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Thursday, April 8, 2021

John Bible Study ~ John 1:1-5 ~ In the Beginning Was the Word

The following is the first lesson of a Bible study I created in the hope of helping people explore the gospel of John in a real and personal way, and to encourage them to spend time with God in his word and prayer even if it is in any other part of God’s word. 

If we “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly,” we will know how to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”[1] This will lead to, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”[2] 

With that in mind, I hope this is more than just a bunch of questions and their right answers. I would much rather hear that it is an adventure in getting to know God better than we have ever known him before, the very thing I expect every time I spend time with God in his word and prayer. 

You can find a doc. version of this Bible study here[3] if you would like to open it on your word-processor, a PDF version here[4] if you would like to print it out, or you can try to copy and paste it into your computer and add your prayer-journaling to the questions.

Whatever the case, I hope you find encouragement from considering what God has done for us in giving us his Son, and how we can experience relationship with him in the fullest possible way. If you pick up on any ways this study could be improved, please let me know and will gladly consider the help.


1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1)

The gospel of John was recorded by one of Jesus’ disciples (followers) who became part of the group often referred to as “the Twelve Apostles”. The apostles (sent ones) were men commissioned by Jesus to lay the foundation for the church that would grow through the remaining centuries. At the time John wrote this, the church understood that he was one of the leaders Jesus appointed to teach them the truth of the gospel, or good news. 

In this opening paragraph, John connects the “beginning” with the life and ministry of Jesus that had already fulfilled God’s work of salvation, and with the continuing work of the good news to shine the light of life into the darkness of our world. Each of us will find ourselves in the story if we are willing to listen. 

Part 1: Jesus the Word of God 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1)

1. God led John to begin his letter by referring to Jesus as, “the Word”. What place do words have in our lives that would help us understand things about Jesus? 

 

 

2. What do these statements about Jesus as the Word tell you about him? 

 

 

3. What does Jesus’ identity as “the Word” communicate about God’s relationship to you and your relationship to him? 

 

 

Part 2: Jesus the Creator 

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1)

1. The first part of this verse is a positive statement about Jesus. What does it tell you about everything we know of us and our world? 

 

 

2. The second part of the verse is a negative statement reinforcing the same point. What does it tell you is impossible? 

 

 

3. What does this tell you about you and your relationship to Jesus? 

 

 

Part 3: Jesus the Light of Life 

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1)

1. The phrase, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” tells us something about who Jesus is. What is God telling you he wants you to believe about his Son and how does that relate to your need of him? 

 

 

2. The fact that, “the light shines in the darkness,” tells us something about what Jesus does. How would you describe what Jesus is doing and how it connects to your need? 

 

 

3. The conclusion, “and the darkness has not overcome it,” tells us something of the effectiveness of Jesus’ coming into our world. What does it tell you God wants you to experience in your own life?

 


Conclusion: Hearing, Seeing, Joining 

After looking at this paragraph from its three vantage points, what do you hear God speaking to you about, what do you see him doing in you, and how are you going to join him in his work?

 

 

 

 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 

 

 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

When the Blind Behold and Know

Last night, I had one of those bad dreams about having been called into a situation of responsibility, being there long enough to get to that familiar place of people not wanting me any longer, feeling hopeless about figuring out what to do, and being so thankful to wake up!

Lots of real life came into the picture, and so my morning began with plenty of interacting with God about how to have a face-to-face encounter with him when we cannot see his face with our material eyes.

I am a novice when it comes to understanding brain-science. However, the snippets that get through to me leave me fascinated with the way God created us for attachment. This week I have been trying to understand how God designed our brains to respond to face-to-face interactions. As we look at someone when we are chatting, our sub-conscious thoughts are assessing and reacting to them faster than our conscious thoughts can process what we think we see.

With this design of our physical bodies aimed at helping us attach to God and one another, it has me considering how this works with the soul/spirit part of who we are. If our brains are designed to build attachment by looking into someone’s face, how do we build attachment to Jesus Christ with our minds, particularly considering God giving life to our spirits so we can attach to him in the spiritual realm as much or more as we could have attached to Jesus in the material world when he was here?[1]

I will share some things I am pondering in prayer and meditation on the word. My hope is that I can encourage you to come into God’s presence with questions, and wondering, and curiosity, the way children love to attach to us about the things they are learning.

