The raising of Lazarus is the seventh and final sign in the first section of the Gospel of John. With it Jesus proclaims himself to be the resurrection and the life.
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This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
The works of Jesus do not bring about the same response from everyone. Two people can experience the same thing, witness the same event and participate in the same activity. One believes and one does not. The difference is in the person, not in the sign, which is one and the same for both.
“His disciples believed in him.” These are the true learners, the real followers, the ones who are receptive to the signs. The effect of the signs on the skeptic will be negligible.
This was the first of the signs that John recorded. He will of course record several more, and as he tells us in John 20:30-31,
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The result is life for those who believe. For those who remain unmoved after exposure to the works and words of Jesus, there is no other hope.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
A while back, GQ magazine got some attention by putting the Bible on a list of books not worth reading. I never actually read the list in GQ myself. I only learned about it from USA Today. Feel free to check out at least the headline there.
By writing such a thing, maybe the GQ columnist was hoping to increase GQ readership as compared with the Bible. If so, I don’t believe it worked.
There is something here that is understandable though, and that is that the Bible can be hard to understand. Christ’s own disciples were often stumped by it, just as they were often stumped by Christ. After the resurrection, however, much of that began to change. Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And that brings us to where we are today.
We are far removed from the people and events of the Bible, both by time and by geography. Sitting here in my office on the edge of downtown Indianapolis, the events of the Bible happened a long time ago on a continent far, far away. And that can be troubling.
We can feel much like those early disciples. Confused, bewildered, baffled. If we give up too soon, we can come to the premature conclusion of the GQ guy and think the Bible just isn’t worth reading. We need Jesus to explain things to us. Like the psalmist we may cry out,
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)
Jesus even promised that the Holy Spirit would come to teach us. In John 14:26, he said,
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Without God’s help we just might not get it. But with his help, we can find ourselves agreeing again with the psalmist,
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life. (Psalm 119:92-93)
When Jesus challenged his disciples, the Peter gave a response that all of us should be able to repeat after him. Here it is in John 6,
67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Let’s make God’s word our delight and far from being critical of it, we will find that it will become for us a source of life.