John 11:45-57 – Clash of the Kingdoms

Throughout John 11, Jesus has challenged both the Jews and us on what Love, Death, Grief and Resurrection look like in the Kingdom of God.
• And as we will see, because His challenges are at odds with the status quo, they demand to be reckoned with.
• In our text today, three areas of contention are brought to bear as the Jews reckon with the Kingdom of God.
    o The first is Reason’s relationship to Belief
    o The second is Jesus’ Identity
    o The third is who is in Control


John 11:45–46 (ESV) — 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.

This text is remarkable in what it implies.
• Some of those who were mourning with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus actually “believed in him” because of Lazarus.
• And remember, in John, to believe in Jesus means, among other things, that Jesus is of the Father and works under his authority.
• Remarkably, however, some actually did not believe in Him!
• They were confronted with the most awesome of supernatural miracles and still did not believe.
    o Surely they believed Lazarus was now alive.
    o Surely they believed Jesus had something to do with it.
    o However, their conclusion was Jesus was a potential problem not a Messiah.
    o I think the Gospel of John teaches clearly that those that aren’t called, drawn, and given by the Father to Christ, simply didn’t have eyes to see.
    o They interpreted the evidence as their hearts saw fit.
This begs the question, was the raising of Lazarus really the source of belief for those that believed?
    o Or was it something else?
    o The miracle was perhaps just a means to call the called.
• Jesus Himself has addressed the presence of unbelief by those who witness His power and authority.
    o How does He account for it?

Just last week Lewis Wolpert, an atheist biologist at University College London, made the following comments in an episode of Unbelievable? Radio:
• He says God is a “mystical person for which there is zero evidence”.
• And wants to know if God is real why He doesn’t perform a miracle.
• In fact, God certainly hasn’t performed a miracle in the last 2000 years, Wolpert claims.
• He says, “If God is so jolly clever, why doesn’t he give us a more recent example [of a miracle], like tomorrow?”
• This is because, “a miracle would be very helpful in explaining the existence of God”.

What is Wolpert saying?
Now, does the unbelief that persisted before the very presence of the incarnate Word of God’s raising Lazarus from the dead shed light on the premise of Mr. Wolpert?
• In other words, does belief in God necessarily follow from witnessing a miracle?

Contrasted with Wolpert, G.K. Chesterton has the following to say about miracles:
• "I had always vaguely felt facts to be miracles in the sense that they are wonderful: now I began to think them miracles in the stricter sense that they were willful."
• Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) — 3a He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
• Colossians 1:17 (ESV) — 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
• Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah

From the perspective and teaching of John’s Gospel, what is the difference between Lewis Wolpert who sees God in nothing and Chesterton who sees a miracle of God in the fact that there are facts that we can know?


Within the kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating, the Jews inevitably had to answer two questions.
• We will deal with each separately.

John 11:47–48 (ESV) — 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Who Is Jesus – Messiah or Threat?
• The unbelievers told the Pharisees, and then the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin.
• Rightly, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin were greatly concerned with the implications Jesus’ work would have on them.
• Unfortunately, however, their concern was misplaced.
• They were preoccupied with the political implications instead of the spiritual implications of Jesus’ work.
• And worse still, notice that they specifically were concerned that the Romans would take away, “our place” and “our nation”.
• Their fear was a self-serving; “this Jesus is going to screw up our cozy arrangements with the Romans”.

Why did they have this fear?
• There are at least two reasons.

Pax Romana:
• Rome allowed the Jews to remain semi-autonomous.
• They could worship their God.
• They could maintain their temple, etc.
• However, in threat of an uprising by the Jews the Romans would crack down.
• Peace would be maintained but at the loss of liberty.

Jesus’ own words and actions:
• With His words and actions, Jesus was drawing large crowds, many of which were seeking to label Him the Messiah and overthrow Rome.
• These same words and actions were also seen as an affront to God and Judaism.
• And because of this, certain events began to draw the ire of the Jewish establishment.
    o Healing on the Sabbath – John 5:15-17
    o Claiming Equality with God – John 5:18
    o His Self Proclamation – John 7:28-30
    o His “I Am” Statement – John 8:58-59

So, having decided Jesus was a threat to their status quo, a solution had to be found.
• This leads us to our second question.


John 11:49–54 (ESV) — 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

Who is in control – God or man?
• Here we have a powerful, in your face example of the sovereignty of God.
• Caiaphas, in agreement with the “our place” and “our nation” talk, knew exactly what they had to do to solve their problem.
• Kill Jesus so that everyone else would not go down in flames at the hands of a Roman crackdown.
• We know this because John tells us that after Caiaphas’ words, they, “made plans to put him to death” (vs. 53).
• Beasley-Murray tells us that the language of vs. 53 is so definitive it means that there is no adjudication to take place because the verdict has already been rendered.
    o Jesus has already been found guilty.
    o “All that remains is to find a way to accomplish their purpose.”
• The logic was that if they killed Jesus, they could prevent a messianic frenzy and thus the loss of the “whole nation”.
    o Ironically, Jesus himself feared such an upheaval (John 6:14-15).
    o Moreover, the Kingdom of God and its new covenant could not be thwarted.
    o 70 A.D. would bring an end to Jewish temple life and their cozy arrangements.

But John makes a startling admission about Caiaphas’ words.
• He says, “He did not say this of his own accord” (vs. 51).
• In fact, Caiaphas’ words were a prophecy that “Jesus would die for the nation” (vs. 51).
• And that Jesus would even die for the “scattered abroad” (v. 52).
    o These are the Gentiles in anticipation of the Gentile mission.

So we half to ask, did Caiaphas speak these words because he wanted to say them or because God wanted him to say them?
• Scholars are certain that Caiaphas’ “certainly did not mean [his words] in a Christian sense” – D. A. Carson.
• But as we just pointed out, John says Caiaphas did not speak “of his own accord”, “on his own”, or “own his own initiative”.

So if both Caiaphas and God are speaking, the answer to our question has to be, paradoxically, “yes”.
• D.A. Carson puts it like this, “Caiaphas spoke his considered if calloused opinion. But when Caiaphas spoke, God was also speaking, even if they were not saying the same things” – D.A. Carson.
• In other words, Caiaphas meant what he intended and at the same time God spoke through Caiaphas His intended meaning.
• Joseph puts it like this:
    o Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

So, in the Clash of the Kingdoms who is in control?
Can the answer be both?
• This is one of the most profound mysteries of the Bible, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s actions.
• As we see in our text, and in those that come, Jesus Christ is ground zero for this mystery.

Jesus was killed due to the sinful actions of man.
• Yet, God the Father had chosen to kill Him from the beginning.
    o It was God’s will and desire that Jesus should die.
Did the Father illicit the sinful actions of the Jews and Romans to kill Jesus?
    o Placing before the people the exact circumstances in which He knew they would choose to kill Jesus in the way He desired.
Or was He simply a skillful chess player that saw their move and made his move?
    o If so, how many steps ahead of man’s actions does God stay?
How much control, exactly, does God have?
How does man’s freewill exist within God’s sovereignty?
    o John’s Gospel has already made clear this relationship with respect to salvation.
    o But what of the rest of our actions?
    o We will save this for another day.


John 11:28-44 – Messiah in the Kingdom of God

Thus far in John 11, we have seen how the Kingdom of God that Jesus was inaugurating revolutionized love, death, grief and resurrection.
• And the events leading up to Lazarus’ resurrection makes this monumentally clear.
• However, there is one thing that is foundational to the working out of the Kingdom of God that John 11 also plays out for us.
• It was first alluded to with Jesus’ words in 11:4.
    o John 11:4 (ESV) — 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Here we see that the glory of God the Father is foundational to understanding John 11.
• But more than that, this verse also suggests a distinction, yet a relationship between, Jesus’ glory and God the Father’s glory.
• And the one aspect of this relationship that I want to deal with today is the glorification of God the Father by Jesus the Son through Jesus’ humanity, His authority and His divinity.

We will start with how John 11 brings Jesus’ humanity into view and how it glorifies God the Father.
• As we go, we will occasionally allude back to our 4 previous lessons from John 11.


John 11:28–39 (ESV) — 28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there [related to our grief lesson]. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

First, let’s look at how our text puts Jesus’ humanity in view.
• 1) “Where have you laid him?” (vs. 34)
• 2) "Jesus wept." (vs. 35)
• 3) “Take away the stone.” (vs. 39)

I don’t know if John intends us to notice this or not, but I find these three comments striking.
• We have already seen that Jesus supernaturally knew that “Lazarus has died” from vs. 14.
• And then in vs. 25, He makes the astounding claim that “I am the resurrection and the life”.
• But now, it almost appears that His divinity, certainly at the request of the Father, has been “restrained”.