·  My starting place is whether prayer and meditation on God’s word is a sufficient counterpart to looking into someone’s eyes so that it has the same effect on our minds as eye-to-eye interaction has on our brains. Jesus “lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father…’”[2] Can we lift up our eyes to heaven in our minds so that what we “see” of God’s face is just as, or almost as, real as if we saw him with our eyes?

·  I think that Paul’s expression, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”,[3] is true for everyone who believes in Jesus since Paul adds, “And we all, with unveiled face…”[4] This seems to mean that the veils of dissociation and self-protection believers wear are deliberate acts of our own, at least so far as personally allowing our WoLVeS to keep us from Jesus.[5] As a shepherd (pastor), it grieves me to watch professing believers permit their WoLVeS to hinder the church when Jesus has given us everything we need to be done with them.[6]

·  The connection between, “beholding the glory of the Lord,” and, “being transformed into the same image”, has me fascinated with how the synchronizing of our brains makes us like or dislike each other, and how we relate to Jesus spiritually so our minds synchronize with him in the light of his love for us. It also scares the heebie-jeebies out of me that self-protective adults are synchronizing the brains of our children to be like us in the things that are most influential inside us (often a deep-seated belief that we are worthless and have no hope of fixing that problem). The fact that it happens faster than our conscious thinking makes me desperate to get us adults living out of our new identity in Christ so all our children are synchronizing with our new hearts and minds.

·  Satan’s success as, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,”[7] has me deeply concerned for the unbelievers in our lives and the necessity of spiritual warfare praying for their salvation.

·  Paul talked like God already “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”[8] God clearly wants us to attach to this “knowledge”, and Satan clearly wants to stop that attachment. It only takes a faith-response to Jesus for us to have “the victory that has overcome the world”.[9]

·  This attachment between, “beholding the glory of the Lord,” and, “in the face of Jesus Christ,” along with the, “looking to Jesus,” and, “Consider him,” of Hebrews 12,[10] has me asking God to reveal to me how this works in real life so that looking into the face of Jesus Christ spiritually has the same effect on my mind as looking into his face physically would have on my brain.  

·  When we combine an understanding of God’s desire for us to behold the glory of God that is in the face of Jesus Christ, with the brain-science that demonstrates how God’s creation of Man’s physical being is designed to facilitate the greatest attachment ever, it begins to stand out how often God addresses us with some reference to seeing his face. This is particularly notable in the blessing God commanded Aaron and his sons to pronounce over Israel, Yahweh bless you and keep you; Yahweh make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; Yahweh lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”[11] And it is crowned with the promise that, “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”[12]

Although I have had a growing faith in Jesus Christ from childhood, I have also had to deal with the real-life damage of living in a sinful world. I grew up fitting the description of a fear-based identity. I was the Attachment-Light-Always-On kid who had to come to God with all my attachment-failures, trusting him with what people have done to me, and confessing to him what I have done to others.

I am quite sure that my nightmares about failure in life and ministry have enough truth in them that I am asking God to show me what it means in real life. Whatever ails me in that regard, whatever veil of self-protection may be hiding anything from my consciousness, the thought of synchronizing my mind to the mind of Christ has me longing for the fullest experience of this as is possible this side of heaven no matter what painful realities I still must face about myself or anything that has happened to me.

Since it is true of every child of God that, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”, I want to grow in my beholding so I can grow up in Christ. I  hope this sharing helps all of us attach to Jesus more and better than we have ever known him before.

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)



[1] I mean this in reference to those who have been made alive in Jesus Christ by faith in his name (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

[2] John 17:1

[3] II Corinthians 3:16

[4] II Corinthians 3:18

[5] WoLVeS stands for the Wounds, Lies, Vows and Strongholds that, if left unresolved in our hearts, become like a pack of wolves constantly hindering God’s work of shepherding us in Christ. Thanks to Marcus Warner of Deeper Walk International for introducing this acronym.

