Lazarus come out!

531 lazarus come outDo you know the story of Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead? It was a tremendous miracle that shows us that Jesus has the power to raise us from the dead, too. But the story contains much more and John tells some details that have a deeper meaning for us today.

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

Do you sometimes feel as though God is delaying his answer? Certainly Mary and Martha felt that way, but the delay does not mean that Jesus did not like them, but rather that he had another plan in mind because he could see something they could not see. As it turned out, by the time the messengers reached Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. Jesus said this illness would not end in death. Was he wrong? No, because Jesus looked beyond death and knew that death would not be the end of the story, he knew that the purpose was to glorify God and his Son (verse 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 about walking in the light and the dawn. Then he speaks to them: "Lazarus, our friend, sleeps, but I go to wake him up" (verse 11).

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," and continued, "I'm glad I was not there." Why? "So you believe". Jesus would do a miracle that is more amazing than just stopping the death of a sick man. The miracle was not simply to bring Lazarus back to life - it was more about Jesus knowing about what happened 30 kilometers away from them, and knowing what would happen to him in the near future.

He had a light that they could not see - and that light revealed to him his own death and resurrection in Judea. 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 was ready to give his own life for the people, for he had the power over death, even over his own death. He came to this earth as a mortal man so he could die, and what at first glance looked like a tragedy had actually happened 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 we can not see.

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. We just can not see the big picture and sometimes we stumble in the dark. We should trust God to do things in the way that best suits them.

Jesus and his disciples went to Bethany and learned that Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days. The funeral speeches were held and the funeral was over - and finally the doctor comes by! Martha said, perhaps with a little desperation and hurt: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (verse 21). We called you a few days ago and if you had come then Lazarus would still be alive.

I would also have been disappointed - or, more apt, upset, angry, hysterical, desperate - have not you? Why did Jesus let her brother die? Yes why? We often ask the same question today - why did God let my loved ones die? Why did he allow this or that disaster? If there is no answer, we turn away from God angrily. But Maria and Marta, though they were disappointed, hurt and a little angry, did not turn away. Martha had a glimmer of hope - she saw a little light: "But even now I know: what you ask of God, that will give you God" (verse 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 hoped 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, you will never die. Do you think the?"

Martha then said in one of the most pervasive statements in the Bible, "Yes, I believe that. You are the Son of God" (verse 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 there and believes in me, he will never die?" I wish we could all understand this better, but I know with certainty that the resurrection will reveal a new life that will never end ,

In this age we all die, as well as Lazarus and Jesus, but Jesus will raise us up. We're dying, but that's not the end of the story for us, nor is it 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 the joy "just around the corner" lives? 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.

Death is still an enemy. He is still something in this world that is not what it will be in eternity. Sometimes we feel times of deep sadness, even when 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.

"Lift 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 you do not want Jesus to expose, "by rolling the stone away?"

There is something like this in the life of every human being, something we would rather keep hidden. Sometimes Jesus has other plans because he knows things we do not know and we can just trust him. So they rolled the stone away and Jesus prayed and shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" "And the deceased came out," John tells us - but he was no longer dead. He was tied like a dead man with gravevings, but he left , "Give him the bandages," said Jesus, "and let him go!" (Verse 43-44).

Jesus' call also goes to today's spiritual dead and some of them hear his voice and come out of their graves. They come out of the stink, of the selfish way of thinking that led to death. What do you need? They need someone to help them get rid of their grave cloths to 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, though it may stink, and we help people who respond to Jesus' call.

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

by Joseph Tkach