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The Lazarus Conspiracy

There was a buzz on the streets of Jerusalem as pilgrims flocked to the city for Passover. Rumors swirled that the Messiah could possibly be there. But those rumors were being fed by the fact that a man named Lazarus was there as well.

Yes… THAT Lazarus.

LazarusThe dead guy.

Word of the miraculous resurrection of this man from Bethany had already spread like wildfire. Just weeks before, Lazarus was lying dead in a tomb.

Stone. Cold. Dead.

When Jesus showed up, His presence did little to dissuade their sorrow. Even before He made it into the village proper, Lazarus’s sister Martha came out to meet Him.

“Lord, if You would have been here my brother would not have died”, Martha exclaimed, probably in mid-stride.

Mary, Lazarus’s other sister, waited until Jesus got to town before she fell at his feet, echoing the same exclamation of hopelessness. The display of genuine mourning moved Jesus, in spite of the fact that He knew what the outcome of the day would be. Although God, He was human as well, and subject to human emotions such as sorrow. Lazarus had been His friend, and although the irony of the moment was not lost on Him, He also was not immune to its emotion either.

“Remove the stone”, came the command from the Master upon arriving at the entrance to Lazarus’s tomb.

“But Lord… he’s been in there for four days! What about the stench???” inquired the always practical Martha.

Again with the doubting????

“Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus’ tone with His reply made them think better of asking any more questions. They rolled the stone away, and after lifting His eyes to the heavens in a brief prayer of thanksgiving to the Father, Jesus set His focus on the opening before Him.

“Lazarus! Come forth!” Jesus commanded into the darkness of the cave.

Moments later, a grave-linen-clad Lazarus appeared within sight of all who were gathered there.

Even in first-century Judea… news traveled fast.

Now Jesus is in Jerusalem, Lazarus is there, and the subsequent attention that both were attracting was not all positive. While the rumors of the Lazarus miracle had attracted the attention of certain Greek converts with a fired-up desire to see Jesus, the religious crowd had other plans.

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. ~ John 12:9-11

So… Lazarus has died, Jesus shows up four days later and raises him from the grave, the people are now flocking to Jesus in droves, and your big plan is to kill the guy Jesus just raised from the dead???


Maybe if they had spent as much time studying the prophecies as they did in scheming and plotting, they would have realized what Jesus then revealed to these Greek converts — a traditionally scholarly bunch.

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. ~ John 12:23

In this statement was a huge paradigm-shift. Up until this point, Jesus had — on multiple occasions — declared the opposite; “My time has not fully come” was the reason given on more than one occasion and for more than one reason. But now He was declaring that His hour HAD come!

But what hour?

Jesus understood that the hour had come for the season to be realized.

While the priests were busy plotting against the diversion of the Lazarus conspiracy, every prophecy about Jesus was falling into place. All of the prophetic chess pieces were falling into place, and the Pharisees and chief priests were mere pawns.

The prophecy about His death was about to be fulfilled.

All of the typology of His passion was about to be understood.

The stranglehold that Satan had on the human race was about to be broken.

Jesus understood that His entire life had led up to this moment; the whip, the garden, the betrayal, the mocking, the crown of thorns, and the cross. His entire life on this earth had been a road to the cross. Before time began, God knew of humanity’s fall, and had His kingdom planned (Matt. 25:34), His people chosen (Eph. 1:4), His salvation finished (Heb. 4:3), and the cross and the redemptive blood of Christ planned (1 Pet. 18-20). As the saying goes… “it was over before it started.”

Jesus understood that the hour had come for the seed to be sown.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. ~ John 12:24

Jesus saw the giving of His life in harmony with the ancient principles of seed-time and harvest. He was not forfeiting His life. He was giving His life. It was not martyrdom but rather an investment. As Lord of Creation, He understood the Laws of the Harvest

You must sow to reap.
In order to get a harvest, you must first plant seed (John 3:14-15)

You reap what you sow.
Jesus sowed righteousness to release a resurrection life.

You reap after you sow.
Jesus knew what was coming, and knew what He had to do (Heb. 12:2).

You reap more than you sow.
Just as a single seed births an apple tree that produces thousands of apples, Jesus sowed His life, and reaped a new human race.

Jesus understood that the judgment being executed was not His execution.

Jesus knew going into His crucifixion that the real judgment was not the one handed down by Pontius Pilate, but was the two-fold judgment being sealed by His death on the cross.

Christ1Everything the human race was and is in Adam was judged on the cross. (Rom. 5:18)
Jesus knew that all of the history of mankind until that moment was being judged at that moment, and that, in three days, everything would be different.

Satan’s judgment was assured. (Col. 2:14-15)
Satan was “the prince of this world”. He was the cherubim over all the planet earth until his fall. In Eden, he tried to regain what he had forfeited. At the cross, his infernal plans were thwarted once and for all, and he was stripped of his authority.

