God’s Many Gifts to His Children — John 12:1-11

There they gave a dinner for Jesus. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him (John 12:2—NRSV).

God gives many different gifts to His children. God gave Martha a gift of hospitality. Martha served dinners for Jesus, His disciples, and all who came to hear Jesus teach. She helped people concentrate on Jesus’ teaching and made it possible for Jesus to teach the truths that His Father sent Him to proclaim. God gave Mary a gift of teaching. Mary sat and listened when Jesus taught. She absorbed as much truth as she could whenever given the opportunity. Before and after Lazarus died, she must have shared with her family and those who came to grieve with her the faith she had in Jesus based on the truths He taught and the love He showed. We can believe this when we consider how everyone who came to grieve with Mary said that if Jesus had been there, He could have healed Lazarus. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Mary’s previous teaching made it easier for people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. God gave Lazarus a gift of witnessing. We do not have any recorded words of Lazarus, but after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he used his gift to prove that Jesus has the power to give eternal life. Lazarus’ testimony about Jesus was so effective that the chief priests planned to kill both Lazarus and Jesus, since on account of Lazarus many were believing in Jesus. No wonder Jesus loved this faithful family! God’s children do not need to compare or complain about God’s gifts to them and others; rather, they need to seek God’s help to use His gifts as He intends.

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on Any of The Questions Below

1. Why do you think Mary felt motivated to anoint Jesus’ feet?

2. What reason did Jesus give to explain why Mary anointed His feet?

3. Who complained about Mary’s actions? What reason did he give for complaining about her good deed?

4. What did John say about the one who complained?

5. Why did the chief priests plan to put Lazarus to death?

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and Lesson on John 12:1-11

Gathering the Children of God— John 11:47-57

Caiaphas did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God (John 11:51-52—NRSV).

Because the crowds might proclaim Jesus was the Messiah, Caiaphas argued that Jesus should die to save their nation and temple from destruction by the Romans, so a council of religious leaders began planning to kill Jesus. These religious leaders in Jerusalem thought mostly in terms of political power and they considered Jesus a threat to their tenuous relationship with Rome. They never understood that Jesus represented the kingdom of God and not a political kingdom. As Jesus told Pilate when questioned, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Though Caiaphas thought he argued only in political terms, John explained that God made him foretell what Jesus would do on a spiritual level that Caiaphas would not believe and could never understand. John explained that Jesus did die for the nation; that is, that those in the nation who believed in Him might have their sins forgiven by God. Then, Jesus rose from the dead that He might draw to himself the children of God that were dispersed throughout the world. Because Caiaphas would have been an unwilling spokesman for the Messiah, God spoke through him to save those who would believe in His Son. Today, followers of Jesus look for opportunities to talk about Jesus and “gather into one the dispersed children of God.”

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on Any of The Questions Below

1. What did the council know Jesus was doing and what did they know about the result among many in the crowds who heard and saw Him.

2. What did the council think would happen if everyone eventually believed in Jesus as the Messiah?

3. What did Caiaphas, the high priest, advise the council? Why did he advise this?

4. Why did the Jews go to Jerusalem before the Passover? Did they demonstrate the effectiveness of their preparations later? Why or why not?

5. What were the orders of the Pharisees and the chief priests?

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on John 11:47-57

Courageous and Sacrificial Friendship

In August 2019, the Uniform Lesson and the International Bible Lesson was based on 1 Samuel 19:1-7 and included 1 Samuel 18:1-5. The Uniform Lesson for October 4, 2020 is based on 1 Samuel 19:1-7. The International Bible Lesson Archives on 1 & 2 Samuel are available for your use.

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Courageous and Sacrificial Friendship

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“Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:4).

Under Israel’s first king, only King Saul and his son Jonathan had armor and swords. King Saul reigned in fear, because he had rebelled against the LORD and the LORD had departed from him. Through Samuel, the LORD told Saul his dynasty would end. Then, Samuel anointed David as the future king. When the Philistines oppressed the Israelites, Jonathan rallied the army to defeat them. Jonathan led the way because he acted with faith in the LORD.

Before the battle, Jonathan stood with only his armor bearer and said, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will act for us; for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). The LORD was with Jonathan, and the garrison fell. Jonathan’s success gave his father the courage to fight the Philistines, and Israel won a great victory. Before David became king he fought the giant Goliath, telling him, “This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand….that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Samuel 17:46-47). After David killed Goliath, the Philistines fled in fear. Both Jonathan and David were men after God’s own heart. As kindred spirits, their faithfulness to and love for the LORD drew them into a courageous and sacrificial friendship; therefore, Jonathan gave David what he would need to lead all Israel and someday reign as king.

