Immanuel Devotions

Leading each other to Jesus

These Lenten devotions have been prepared for you by a team of Immanuel’s elders. We pray they will bring you closer to your Lord and Savior this time leading up to Easter. We recommend you read the Bible passage first, then either read or listen to the devotion.

Devotion by Tom Southern – John 11:17-27

This is the seventh of Jesus’s “I Am” statements and can be viewed as the clearest statement regarding belief leading to eternal life.   Believe and live.   It’s a very clear statement: acknowledge and believe in your heart that Jesus is who He says He is and you live with him in eternity. He’s not asking for Your riches, or Your good deeds.  He is asking for your conviction of heart and mind.

 In the previous chapter, beginning in verse 22, we learn that prior to the death of Lazarus, Jesus was in Jerusalem in the temple celebrating the Feast of Dedication.  We know that Feast today as the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah.  Most of our Bibles don’t include the book of Maccabees where we would read about a great miracle.  The story goes that a great Jewish victory had just occurred after years of oppression. One of the first acts was to restore the Temple which had been desecrated.  A golden menorah was found but there was only enough oil and wicks to last for one evening and the special pressing process to create more of this oil would take 7 days.  Desiring to remain faithful and adherent to the commandment of old, they chose to light the menorah –  to illuminate the temple – with what supplies they had. All wicks were lit. Miraculously, they lasted until the 8th day when the new oil was ready. 

When we think of the intertestamental period, the time period between the Old and New Testament books, we often think of the word “silence”.

Where was God?

Where was the promised Messiah?

Why are you (God) letting your people suffer at the hand of oppressors?  

However, we can be comforted that the light of the world, the central shamash or “servant candle” of the hanukkiah, provides light in the darkness.   He takes what little we have and multiplies it.

In latter part of Chapter 10, Jesus also says, “If I am not doing the work of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 

When we read in the opening verses of Chapter 11 that Jesus knows of Lazarus’ illness and then decides to stay two days longer in Jerusalem our first reaction might rightfully be one of confusion.  We learn that Lazarus and his sisters are dear friends of Jesus. We must presume they have a very strong sense of exactly who he is.   However, Jesus not coming to them immediately must have been a deafening and confusing silence. 

Seeing him on the fourth day, a day according to Jewish belief that the soul of Lazarus had truly departed his body,  must have been one filled with conflicted emotion. Martha openly tells Jesus that had he been there, her brother would not have died – a clear acknowledgment of her belief in his power to heal the afflicted. But did you catch the glimmer of hope in her next sentence?

But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  

His response that Lazarus would rise again was understood within the context of her belief of the afterlife.  Jesus then states unequivocally who He is…and then asks for her to profess the truth from her lips.  In a sense, he asks her to light the menorah candles and give what she has. He asks for her mind and her heart.

In the following verses of this chapter, Jesus takes the simple words of his believers, and multiplies their belief.  He has taken the light that has been shown on them to cast light back to himself. He takes the simple yet deeply profound offering of their words of acknowledgement of belief of who He is and performs the miracle –  the sign he referenced in Chapter 10 – which should provide no doubt as to his truth that he is the Son of God.

Often when we experience silence, we find ourselves in a very real and oppressive darkness.  It is confusing, it is heavy, and it can be heartbreaking. But within that silence, when it is approaching its most crushing point, we must hear the truth of the Word made flesh.  That Word – that promise – that unbreakable covenant between God and his people, is the inextinguishable flame of the light of Jesus. Our belief in His word returns us to the light and into the truth of everlasting life.