Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
It was the darkest day the world has known. Dark for the Jewish court who convened an illegal trial, and with no grounds for His death they insistently called for Jesus’ execution. Dark for Pilate. It was a dark day for the cowardly Governor who signed the death warrant for an innocent man. Dark for the Scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish people who rejected Jesus as God’s messiah. Dark for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood by the cross with tear-filled eyes and a broken heart to see this unthinkable act of cruelty. Dark for the Apostles, their Lord tortured, for Judas who betrayed, for Peter who denied, and all but one who fled (Mark 14:50). Dark for Jesus. Humiliated. Mocked. Spat upon. Brutally beaten. Crucified on a cross.
The day represents humanities’ lowest, our greatest failure.
“But God raised Him from the dead…” (Acts 13:30-33). The despair, the agony, the pain and darkness gave way to the hope, the light, the joy and victory of Sunday. That morning some women go the tomb expecting to see the slain body of their Lord, and they find hope, they find joy, they find an empty tomb, and an angel who declares, “He is risen, just as He said” (Matt. 28:6). God turned a bad day into a good day by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Because of the resurrection Jesus proved once and for all that He is the Son of God (Rom. 1:5). There is glory in the cross and power in the blood – there is good news of great joy in the risen Savior who conquered death – Satan’s empty win gave way to Christ’s triumphant victory.
God used what was black and ugly and turned it into something good. God turned a bad day into a good day through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus – the giver of the abundant life, breathed new life into fainting hearts and breathless souls. The empty tomb dissolved despair – chased away doubt, cleared the fog, and renewed their strength. From despair to hope, from gloom to joy, from sinner to saint, from enemies to children of God, from night to day, from darkness to light, from hopeless to full of hope, from defeat to victory! Rom. 5:8-10 – reconciled through His death, saved by His life. I need to remember that no matter how bad the darkness of despair may be, there is a Sunday. The Lord lives. Jesus is alive. There is light. There is love. There is forgiveness.
The death of the Savior for many was a dark day. I’m not sure where you are today. You may be living in a dark place - in pain, regret, sorrow over life choices - don’t live in despair. Don’t live in guilt and pain. Don’t keep living in the past and making the same mistakes. Don’t live in fear.
Luke 24:5-6 – why seek the living One among the dead? He is not here.
Colossians 3:1 – If you’ve been raised, keep seeking the things above where Christ is.
Seek Christ where He is. He’s not in the tomb. He’s risen. He’s in Heaven. Come to the cross, see the Savior, bring your life to Him, but remember that after cross, Sunday comes. There’s hope. There’s life. There’s forgiveness. Come to the cross. Come see the nails, the crown of thorns, the blood. But come see the stone rolled away. Come see the empty tomb. Come to the living Lord. Come to Jesus. Come to Sunday. Come to life.
Lord of glory, I give you thanks and praise because you live. You are worthy of honor and praise because you faced the cross, you suffered for our sins, you purchased our redemption, you rescued us from death. We know you are Lord because you live. The grave was empty, the stone rolled away, and through your triumph over the grave our victory over sin and death is secured. There are not the words to express our thankfulness for your love, for your sacrifice, for your death on our behalf. There is no anthem worthy enough to express the glory you deserve for the victory you gained over Satan, over sin, over the grave. Blessed be your name, now and forever, the great I AM.
Jesus had good friends just like we do. Among them are Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus (John 11). Word comes to Jesus that Lazarus is sick and about to die. Instead of dropping what He was doing He delays coming for two days. During that brief span of time Lazarus dies. Mary and Martha both appeal to Jesus that if He had come sooner Lazarus would not have died.
There are two phrases in this event that are worthy of great thought. First, one of the most powerful thoughts in the text is this, it says literally, “Jesus troubled Himself” (John 11: 33). When Jesus was face to face with death, and He saw what it did to people, it trouble Him. He came to show us He understands. So, Jesus troubled Himself. Jesus felt pain and the hurt that we feel when we are by the grave. He doesn’t just care how you hurt He knows how you feel. Jesus did not have to feel what we feel when we hurt. He chose to do it.