[6] II Corinthians 10:4 (context is II Corinthians 10:1-6)

[7] II Corinthians 4:4

[8] II Corinthians 4:6

[9] I John 5:4

[10] Hebrews 12:1-3

[11] Numbers 6:22-27

[12] I John 3:1-3

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Jesus is God’s “Yes”

I am on a quest to live in the reality of the Father glorifying the Son in me and through me so the Son may glorify the Father in me and through me. It comes from attaching to Jesus’ prayer, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you”.[1] There is no doubt that this is the Father’s will, so there is no doubt that he will hear and answer such a prayer!

I am overwhelmed with wonder at how many things about Jesus’ relationship to the Father tell us why it must be like this, that Jesus must be glorified in order for the Father to be glorified. It all comes down to Jesus being “the image of the invisible God,”[2] and so we must see the image of God first in order for the Father to be glorified.

This is why Jesus would say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”[3] It wasn’t because Jesus IS the Father, but that he is the image of the Father, and so, if we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

Here is another way this Father/Son relationship is expressed that delighted my heart when I found it: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.”[4]

God the Father has made promises to us. These promises are rich and glorious, full of mercy and grace, and absolutely secure to all who receive Christ.

At the same time, our WoLVeS[5] HATE the promises of God! What God has spoken is the “hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”,[6] and the world, our flesh and the devil do not want us to attach to such realities.  They want to keep us “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”[7]And if they can’t keep us in that state, they will work to keep us in that mindset.

God’s Word and word want to help us “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”[8] If we believe that the God who promised us eternal life is faithful, we will live in that hope and give glory to God.

On the other hand, if our WoLVeS convince us that the promises of God are somehow void to us, we will live in the stereotypical experience of worthlessness and hopelessness that keep us from enjoying our hope even while all the promises are still true no matter what we believe about them (how sad is that!).

Perhaps you can see why Paul wants us to see Jesus as the “Yes” that fulfills the Father’s promises in our lives. He is the Word that makes real in our lives what the Father has spoken.[9]

As I was praying further in II Corinthians 1 (where Paul speaks of Jesus as the “Yes” of God), the effect that Jesus had on Paul is stretching me into viewpoints of the Beatitudinal Valley[10] that confront my poverty of spirit in knowing Jesus the way Paul described and being as real as Paul because of that relationship.

Facing my poverty in experiencing Christ like this leads me to mourn how miserably deficient I am. This settles me quickly into that familiar meekness that knows I can’t fix me. The awareness that I cannot fix myself creates an intense and hopeful hunger and thirst for the righteousness of being my real self in Jesus Christ.

This longing to be my real self in Christ takes me back to the reality that, in creation, I was made in the image of Jesus Christ as Jesus is the image of the Father;[11] in salvation I am being restored to the image and likeness of the Son,[12] and in the coming glorification I will be just like him as originally intended.[13] And Jesus is the “Yes” who is making it all happen just as the Father determined and promised.

I often hear people talk about prayer as if it is something that works or doesn’t work. It may be pointed out that prayer always works, but sometimes the answer is “no”, like when Amy Carmichael asked God to give her blue eyes.[14]

However, while God may say “no” to a prayer because it is not in line with his will, he will NEVER say “no” to a promise he has made because “all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ.

And that is why I am feeling so much hope about focusing on PRAYING that God the Father would glorify the Son in my life so that Jesus could then glorify the Father through my life. The fulfillment of this prayer is not dependent on me making it happen, but my involvement in the answer does require my faith to attach to such a grace as this, that I could enjoy the experience of God answering my prayer.

It is in the praying of this prayer that we abide in Christ so that the Father can answer this petition, and Jesus will then be the “Yes” of God in doing it!

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)



[1] John 17:1

[2] Colossians 1:15

[3] John 14:9

[4] II Corinthians 1:20

[5] WoLVeS is an acronym for Wounds, Lies, Vows and Strongholds, which is simply a way to understand how childhood wounds turn into issues of bondage and habitual sin. My thanks to Marcus Warner of Deeper Walk International for the initial list of WLVS. Our home church added some vowels to expand the word picture.

[6] Titus 1:2

[7] Ephesians 2:12

[8] Hebrews 10:23

[9] This is why John gives us such a beautiful word-picture of Jesus as the Word of God in John 1:1-5.

