Hi friends and good morning! Today we read one of my all time favorite stories of Jesus - the raising of Lazarus. John's version of this story is incredible as it shows the humanity of Jesus and yet the humanity of his disciples and friends better than any other story about him. (opinion, obviously) In this story Jesus feels anger and sadness as a result of grief, he cares and comforts his friends in solidarity, and he performs the greatest miracle since Elijah raising the boy from the dead in his own upper room. With this act Jesus puts the final nail in his own coffin and does so for his friends sake. I love that so much. I love that Jesus loves us that much to do that even today. What are your thoughts on this story and the rest in our text?
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about Jesus?
What is the "meaning" of this text? (Consider that John is symbolic and speaks in poems...what is the deeper meaning?)
What, if anything, speaks to me in this text? what does it inspire me to do as a result?
- Context -
Considering this section includes a number of stories from the other gospels I thought today would be a good day to introduce you to the criteria that scholars use to "validate" whether or not scripture is "authentic". This process became necessary as the increasing number of witnesses and accounts of Jesus life, letters to and from churches, and hymns became more diverse. The word canon literally means "standard" and thus it became important as the church was growing to establish a standard for what would be truth and what would be "extra". (If you didn't know there are plenty of documented gospels that did not become canon but nonetheless exist. The Gospel of Thomas is probably the most famous of the set.) The church needed to set a standard because the longer time went on the more the stories would change. Take for example the classic game "telephone" where a message is whispered from one person to another to see how much it gets changed from the beginning. So, to prevent this the canon was established. The means and criteria in which the earliest church leaders are discussed further in this excerpt from LifeWay.
How? The criteria of canonicity
The basic criterion for recognizing books as being part of the New Testament is whether they were considered "God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). Books do not become inspired because they are recognized as being canonical; rather, they are recognized as being canonical because they are inspired by God. Thus, the church did not "produce" the canon.
Three principal criteria seemed to emerge which the early church used in recognizing books that had been God-inspired and thus canonical:(6) apostolic origin, recognition by the church, and apostolic content.
Christ had commissioned His apostles to be His authoritative spokesmen after His ascension. Additionally, the Holy Spirit inspired and gifted these men, enabling them to write inerrant Scripture and teach inerrant doctrine. Therefore, the canonical books were to be related in some way to one of these authoritative, inspired apostles.(7) The early Christians essentially asked, "Is this particular work under question the work of one of the apostles?" Or, "If it is not the work of the apostle himself, was it produced under the supervision of and with the stamp of approval of one of the apostles?"
Jesus' apostles wrote most of the books in the New Testament.(8) For example, John and Matthew were apostles. Additionally, Paul accounts for roughly half of the books. Luke, who wrote two New Testament books, was not an apostle.(9) The early church, though, generally recognized him as Paul's protégé, advisor, traveling companion, and physician. Or consider the writer of the Gospel of Mark; although John Mark was not an apostle, early Christians generally recognized Peter as Mark's historical source.(10) These works thus meet the criterion of apostolicity.
Recognition by the churches
This principle asked how the earliest leading churches regarded the book.(11) If the churches at Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and Carthage, for example, accepted a book as authoritative, then chances were strong that the church as a whole would give it serious consideration for inclusion.
Content of the book
This criterion asked whether a particular book's content agreed with the doctrine the apostles taught orally or wrote when they were still alive. If anything was contrary to the apostles' actual teaching, it was considered spurious and not the Word of God. The early church leaders - those who had heard the apostles, or who at least had heard the immediate disciples of the apostles - recognized that as time wore on, these distinctions would become increasingly difficult to determine. This motivated them to determine and delineate the genuine New Testament canon in the earliest Christian centuries. This means the only apostolic doctrine we know today is what we get out of those written Scriptures.
So, all of this leads to what was perhaps the "prime" criterion, that being, "Was this book produced by an apostle or under the auspices of an apostle, and does it obviously correspond to the doctrine the apostles themselves taught when they were on earth as God's divinely appointed spokesmen?" An example of this criterion at work is the Gospel of Thomas, a book that did not attain canonical status. This writing bears the name of an apostle, but it is not in accord with what the apostles taught. The book for many years was clearly recognized as a Gnostic-based forgery espousing the heresy of Gnosticism. The fact that it bears an apostle's name does not mean that it was apostolic; its content does not agree with apostolic doctrine.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is When Jesus the Healer Passed through Galilee. This one is new to me and perhaps you as well. It's fun to discover new hymns with powerful messages!
1 When Jesus the healer passed through Galilee, Heal us, heal us today! the deaf came to hear and the blind came to see. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
2 A paralyzed man was let down through a roof. Heal us, heal us today! His sins were forgiven, his walking the proof. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
3 The death of his daughter caused Jairus to weep. Heal us, heal us today! The Lord took her hand, and he raised her from sleep. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
4 When blind Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord, Heal us, heal us today! His faith made him whole and his sight was restored. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
5 The lepers were healed and the demons cast out. Heal us, heal us today! A bent woman straightened to laugh and to shout. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
6 The twelve were commissioned and sent out in twos Heal us, heal us today! to make the sick whole and to spread the good news. Heal us, Lord Jesus!
7 There's still so much sickness and suffering today. Heal us, heal us today! We gather together for healing and pray: Heal us, Lord Jesus!