Second, So, He said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” He is saying, “Martha,all you’re seeing in the problem. All you’re seeing in the corpse. Remember you were saying just a few minutes ago, you were calling Me the Son of God. Have you forgotten that’s what you said? Have you forgotten who I am? Don’t get wrapped up in the corpse, focus on Me.”
Now, I want you to notice something here that to me is powerful. “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Jesus didn’t say, “If you believe I’ll do the miracle. He said, “Listen, if you believe you’re going to see the glory of God!” You see, Jesus was going to raise Lazarus whether Martha believed or not. She didn’t have to believe to see her brother come out of that tomb. But she had to believe to see the glory of God when Lazarus came out of the tomb!
So, Jesus is saying, “Martha don’t just see a corpse come alive, but see God reveal Himself. I believe that is a principle we must learn today. All most people see when God answers their problem is the answer to their problem. All they saw when Lazarus came out of that tomb was an answer to a death. But when Lazarus came out of that tomb what a lot of them did not see was God at work in that situation.
Jesus said, “You have got to believe, not to see the miracle, but you’ve got to believe to see the glory of God in the miracle.” God is doing great things every day. God raised the sun today. A lot of people see the sun raise, but not very many of them saw the glory of God.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the sign that climaxed all other signs and gave indisputable proof to the claim. Standing before the tomb of His friend who had died, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” Immediately the living body of Lazarus camo forth.
Jesus had now confirmed His claim to be able to raise the dead and His claim that He is the resurrection and the life. He had proved Himself to be the master over death and the giver of life.In this sign He has given His personal guarantee that everybody now lying in the tomb will some time hear His voice and beraised. Eventually, the glory of God will be seen by all!
Prayer: Lord, please give eyes of faith to see Your glory.
Today we’re looking at an incredible miracle performed by Jesus. Not including the death, burial, and resurrection, there is one miracle found in all 4 gospels – the feeding of the 5,000. Why was this in all 4 gospels? Perhaps it was because of all the people who had witnessed this miracle. Matthew tell us there were 5,000 men, besides women and children (MT 14:21). There might have been a crowd of 10,000, 15,000, or more! This was also likely the longest miracle. By the time it began, the food was distributed and ended – it likely was the longest to process.
Let’s start with some of the background to this miracle. MK 6:30 – the apostles had just returned from the limited commission – the first time Jesus sent them out on their own to preach. MT 14:12-13 – Jesus heard about John’s death. John the baptizer was killed by Herod (and his wife) for speaking the truth. Jesus knew the same thing would be happening to Him soon. Thus Jesus and the Apostles wanted to withdraw to reflect on these things. John 6:1-2 – a large crowd sees them, and follows on land to the other side. Luke 9:11-12 – Jesus teaches them about the Kingdom. It gets late, in the evening, and the Apostles do what they typically did – let’s send
them away. John 6:5-7 – Jesus asks a question to Philip. Notice his answer: If we had 200 denarii (days wage) wouldn’t be enough. That’s a lot of money! Philip quickly does a calculation and sees it as impossible.
Philip is thinking in small amounts, “everyone to receive a little” – just getting a little bit. He’s thinking about just getting by – that’s not in Jesus’ mind – just enough vs. leaving full. All he saw was the problem – it’s impossible – even though the answer was standing right in front of him. He’s seen Jesus calm the sea, heal the incurable,
change water to wine – He didn’t say, we have no money, no food, but we have Jesus!” We walk by faith, not by sight. Philip was led by sight, focused on the problems not on God.
Andrew comes and brings a boy to Jesus who has 5 barley loaves and two fish (v. 9). Often the pictures we see of this are 5 large loaves and two big fish. That’s not the accurate picture. The barley loaves would have been more like small crackers or wafers – and the fish would have been more like dried sardines – a poor man’s food. How could something so small possibly help a problem so great? Jesus has the people sit in groups of 100’s and 50’s (MK 6:40-41), He gives thanks (Jn 6:11), He “kept multiplying” the food. The apostles were the 12 waiters. This is why it might have been the longest miracle. MK 6:42-43 – they all ate and were satisfied to their full – Jesus kept giving. They picked up 12 full baskets! What do we see from this miracle? Jesus, the son of God, touched with compassion – completely satisfies man’s need – Heaven’s abundance.
