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Today’s Reading

Devotional: John 11

At the end of the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, John pens a short section steeped in ironies (John 11:45–53). All of them point unerringly to the cross.

(1) The authorities are thoroughly frustrated. No one can deny that the miracle Jesus has performed actually occurred: it was too public, and Lazarus was genuinely dead—so dead that the smell of decomposition was public and obnoxious (John 11:39). So how can the Sanhedrin trim Jesus’ rising authority or quell the messianic fervor that is likely to erupt when the report of the miracle circulates? Eventually, they fear, “everyone will believe in him,” the rebellion will become established, “and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). There may be irony even in their mention of “our place”: the peculiar expression could refer to the temple (as the NIV footnote suggests), yet it is hard to deny that their real interest is not so much the temple as their place of privilege in society. Yet there is a deeper irony. As the story unfolds, they take action against Jesus, and he is crucified. Yet this fails to preserve their “place.” Within forty years, the Romans descend on Jerusalem and crush it. They destroy the temple. And the “place” of the authorities is wiped out.

(2) But that is still in the future. It is Caiaphas who first formalizes the concrete proposal to pervert justice, sacrificing judicial integrity on the altar of political expediency. “You know nothing at all!” he exclaims (John 11:49), his pique belittling his colleagues as, in effect, a bunch of nincompoops. “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50). Note: it is better for you—that is the real locus of interest, the political selfishness behind the political claptrap. Bump off Jesus, and the messianic fervor dies and the nation is spared: it all seems so clean, so logical—and besides, it will be good for “our place.” So Jesus dies—and the tragic irony is that the nation perishes anyway. Not even A.D. 70 was the end of it. Six decades later the Bar Kochba revolt brought in the Romans again (132–135). Jerusalem was razed to the ground. It became a capital offense for any Jew to live anywhere in the environs of Jerusalem.

(3) But there is a deeper irony yet, which John detects in Caiaphas’s words. Caiaphas speaks as high priest, and in God’s providence he speaks better than he knows. Jesus dies for the Jewish nation, and not only for them “but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:52).

Devotional: Revelation 12

The vision of Revelation 12 provides the ultimate cause of the ongoing tribulations of the people of God. That cause is nothing less than the rage of Satan.

The woman in this chapter is not Mary, but a figure representing the people of God. From her springs Jesus, the son “who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Rev. 12:5). Yet she is not simply Israel, for after Jesus ascends to God, the woman is left behind with “the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). The woman, then, represents the collective people of God, whether of the old covenant or of the new.

Satan in this chapter not only fails in his vicious attempt to destroy Jesus (Rev. 12:4–5), but he is defeated by Michael and thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:7–9). He is hurled to the earth (Rev. 12:9). Raging against this restriction (Rev. 12:13), raging as well “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12) before his utter destruction, he is filled with fury against the woman and her offspring. Much of the rest of the chapter describes his attack on the woman and her children—on us Christians!—in symbol-laden language drawn from the Old Testament.

Among his attacks are accusations designed both to destroy our confidence and to engage God’s wrath against people as sinful as we are: Satan is “the accuser of [the] brothers” (Rev. 12:10). But in one crucial verse (Rev. 12:11), John tells us how these believers overcome the devil.

(1) “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” The preposition translated as by in the NIV should be rendered “on the ground of.” When all his accusations are brought before us—so many of them entirely justified, if we gauge things only by the quality of our faithfulness—Satan is silenced when we insist that our acceptance before God is grounded not in ourselves but in the death of Jesus Christ. “Who is he that condemns?” Paul exultantly asks. “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). We neither have nor need another ground for our acquittal.

(2) “They overcame him by … the word of their testimony.” This does not mean that they frequently gave their testimonies. It means, rather, that they constantly bore testimony to Jesus Christ; in short, they constantly proclaimed the Gospel. That is what spells Satan’s defeat. Keep silent, and Satan wins.

(3) “They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” You cannot defeat an opponent who is not only willing to die, but for whom death means winning (Phil. 1:21).

2 Chronicles 25

Amaziah Reigns in Judah

25:1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. And as soon as the royal power was firmly his, he killed his servants who had struck down the king his father. But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not die because of their children, nor children die because of their fathers, but each one shall die for his own sin.”

Amaziah's Victories

Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers' houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents1 of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” 10 Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. 11 But Amaziah took courage and led out his people and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 men of Seir. 12 The men of Judah captured another 10,000 alive and took them to the top of a rock and threw them down from the top of the rock, and they were all dashed to pieces. 13 But the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.

Amaziah's Idolatry

14 After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. 15 Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

Israel Defeats Amaziah

17 Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 18 And Joash the king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 19 You say, ‘See, I2 have struck down Edom,’ and your heart has lifted you up in boastfulness. But now stay at home. Why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. 21 So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 23 And Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for 400 cubits,3 from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God, in the care of Obed-edom. He seized also the treasuries of the king's house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.

25 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, from first to last, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? 27 From the time when he turned away from the LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there. 28 And they brought him upon horses, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David.4

Footnotes

[1] 25:6 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms
[2] 25:19 Hebrew you
[3] 25:23 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[4] 25:28 Hebrew of Judah

(ESV)

Revelation 12

The Woman and the Dragon

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule1 all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers2 has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood3 on the sand of the sea.

Footnotes

[1] 12:5 Greek shepherd
[2] 12:10 Or brothers and sisters
[3] 12:17 Some manuscripts And I stood, connecting the sentence with 13:1

(ESV)

Zechariah 8

The Coming Peace and Prosperity of Zion

8:1 And the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. 10 For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the LORD of hosts. 12 For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. 13 And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

14 For thus says the LORD of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, 15 so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. 16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

18 And the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 19 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

20 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. 21 The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ 22 Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. 23 Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

(ESV)

John 11

The Death of Lazarus

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus1 was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,2 said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles3 off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.4 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved5 in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 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.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for6 Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Footnotes

[1] 11:6 Greek he; also verse 17
[2] 11:16 Greek Didymus
[3] 11:18 Greek fifteen stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters
[4] 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life
[5] 11:33 Or was indignant; also verse 38
[6] 11:56 Greek were seeking for

(ESV)