[10] This is a metaphor for experiencing the blessings of the Beatitudes as Jesus taught them in Matthew 5:1-12.

[11] Genesis 1:26-27

[12] II Corinthians 3:18

[13] I John 3:1-2 (this must be seen in parallel to Romans 8:28-30 where Paul gives the golden chain of God foreknowing me, predestining me to adoption as his son, calling me with the gospel, justifying me by grace through faith, and one day glorifying me with a full restoration to the image and likeness of Jesus the Christ).

[14] Here is a short version of Amy Carmichael’s story, including a note about her wanting blues eyes instead of brown, and how God’s “no” to that prayer helped her fit right in with the people she spent most of her life helping. https://answersingenesis.org/kids/bible/world-missions/amy-carmichael/

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

When Unforgiveness is Wrong

I love clarifying what God says in his word about forgiveness because the most common teaching on the subject falls short of the mark and creates an unnecessary stumbling block for many people.

Forgiveness in God’s word always and only means one thing: the canceling/forgiving of a debt towards someone who repents.

How do I know this?

Because the only examples that illustrate forgiveness are towards someone who repented, cried out for mercy, or changed their mind about their sin. Stated in the obvious negative, there are zero examples illustrating forgiveness towards an unrepentant person. Ever!

This means that every reference to forgiveness is a reminder to forgive when someone repents just as God has forgiven us when we repented. It also means that every reference to the sin of unforgiveness means refusing to forgive someone who has repented, not withholding forgiveness from an unrepentant person.[1]

This morning I was listening to a message about the life of Jonah and realized that he gives a living illustration of unforgiveness as the Bible means it. In other words, people had repented, and he hated the idea of forgiving them!

Jonah was sent to a certain city to preach God’s word and call the people to repentance. He didn’t want to go. Why? Because he knew what God was like, forgiving and good, and he didn’t want his enemies to be given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven.

Well, God got Jonah to finally do what he was told, and everything happened as Jonah expected. People felt genuine repentance over their sin, and they were forgiven by the God they had sinned against.[2]

Jonah’s response was to be so angry he wanted to die. He was unforgiving of people who had repented. That is the kind of unforgiveness the Bible condemns. God was very gentle and compassionate in helping Jonah face his prejudice and hatred of his enemies, but the fact remains that God was expressing kindness to the people of the city in order to lead them to repentance so he could forgive them.[3] Jonah did not want to express God’s kindness to those people because he did not want them to know to repent because he did not want them to be forgiven.[4]

Jesus made it very clear that when someone is unrepentant, we are to agapè-love our enemies and pray, “Father, forgive them…”[5] When that is what is in our hearts, we will be ready to forgive the moment there is any indication of repentance, crying for mercy, or even an evident change of mind about their sin and an expression of trusting in Jesus.

If any of us have been struggling to accept God’s will about surrendering our bitterness to him because we think he requires us to forgive an unrepentant person, I encourage you that God nowhere shows this in his word. He never presents forgiveness as the solution to bitterness, and definitely has never required forgiveness in relation to the unrepentant.[6]

On the other hand, if we are holding bitterness against someone who has repented, that means we have not truly appreciated the gospel of grace. It took the death of Jesus Christ to give God a way to forgive our sins. We all have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God, we all were equally under the sentence of condemnation and death, and the good news of great joy promises forgiveness of sins to everyone who turns to Jesus in repentance and faith. If we have received that for ourselves through our repentance and faith, we will want all our enemies to come into the kingdom of Jesus Christ through the same gift of grace.

However, if any of us have never repented to God for our sins, we have never been forgiven. If that is the reason you can’t forgive, that is a simple one to fix.

For those who have received God’s forgiveness by grace through faith (including repentance), ask Jesus to help you agapè-love your enemies, pray for people who mistreat you, bless those who curse you, do good to people who seek your harm, and, when any of them repent, forgive them as freely as Jesus forgave you.

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 

 



[1] Even the parable of the unmerciful servant shows a man who was forgiven a great debt when he cried out for mercy but refused to forgive a small debt of a fellow servant when that man cried out for mercy (Matthew 18:23-35). The King said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” The unforgiveness was clearly in relation to a repentant person.