The miracle prompts us to ask the question, “Where am I seeking the fulfillment of my hunger/desires?” Too often we look to the things of the world to satisfy real desires/longings of our hearts and like physical bread they satisfy for a moment – but it’s not lasting.
Is there any amount of money that can bring lasting happiness?
Is there any amount of TV watching that can provide real fulfillment?
Is there any video game that can supply a true sense of accomplishment?
Is there any sporting event that can forever satisfy?
Is there any advancement at work that will justify the toll of an absent father?
Is there any level of success that will fill the void of arrogant self-centeredness?
Is there any sexual experience that is worth the cost of your marriage?
Is there any website that is equivalent in worth to decades of trust?
Is there anything in this world that can equal the value of your soul?
The people back in John 6, after being fed a miraculous meal, came to Jesus to be given another meal (JN 6:26). Jesus didn’t give it to them. He didn’t come to end physical hunger, He came to end spiritual hunger. Jesus’ answer? Don’t seek the bread that perishes (v. 27), seek that which lasts (v.35). In a world starving for truth, starving for hope, starving for grace – in Jesus there is not just enough – there is more than enough.
Do you remember what the prodigal son realized about his father? LK 15:17 – with the Father there is “more than enough.” Philip reasoned, “there’s not enough” (JN 6:7) and yet in Jesus they left full. Jesus offers to us a bread from which we’ll never hunger, a water from which we’ll never thirst. It’s called abundant life (JN 10:10). In Jesus there is more than enough.
All sufficient Savior, I honor you, recognizing that fullness and completeness is found in you. You are the fullness of grace and truth. Your mercy and grace know no limits. There is no way to measure the depths and heights of your love. In this amazing miracle shown to such a full crowd, you have shown me that the source of my greatest needs is you. Help me to see through the empty offers of the world, the vain promises of Satan, and the vain efforts of my pride, to realize that my sufficiency and strength comes from you. In you there is more than enough. In you, my cup runs over. In you, I find my all in all. You are without limits, without restraints, without boundaries. You are the all sufficient Lord - fill my life and my heart completely with unceasing love and devotion for you!
Towards the end of Mark 7, Jesus exited Galilee and entered the region of Tyre, Gentile territory. He entered a house, not wanting others to know He was there. Jesus has just concluded wrangling with the Pharisees about what constituted cleanness (Matthew 15:1-20). He has emphasized the heart of the individual; what is on the inside is where corruption takes place. It manifests itself outwardly, but it begins with the heart. Jesus concludes by again defining defilement as moral rather than ceremonial. He seeks to get away, perhaps for some rest. He has been busy. He fed the 5000, calmed a storm, was confronted by the religious leaders, and healed many people in the towns they traveled through, but Jesus could not stay hidden. The Syrophoenician woman found Him and was determined to have Jesus deliver her daughter from an unclean spirit.
We can understand this mom’s heart. She desires for her daughter to be healed. She kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter (Mark 7:26). She was not going away until she had an answer. In Matthew’s version of the story, she cried out for Jesus to have mercy on her and heal her daughter (chapter 15). Then Jesus does something we rarely see; He doesn’t answer her. He basically ignores her. The disciples, fed up with her cries, come to Jesus and ask Him to send her away. Here is where the story takes an even stranger turn. Jesus responds to her request with these words, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27). Basically, Jesus calls her a dog as He explains that His mission is to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. Most people would have been offended, but the woman does not take offense. She responds that even dogs receive crumbs from the children’s table. For her, a crumb was enough. Jesus’ replies, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done to you as you wish” (Matthew 15:28). When the woman goes home, she finds her daughter fully healed.
Her focus was on who Jesus was, not who she was. This woman could have been defensive towards Jesus. He basically called her a dog, even if it was a pet dog. Somehow the woman understood what Jesus meant and was not offended. She focused on Jesus and what He could do.
We live in a world where people are offended easily. Being offended depends on my focus. If we are feeling insecure, we see everything through that lens. But if we are secure in Christ, our focus is on Him. It doesn’t matter what others say. I am better able to hear what the other person is saying. It makes for a better situation.
She took seriously her role as intercessor for her daughter. The Syrophoenician woman was all in. She wanted Jesus to heal her daughter, and she was not going to be turned away easily. Her prayer was not only short and humble, but full of faith. She relied on God’s mercy and persevered with her request.