Why does this appear to be the case?
• (1) Jesus asked where Lazarus was, certainly He had it in is power to know exactly where Lazarus was.
    o As we just saw, He knew that Lazarus had died.
• (2) Jesus wept even though He would shortly raise Lazarus from the dead.
    o This seems contrived.
• (3) Finally, already in John, Jesus has performed miracles involving physical, inanimate objects – wine, loaves, etc.
    o But here He asks others to “take away the stone” (vs. 39).
    o Wouldn’t it have been all the more magnificent had He moved the stone away by Himself?

Could there be a reason that Jesus’ humanity is in view?
• In general terms, Paul seems to think so.
• Philippians 2:6–7 (ESV) — 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

I think John is showing us that because Jesus was “born in the likeness of men,” He, in His humanity, was totally dependent on the Father to accomplish His mission.
• He had “emptied himself” for our sake.
• Of this emptying, “Perhaps we could say that he had such knowledge as was necessary for him to accomplish his mission; in other matters he was as ignorant as we are” – Millard Erickson.
• And, “the fact that Jesus found it necessary to pray and depend upon the Father is indication that we must be similarly reliant upon him” – Millard Erickson.
• And Jesus’ “emptying”, His reliance on the Father in His humanity, “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

On a theological note, Millard Erickson gives 6 reasons why Jesus being fully human is significant:
• (1) “The atoning death of Jesus can truly avail for us.”
    o “He was one of us, and thus could truly offer a sacrifice on our behalf.”
    o “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vs. 26)
• (2) “Jesus can truly sympathize with and intercede for us.”
    o “When we are hungry, weary, lonely, [and grieving] he fully understands, for he has gone through it all himself (Heb. 4:15).”
    o “Jesus wept” (vs. 35)
    o “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3)
• (3) “Jesus manifests the true nature of humanity.”
    o “Jesus has not only told us what perfect humanity is, he has exhibited it.”
    o “though he die, yet shall he live” (vs. 25)
• (4) “Jesus can be our example.”
    o He shows us what “full dependence upon the grace of God” entails and the power it has.
    o “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble” (vs. 9)
• (5) “Human nature is good.”
    o “When we tend toward asceticism, regarding human nature, and particularly physical nature, as somehow inherently evil or at least inferior to the spiritual and immaterial, the fact that Jesus took upon himself our full human nature is a reminder that to be human is not evil, it is good.”
    o “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled” (vs. 33)
• (6) “God is not totally transcendent.”
    o Deism is not an option.
    o God is with us.
    o “she went and met him” (vs. 20)

So we have seen why John may have wanted us to notice Jesus’ humanity in John 11.
• Now, let us move on to Jesus’ authority.


John 11:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.

Our text certainly puts Jesus’ authority in view.
• 1) “Father, I thank you that you have heard me…that they may believe that you sent me.”
• With these words Jesus is acknowledging publicly before the crowd that what He is about to do is under the authority and power of God the Father.

Could there be a reason that John brought Jesus’ authority into view?
• Elijah expresses precisely the reason that John, and thus Jesus, would do so.
• In fact, the sentiment expressed by Jesus here, many believe, purposely echoes the words of Elijah in 1 Kings.
• 1 Kings 18:37 (ESV) — 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
    o “Many…believed in Him” (vs. 45)

What this means is that the ensuing miraculous event was not the primary focus in Jesus’ mind.
• But rather, that we would recognize in Christ the power and authority of the Father working through Him and believe in Him.
• That the Father was the source of Jesus’ glory and authority was so primary in His mind that John tells us Jesus “said this on account of the people standing around” (vs. 42).
• And in the “rightness” of this relationship, Jesus could be certain that those who believe in Him “would see the glory of God” (vs. 40) in His actions and words.
• Kostenberger puts it like this, “Jesus’ focus is not on the ensuing miracle but on the revelation of God’s glory (and thus his own messianic calling) in and through it”.

This is the Father’s Jesus that we have talked so much about.
• John 5:19-21 (ESV) — 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

All that Jesus said and did was at the direction of and under the authority of God the Father – including giving life.
• And this ensured that whether Jesus’ submission was as “Son of God” to Father or “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to Father, it was the Father who was glorified.
• So Jesus’ reliance on the Father for His authority “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

So, now we have seen how Jesus used both His humanity and His authority “for the glory of God” (vs. 4).
• We now need to see how John 11 reveals Jesus’ divinity.


John 11:43-44 (ESV) — 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.

Obviously, our 2 verses have Jesus’ divinity in view.
• 1) “Lazarus, come out” (vs. 43)
• 2) “Unbind him, and let him go.” (vs. 44)

Like with Jesus’ humanity and His authority, could there be a reason for John to bring Jesus’ divinity into view?
• Jesus had just told Martha that “I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).
• And now having made sure all knew the authority under which He was operating, the Word of God spoke and even the dead obeyed Him.
• Lazarus, who had been dead for 4 days, and whose body had already begun to decay, walked out of the tomb.
• And at the command and authority of Jesus, was unbound and let go – clearly this was both in a literal and spiritual sense.
• For these reasons, we can see that Jesus’ display of His divinity to raise Lazarus from death “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).
    o As we have said, people believed as a result.

Additionally, on a theological note, Millard Erickson gives 4 reasons why Jesus being fully divine is significant:
• (1) “We can have real knowledge of God.”
    o Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
    o To, “know what the love of God, the holiness of God, the power of God are like, we need only look at Christ.”
    o “you would see the glory of God” (vs. 40)
• (2) “Redemption is available to us.”
    o “The death of Christ is sufficient for all sinners who have ever lived, for it was not merely a finite human, but an infinite God who died.”
    o “He, the Life, the Giver and Sustainer of life, who did not have to die, died.”
    o “I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25)
• (3) “God and humanity have been reunited.”
    o “It was not an angel or a human who came from God to the human race, but God himself crossed the chasm created by sin.”
    o “Where have you laid him?” (vs. 34) and “Lazarus, come out” (vs. 43)
• (4) “Worship of Christ is appropriate.”
    o “He is as deserving of our praise, adoration, and obedience as is the Father.”
    o “you are the Christ, the Son of God” (vs. 27)
    o “she fell at his feet” (vs. 32)

Finally, it seems to me that John was purposely bringing our attention to one of the most profound paradoxes in Scripture.
• Paul put it like this; Colossians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
• John had shown us that Jesus was fully human, and fully divine.
• This paradox, one that skeptics call a contradiction that cannot be reconciled, was one that John did not shy away from highlighting.
• And even though this human/divine nature of Christ is, “one of the most difficult of all theological problems, ranking with the Trinity and the relationship of human free will and divine sovereignty” – Millard Erikson.
• It is to be celebrated and embraced and not ignored.
• And as with the resurrection, the nature of the Messiah in the Kingdom of God was unlike anything the Jews had expected.
• Yet this paradox and how it played out in John 11 was also “for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

So John has shown us that Jesus glorified God in John 11 in the context of His humanity, His authority, and His divinity and in the mystery of the union between humanity and divinity.
How are we to emulate that?

Lessons for Us:
• We are capable of glorifying God in our humanity.
    o As we live dependent on God.
• We are capable of glorifying God by subjugating ourselves to His authority.
    o As we serve God.
• We can glorify God by pointing others to His divinity.
    o As we evangelize for and worship God.


John 11:21-27 – Resurrection in the Kingdom of God

In the past few weeks we have seen how John 11 addresses Love, Death, and Grief in the Kingdom of God.
• Today, we come face to face with Resurrection in the Kingdom of God.
• And it is here that we not only come face to face with how transformative Jesus’ ministry was in this regard.
• But we also encounter a powerful apologetic for the Resurrection of Jesus.


John 11:21–27 (ESV) — 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

In order to get at what is going on in this exchange between Jesus and Martha, we need to get at the background.
When Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”, what is she referring to?
• We can suggest that whatever else she was saying, she was probably affirming Jesus’ own teaching on the subject thus far (John 6:44; 54).
• And when asked in vs. 26 if she believed Jesus’ words about Himself concerning the resurrection, her response betrays her ignorance of the nature of Kingdom Resurrection.
    o She didn’t yet have the foundation to properly understand what she was just told.
    o Her Jewish heritage had not prepared her for Jesus’ response.
    o So she answered as best as she could with what Kostenberger suggests is a creedal response.
    o Yet as correct as her answer was, it was still missing a piece of the puzzle.
• So in answering this question, we will be able to appreciate all the more Jesus’ answer, “I am the resurrection and the life” and how it unexpectedly complements, for the believing Jew, Martha’s vs. 27 response.
• The sources for all of the following background info are N.T. Wright’s lectures found at www.ntwrightpage.com and his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

What Does Resurrection Mean?
• First, we need to define resurrection.
• “Resurrection means bodily life after ‘life after death’, or, if you prefer, bodily life after the state of ‘death’” – N.T. Wright.
• What happened to Elijah and Enoch, for example, is not resurrection because they did not die.
• And what happened to Enoch and Elijah was something the Jew did not “expect to happen again” – N.T. Wright.
• Resurrection is what happens only to people who are “at present dead” – N.T. Wright.

