Bible reading for weekend March 20-22: Exodus 31-33; John 10-12.
"...and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs..." (Exodus 31:3-4)
Spirit and Sabbath (Ex 31). Here is the first mention of the Holy Spirit gifting people with special skills (Ex 31:1-11; cf Eph 4:7-14). This tells us that God cares not only about how we worship, but also about art, beauty, and craftsmanship. And we learn that Sabbath-keeping is the sign of the covenant between God and Israel (31:12-18). In the NT the keeping of the Sabbath, at least in the form as it is kept in the OT, is not continued in the same way. The principle of taking and giving needed physical rest, ceasing from sinful and self-righteous works, and taking time for corporate worship still continues for those of us who follow Christ today, but there is more freedom as to the form that may take (see Rom 14:5-6; Col 2:16-17; Heb 4:9-10; 10:24-25).
Things fall apart (Ex 32). So, under the leadership of Aaron the high priest -- whose holy duties were outlined in chapters 28-30 -- the people are led into gross idolatry! Instead of the craftsmanship described in 31:1-11, the artistic and creative skill is put toward making an idol. This is ever part of the human problem -- we take the good things of God and turn them into idols, which are false gods. Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, and God spares the nation, though not without consequences of his judgment.
Moses and the glory of God (Ex 33). Moses seeks the Lord on behalf of the people. He does not want God's presence to depart from the nation. In fact Moses seeks to know the ways of the Lord more clearly and he wants to see God's glory. More on this chapter next week...
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28)
Three more "I ams"... Jesus is the door of the sheepfold (Jn 10:7-10), the good shepherd (10:11-16), and the resurrection and the life (11:25-27). He is the only way to safe pasture, the only shepherd (leader) who truly cares for and protects us, and he is the only one who gives eternal life, complete with a resurrected body. These "I am" claims of Jesus are designed to lead us to faith: "Do you believe this?" Jesus asked (11:26).
"Never perish..." (Jn 10:28) The subjunctive form of the verb "perish" (or "die, be destroyed") in verse 28 with the added double negative means that there is absolutely no possible way that those who have trusted Christ will ever perish. There is strong comfort for us in these words!
"I said, you are gods"? (10:34) What does Jesus mean here? The Jews are offended that he is relating God to himself in such a Father-Son way, meaning that the he shares the nature and authority of God. He cites Psalm 82 in defense of his language. That psalm condemns the unjust Israelite judges, who had received God's law and were appointed to uphold that law in justice. Because they stood in the place of God as judges and rulers, they were called "Elohim" (Ps 82:6), which could be translated "God", or "gods". Nonetheless, these human judges would perish because of their sin. Jesus is saying that, if it is legitimate to call these mere human judges "God", or "gods", since they are placed in positions of authority to rule on behalf of God's law, then how much more is it legitimate that Jesus, as God's Son and the Anointed One of God, be able to speak of God as his Father (see also Jn 5:22-24).
"Jesus wept" (11:35). One of two places in the gospels where Jesus is said to weep. The other is when Jesus enters Jerusalem before his crucifixion and weeps for the city, because he sees its future destruction and suffering (Luke 19:41). His tears are also mentioned in Hebrews 5:7. In the early years of the church people who came to faith from Greek and Roman backgrounds often had difficulty accepting Christ's human nature. His deity was not really in question until later centuries. One Gnostic view of Christ that arose in the second and third centuries was called "Docetism", which taught that Christ only appeared to be material or physical. It was as if Jesus was a kind of hologram, or a projection from God, who didn't really eat, sleep, and weep, or feel human emotions. How different is the portrait of Christ not only in the gospels, but in the rest of the New Testament: He felt compassion, he was saddened, he rejoiced, he grew thirsty, he slept, he wept, and in the garden while praying, he sweat great drops of blood upon the ground. At the cross, "...one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (Jn 19:34). A hologram doesn't cry real tears or produce human blood!
Decomposition (11:39). When 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." Though Jesus in his earthly ministry raised others from the dead, the case of Lazarus was different. There was no way the raising of Lazarus could be viewed as any kind of resuscitation. The Jews believed that after three days the spirit was long gone and decay had begun. So, in many ways this resurrection of Lazarus was actually a kind of re-creation of Lazarus from the body which was returning to dust (see Gen 2:7; 3:19). Like God creating Adam from the dust, Jesus demonstrates his authority to reverse the consequences of the fall. So, at Lazarus' tomb, Jesus weeps and then moments later raises Lazarus from the dead. Humanity + Deity. "Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity / In perfect harmony the Man who is God..." (Graham Kendrick)
On to the world (12:19-24). Some Greeks had traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover. They ask Philip, "...we wish to see Jesus." When told this, Jesus answered, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (12:23-24). The theme of divine timing ("my time... my hour...") runs throughout the gospel of John. Now, that time had come! The world was knocking at the door. The Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15) shall die and be placed in the grave, and soon the season of global fruit-bearing would begin. And is continuing today and until his return.
Are there those around you, those with whom you have contact, who may be saying to themselves, "We wish to see Jesus"? Are you ready to share the good news? Does the full humanity and full deity of Christ fill your heart with joy?
Image credit: photo of sheep and shepherd by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.