Jesus understood the attraction of the cross.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
This He said, signifying by what death He would die. ~ John 12:32-33

The cross was an ugly thing. It was one of the most diabolical methods of torture and death ever devised by men. All along, Jesus knew it was coming. Yet, because of Jesus death, that very cross — repulsive to the Jews and a cause of scandal to the Greeks — had a drawing and saving power no one can explain.

They still can’t.

 The cross is more than two ugly wooden timbers fastened together, or a piece of beautiful jewelry to be worn. The cross is the crossroads of human history — the focal point that every moment before pointed to, and every moment since is dependent upon.

You see, the Cross is:

 “of all times the turning point;
   of all history the crucial point;
   of all love the highest point;
   of all salvation the starting point;
   of all worship the central point.”

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When Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Through the Looking Glass

The Tsavo Man-Eaters ("The Ghost" and "The Darkness") on display at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL
The Tsavo Man-Eaters (“The Ghost” and “The Darkness”) on display at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL

The movie The Ghost and the Darkness is based on the true story of two man-eating lions (named “The Ghost” and “The Darkness”) who attack a railroad crew in Africa. In reality, it was estimated that these beasts killed over 100 people before they were finally hunted down and killed by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson in 1898. The by-line of the movie states that…

“Only the most incredible parts of the story are true”.

Mark Twain once said that “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities… truth isn’t”.

As Christians, we must hold on to the truth of God’s Word. While society may tell us that the truth is subjective, and is constantly changing, we have a golden standard by which we live. If what we are being told – by society, the media, or even some churches – does not line up with the Word of God, quite simply, it’s not truth. God will never contradict Himself. He is the same… yesterday, today, and forever.

The “User’s Manual” for life is the Holy Word of God… the Bible. The answers are there — all we have to do is take the time to look.

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Allegorical or Absolute: Finding Faith in The Bible

Bible        Over the last few weeks, Americans have been captivated by The Bible on television. The record-setting series garnered huge audiences, and brought many of these most well-loved Bible stories into our living rooms in living color. Congratulations to Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, for the wonderful job they did in bringing the Book of the Ages, God’s Holy Word, to life.

But lest we get lost in the fanfare surrounding the success of Christian-friendly programming, I would like to mention a few of things that would be good reminders for all of us regarding The Bible:

Now that you’ve waited for the movie, don’t forget to read The Book. All in all, The Bible was very well done, and the producers should be commended in trying to “stay true to the spirit of the book”. However, be sure not to base your theology entirely on what was depicted on the screen: Read the Bible for yourself, and let the Holy Spirit of God reveal to you personally what is the holiness, righteousness, and love of the God of the Universe.

You can’t make this stuff up. In the course of promoting The Bible, I saw Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey on a well-known (fairly conservative) talk show. The interviewer (who said he was religious), while discussing the series, stated repeatedly, “Now, we all know that the Bible is just allegory (good moral stories, but not factual, historical accounts)”. When he pressed the issue, and asked the producers their opinion, they stated, unequivocally, that they believed the Bible to be a historical, factual account of actual events.

As Christians, our faith depends on the factual and literal life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9 states it very plainly:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 Now, I could go on for hours about historical fact, archaeological evidence, as well as personal observation (having personally traveled to the Holy Land more than a dozen times). However, in the interest of time (and not to be overly simplistic), I’ll sum it up as a friend recently noted:

“If you are going to pick and choose ‘truth’, and if the death and resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith (and thereby must be factual truth), which story is easier to believe: That a boy killed a giant with a stone, or that the God of the universe became a man, was born of a virgin, was killed by His own creation, and got up out of a grave after being dead for three days?”

Eating at the buffet of truth. It would be impossible to cover every significant event of the Bible in the 10 hours that it took to portray what ended up on screen. Just as God’s plan for the ages cannot be contained in a mini-series, truth is not a “buffet”. Unlike the stories chosen for the series (for time and content purposes), we cannot pick and choose what truth we want to believe and what we want to leave at “the bar”. If we cannot trust God in matters of judgment and justice, how can we trust Him on matters of grace and mercy? When it comes to truth, it’s all or nothing. God does not operate on the shifting winds and whims of the masses or mobs. Even if “the majority of Americans believe” that which is contrary to the Word of God, God is not going to change His opinion. Truth is truth… regardless of polls, public opinion, or political correctness.

When we come to Christ, we must come to Him on His terms…

We must recognize our need for Him. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

We must recognize that we have sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

We must recognize that our sin separates us from God. (Romans 6:23… 1 Corinthians 6:9-10… Romans 1:28-32)

We must believe, accept, and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

When we come to Jesus, we are invited to come and die; die to our old self… die to sin and the sinful nature. We are invited to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24). If you did see The Bible, then you realize that taking up the cross (even figuratively) is not to be taken lightly. But although the path in following Him may be steep, stony, and wrought with peril, that which awaits us at the finish line is joy, peace, grace, mercy, and life eternal… all found in the open and nail-scarred arms of Jesus.