Lazarus, come out!

Most of us know the story: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It was a tremendous miracle that showed that Jesus has the power to raise us from the dead, too. But the story contains even more and John includes some details that may have a deeper meaning for us today. I pray that if I share some of my thoughts with you, I'm not doing history wrong.

Notice the way John narrates this story: Lazarus was not just any inhabitant of Judea - he was the brother of Martha and Mary, Mary, who loved Jesus so much that she poured precious anointing oil over his feet. The sisters called out to Jesus, "Lord, behold, whom you love is sick." (Jn 11,1-3). This sounds like a cry for help, but Jesus did not come.

A deliberate delay

Do you sometimes feel like the Lord is delaying His answer? Certainly Mary and Martha felt that way, but the delay does not mean that Jesus does not like us. It means that he has another plan in mind because he can see something we do not see. As it turns out, Lazarus was already dead by the time the messengers reached Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus said that this disease would not end in death. Was he wrong? No, because Jesus could look beyond death and in that case he knew that death would not be the end of the story. He knew that the purpose was to glorify God and his Son (v. 4). Nevertheless, he let his disciples think that Lazarus would not die. This is also a lesson for us because we do not always understand what Jesus really means.

Two days later, Jesus surprised his disciples by suggesting going back to Judea. They did not understand why Jesus wanted to return to the danger zone, so Jesus responded with a puzzling commentary on walking in the light and the dawning of darkness (v. 9-10). Then he told them he had to go to raise Lazarus.

The disciples were apparently used to the mysterious nature of some of Jesus' remarks, and they found a detour to get more information. They pointed out that the literal meaning makes no sense. If he sleeps, then he will wake up by himself, so why risk our lives by going there?

Jesus declared, "Lazarus died" (v. 14). But he also said, "I'm glad I was not there." Why? "That ye may believe" (v. 15). Jesus would do a miracle that would be more amazing than just stopping the death of a sick man. But the miracle was not just to bring Lazarus back to life - it was also that Jesus had knowledge of what happened 30 kilometers away and the knowledge of what would happen to him in the near future.

He had light that they could not see - and this light revealed to him his own death in Judea - and his own resurrection. He was in complete control of the events. He could have prevented the capture if he had wanted it; he could have stopped the trial in one word, but he did not. He decided to do what he had come to earth for.

The man who gave life to the dead would also give his own life to the people, because he had the power over death, even over his own death. He came to this earth as a mortal man to die, and what at first glance looked like a tragedy was in reality for our salvation. I do not want to claim that any tragedy that happens is in fact planned or good by God, but I believe that God is able to bring good from evil and he sees the reality that we can not.

He looks beyond death and masters the events no less today than then - but it is often as invisible to us as it was to the disciples in John 11. We just can not see the big picture and sometimes we stumble in the dark. We need to trust God to do things in the way he thinks best. Sometimes we may experience how things work for the better, but often we just have to take him to the floor.

Jesus and his disciples went to Bethany and learned that Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days. The mourning speeches had been held and the funeral was long over - and finally the doctor comes over! Martha said, perhaps with a little despair and hurt: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (v. 21). We called you a few days ago and if you had come then Lazarus would still be alive. But Martha had a glimmer of hope - a little light: "But even now I know: what you ask of God that we give you to God" (V. 22). Maybe she said it was a bit too daring to ask for a resurrection, but she suggests something. "Lazarus will live again," Jesus said, and Martha answered, "I know he will rise again" (but I was hoping for something a little bit sooner). Jesus said, "That's good, but did you know that I am the resurrection and the life? If you believe in me, they will never die. Do you believe that? "Martha then said in one of the most pervasive statements in the Bible," Yes, I believe that. You are the Son of God "(v. 27).

Life and resurrection can only be found in Christ - but can we believe today what Jesus said? Do we really believe that "who lives and believes in me, he will never die?" I wish we could all understand this better, but I know for sure that in the resurrection we will have a life that will never end.

In this age, we all die, just as Lazarus and Jesus will have to "raise us." We die, but for us this is not the end of history, just as it was not the end of Lazarus's story. Marta went to get Mary and Mary came to Jesus crying. Jesus also cried. Why did he cry when he already knew that Lazarus was going to live again? Why did John write this down when John knew that joy was "just around the corner"? I do not know - I do not always know why I cry, even on happy occasions.

But I believe the statement is that it is okay to cry at a funeral even though we know that person will be raised to immortal life. Jesus promised that we would never die and yet death still exists.

He is still an enemy, death in this world is still something that is not what it will be in eternity. Even though eternal joy is "just around the corner", sometimes we feel times of deep sadness, even though Jesus loves us. When we cry, Jesus weeps with us. He can see our sadness in this age just as he can see the joys of the future.

"Take the stone away" said Jesus and Mary held out to him: "There will be a stench, because he is already four days dead."

Is there anything in your life that stinks, something that we do not want Jesus to expose, "by rolling the stone away?" There is probably something like that in the life of every human being, something we would rather keep hidden But sometimes Jesus has other plans because he knows things we do not know and we just have to trust him. So they rolled away the stone and Jesus prayed and then exclaimed, "Lazarus, come out!" "And the deceased came out," John tells us - but he was not really dead. He was tied like a dead man with gravevings, but he went. "Give him the bandages," said Jesus, "and let him go!" (V. 43-44).

Jesus' call also goes to the spiritually dead today and some of them hear his voice and come out of their graves - they come out of the stench, they come out of the selfish mindset that leads to death. And what do you need? They need someone to help them get rid of their gravevine, get rid of the old ways of thinking that are so easy on us. This is one of the tasks of the church. We help people move the stone away, even though it may stink, and we help people who respond to Jesus' call.

Do you hear Jesus' call to come to Him? It's time to get out of your "grave". Do you know someone who calls Jesus? It's time to help them move their stone away. That's something worth pondering.

by Joseph Tkach

pdfLazarus, come out!