Thought for the Week - 22nd January

Pastor Gareth Watkins

John 11: 25-26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Do you believe this?”

Jesus asks Martha this question after arriving at her home. She had every reason to be annoyed at Jesus at this time. She had called Him because Lazarus was very ill. However, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had died and we read that he’d been dead for a number of days. Jesus then asked Martha this question.

What is our response to Christ when that question is asked of us?

I believe that Martha’s response was crucial for the miracle of resurrection that followed. Martha had to respond to Jesus, as we too have to respond to Him. This will happen to each one us, where we will be brought into a place we will have to have a response. What is our response going to be?

Ezekiel 6: 1-11.5

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
“Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel,
and prophesy against them,
and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God!
Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines,
and to the valleys: “Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you,
and I will destroy your high places.
Then your altars shall be desolate, your incense altars shall be broken,
and I will cast down your slain men before your idols.
And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols,
and I will scatter your bones all around your altars.
In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste,
and the high places shall be desolate, so that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, <
your idols may be broken and made to cease,
your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.
The slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord.
“Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations,
when you are scattered through the countries.
Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations.
And they shall know that I am the Lord;
I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.”
‘Thus says the Lord God: “Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, ‘Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel!

This was a time where the whole nation had been rounded up and held in captivity in Babylon. Because they’d not been listening, God had allowed them to be taken as slaves. After Christ, the country was taken apart and the Jews were scattered across the world by the Romans and the rulers that followed. After WW2, God somehow managed to round them up and bring them back to their land. They didn’t become naturalised, but instead remained Jews, despite the incredible pressure to turn their back on who they were.

In verse 8 we read:

“Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries”.

Then, when the nation was restored after WW2, 600,000 Jews started this nation again! The remnant that God spoke of was still there. The nation was reborn against all odds. What is our attitude toward the Jews? I don’t think it’s possible to be a Christian and anti-Semitic. Our response to the Jew is watched by God. There are different responses. In the same way, Martha’s response to Christ was watched by God.

Despite the death of her brother, Martha was able to acknowledge that Christ is the son of God. We have to see how our response should be to a set of circumstances, for example, in terms of Israel, politics, life etc. We have to find a response that lines up with God. That’s how God intended it. Some things are bigger than us!

Are we choosing for God with the right response in our heart? Or are we choosing away from God with the wrong response? Your response is up to you. But all responses become visible.

Martha could have responded in a different way. Jesus turned up four days late, after Lazarus had died. She could have refused to meet Christ. She could have lost her temper. She could have gone out and got drunk. She could have got someone else instead of Jesus to come to Lazarus, She could have got her family together and ganged up on Jesus.

Our response to Christ is crucial in so many ways.

These children of Israel are called of God. How do we respond to them? There are so many wrong responses. Yet Martha didn’t respond in the wrong way. I believe that Jesus saw her faith, and because He saw her faith, He brought something eternal to a miserable situation. And a miracle came. Martha’s response was everything to that situation. If she’d responded in the wrong way, other outcomes would have followed.

The verses above talk about high places. What are our responses to those high places? Those are the places in ourselves where we should be worshipping God and having the right reaction, but something else comes in instead.

Martha could have responded with a temper. One of our high places can be a temper. However, we read in verse 3 above that:

“Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you,
and I will destroy your high places”

There are certain untouchable things in our make-up that become high places. We read in the bible of natural high places; places built for Godly use. But other people like the Canaanites would use them for satanic and pagan worship. God turns against these high places time and time again. These are places that should be used for God but were used inappropriately. God says He will destroy our high places. Christ wants to take away that sinful controlling aspect of our life that is not of God and make them into His likeness.

Our responses to Christ have to be measured time and time again. We have to work out our responses. Christ will bring us back to our responses until we respond properly. If you read the story of the children of Israel, they went around and round in the desert until their response to God was appropriate.

God will show you your high places and will ask us to respond in the appropriate way. He wants to break those things inside us that cause the wrong response.

There are so many situations we have to enter where those high places will rear up – our rebellious nature, our problems, our circumstances – but our response will be measured. Martha had to respond properly, or Lazarus would never have lived and become a disciple. She had to believe rightly and respond rightly.

Today, we think we can respond badly, but then demand that Christ moves in our lives and home. If we want God to move, we have to respond in the right way. It’s a dangerous place to keep making the wrong response. It’s with the right response that the miracles, encounters and blessings come.

God is compassionate and loving, but we have to make the right response. Vanda wrote last week about God wiping out the handwriting of requirements against us. That includes the responses from us that have been wrong. God took all those wrong responses and put them on the back of Christ onto the cross.

Those high places and strongholds in our lives have to be broken down. What is our response to Christ?

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