[2] Jonah 1 tells of Jonah’s call from God and his rebellion; chapter 2 shows Jonah’s prayer under discipline and his rescue; chapter 3 shows how he finally did God’s will, preached the word of God, and the people responded in repentance.

[3] Romans 2:4 is how Paul describes it.

[4] See Jonah 4:1-11 for Jonah’s displeasure with God forgiving these repentant people.

[5] Matthew 5:43-48 is where Jesus taught us to love and pray for our enemies. Agapè-love refers to the Greek word that speaks of seeking God’s best for others no matter what they are like towards us. Luke 23:34 is where Jesus prayed for his enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” emulating how we should pray for them, and be ready to forgive them when God answers that prayer by leading them to repentance.

[6] God’s solution to bitterness is our own repentance and faith. First we repent of our sin of bitterness, for bitterness is us handling the injustices against us in our own strength and flesh. Then we turn to God in faith that vengeance is his and that he will always do what is just.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Eternity in our Hearts

As soon as I looked up this verse from Ecclesiastes, I was reminded that one other verse comes up with the same search. The words I used were “eternity” and “heart”. 

This is what I was looking for: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”[1] 

This consideration that, “he has put eternity into man’s heart,” amazes me, and all the more as the finish line grows closer every day. 

The one other verse that came up with that search was this: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”[2] 

We cannot escape this connection between God putting eternity into our hearts and God inhabiting eternity. In his own words, he inhabits both the eternity that is his home and the life of the person who is contrite and lowly of spirit. 

The history of man begins with this action of God: “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”[3] 

What are human beings made of? Dust, dirt, soil.[4] 

Where did our life come from? The God who created us breathed into us the breath of life. 

What did the breath of life do to us? It made man a living creature. 

We all know that man is also a dying creature. Death came into the world because of sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,”[5] and, “the wages of sin is death.”[6] Sin destroyed the highest good of the life we were given, which was to walk with God our Creator. 

So now we have a creature that is both “dead in trespasses and sins… by nature children of wrath,”[7] and yet still with eternity in our hearts telling us we were made for more. At the same time, we have the God who inhabits eternity looking for the poor in spirit with whom he can live. 

But how do we get past death? What does it matter that eternity is in our hearts if our sins have killed us in one way and brought a death sentence over us in another way? 

The only hope for the world is that the same God who breathed into man the breath of life has also sent his Son into the world to restore us to life. 

When Jesus entered the world, he arrived with this declaration: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”[8] 

In Jesus was life. When Jesus breathed into the first man the breath of life, he was giving man the life that was in him. When Jesus came into the world of zombies that were living in death, the reality of life was still in him. And, for spiritually dead-man-walking people, this was the great light that would lead us back to life. 

So, what is the good news of great joy to the people living in darkness? 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”[9] 

This is the light, folks. God so loved the world of spiritual zombies that he gave us his only Son, the Creator who breathed into us the breath of life in creation, and through believing in Jesus Christ as Creator and Savior we will no longer perish in our sins but “have eternal life”, the life Jesus breathed into us in the beginning. 

God’s promise is that, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”[10] 

He says that eternal life is “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[11] 

Knowing the only true God and his Son begins with the God who inhabits eternity also coming into the lives of the poor in spirit who receive him, giving us eternal life now so that we begin getting to know him, and one day taking us to his dwelling place where the eternity he has already placed in our hearts will be fully satisfied in his presence forever. 

I urge you to look into the Book of Life, the Bible, the breathed-out words of God, and let your heart humble itself before him to admit that you are dead and dying without Jesus, and that you want to receive the life that is in the Son of the living God. 

As it is written, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”[12] 

The worst part of the coronavirus is the possibility that it could kill us. However, even this is no match for Jesus. He is “the resurrection and the life.” Whoever believes in him, “even though he die, yet shall he live.”[13]

 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 

 



[1] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[2] Isaiah 57:15

[3] Genesis 2:7

[4] This is easily verified by what we turn back into when we die!

[5] Romans 3:23

[6] Romans 6:23

[7] Ephesians 2:1-3

[8] John 1:4

[9] John 3:16

[10] John 3:36

[11] John 17:3

[12] John 20:30-31

[13] See John 11:25-26 (in context of John 11:1-57)