She trusted that a crumb was enough to meet her need. Jesus said her daughter was healed. She believed it and went home to find out that it was so. Jesus met her need in His way, and it was more than enough. How often do I bring a need to Jesus, but I want Him to meet that need in a certain way? God is more concerned about our character and who we are becoming in Him, than He is about my external circumstances.
Prayer: Lord, we want to have great faith like this woman. We are so easily distracted and loose our focus. We begin to want You to heal and answer the way we think You should. We want to let You be the great physician. We want to be focused on Who you are, not what we want You to be. We want to have a heart like this woman who knew what she wanted and persisted. Even if it is a crumb, if it is from You, it will be enough.
The tension is thick this dark night. Jesus and His disciples are praying in the garden when a large crowd appears. They come with swords and clubs, armed ready for battle. They came with one purpose, to arrest Jesus. This armed mob was led by Judas, the Apostle who chose wealth over the Savior. With a cruel kiss he betrays the Lord - the token of love now wielded as a cruel method of marking the one they came to take away.
The disciples are unsure what to do in the moment. Some begin to question if they should defend Jesus, even using swords. That’s when Peter does what he typically does, act first - seek permission later. His brashness here could be a desperate attempt to prove his boastful claim to Jesus he made earlier that night, that he would never betray the Lord - rather he’d be faithful to Jesus and stand by his side, even if it meant death. Now he’s swinging to prove it.
His sword hits the servant of the high priest. The fact he was hit by a sword tells us he was near the front of the crowd, likely indicating his role in this whole endeavor. He came as a representative of the High Priest. He came to make sure Jesus was arrested and taken to trial. In one moment hands are laid on Jesus, and in the next a sword is swung. Peter was likely swinging for his head. The servant probably ducked and got hit in the ear. Imagine the scene - a sword is swung, you’re hit in the head, sharp-burning pain erupts. You put your hand to your head and come away with a hand covered in blood. Fear and panic set in - how bad is it? Will I live?
But then Jesus… in a moment of immense love and compassion, touches the wound of this servant and heals his ear. This was the smallest miracle - it was just an ear. The man would live without an ear. But there is something far more powerful at play in this scene. Jesus reaches down to heal the man who came to take him to his death. This man wasn’t concerned with justice or righteousness. He wasn’t concerned with the innocence of Jesus, or the reality of who Jesus claimed to be. If he was he wouldn’t be there in the garden. He came as an enemy, and in a moment of fear and pain, Jesus showed his enemy true love. The Lord who had the power to call down legions of angels channeled that power to a small act of kindness. This is the last miracle Jesus would do before the cross - a foretaste of the greater love shown towards his enemies accomplished through his death and resurrection.
“Love your enemies.” He commanded it, and he lived it. It’s not easy. It’s the high path we’re called to travel, of responding with kindness and compassion to those who enter our lives with swords and clubs. In a world that treats as we have been treated, that swings swords towards those who hurt us or our loved ones, what a bright light when someone chooses to overcome evil with good, to imitate Jesus in those dark times.
The servant was named Malchus. Perhaps the reason John shared his name is that there were some who knew him. Perhaps he change, he believed, his heart was softened through the Savior’s kindness. Perhaps the servant of the high priest became the servant of the God most high. I don’t know. But I do wonder if every time he scratched that ear, if he thought back to that intense moment in the garden when he met faithful love face to face.
“Love your enemies.” It’s more than words. It’s a way of living. The way of healing, the way of peace, the way of love, the way of Jesus.
Righteous Savior, my heart aches reading the pages of your suffering. It mourns reading of what you endured for me, for my sins. What amazing love, what incredible grace you showed the world through facing those dark hours. I thank you for your demonstration of compassion towards your enemies. You lived what you taught, and you responded to the pain and betrayal shown to you with patience and kindness. Something as small as healing the ear of one who came to arrest you, wasn’t overlooked in your pursuit to redeem the world. Help me to see as you see, to love as you love, to treat my enemies with the same grace and kindness you showed yours - that you showed me. Give me the strength to answer harm with grace, and to seek the well-being of those around me just as you sought to seek and save the lost. Oh the riches of your goodness, oh the blessing of your faithful love. All glory belongs to you, the lamb that was slain, the king who reigns.