See The Road to Spiritual Maturity — Genesis 45:5 for September 27, 2020 below

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Signs That Point to the Savior — John 11:38-46

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done (John 11:45-46—NRSV).

If you see a sign pointing toward a city, that sign does not compel you to go there. You choose to go there or not. In his gospel, John called Jesus’ miracles “signs.” Jesus did not intend for His signs to compel anyone to believe in Him, but they did help people believe in Him. Believers do not irrationally place their faith in Jesus. His miracles pointed to who He is and who He claimed to be as the Messiah, the Son of God, and Savior of the world. His signs told people that if they chose, they could go to Him, believe in Him, follow Him, and receive the gift of eternal life from Him. Jesus’ signs and teachings give people good and sufficient reasons to entrust their lives and futures to Him. John’s gospel shows that after Jesus healed the sick or raised the dead some people believed in Him and saw His glory, while others did not. The man born blind that Jesus healed believed in Him. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many believed in Him. However, after Jesus healed a man who had been ill for 38 years, he refused to believe and reported what Jesus did to Jesus’ religious enemies. Some who saw Lazarus raised from the dead and had the opportunity to talk to Jesus and Lazarus refused to believe in Jesus, so they rushed to report Jesus’ actions to His enemies. After they crucified Jesus, He gave His most miraculous sign when He rose from the dead.

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on Any of These Questions

1. Commentators seem to agree that the Greek word for “deeply moved” or “greatly disturbed” includes the meaning that Jesus was angry at death. How might this teaching influence how you look at death?

2. Why do you think Jesus waited four days before seeing Mary and Martha?

3. What is one result of our believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior according to this lesson? Can you think of other results?

4. What is one reason Jesus prayed aloud for everyone to hear Him pray?

5. Why did Jesus tell the mourners to remove Lazarus’ grave clothes rather than simply remove them miraculously himself when He could have easily done so?

Read the International Bible Study Commentary
on John 11:38-46

The Road to Spiritual Maturity — Genesis 45:5

“[Joseph told his brothers], ‘And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:5).

Many believers aspire to the spiritual maturity of Joseph, who treated his brothers with extraordinary goodness despite their sins against him. Deeply wronged by them when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery, he expressed no desire to punish them, but forgave them and comforted their guilty conscience. He held no resentment against them, and he did not want them to feel angry with themselves for the great injustice they had inflicted on him. Joseph chose to disregard the wrongs of others, because he wanted everyone to be at peace with God, others, and within themselves.

Joseph chose to emphasize and explain some of the ways that God uses to help people. To preserve life, God had sent Joseph to Egypt through the slave trade. God prepared him through imprisonment to ascend to the second highest place of authority in Egypt. Joseph understood that God had blessed him, not so he could selfishly enjoy the riches of Egypt, but so he could save the lives of many during seven years of famine. God used the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers to get Joseph to Egypt before them so God could save from starvation the Egyptians and all who would go to Egypt; therefore, Joseph chose to focus on the good intentions and purposes of God, and let God deal with the intentions and actions of others. Similarly, the evil deeds of some religious leaders led to the crucifixion and death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, but God planned and used Jesus’ sacrificial death to save those who believe in Him, to forgive all the sins of many believers, and to give all believers in Jesus the gift of eternal life. Only the most spiritually mature can forgive those who have wronged them and look instead for the good that God has brought into every situation so He could meet the needs of many.

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Being Prepared to Believe — John 11:37

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37).

When Jesus arrived in Bethany and spoke to Martha and Mary, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, but both expressed their faith, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). They had sat at Jesus’ feet when He taught about the Father and himself and what it meant to follow Him, because Jesus taught everyone who would listen, whereas the rabbis of the time would not teach women. They knew that Jesus had the power to heal the sick and raise those who had died when He reached them in time. They did not express explicit faith that Jesus could raise someone who had been in a tomb four days.

After Lazarus died, mourners who were mostly women came to console Lazarus’ family. Traditionally, they would stay seven days with the family. During that time, we have every reason to suppose that Jesus—who He was, what He had done, and what He could do—had been an important part of their conversations, because Lazarus’ sisters had sent messengers to tell Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Knowing that in Jerusalem Jesus had healed a man born blind, and learning more about Jesus and what He taught from Lazarus’ sisters, the mourners were prepared to believe in Jesus after they met Him and saw Him raise Lazarus from the dead. No doubt the Holy Spirit inspired Mary and Martha to teach about Jesus while everyone eagerly awaited His hoped-for coming.  We can do the same for others whether we are rejoicing or suffering as the Holy Spirit leads us!