Does the OT speak of resurrection?
• “Nobody doubts that the Old Testament speaks of the resurrection of the dead” – N.T. Wright.
• However, it is something that is “deeply asleep, only to be woken by echoes from later times and texts” – N.T. Wright.
• In other words, there just isn’t a lot of OT info on resurrection.
• And where the OT does speak of a bodily resurrection it appears late.
• In fact, most of the sources for what we know about Jewish views of bodily resurrection are from post-biblical literature such as the Mishnah, Talmud, The Wisdom literature and from communities like Qumran – N.T. Wright.
• This is why it is said that the OT itself, “is not particularly concerned with life after death at all, still less with resurrection” – N.T. Wright

What is the foundation of OT bodily resurrection?
• The foundation appears to be the hope for the restoration of Israel from exile.
• In the OT the life of Israel is associated with the land, AND the death of Israel is associated with exile.
• Land is life – Exile is death

So, allusions to a bodily resurrection were expressed in the context of the death of exile and an expectation for:
Restoration – the restoration of Israel as a nation
Return – the return of Israel to its land from its exile in Babylon.
• Ezekiel 37:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.
• This is why in the OT, “The nation and land of the present world were far more important than what happened to an individual beyond the grave” – N.T. Wright.
• And so the hope of Israel was that, though individual would die, “YHWH’s purposes [for Israel], however, would go forwards, and would be fulfilled in their time” – N.T. Wright.

Why is this foundation important – Root of Hope?
• “This explicit link of life with the land and death with exile, coupled with the promise of restoration the other side of exile, is one of the forgotten roots of the fully developed hope of ancient Israel. The dead might be asleep; they might be almost nothing at all; but hope lived on within the covenant and promise of YHWH” – N.T. Wright.
• The “roots of the fully developed hope” easily accommodated a developing view of bodily resurrection.
• And these roots “could well have been read within post-biblical Judaism” as having undertones of a bodily resurrection – N.T. Wright.

Where does the OT speak of a bodily Resurrection?
• As mentioned earlier, Jewish resurrection was fleshed out mainly in the 2nd temple post-biblical texts.
• But there are some OT verses that speak of a bodily resurrection.
• The most obvious are Isaiah 26:19, Hosea 13:14, and Daniel 12:2-3.
• Isaiah 26:19 (ESV) — 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
• Daniel 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
• Hosea 13:14 (ESV) — 14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

What do these verses say about a bodily resurrection?
• (1) The expectation expressed in the resurrection language was at a minimum that God “will reverse the actions of the wicked pagans, and raise the martyrs, and the teachers who kept Israel on course, to a glorious life” – N.T. Wright.
• (2) God will also, “raise their persecutors to a new existence: instead of remaining in the decent obscurity of Sheol or ‘the dust’, they will face perpetual public obloquy [public disgrace]” – N.T. Wright.
• (3) And specifically for Daniel 12, “the resurrection of God’s people (at least in the persons of the martyrs, seen as representing the nation) is the form that national restoration takes. This is the real end of the deepest exile of all” – N.T. Wright.
• (4) Finally, in these texts the “hope for nation, family and land joins up with the emerging belief in the creator’s faithfulness even beyond the grave” – N.T. Wright.

BTW – “However concrete the reference in any of the passages [to a bodily resurrection], there is no doubt that even in such cases the overarching context is that of the hope of the nation for national restoration and resettlement in the land” – N.T. Wright.

So taking into account these OT verses and the post-biblical literature, what was the resurrection view of Martha when she said “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”?
• For, as we have said, it is in answering this question that we can fully appreciate what Jesus was doing when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life”.

This is what we know about Martha’s [Jews’] view of resurrection at the time of Jesus:
• (1) Jews “ultimate hope was [not] the resurrection of the body” – N.T. Wright.
• (2) “There were no traditions about a Messiah being raised to life”
    o “There was hope for a resurrection”
    o “There was hope for a Messiah”
    o But the two never intersect
    o There weren’t even “traditions about prophets being raised to new bodily life”
• (3) There was no concept of a resurrection split in two.
    o For the Jew, “resurrection [was] a single all-embracing moment, not a matter of one person being raised ahead of everybody else” – N.T. Wright.
• (4) Life after death was as a disembodied spirit in “some kind” of intermediate state.
    o In the “hand of the creator god”
    o “In paradise”
    o In “some kind of Sheol”
• (5) Vindication of the Messiah would come through the exaltation and restoration of Israel.
• (6) The Jewish view of resurrection was all over the map.
    o Wright’s book spends literally hundreds of pages examining these differences.
    o The variety of Christian views on Jesus’ Second Coming are a possible parallel here – Premillenial, Amillenial, Postmillenial, Dispensation Premillenial, Pre-Tribulation, Post-Tribulation, etc.

The book of Acts has two great examples of the Jewish views of resurrection:
(1) Acts 23:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Br`others, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”

Sadducees believed in neither (vs. 8):
• (1) Life after ‘life after death’ (resurrection) – “there is no resurrection
• (2) ‘Life after death’ – “nor angel, nor spirit
• And this view, by the way, was the conservative view at the time.
• This is because resurrection and ‘life after death’, as we have said, were not to be found in the Torah and the earlier OT books.
• That is to say that most of the influential texts on these subjects were very recent and were outside the OT canon.

Pharisees and most Jews believed in (vs. 8):
• Both (1) and (2) above.
• Specifically, after death, the righteous Jew lived as a disembodied “spirit” or “angel”.
• And then ‘The Resurrection’, “will take place at a future date when all the righteous dead are raised to share God’s new world” – N.T. Wright.
• “They do not suppose for a moment that Paul has actually been a witness of the resurrection itself; that is out of the question as far as they are concerned” – N.T. Wright.
• This is why they suggest that Jesus presented Himself to Paul during the disembodied intermediate state as “a spirit or an angel”.
• Had Jesus been bodily resurrected, all the righteous Jews from Israel’s history would have also been resurrected and Israel’s glory would have been restored.

(2) Acts 12:13–15 (ESV) — 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!
• The background from our resurrection discussion and Acts 23 also sheds light on the above text.
• Peter had been captured and many were praying for him at Mary's, the mother of John’s house.
• After Peter’s escape, he too went to the house.
• Rhoda recognized Peter at the gate by his voice.
• So she ran and told the others that Peter was “standing at the gate”.
• Understanding her implication that Peter was actually there, “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind’”.
• Clearly, they assumed Peter was killed by Herod just as James was in Acts 12:2.
• Therefore, just as the Pharisees thought, if anyone was there it was Peter’s disembodied “angel”.
• For as we saw with the Pharisees, it couldn’t be Peter’s resurrected body, or all the righteous of Israel would be resurrected and Israel’s glory restored.

Back to John 11:
So when Martha responded to Jesus’ proposition, “Your brother will rise again” (vs. 23), with the statement, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (vs. 24) we can now see what she meant.
• And it was not at all what Jesus meant and what He was about to demonstrate with Lazarus and Himself.
• The resurrection was and would be unlike anything she imagined.
• Let’s see why.

So, when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”, what was He saying about Resurrection in the Kingdom of God?
• (1) Resurrection in Jesus Christ is our ultimate hope.
• (2) The Messiah is the Resurrection.
    o The hope of the Messiah intersected with the hope of Resurrection.
    o And, “Nobody put those two hopes together until the early Christians did so” – N.T. Wright.
• (3) Resurrection is in two phases.
    o Kingdom Resurrection held that there were “two phases: first the Messiah, then at his coming all his people” – N.T. Wright.
• (4) Life after death is in heaven in the presence of God (before resurrection – our life after ‘life after death’).
    o We are immortal for all eternity – not an angelic or spiritual being having life “by the creative power of YHWH” – N.T. Wright.
• (5) Jesus as Messiah was vindicated through His resurrection.
• (6) Resurrection in the Kingdom of God had a “precise shape and content” – N.T. Wright.
    o It is an act of “new creation, accomplished by the Holy Spirit.”
    o It involves new, glorified bodies – “not be a simple return to the same sort of body as before”
    o It will involve the creation of a new heaven and new earth in which are resurrected selves will live for eternity.

BTW - There will come a day when the Christian view of the Second Coming will also have “a precise shape and content”.
• And that day will be when Jesus actually does return.
• Just as Jesus’ Resurrection accounts for the clarity on resurrection, so His Second Coming will have the effect of bringing clarity to all the “millenials”.

Resurrection in the Kingdom of God was “a sudden and dramatic mutation from within the Jewish worldview” – N.T. Wright
• It “burst the boundaries” of Jewish views of resurrection – N.T. Wright.
• In fact, Martha and the Jew’s beliefs about life after death, “and resurrection in particular, had not prepared them” for Resurrection in the Kingdom of God – N.T. Wright
• So, given the differences between Martha’s Jewish view and Jesus’ Kingdom view of resurrection, we can see why her answer in John 11:27 seemed a bit disjointed.

