Sermon: De-Contexting Jesus – John 11:11-16

I preached again! And once again, I was covering for Brother Paul in Paulden, AZ.

There is no video this time (unless you are okay looking up my nose most of the time!), but I did upload the audio recording.

I also joined in the solidarity day with Canadian churches by taking some time to discuss biblical sexuality (and understanding biblical context) in response to the nee Canadian law, Bill C-4 – Conversion Therapy ban.


De-Contexting Jesus: John 11:11-16

Waking the Dead

Know how parents or the cranky neighbor next door (or you?) complain about loud kids, “Their being so loud they could wake the dead?”

I have been thinking about so many people – churches, preachers, even people who have nothing to do with Christianity – who make bold claims about what Scripture says, about how Christians should act.

Tend to be the liberal-minded – “We understand better what was really meant back then: Jesus never spoke about homosexuality! People don’t really come back from the dead! We find new spiritual life and change, even in our bodies, if we were born the wrong way!”

Or even, like people like Bart Ehrman (author of Misquoting Jesus and other works attempting to tear down Christianity), they say we don’t understand what Jesus really meant, and it was exaggerated, anyway.

I have been thinking about so many people – churches, preachers, so-called prophets and apostles – who make bold claims about what Scripture says, about what Christians should be able to do.

Tend to be liberally-minded – “We understand more what was really meant back then: Jesus raised the dead, so we should be doing it even more! Jesus was sinless, and we are too! Jesus did amazing things, and we can do more!”

Or even, like people like “Pastors” Kenneth Copeland and Bill Johnson, we are Christs (anointed ones), we are little gods.

What does this have to do with today’s message?

Misquoting Jesus

[John 11:11-16]

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, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

“Lord, if he’s fallen asleep …”

Oh, Lazarus wasn’t that sick. He is resting and getting better.

The disciples misunderstood Jesus, even though He said something plain and in a context that should have made it plain. And how many times do people today take something Jesus said without looking at the context?

“Do not judge … See! Jesus said don’t judge, you evil hypocrite!”

“You will do greater things … See! We should all be raising the dead and performing signs and wonders!”

“This is my body … See! Jesus said!” Do the elements of communion literally become His body and blood? Catholics certainly say so. But so many others say “He spoke in euphemisms and metaphors. He was just a good teacher!”

It is so easy to rip things out of context to fit our needs.

Yet, “Lazarus has died.” Okay, “Lets die with him!”

They started to get the context: vv. 7-8 – “We’re going to Jerusalem.” “But, teacher! The Jews are trying to kill you!”

“Oh! We might be martyred!”

Now, we know that Thomas was right. All of the apostles and disciples were persecuted, and most of the apostles were indeed martyred. But in this moment, he probably is still thinking of his own glory more than the glory of Jesus.

Thomas and the disciples are trying to do good by Jesus, but they keep missing the greatest meaning. This happens even now.

In terms of the more liberal thinkers, they are following evolutionary thinking: we are later in time, so we understand better. Jesus did not really talk about these things, but even if He did, times have changed. The loving thing is to let people live how they believe they should!

As an example, today is a day that pastors across North America (maybe farther) are standing in solidarity with Canadian churches to preach about biblical sexuality. This is my little addition to that.

Canada just began enforcing a new law this past week, “Bill C-4: Conversion Therapy.” This bill makes conversion therapy illegal, defining conversion therapy as:

a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth; repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior; repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth

Essentially, the way it is worded, in Canada, it is illegal to even call homosexuality, transgenderism, and any sex outside of marriage sin. How do we know this is not merely “slippery slope logic” and hyperbole?

The UK, New York, California, New Jersey, and Nevada have passed similar laws. Preachers and evangelists in the UK and New York, that I know of, have been arrested for hate speech and disrupting the peace for calling homosexuality a sin.

We hear people – pastors, theologians, politicians, everyday people – saying the New Testament never explicitly condemns homosexuality, it was just an OT law that was abolished.

Firstly, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we read:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

“neither the pornoi” – sexually immoral, the root of our word “pornography”

“nor malakoi” – soft, effeminate men “who catch” – “nor arsenokoitai” – males who penetrate men and boys.

Both of these terms are combined into our English translations to the word “homosexual.” So, yes, the NT talks about it, and in a few other places condemns all sorts of sexual and sensual acts outside of marriage.

And as for Jesus never having spoken on it, that means they do not believe truly is God – the Logos, the Word – the One who worked through Moses and the Prophets to write the OT. In effect, Jesus spoke on these through the OT, and He does not change (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 7:21, James 1:17).

And Paul continued,

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, it is possible to change, in Christ. It is not merely trying to “pray the gay away.” It is conforming to Christ. (So, some conversion therapy is indeed not that good!)

