Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick but rather than rushing back to be with Martha and Mary and heal his friend he delays two days. As he hears the news, he declares “this sickness will not end in death”, somehow through this Jesus is going to bring glory to his Father.
Eventually he returns to Judea and on the way he hears that Lazarus has died. Jesus is not bothered by this news because he knows the Father's plan.
When Martha greets him they start off with a bit of a theological discussion about the 'last days'. That’s not good enough for Jesus, he brings it back to the present and grounds it in the reality of who he is. He is the resurrection and the life, he came that we might have life and life in all it’s fullness.
You may be struggling, you may be carrying a heavy burden, you may even feel spiritually dead. That's ok; it’s how it is sometimes.
Today, I want to encourage you: he is our life. Go to the source of life and open your heart before him, ask him to fulfil his promise in your life. Your circumstances may not change but your heart will. As Jesus spoke life into Lazarus so he can for you.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15 NIV)
Last week we looked at how Jesus is the Gate for the sheep and how he protects them but also releases them into the freedom of the pastures. Here is another saying from Jesus - he is the good shepherd. A shepherd is responsible for the flock of sheep and it is his job to keep them safe, to ensure that they are healthy and well fed. He keeps the wild animals away and may even have to fight them off. As we know from another parable of Jesus, a shepherd is always counting the sheep to make sure he hasn't lost any.
In describing himself as a shepherd, Jesus is showing us how he looks after us. He longs to keep us safe, to ensure that we receive the food we need and to keep our heart safe, providing us with all that we need. As we come to him, in weakness and vulnerability we can allow ourselves to be gathered in his arms (Isaiah 40:11).
In the time of Jesus, it was very common for the shepherd to be employed by someone else who was the owner of the sheep. The shepherd stewarded the flock but, very often, he cared for the sheep as if they were his own. So it is with Jesus, he looks after us on behalf of his Father. Ultimately this Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, he put them before himself because he was primarily concerned with doing the work of the one who sent him, his Father.
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10 NIV)
These verse contain some incredible promises for us. They describe the safety and security of coming into his presence, the shelter that we find when we come to him. But more than that they show us the pathway to salvation. The only way in which it is possible for us to be saved, and therefore to be reconciled to the Father, is to come through Jesus, he is the Gate. He is the source of our salvation. Placing our trust in him is the way our sin is dealt with and we then receive the gift of eternal life.
We also have a promise of freedom and security. We are kept safe, like sheep in a sheep pen but we have freedom to come and go, to find safe pasture. Jesus, as our Shepherd, knows when we need to be drawn into a safe place and he also knows when it is safe for us to explore our freedom. In fact, being kept safe in his presence and being free to explore are both an expression of our freedom. Without these two things operating in tandem we would not be free, we would be trapped back into a cycle of self reliance and performance.
And finally, we have the promise of life and not just life but life to the full. We do have a very real enemy and he has one aim: to rob us of the life that is ours to enjoy. As we rest in the shelter of his wings, in the safety of his presence we will discover the source of our life. Even in the midst of tragedy and sorrow we can experience this abundant life. The reason is that this life does not originate inside of us, it is a gift to us from the Source of all Life. My prayer today is that you would draw back into the arms of love and allow his life to wash over you and through you.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
What does a light do? Well, a number of things. A light shows the pathway when it is dark, enabling us to find our way when otherwise we might stumble. It helps us avoid the pitfalls and potholes so we are kept safe on our journey. Many of us live in cities or towns where it is never truly dark, there are always streetlights or buildings which provide some light to our pathway. Once out in the countryside it can be totally dark and without light this can be a frightening experience.
Jesus is our light. He guides us along the unknown and unexpected journey of our life. He guides us when we can’t see for ourselves. He shows us the pathway of life which, we later read in John 14, is the path that takes us home to the Father.
But a light does something else. It illuminates a room so we can see what is in it. We are not drawn to the light but to the things which the light reveals as the darkness is banished. In John 1, we read of the coming Light, the Light that would not draw attention to itself but which would reveal another, One who was greater. This, we discover, is the Father (John 17). May the Light of the world shine on your daily path to lead and guide you through the ups and downs of life. But may his light also reveal the One who sent him, the One who longs that we would know him being a Father to us.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)
Shortly after Jesus had fed the five thousand, the crowds follow him to the other side of the lake where they ask him a question: “what are the works that God requires us to do?” Jesus’ reply is very simple. It is not about the works that we do but rather our belief in him (verse 29). Jesus is inviting the crowds to see who he really is and to have a desire to follow him. For too long, the Pharisees had placed a burden of compliance with duty and behaviour on the people. They were conditioned to believe that faith was about works rather than faith. Jesus brings them back to faith and belief which are centred in relationship.
Yet, even with it explained simply to them they needed something else. They needed a sign. A sign like the provision of manna in the desert. They needed something tangible upon which to hand their belief. Responding to their request, Jesus reminds them it was not Moses who provided the manna but God, the Father. And as in the desert, the Father longs to provide bread from Heaven. Bread speaks to us of nourishment, the source of life and well-being; it comes to us in the person of Jesus. He is the bread from Heaven, given to us by the Father. He will sustain us, give us energy and be the source of our abundant life.
He has already told his disciples that his food is to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). He is the living bread sent from Heaven to give us eternal life. As we consider this truth, let us not be like the crowds who wanted to know what they had to do. My prayer is that we respond in faith, seeking out the person who gives us life from Heaven. Life centred in a relationship with the Father brought to us by the Son. We, too, can live like Jesus, making it our food (the thing that nourishes us) to do the will of the Father.