Jewish vs. Christian Resurrection

Furthermore, Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life”, are also radical in the following ways:
• It’s a radical claim against both the orthodoxy of the Sadducees and the enlightenment of the Pharisees and the other Jews of which Martha was a part.
• Resurrection was here and now in Jesus – “I am the resurrection and the life”.
• Resurrection would bring life after ‘life after death’ and Jesus, the Messiah, would be the first and Lazarus was the preview.
• Resurrection, shockingly, would be as much about the individual as it was about Israel’s exaltation.

Apologetical Significance:
The historian has to account for the above 6 differences between OT and Kingdom Resurrection.
How did they arise?
What accounts for them?

Additionally, the historian also has to contend with the following:
• Jesus’ Death
• Jesus’ Burial
• Empty Tomb
• Jesus Appearances (1 Cor. 15) to Multiple Witnesses (some hostile – Paul and James)
    o Embarrassing Witnesses - women
• Conversion of Enemy – Paul
• Conversion of Skeptic – James
• Context of Jewish Messianic Expectations and Jesus
• Belief of disciples that Jesus was raised from the dead

The historical sciences make deductions based on a principle call the “the inference to the best explanation”:
• Many infer that some of the following ad hoc explanations are the best.
    o Jesus didn’t really die.
    o He was given something that knocked Him out.
    o The women went to the wrong tomb.
    o The disciples merely had hallucinations.
    o The disciples were in such shock over Jesus’ death, they dealt with it by concocting His resurrection.
    o The resurrection accounts were written in later.

However none of these are a best explanation because not one or even two of them account for all that needs to be accounted for.



John 11:17-20 - Grief in the Kingdom of God

Over the past two weeks, we have seen how John 11:1-16 provide profound insight into both Love in the Kingdom of God and Death in the Kingdom of God.
• In each case, Jesus challenged the worldly view of love and the Jewish view of death.
• Today, we see one more way that Jesus challenges us.
• This time He is challenging us to trust Him during our grief.


John 11:17–20 (ESV) — 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

John tells us that when Jesus finally arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days.
• Many suggest that this observation is meant to highlight the fact that Lazarus was dead as dead can be.
• And in light of verse John 11:4, in which Jesus says Lazarus’ death, “is so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”, it also reminds us again just how radical love in the Kingdom is.
• God’s desire to glorify Jesus had put Lazarus’ family through 4 days of mourning.

In verses 18 & 19, we also get a glimpse of why the disciples expressed concern over Jesus’ life.
• Bethany is only 2 miles from Jerusalem, the place where He was almost stoned just a few months prior.
• And “many of the Jews” had come from Jerusalem to mourn with Martha and Mary.
• Jews who no doubt would know who Jesus was.

Finally, John tells us something more significant that its one sentence seems to indicate.
• John 11:20 (ESV) — 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

How to mourn – Sit Shiva:
We know that Martha and Mary would have been sitting shiva after the burial of Lazarus.
• Sitting shiva is, “a traditional seven-day period of mourning the dead that is observed in Jewish homes” – Merriam-Webster.
• This is part of the Talmud’s prescription for 7 days of deep mourning – Kostenberger.
• In addition to mourning, the point of sitting shiva was to receive the “condolences of their friends” – Kostenberger.
• So given the expectations of sitting shiva, Martha should have stayed in the house with Mary – Kostenberger.
• However, John tells us that “she went and met him”.

Why is this significant?
• Most suggest that Martha’s breaking shiva and leaving the house is simply her personality.
• We know, for example, that Luke 10:38-42 portrays her as a busy body.
• However, we also know something else about her actions due to ANE cultural norms.
• "In the Middle East, village people show honor to an important guest by walking some distance out of town to greet the guest and escort him or her into the village” – Kenneth Bailey.
• In fact, the more important the guest, the farther they will travel to meet him.

To appreciate what Martha was doing here, think of it like this:
• Your loved one falls terribly ill; you know who can heal him; you send for the healer but he delays his coming; your loved one dies; he has been dead 4 days; you are in the middle of mourning; finally, the healer shows up.
What do you do?

Martha did the unexpected – showing great respect to Jesus, she went out to meet him.
• In the midst of her mourning and grief, Martha didn’t wait for Jesus to meet her sitting shiva.
• She broke shiva, and went out to meet Jesus, thereby honoring the very one who let Lazarus die.
• This is an amazing example for us on how to handle grief.
Is our trust in Christ such that we can honor Him in the midst of our pain and grief?
• In any view but the Christian worldview this makes little sense.
    o Honor the one who could have prevented the whole thing to begin with.
    o Love the one whose love for you manifested itself in the death of your brother.
What possible fruit can come from such a silly looking trust?

In this case, her trust in Christ results in a profound and necessary lesson on the Resurrection in the Kingdom of God.
• We will get into this next week and it is awesome.


John 11:7-16 – Death in the Kingdom of God

Last week we discussed the startling and remarkable way love is expressed in the Kingdom of God.
• Jesus taught us that beholding the glory of God is a priority for the expression of love in the Kingdom.
• Beholding God’s glory takes precedent over our desire to avoid death, pain and grief.
• And this is why he waited 2 days after hearing of Lazarus’ illness.
• Today, Jesus continues His Kingdom education by redefining death.
• We will see that Jesus has at least two comments to make concerning death in the Kingdom of God.


John 11:7–10 (ESV) — 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Our text today starts with a concern over death.
• The disciples don’t think Jesus should return to the area around Jerusalem because the Jews are “seeking to stone” Him.
• And it is His answer to their concern that provides us with the first way He addressed death in the Kingdom.
BTW – I like that in a context where Jesus was laying the groundwork to challenge their very notion of death, they express fear of the very thing He seeks to challenge – good timing.

Death is in God’s Timing:
So the first way Jesus addressed death in the Kingdom of God was to tell the disciples that His death is in God’s timing.
• He did this by saying “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. (vs. 9)”
• Jesus intent here, all agree, is to convey the same meaning to be found in the following passages of John.
• John 9:4–5 (ESV) — 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
• John 7:6 (ESV) — 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.
• John 7:8 (ESV) — 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”
• John 7:30 (ESV) — 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

Jesus’ appointed time to die on the cross was set by His Father, not by the mobs in Judea.
• Jesus wanted the disciples to know this.
• Death comes only at God’s appointed time – no sooner or no later.

However, we must be clear that He is not telling them that the night will not come.
• He will die and they will die.
• John 12:27 (ESV) — 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
• However, this death will be much different than what they conceive.

And this leads us to the second way he addressed death in the Kingdom of God.


John 11:11–16 (ESV) — 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Why did Jesus describe death as a sleep from which Lazarus will awaken?
• What was Jesus trying to convey?
• To answer that and to appreciate the second way Jesus addressed death in the Kingdom of God, we need to get at some background on the Hebrew view of death.
• Because it is this view that Jesus was about to profoundly change.

Death in the OT:
Death in the OT can be said to have 3 general meanings (AYBD).
• (1) a “metaphor for those things which detract from life as Yahweh intends it”
• (2) “as a ‘power’ in opposition to the created order”
• (3) “for biological cessation”
• Number (1) is spiritually related; number (2) can be both spiritually and physically related; number (3) is physically related.

With regards to (3), “biological cessation” the following can be said:
• “Belief in a substantial, meaningful existence after death is a relatively late development in the history of Israelite religion. The usual view expressed in the biblical books is that, upon death, one’s shade descends to Sheol, where one remains forever, cut off from God’s presence” – AYBD.
• This slow change from “forever” dead to “meaningful existence” was a somewhat of a sequential process, though the views did coexist.
• N.T. Wright puts this process as follows, “absence of hope beyond death; hope for blissful life after death; hope for new bodily life after ‘life after death’” – N.T. Wright.
• We will briefly describe some of the specific OT views of (3), “biological cessation”.

Death as Sleep:
The phrase “fallen asleep” was a Hebrew way of speaking of physical death, number (3) from above – Beasely-Murray.
• 1 Kings 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.
• Psalm 13:3 (ESV) — 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
• It is for this reason that, as we will see shortly, Jesus’ characterization of death as a sleep would not have been unusual, but describing it as a sleep from which Lazarus would awake would have been.

Death is Permanent:
We also need to know that with respect to physical death (3), no one was immune and it was considered to be a permanent condition – not something that one would awake from as Jesus told us in vs. 11.
• 2 Samuel 14:14a (ESV) — 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.
• Psalm 6:5 (ESV) — 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
• Psalm 115:17 (ESV) — 17 The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.
• Job 14:11–12 (ESV) — 11 As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, 12 so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.
    o Elijah was the exception – 2 Kings 2:11.
    o And the boy brought back to life by Elisha was also an exception, but we can assume he ultimately did not escape death – 2 Kings 4:35.

That biological death was considered as something permanent by the Jews is also seen in Mark.
• Mark 5:39–40 (ESV) — 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.
BTW - though Daniel 12:2 reflects a different meaning, one more in line with the view Jesus was about to reveal, it had not yet “seized the minds of the people” – Beasely-Murray.