Yet, clearly these are not the only ones.

Back to Context

Many who [claim to (have)] follow(ed) Christ, twist His words, as well.

Many people have “deconstructed their faith” in recent years, being seen as brave and open-minded by many in our world.

Really, most have de-contextualized Jesus or listened to those who have. Maybe they were in liberal churches or churches that shy away from biblical truth to be seen as hip and with it, to be “seeker sensitive”, even though Romans 3:11 reminds us that “no one understands; no one seeks for God” unless the Father (by the Holy Spirit) draws them in (John 6:44).

Many “pastors, prophets, and apostles” today claim special knowledge and new understanding about God and His Word.

Really, most have de-contextualized Jesus or listened to those who have. They claim passages about Him or said by Him as for themselves, even if the greater context completely contradicts their understanding.

Case in point, Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

So many people claim this verse as a life verse, even if they have had an easy life. The context is God telling Israel, “I am about to punish you for 70 years for disobeying me. I am disciplining you, but it is okay.” As many take it as, “God only wants good things for me!”

Normal people are not really the problem. It is the big names, the ones who continue to spread mis-truths and should know better.

Remember earlier I asked about complaining about people “being so loud they could wake the dead?

Like Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 13, these people are like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. They distract and make enough noise to raise the dead! (Or claim they can, anyway.)

Jesus warned us these people would come before the end, and Paul repeated it in his letters to Timothy, such as in his encouragement in 2 Timothy 2:15 when he says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

So what about everyone else?

Re-Contexting

In a world of deconstructing and de-contexting, we should be people who re-context.

We know in our passage today that Jesus had let Lazarus die so that Jesus and His Father could be glorified.

His disciples did not yet understand, and they spoke rashly, like we often do, too.

Firstly, Jesus reminds us that when we die, it is not the end. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.” We know that Jesus has defeated death through His death and resurrection. We know that, unlike woke culture that seeks to separate and shame, Jesus awakens us out of our sin and shame into unity with God.

We may misunderstand and take things out of context, but His grace is enough. His love is enough. Wake up to the truth of Christ, the Faithful One who shows us that He is the context of love, grace, and truth.

Secondly, we are reminded of our duty. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Christ has told us that we are to take up our cross and die to ourselves.

Is Christ more important than our own lives? Do we trust that He has overcome death and the grave? “If God is for me, what can flesh do to me?”

Is sharing the gospel something we are willing to lay our lives down for? Though others turn away, deconstruct, and de-contextualize, do we truly believe that these are the words of eternal life (John 6:66-68)?

We serve the God of the Universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Great I Am. Do we fear Him or those who twist His words? If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

Yes, we get it wrong sometimes. But we turn to the only righteous one, and we follow Him into the battle, even if we must die.

And die we must. Die to our fleshly desires and selfish wants.

We may never see anyone raised from the dead in this life, but we know the One who defeated death and came back. He may come in the next moment. He may not come for 10,000 years.

But Jesus has proven Himself faithful and trustworthy.

Come, let us go also, that we may die with Him.

For He has shown His light to awaken us to eternal life. Forget the sins of the past, and grab hold of the nail-scarred hands that lift us from the pit.

Let us all do our best to present ourselves to God as those approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) Let us re-context Christ to this world and hasten His return.

Prayer

Lord, we have come before you a people who have misunderstood, misapplied, and misused your Word. We confess it to you now. We thank you and give you praise that have forgiven us through the cross of Christ.

Open our minds by Your Holy Spirit to understand Your Word. Give us a passion for the Scriptures, to read and study the Bible.

Embolden our hearts and spirits to proclaim Your Truth to this world. Give us a desire to share the gospel, to be ready in all seasons to give an answer to those who ask for a reason for the hope that is in us.

Give us peace and wisdom as we go into this world with all of its problems and challenges, dangers and attacks.

Help us to remain focused on You and Your Truth. Guide us in all wisdom and truth.

Help us to seek You and Your Kingdom first.

For you are worthy of all glory and honor and praise, and we declare our need for You. Show us Your glory, fill us with Your love, and guide us by Your Spirit. Conform us to the image of Your Son.

In the name of that Faithful Son, Jesus Christ, we pray.

Amen.

  1. GOd bless you for preaching this timely message

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Pastor Paul had said that if I wanted I could preach the rest of the Lazarus story or even all of chapter 11, but the chance to focus on misunderstanding and de-contextualizing Jesus’ words (and on the day of solidarity for biblical sexuality) was too good to pass up.
      I even told that little congregation that whenever I preach, I hear 2 Timothy 2:15 in my head, reminding me to rightly handle the word of truth, and I get a bit … nervous? Then I suddenly preach boldly!

      Liked by 1 person

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