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Gospel of John
go to the
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Facts About Living Forever — John 11:17-27

Martha said to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He taught, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). Then Jesus added, “the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Later in Jesus’ ministry, after Lazarus had been buried in his tomb four days, Jesus came to the home of Lazarus’ sisters. When Martha spoke to Jesus, she affirmed four facts of faith. First, Jesus could have healed her brother. Second, Jesus could still do something, because God always gives Jesus whatever He asks. Third, her brother will rise again on the last day. Fourth, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Then, Jesus demonstrated the truth of His teachings and affirmed her trust in him. At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus called Lazarus by name, and Lazarus heard His voice and came forth alive. After Jesus’ enemies reported that Jesus had raised Lazarus, the religious leaders plotted Jesus’ death and “planned to put Lazarus to death as well” (John 12:10). Jesus gave Lazarus life, but eventually Lazarus’ body would die again; yet, on the last day, Jesus will raise from the dead all who believe in Him. Jesus taught, “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:40).

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How Believers In Jesus Never Die — John 11:17-27

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

The Old Testament taught the Jews that when they died, they went to Sheol, to a shadowy existence in the place for the dead. The New Testament translates the Hebrew word “Sheol” into the Greek word “Hades.” Many Jews, including the Pharisees, believed in a resurrection of the dead from Sheol on the last day of human history as we know it. After Lazarus died, in John 11:24, Martha expressed this belief to Jesus, saying, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha had a firm belief in Jesus as her Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God (John 11:27). Martha, Mary, and Lazarus believed in Jesus and had received the gift of eternal life, for Jesus’ promise to all in John 3:16, applied to them, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus teaches more about himself to those who have received the gift of eternal life as they trust, obey, and follow Him daily. Applying the divine title or name “I am” to himself, Jesus told Martha that He was also the resurrection and the life; therefore, resurrection was not just a future event. When a believer’s body dies, Jesus’ divine power keeps them alive. Before the last day, a believer’s body may die, but their spirit united with the Holy Spirit will go to be with Jesus in Paradise, where they will look forward to receiving resurrected glorified human bodies at the return of Jesus on the last day.

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How To Serve While Suffering — Genesis 41:51

“Joseph named the firstborn son Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house’” (Genesis 41:51).

Throughout the Bible, many parents gave their children names with special meanings, sometimes because God commanded them and sometimes not. Joseph himself named his sons with thanksgiving to God. He named his second son Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes” (Genesis 41:52). God chose the name for Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the providence of God, when Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons, he gave the special blessing for a firstborn son to the second born son; perhaps he did not want to bless the firstborn son with the name “Manasseh” that emphasized forgetting “all my father’s house” (see Genesis 48:13-20).

The Bible records some of the ways Joseph suffered; but rather than blame God, Joseph thanked God for saving him through them all. Perhaps Joseph’s faith was similar to the faith of Job, who declared, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10). After Jacob died, Joseph told his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

If we strive to serve God with faith as Joseph did, we will see all of our misfortunes as opportunities to serve God in ways that we had not thought of before. When we make every effort to serve God in the midst of hardships, we will be able to look back as Joseph did and see h0w God worked for good and made us fruitful in what appeared to be less than ideal circumstances.

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The Difference A Death Can Make

For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him (John 11:15—NRSV).

When Jesus learned that Lazarus was ill, He could have healed Lazarus or raised Lazarus from the dead before he was buried without speaking a word, for when Jesus was in Cana of Galilee without needing to travel to Capernaum He had healed an official’s sick son (John 4:46-54). Jesus knew that Lazarus would die, and He also knew that Lazarus’ illness would not lead to death; that is, to death as an eternal separation from God and all who love God. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He promised His disciples and all who will follow Him, “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was not glad that Lazarus died, for Jesus knew the grief that Lazarus’ sisters (Mary and Martha) would suffer, though only for a brief time. Jesus was glad because He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead and return him to the family that loved him. Jesus loved Lazarus and his family, and He knew that when He raised Lazarus from the dead the Father and He would be glorified and honored by those who witnessed Lazarus coming forth from the tomb alive; then, many would be influenced to believe in Him as the resurrection and the life. Jesus was glad when He thought of all the good that He would bring to many people after He proved He could raise the dead. Jesus was glad that His disciples would be with Him when He raised Lazarus from the tomb, for He knew that most of them with faith in Him would die as martyrs.

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