Death is Corruption:
And as conveyed by numbers (1) and (2) from above, the disobedience in the Garden of Eden that led to death, “detracted from life as Yahweh intended and it” corrupted the “created order”.
• This corruption manifested itself as both physical death, as we have just seen and spiritual death for all of humanity.
• Athanasius put it this way, “men began to die, and corruption ran riot among them and held sway over them”.

Paul gives us an example of the “corruption ran riot” due to death.
• Romans 1:28–32 (ESV) — 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Death and Corruption did not Glorify God:
Finally, we have to realize the problem corruption and its death caused for the purpose of life and creation – the glorification of God we spoke of last week.
• This purpose is not just a NT theme.
• In fact, “The most significant theme for Israel was the understanding that life provided an opportunity for the individual and community to praise Yahweh. Praise of God was the sign of life” – AYBD.
• Those engulfed by corruption and its death could not praise God, and thus could not participate in this “most significant theme” – AYBD.
• The consequences of death and corruption are one of the reasons that for the Jew, it was a profound blessing to have a long life and many children.
• Thus, it was unthinkable that even the “Holy One”, who we know from Paul to be Jesus, would taste death.
• Psalm 16:10 (ESV) — 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

So now that we have an idea about the notions of death Jesus was confronting, we can appreciate and get at what He was doing.

Death Redefined in the Kingdom of God:
In telling the disciples that He will awaken Lazarus from death, Jesus is both:
• (1) Departing radically from the typical view of death
• (2) And pointing to Himself as the reason why

It departs radically because Jesus is now saying that death is a sleep, but one “from which they shall be awakened through Jesus” – Beasely-Murray.
• In other words, death is not permanent!
• He makes this claim in verse 11 when He says that He will “awaken him” (Lazarus) from death.
• And by His own resurrection He demonstrates forever that death is dead.

It points to Himself because He is about to claim and then demonstrate that He is “the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).
• And it is He, in union with the Father (John 11:41-43), that will shortly raise Lazarus from the dead.
• He will do so in public with the spoken word of God so that all can see and hear.
• John 11:41–43 (ESV) — 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

And this redefining of death in the Kingdom of God is why Jesus tells the disciples in verse 4 that an illness that led to death is in fact an “illness [that] does not lead to death”.
• And why he says in John 8:52, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death”.
• Believers will never be deprived of the presence of Jesus Christ.
• We will never taste death, because we will be full and satisfied in the glory and eternity of Jesus Christ.

And importantly, Jesus shows us in verse 15 with His words, “for your sake”, that Kingdom Love and Kingdom Death intersect.
• In teaching, and shortly in demonstrating, that death is not permanent, Jesus is loving the disciples, Martha, Mary and Lazarus with Kingdom Love.
• He is pointing all of them to the glory and power of the Father as manifested in the Son to defeat death!
• What could be a higher expression of love than to show the disciples that through the Father-ordained ministry of the Son, death is defeated.
• What a glorious victory to behold; what a marvelous love to receive!

But there is more!
• Jesus was not only telling them that the corruption and permanency of death was about to be defeated, but that death itself would soon be, in complete opposition to its prior status, an occasion to praise God!
• As we just saw, those engulfed by corruption and death, could not praise and glorify God.
• The very things we were created to do.
• But now, through death, Jesus would demonstrate His victory via the resurrection over it and thereby vindicate His Father-ordained misery.
• He would overturn death’s permanency.
• He would cleanse death’s corruption.
• He would restore the created order and His intent for creation.
• Athanasius put like this, “The renewal of creation [would be] wrought by the self-same Word Who made it in the beginning”.
• This would enable us to praise and glorify God for eternity.

And it is this view of death that Jesus wants the disciples to “believe” when He says, “and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe”.
• Not just because it is truth, but in order that they may also be prepared for Jesus’ coming death.

Paul put the Jesus’ Kingdom view of death this way:
• 1 Corinthians 15:51–55 (ESV) — 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Lessons for Us:
• Finally, Thomas’ words, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (vs. 16), seem to demonstrate that Jesus’ teaching is taking hold.
• D.A. Carson characterizes Thomas’ words as reflecting “raw devotion and courage”.
• And as such, they are a challenge to us all.
• Mark puts the challenge to us this way:
• Mark 8:34 (ESV) — 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
• Because as Jesus as just shown, death is defeated and not to be feared.


John 11:1-6 – Love in the Kingdom of God

The way love is expressed in the Kingdom of God is often at odds with its worldly expression.
• In our lesson today, Jesus makes these differences plainly clear.
• He shows us this love is a Glory kind of Love.


Knowing the nature of Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, Mary and Martha is necessary to fully appreciate one of the remarkable principals to be found in our text.

Jesus Loved Lazarus:
• Jesus had a very special relationship with Lazarus (means – “whose help is God”).
• John tells us that Jesus “phileo” (vss. 3 & 36) and “agapao” (vs. 5) Lazarus.
    o In other words, Jesus not only had a deep, selfless love for Lazarus, but He also had a deep affection for Lazarus based on a personal relationship; they were very close – DBL.
• The depth of Jesus’ love for Lazarus is also revealed in that:
    o On his way to where they “laid him” (vss. 34), words that spoke of the stark reality of Lazarus’ death, “Jesus wept” (vs. 35).
    o Even the Jews present, perhaps mourners, noticed, “See how he loved him!” (vs. 36).
    o And John tells us twice that Jesus was “deeply moved” (vs. 38) over Lazarus’ death.
• “deeply moved” literally means to have “an intense feeling of concern” [a combination of anger and sorrow] in our context – DBL.
    o It is translated as “groaning in himself” in the ASV and YLT and “angry” in the NLT.
    o Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus meant the feeling of a deep loss with Lazarus’ death, even by Jesus.

Jesus Loved Martha and Mary:
• As with Lazarus, Jesus “agapao” Mary and Martha (vs.5).
• As with Lazarus, Jesus was “deeply moved” by their grief because of His love for them (vs. 33).

Now that we fully understand Jesus’ love for Lazarus, Mary and Martha we can move on.


John 11:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair [John 12:3], whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Mary, Lazarus’ sister, sent word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness.
• Given Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, Mary knew Jesus would want to know that His dear friend was ill.
• And no doubt, Mary had a pretty good idea that Jesus could heal Lazarus (vs. 32).
• Jesus reply to the messenger must have struck him as rather peculiar.

Jesus’ words to the messenger from John 11:4:
• “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
• This answer is very similar to the one Jesus gave for the blind man’s blindness.
• He was blind not due to sin, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

Yet, even stranger than His words were His actions.
• John reminds us that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (vs. 5).
• This reminder in vs. 5 seems to be an acknowledgement of how strange Jesus’ coming actions are.
• So, after softening the blow, John tells us what Jesus did in response to the news of Lazarus’ illness.

Jesus’ action from John 11:6:
• “So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

How is Jesus’ action in verse 6 a demonstration of the kind deep love we know He had for Lazarus, Martha and Mary?
• We have to try and make sense of this answer.

Let’s acknowledge the obvious.
• 1) Given Jesus’ relationship to Lazarus, Mary and Martha, we would have expected Him to rush at once to Lazarus’ aid.
• 2) Jesus’ response is the complete opposite of this expected response.
• 3) In fact, it seems almost to contradict, or at least show that John’s description of Jesus’ love for Lazarus to be hyperbole.
• 4) And, frankly, we can’t relate to it at all.

However, I think we will find here an understanding of love that suits perfectly with the Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurated and operated.
• In fact, we will find that the “two-day delay was motivated by Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus” – D.A. Carson.
• This of course means that our perplexity over Jesus’ response is informed by a worldly understanding of love and not a Kingdom understanding.


To get at the answer to our question posed above, “How is Jesus’ action in verse 6 a demonstration of the kind deep love we know He had for Lazarus, Martha and Mary?” we need to understand a little of the foundational principals of the Kingdom of God.
• A definition: “The Kingdom of God is primarily the reign, rule, or authority of God himself; secondarily, it is the realm in which that rule is directly exercised, consisting largely in the laws governing the natural world and, more importantly, the individual and collective hearts of those who have bowed to God’s rule.” – J.P. Moreland.
• Dallas Willard says simply that The Kingdom of God is “death to self” and “where what God wants done is done”.

Why will it help us to have a basic understanding of the Kingdom of God to answer our question?
• Because the Kingdom of God “stands at the very center of the message of the historical Jesus” – AYBD.
• It is “the worldview of Jesus of Nazareth and Holy Scripture” – J.P. Moreland.
• It “established a radically new order of life on earth” – Dallas Willard.
• And Jesus’ odd response clearly points to “a radically new order of life on earth”.

