing more than a travesty of justice. But then Jesus speaks. Then you waken and see with the eyes of faith. Then you remember that He is laying down His life and that no one takes it from Him (John 10:18). You recall that He could call twelve legions of angels from His Father and that seriously impairs the force of the word seized (Matthew 26:57). You recollect the many times that Jesus told His disciples He “must go” to Jerusalem. You look back on the many instances during passion week when Jesus has pronounced judgment upon the Jewish leaders and understand they’re the ones being judged.

If you see here a travesty of justice more than you see a triumph for our justification—read again. There is indeed a travesty of justice here, but Jesus veiled our justification in His travesty. Don’t miss the beauty beneath the veil. Because of Jesus, God will be as just in justifying sinners, as men were sinful in condemning the Righteous One. This text does show us what sinful men do to the holy Christ, but it also shows us what the holy Christ does for sinful man. Because of Jesus’ words, we remember that the only reason we see man being able to do this to Christ, is because Christ chose to do this for man.

When a Ladybug “Captures” a Rhinoceros (Matthew 26:47-56)

If you read of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal and whimper, “Oh, poor Jesus,” instead of exclaiming, “Wow what a Savior!” you’ve missed the plot. Injustice abounds but that doesn’t nullify God’s sovereignty. Jesus walks to the cross; He isn’t dragged.

The bad guys come with swords and clubs to the one who calmed a tempest with words. They might as well have come with pom-poms and feather dusters. There is no possible equalizer they could’ve had in hand; no weapon of mass destruction that would’ve leveled the playing field. These are mice with twigs in hand thinking they can take the Lion. Judas’ kiss was no kryptonite and seizing Jesus is more silly than handcuffing Superman. This is like a Ladybug clinging to rhinoceros and saying, “gotcha,” and then rejoicing because the rhino happens to be going where the ladybug desired.

Peter is as silly as the soldiers. Jesus doesn’t need his sword. More than twelve legions of angels, a force seventy-two-thousand plus strong, could be given by the Father to the Son to command at once. Jesus used a military term to communicate to Peter that the ladybugs don’t steer the rhino. Everything is happening according to the Scriptures. Jesus the suffering Savior is a sovereign suffering Savior.

The willing sufferer will surely be a willing Saviour. The almighty Son of God, who allowed men to bind Him and lead Him away captive, when He might have prevented them with a word, must surely be full of readiness to save the souls that flee to Him. —J.C. Ryle

No Recipe Failure (Matthew 26:17-30)

“It’s the holidays; what’s the plan?” Jesus doesn’t respond with a frazzled, “I don’t know, what do you guys think?” Jesus tells them to go into town and that they’ll find a certain man.

The first major conflict of the War of Independence went down in New York. General Washington watched as 400 British ships filled the harbor. Washington was courageous but indecisive. He wasn’t sure where the enemy would strike. He divided his forces against a superior foe and lost. Jesus may be sorrowful over the cup, but He never gives any indicator that He is uncertain about strategy. There isn’t a hint of strategy stuttering, analysis paralysis, or war plan waffling here. Everything is going according to plan.

The disciples make preparations for the Passover, but they are preparing this Passover the way a cooking student would prepare a meal. When the student shows up to class, preparations have been made for their preparation. The recipe, the utensils, the appliances, the ingredients are all there ready for them. The disciples are preparing a Passover meal as part of Jesus’ preparing the Passover meal.

Every Passover up this point was a dress rehearsal with a stand-in cast. The curtain is about to lift on the true one time showing of the climatic act of the drama of the universe. Jesus is both the Host and the Fare of the true passover. He is the Priest who offers up the Lamb, and the Lamb offered up. He has prepared the meal perfectly. There will be no recipe failure. Perfect bread broken for us; perfect wine poured out for us. All according to the recipe.

According to Script (Matthew 26:1-16)

“When Jesus had finished…”

When Jesus finishes speaking of returning in glory, He then says it is time for Him to be humiliated. After speaking of a judgment He will bring, He reminds the disciples that He is off to be judged. Jesus is saying that everything is going according to plan.

Jesus was no sailor adjusting for wind. He is the God of the wind and the sea. The cross isn’t some improvised plan B during an intense field operation. Jesus didn’t just recently have an epiphany with a sudden courageous resolve. The cross wasn’t just en route to the throne, it was the road. And it was the only road. Jesus here is saying, “I’ve got them where I want them.” Imagine a quarterback readying for the Super Bowl turning to his teammates saying, “Well, it’s victory time, so I’m off to their locker room to let them break my arm.” The King turns to His knights saying, “Victory is certain. Here is the plan: I’m going to let the dragon eat me.”

Christ never so effectually bruised Satan’s head, as when Satan bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Col. 2:14,15. ‘Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances,—nailing it to his cross: and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.’ In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan’s kingdom, he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons as David cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The devil had, as it were, swallowed up Christ, as the whale did Jonah—but it was deadly poison to him, he gave him a mortal wound in his own bowels. He was soon sick of his morsel, and was forced to do by him as the whale did by Jonah. To this day he is heart-sick of what he then swallowed as his prey. —Jonathan Edwards

Jesus is no improv actor. Everything is going according to Script.

In a good story, the villain’s plotting cannot outdo the author’s plot. All of man’s rebellion can do nothing but accomplish God’s plan. Efforts to rebel against God are more futile than a character in a book trying to rebel against the author. The villain wants to kill the hero, so does the Author, but whereas one means to take life, the other means to unleash it. A good story is being told, the very best one, and no evil can ruin it.