Kingdom of God in Scripture – a few examples:
1) The Kingdom of God is at hand – the now and not yet.
• Matthew 3:2 (ESV) — 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
• Matthew 10:7 (ESV) — 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
• Matthew 12:28 (ESV) — 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

2) The Kingdom of God is priceless.
• Matthew 13:44 (ESV) — 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
• Matthew 13:45-46 (ESV) — 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

3) The Kingdom of God requires self-sacrifice.
• Mark 9:47 (ESV) — 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,
• Acts 14:22 (ESV) — 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

4) The Kingdom of God has different priorities than the world.
• Luke 9:60 (ESV) — 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
• Luke 12:29–31 (ESV) — 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

5) The Kingdom of God is not about worldly gratification.
• Romans 14:17 (ESV) — 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Right away we see that all of these things have in common the denial of self and the glory of God.
• In this context, love will look different than it does in the world.

So, how does this relate to our question and a “glory kind of love”?
• In the Kingdom of God, the “deepest essence of God is love” – Dallas Willard.
• And our expression of this love is NOT an expression or fulfillment of our desires or the desires of those that we love – Willard.
• But, love expressed in the Kingdom of God IS the “will to good”.
• In other words, “We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake” – Willard.
• This love is contrary to a secular worldview, one outside of the Kingdom of God, which sees love as a fulfillment of desires or not standing in the way of the fulfillment of desires.

And in the Kingdom of God, the best way to love someone, to “will to good” and to promote someone’s “good for its own sake” is to point them to, and help them behold the glory of God.
• Isaiah 66:19 (ESV) — 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.
• 1 Peter 4:10–11 (ESV) — 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
• 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) — 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
• This is why, for example, the Westminster Catechism states that the chief end or aim of man is to “glorify God, and enjoy him forever”.
• And John MacArthur says, the glory of God is “the most important theme in the universe”.
• Clearly, not an aim of any worldview but that of the Kingdom of God and thus Jesus.

So, the answer to our question is that, in spite of looking like Jesus didn’t care much for Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus’ actions actually demonstrated the highest form of love to them and even His disciples.
• He showed them a “glory kind of love!
• A love that fulfilled much more than a desire to avoid pain and grief.

If an expression of love in the Kingdom of God is to point people to the glory of God, how did Jesus’ actions do this?
1) Jesus loved them and glorified God by using Lazarus’ death, not just his sickness, to glorify Himself.
• As Jesus’ own words declared, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
• This is because, as Jesus said in John 5:23, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him”.
• Jesus resurrection of Lazarus was the means used to glorify Himself and the Father.
• Jesus was showing that He is “the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).

2) Jesus loved them and glorified God by His example of obedience.
• John 5:19–20 (ESV) — 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.
• We can deduce, then, that Jesus waited because it was the Father’s will He do so.
• Obedience to God’s commands and law “is the structure of a life of grace in the kingdom of God” – Dallas Willard.

3) Jesus loved them and glorified God by preparing them for His death and crucifixion.
• John 11:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
• The disciples, Mary and Martha “are manifestly unprepared to endure the shock of faith that lies ahead of them; the awakening of Lazarus from his death will grant them a fresh vision of his glory” – Beasley-Murray.
• “Lazarus’s death becomes occasion for rejoicing because it will serve to strengthen the disciples’ faith in Jesus once Lazarus has been raised” – Kostenberger.

Lessons for Us:
• The result of all this was that Jesus resurrection of Lazarus “confirmed the faith of his disciples and friends with dramatic power that would have been lacking if Jesus had responded immediately to the plea for help” – D.A. Carson.
    o Jesus’ waiting here is very similar to our lesson from John 6:16-21 – Jesus Had Not Yet Come.
    o In fact in verse 30 John tells us, “Now Jesus had not yet come into the village”.
• And to grow and increase a believer’s faith is both to glorify God and is to love the believer at the same time.
• This, in the Kingdom of God, is more important than the keeping people from pain or fulfilling their desires.
• In fact, as discussed, Jesus Himself also endured deep emotional pain over Lazarus’ death.
• This means that outside of the Kingdom of God, pain and suffering have no purpose – this is both sad and disturbing.
• But in the Kingdom of God, God desires that we glorify Him by enduring what is necessary that we might “manifest the radical nature of the Kingdom of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit” – J.P. Moreland.
• And bringing us to this nature is to show us a Glory Kind of Love.
    o On one level, this is what Jesus means when he says to us, “This illness does not lead to death” (vs. 4).


Decision Making – Choosing God’s Will in Wisdom

As Christians, we are often faced with making difficult personal, family or even church based decisions.
• Sometimes the correct choices are to be found explicitly in God’s word.
• However, sometimes they aren’t.
• And in these cases, Gary Friesen’s book, Decision Making and the Will of God, provides us with some much needed insight.
• He outlines 4 principals which he argues can free us up to be much better decision makers for God’s kingdom.
• This lesson is based largely on his book as well as J.P. Moreland’s The Kingdom Triangle; Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart; and Sam Storm’s The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts.

The Four Principals Outlined:
(1) “Where God commands, we must obey” (chapter 8).
• Here God provides Moral Guidance
• Here God may also provide Special Guidance
• Moral Guidance and Special Guidance express God’s Moral Will for us.
• God’s Moral Will is “all the commands in the Bible” – Friesen.
(2) “Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose” (chapter 9).
(3) “Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose” (chapters 10-11).
• Here, God provides Wisdom Guidance
Wisdom Guidance ultimately results in expressing God’s Moral Will for us.
(4) “When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good” (chapters 12-13).
• Here, God provides Sovereign Guidance
Sovereign Guidance expresses God’s Sovereign Will for us.
• God’s Sovereign Will is His “secret plan that works all things together” for His good purposes.
    o Certain—it will be fulfilled
    o Detailed—includes all things
    o Hidden—except when revealed by prophecy
    o Supreme—without violating human responsibility or making God the author of sin
    o Perfect—working all things together for God’s glory and our good

I will briefly cover all 4, but will spend most of our time on (3) Wisdom Guidance.
• First, however, let’s begin with number (1) above.


When God commands through either His Moral Guidance or His Special Guidance, we must obey.
• It is the de facto right thing to do.
• And therefore becomes our moral obligation.
• Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Moral Guidance:
A) Exodus 20:13–16 (ESV) — 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
• Just (4) of the Ten Commandments demonstrate the nature and breadth of God’s Moral Guidance.

Special Guidance:
B) Acts 16:7 (ESV) — 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
• God, in some supernatural way, made His will known to Paul.
• Paul was not to go to Bithynia.
• Paul was thus morally obligated through this Special Guidance to obey.

There really isn’t much else to be said on this topic.
• It is plainly obvious that if God provides specific commands or direction through Moral Guidance and/or Special Guidance, we have no moral freedom – to obey is the right decision and to disobey is the wrong one.
• He has revealed His Moral Will to us and there is no more discussion.

However, what about those decisions we face where God doesn’t give specific Moral or Special Guidance?
• In these cases, we have some latitude of freedom in our decision making.


The below graphic will help us to visualize the freedom the Christian has in the decision making process.

This circle illustrates that the freedom we have to decide exists within the purposes of God’s Sovereign Will (within which is His Sovereign Guidance) and within the restraints of His Moral Will (Moral and Special Guidance).
• There are many biblical examples of this; let’s look at just a few.

A) Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
• Here God has made known to him His Sovereign Will in the form of a command which obligates Adam and Eve morally.
• The command is simply, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat”.
• However, they have freedom to choose from every other tree as they see fit.

B) Deuteronomy 14:26 (ESV) — 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
• Here, within the restrictions God outlined on clean and unclean foods, the Israelites can eat, “whatever you desire”.

C) 1 Corinthians 7:39–40 (ESV) — 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
• Paul advises Corinth that the widow can remarry, “whom she wishes”.
• He suggests, however, that the wise choice may be to remain unmarried.

So we have some freedom to make decisions.
• 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV) — 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
• However, God has placed some restrictions on us.
• As revealed in our graphic, our freedom is contained by God’s Moral and Special Guidance (as previously discussed) and by His Wisdom and Sovereign Guidance.
• Let’s examine God’s Wisdom Guidance.


So what is wisdom (in context of decision making)?
• James 3:17 (ESV) — 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
• It is “knowledge of God’s word and a pious mode of life” – TDNT.
• It is that which “God imparts to those who are close to God” – BDAG.
• It is “good judgment in the face of Christian demands” – BDAG.
• Gary Friesen sums these up by suggesting that wisdom “enables us not only to live life morally, but to live it skillfully”
• Finally, A.W. Tozer puts it very simply when he says wisdom is “sanctified common sense”.

Are we commanded to us Wisdom Guidance in our decision making?
• Ephesians 5:15–16 (ESV) — 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
• Colossians 4:5 (ESV) — 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
• Ecclesiastes 2:13 (ESV) — 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly
• Ecclesiastes 10:10 (ESV) — 10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.
    o These verses demonstrate that we are to use wisdom in a variety of contexts.
    o So, wisdom is something we are commanded to use and so are morally obligated to use.
    o Interestingly, in this sense, it is part of God’s Moral Will (the 2nd circle in our graphic).

How does God give it to us?
• (1) We need to ask for it.
    o Colossians 1:9 (ESV) — 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
    o I call this “Seeking Christ’s Living Water
• (2) Life of the Mind – obviously we must learn, study and grasp the truths of scripture and acquire a “thoughtful Christian worldview” – J.P. Moreland.
    o I call this “Knowing Christ’s Living Water
• (3) Heart/Spirit/Will – we must cultivate our “inner life, developing emotional intimacy with God, engaging in classic spiritual formation practices” such as prayer, worship, service, self-sacrifice, fasting, etc. – Dallas Willard.
    o I call this “Drinking Christ’s Living Water
• (4) Relationship with the Holy Spirit – we must learn “to live in and use the Spirit’s power and the authority of the Kingdom of God, developing a supernatural lifestyle, receiving answers to prayer, learning to effectively pray” thereby growing in our ability to “hear God’s voice through impressions, prophetic words of knowledge and wisdom, dreams and visions” – J.P. Moreland.
    o I call this “Sourcing Christ’s Living Water

BTW – It must be emphasized that intent alone to grow as a believer and increase in wisdom will only lead to failure.
• Because as we try in our own power with only our good intentions, we will wonder why we are making very little progress and will become disillusioned, disconnected and plagued by doubt.
• However, the four points above provide us with the means, in Christ, to flourish in our Christian walk!

Clearly, then, God’s Wisdom Guidance does not come by osmosis.
• Sure, simply being born again provides us with insights far superior to the world.
• But, God’s wisdom is “deep and wide” and we are called to jump in and dive deep.
• And because we are called on to use God’s Wisdom Guidance, we are morally obligated to seek it through the ways just outlined.
• Not to do so is to reject God’s Moral Guidance.

So how do we use God’s Wisdom Guidance when we have “freedom and responsibility to choose”?
• Paul gives us excellent advice on this in 1 Corinthians.
• 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) — 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Friesen, in his exegesis of this verse, tells us that, “In the area of freedom, the believer’s goal is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual usefulness”.
• So in the freedom we have to decide, we are to find the choices that “build up” and that are “helpful” in our Christian lives.

To really get at the meaning of Paul’s words, it will help to define the words Paul uses for “helpful” and “build up”.
HELPFUL – to be advantageous, help, confer a benefit, be profitable/useful – BDAG.
BUILD UP – to help improve ability to function in living responsibly and effectively, strengthen, build up, make more able – BDAG.

So if we insert these meanings into Paul’s verse, I think the way we are to use God’s Wisdom Guidance in the freedom we have to decide becomes crystal clear.
• 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) — 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are [advantageous, useful or confer a benefit]. “All things are lawful,” but not all things [improve ability to function in living responsibly and effectively or make more able].
• So a decision made using God’s Wisdom Guidance is one that chooses the option that is the most advantageous, useful or confers the highest benefit to our Christian walk.
• And it is the one that improves one’s ability to live responsibly and make one more able to be a Christ-centered Christian.

Biblical Examples of using God’s Wisdom Guidance:
1 Thessalonians 3:1–2 (NIV) — 1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best [choose as better] to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,
Philippians 2:25–26 (NIV) — 25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.
1 Corinthians 16:3–4 (ESV) — 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
2 Samuel 18:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Then David mustered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 And David sent out the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.” 4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands.


As we have said, God’s Sovereign Will is:
• Certain—it will be fulfilled
• Detailed—includes all things
• Hidden—except when revealed by prophecy
• Supreme—without violating human responsibility or making God the author of sin
• Perfect—working all things together for God’s glory and our good

It would take an entire month to discuss the Scriptural foundations that outline the nature of God’s Sovereign Will.
• So instead, I want to briefly discuss what its implications are for our decision making when we do have freedom to decide – the center of the graphic discussed earlier.
• Even though it is hidden from us, it still, nevertheless, provides us with Sovereign Guidance.
    o Romans 11:33–34 (ESV) — 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

Examples of God’s Sovereign Guidance:
Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) — 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Job 23:10 (ESV) — 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

Implications of God’s Sovereign Guidance:
The 4 principals of decision making are how God provides for us a “framework that enables us to avoid making the wrong choice but provides a range of ‘right’ choices” – Friesen.
• And within this protective framework God “has created room for creativity and development.”
• Yet, because of God’s Sovereign Will and its Guidance, we have no need to angst over every decision we have within the center circle of our graphic.
• And though we are morally obligated to make wise decisions (as outlined).
• We also know that we can’t thwart God’s Sovereign Will with our decision making.
• This means that the pressure of trying to control final outcomes is off of us.
• As a result, the decision making process is no longer about us.
• It is about God’s Sovereignty over the decision we have made in Wisdom, as informed by our trust in Him and the Guidance(s) He has provided.

Proverbs 2:1–6 (ESV) — 1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.


John 10:34-36 – The Divine Council, Sons of Man, Coregent and Jesus

Last week we understood Jesus’ quote of Psalm 82:6 through what is called the “human” approach.
• In other words, the “gods” in Psalm 82:6 were human judges.

However, after a lot of reading and research, I feel we also have to look at what I call the “heavenly” approach.
• In other words, the “gods” in Psalm 82:6 aren’t humans but some sort of heavenly beings.
• My main source for this is the work of Michael Heiser – The Divine Council.
• The work of Richard Bauckham and general sources like the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary were also very helpful.

Our Second Look will lead us to answer 3 questions.
What is the divine council?
Who are the “gods”?
How do these change the meaning of John 10?
    o And related to this change in meaning, who is the coregent of the divine council?

The main text we will be referencing is Psalm 82:1-7 which gives us the full context of Jesus’ quote in John 10:34-36.

Psalm 82 (ESV) — 1 God [“elohim” – referring to singular God] has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods [“elohim” – referring to plural gods] he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

Keeping this text always in view, let’s answer our first question.
What is the divine council?


To begin with, our text in Psalm 82 demonstrates that the divine council is a place in which God exercises judgment.
• “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment” (vs. 1)

Additionally, we have more examples of the divine council, also known as the “host of heaven”, in 1 Kings, Job and in other verses from the Psalms.
• 1 Kings 22:19–21 (ESV) — 19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’
• Job 1:6 (ESV) — 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan [the accuser] also came among them.
• Job 2:1 (ESV) — 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan [the accuser] also came among them to present himself before the LORD.
• Psalm 89:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

From these four examples we see the following:
• In the 1 Kings texts, we see God consulting with the council from His throne.
• The prophet Micaiah tells us that, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him” (vs. 19).
• Micaiah then reveals to us that God and the council, the “host of heaven”, were discussing how to deal with Ahab.
• In the Job texts, we see the council convening before God with “the accuser”.
• In the first instance God offers up Job to the accuser as a test.
• In the second instance, Job had passed the first test, and “the accuser” requests a second go at Job.
• In the Psalm text, we see the council as a place where its members praise and fear the Lord.

So to summarize what we know of the divine council:
• (1) It is a place in which judgments are made
• (2) It is a place in which the affairs of men are discussed
• (3) It is a place in which interventions in the life of men are orchestrated.
• (4) It is a place in which “the accuser” has access.
• (5) It is a place in which the Lord is feared and praised because none are like him.

The divine council also has a bureaucratic structure.
• “In the divine council…Yahweh was the supreme authority over a divine bureaucracy that included a second tier of lesser ‘elohim’, and a third tier of ‘mal’akim’” – Michael Heiser.
• “Mal’akim” is the Hebrew word for angels.
But what are the elohim?

This is where we move on to our second question.
Who are the “elohim” that are members of the divine council?


The word “elohim” is actually the plural form of “eloah”.
• In our main text from Psalm 82, the verse 1 “elohim” is the word for both “God” and “gods”.
• And interestingly, it is this plural form which is used over 2000 times in the OT to refer to God as in God of Israel.
• Yet, as we just saw, “elohim” is also the same word that refers to the members of the heavenly host or divine council.
• The referent, “God of Israel” or “gods”, is determined by context – Heiser.
• Also, the “elohim” members of the divine council are commonly referred to as “beney elohim” which helps clarify the referent as “sons of god” and not the “God of Israel”.

Let’s look at a number of the Scriptural references to these “elohim” or “beney elohim”.
• “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment” – Psalm 82:1
• “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you’” – Psalm 82:6
• “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him” – 1 Kings 22:19
• “when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” – JOB 1:6 AND 2:1
• “and all the sons of God shouted for joy” – Job 38:7
• “‘Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?’” – Exodus 15:11

So before we can get an idea of who these “elohim” are, let’s see what they can’t be.

Are they angels?
• Now as we have already suggested, we know that angels are not in view here because the Hebrew word for angel is “mal’akim” – Heiser.
• Remember, we are dealing with the word “elohim”.

Are they members of the Trinity – Father, Son, Spirit?
• Our text from Psalm 82 rules this out because we see that these “elohim” have some problems.
• (1) they “judge unjustly” and “show partiality to the wicked” (vs. 2).
• (2) they are told they “shall die” (vs. 7).

Are they human judges and rulers?
• Again, our text in Psalm 82 seems to be problematic for this view.
• (1) It makes no sense that God would tell humans, “like men you shall die” (vs. 7).
• (2) There is no scriptural precedent that God oversees a council of humans that “governs the nations of the earth” - Heiser.
• (3) In fact, elsewhere we have in scripture a description of the divine council as existing before humans were created.
     o Job 38:4–7 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Are the “elohim” and the divine council just metaphorical?
When we look at the three following verses with a metaphorical view in mind we face some logical inconsistencies.
• Exodus 15:11 (ESV) — 11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
• Psalm 29:1 (ESV) — 1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
• Psalm 97:7 (NLT) — 7 Those who worship idols are disgraced— all who brag about their worthless gods— for every god must bow to him.

The inconsistencies:
• (1) “… if Moses is comparing Yahweh to beings that don’t exist, how is Yahweh glorified. To have Moses ‘really’ saying ‘Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the beings that aren’t real’ is to judge God’s greatness by nothing. We’re greater than something that doesn’t exist! So is a microbe”…this is “tantamount to comparing Yahweh with Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, or some fictional literary character” – Michael Heiser.
• (2) And given number one, Psalm 29:1 has the psalmist telling “Spiderman” to worship the Lord.
• (3) And from Psalm 97:7, we even see a distinction made between “idols” and the “elohim” that “must bow to him” - Heiser.

So, in answer to our 2nd question, the “gods” are:
• (1) Spiritual beings created by God. See Psa 148:1-5; Psa 33:6; Neh 9:6 (cp. Psa 29:1)
• (2) Appointed by God to oversee the cosmos.
• (3) Apparently capable of botching this oversight.
• (4) In existence before the creation of the earth.
• (5) And because they were created by God they are inferior to Him.
    o It is important to note that “the worship of [them] was forbidden in Hebrew tradition (Deut 4:19; 17:3; cf Jer 8:2, etc.)” – AYBD.

Now we can move on to answering our third question.
How do the divine council and the sons of god change how we see John 10:34-36?
    o And lead us to the OT concept of the coregent?


Remember, last week we took the view that Jesus is not arguing his divinity.
• He was refuting the Jews’ poor hermeneutic; they really shouldn’t have had a problem with His use of the word “god” given the “human” view of Psalm 82:6-7.
• Jesus’ hermeneutical rebuke enabled Him merely to appeal to His works – the evidence for His claims – the working of God in the history of Israel.
• But, interestingly, all the commentators we looked at couldn’t, at the end of the day, escape the fact that Jesus’ divinity was presupposed in John 10 (though they never really said why).

But, taking the “heavenly” view of the “sons of god” and the divine council we can say the following (M. Heiser):
• (1) Jesus’ hermeneutically shows that other non-human, “elohim” exist.
• (2) These “elohim” are called “sons of god”.
• (3) Jesus’ is also an “elohim” and thus a member of the divine council.
• (4) However, given Jesus’ words in 10:30, “I and the Father are one”, and in verse 38, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father”, His status as a “son of god” and member of the divine council is categorically different than that of the other “sons of god”.
    o In fact, Jesus is Ruler and Creator of the other elohim.
• (5) It is categorically different because He “is connecting himself to the council coregency. In effect, he equates himself as coregent to the lord of the council, Yahweh himself” – M. Heiser.
• (6) Given this view, the blasphemy charge “now makes good sense” as compared to our discussion last week where it seemed a little forced.
    o See note below about prophets of Israel.

What is this coregent business?
• We just said that Jesus in essence identified Himself as the coregent of the council.
    o He did this by saying He is the “son of god” but is also “one” with God in action and is “in the Father”.
    o For the Jew and the OT, the only “elohim” that was part of the divine council yet “in the Father” was the coregent.
    o The coregent was often described in the OT as “Wisdom” and “the Word of the Lord” - Heiser.

Coregent As the Word:
Genesis 15:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
• Here we have “the word of the Lord” first coming to Abram in a vision.
• Then “the word of the Lord came to him” and actually “brought him outside” and spoke to Abram.
• And then we see that Abram believed in the “word of the Lord” as “the LORD”, YHWH.

Coregent As Wisdom:
Proverbs 8:29–31 (ESV) — 29 when he [YHWH – vs. 22] assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him [I, as in Wisdom was beside YHWH], like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
• Here we have the Wisdom of God, the coregent, described as being “beside him”, YHWH.
• This is incredibly significant for understanding Jesus identity in John’s Gospel.
• To see why, we need to look at John 1:18.

In John 1:18, John describes Jesus as having the same relationship with God as Proverbs 8:30 does.
• John 1:18 (ESV) — 18 No one has ever seen God; the only [monogenes (begotten)] God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
    o “beside him” and “at the Father’s side” mean the same thing
• Literally, we are told that Jesus is “in the bosom of the father” – Heiser.
• But more than that, Jesus is the “monogenes” as in the “unique” or “one of a kind” God who is “in the bosom of the father”.
• And remember, John already told us in John 1:1 that Jesus is the Word.
• What this means is that the Gospel of John is clearly expressing the Jewish understanding of the coregent and telling us in John’s words in John 1 and Jesus’ words in John 10 that Jesus is the coregent of the OT; the one who is in the Father!

BTW - We learned in our lesson on John 8:12-20, that Jesus is exalted and sits at the right hand of God – this also identifies Him as coregent (Psalm 110:1) Ruler and Creator.
• It is also worth noting that the New Testament links all of the following “coregent figures with Jesus” – Hesiner.
• “Jesus is the Word (John 1:1; cf. Genesis 15:1-6; Jeremiah 1:1-10), the incarnated Glory (John 1:14; 17:5; 24; cf. Ezekiel 1:26-27; Exodus 24:9-11; 33:7-34:5; Isaiah 6), and Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24; cf. Luke 11:49-51 and Matthew 23:34-36). He was given/bears the Name (John 17:6-12; Revelation 19:12-16) and was thought to be the delivering Angel (Jude 5; cf. Exodus 23:20-23; Judges 2:1-5)” – Heiser.
• “Such identifications would mean that Jesus is in the Israelite Godhead” – Heiser.
• The significance of this is that, “Jewish writers committed to monotheism, even upon pain of death, could accept that there was a council of elohim in Psalm 82 and that there was a second power in heaven [the coregent] who ‘was Yahweh but wasn’t Yahweh the Father’” – Heiser.

All of this is something the audience would have understood and found to be highly offensive and blasphemous for Jesus to associate Himself with.
• But there is more!

We saw last week that Jesus sought to bring the attention of the Jews back to His actions.
• “believe the works, that you many know and understand” (John 10:38)
• Given the “heavenly” view we have been discussing, we now see that He was doing this in His role as coregent.
• Therefore, Jesus’ desire to highlight His works as evidence of His identity becomes even more significant than it was under the “human” view.

Why is this?
• Simply because, “In his particular actions for his people, YHWH shows that he is God” – Nathan MacDonald.
• And Jesus has just told us that he participates in the “particular action” of securing our salvation with the Father.
    o A philosophical side note – YHWH is not the unique Creator and Ruler because of His actions, “but Israel recognizes this uniqueness only through what he does for Israel” – Bauckham.
• Isaiah 43:12–13 (ESV) — 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”
    o OT description of YHWH securing the salvation of Israel.
• This meshes perfectly with Jesus’ argument in John 10:30 – He and the Father are one (one in action).
    o John 10:28–29 (ESV) — 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
• Therefore, Jesus’ work or action in Israel’s redemptive history in John 10 demonstrates that He is claiming to be the coregent YHWH of Israel.

Lesson for Us:
I think it becomes plainly obvious that this “heavenly” view presents us with a Jesus who is so much more than the Jesus of the “human” view.
• As a result, our text in John 10:34-36 makes much more sense.
• Without the “heavenly” view we have “Jesus being charged with blasphemy for asserting he had been commissioned by God” – Heiser.
• “Every prophet in Israel could make this claim” and “they were not accused of blasphemy for claiming a commission” – Heiser.
    o Remember, last week we had to assume on the mortal view that Jesus must have said something that wasn’t included in the text to illicit the charge of blasphemy.
• This view also gives us a Jesus who was clearly present in the Old Testament – coregent, Wisdom, Word of the Lord, etc.
• This view also gives us a firmly grounded Jewish foundation to accommodate the NT revelation of the Trinity.
    o “…the necessary concepts and categories were in place” – Heiser.
• And these last two are a powerful answer to the critic that claims that Jesus as God and the Trinity are all 1st or 2nd century inventions influenced by Greek philosophical thought.
    o “The key conceptual elements are certifiably Israelite” – Heiser.

For more reading on these topics, here are two papers on the subject from Dr. Michael Heiser - Jesus Quotation of Psalm 82:6 and You've Seen One Elohim You've Seen Them All - A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82.