John 11:38-39, NIV
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a
cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the
stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead
man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there
four days."

 

October 12, 2011
First, Jesus commanded some of the mourners to open the grave. He
wasn't going to do this thing all by himself. Others had to cooperate. But
Martha protested--it can't be done; no, we should not open the tomb!
After all, Lazarus had been dead for four days. She thought they were
opening a literal "can of worms" which is a disgusting thought. Besides
it stinks in there. She probably remembered the smell of death as he
lay dying.

Those who watched Jesus observed that he was deeply moved. He
was about to do something he had never done before. He would bring
back to life a body that had already begun to decompose. I wonder if
Jesus was sweating at the thought of what he had put into motion?
How confident was he in what he was attempting? Did the human side
of Jesus ever worry?

Did he place his confidence in his heavenly Father and not in himself?
That's how many of the amazing things we do get accomplished. We
know God can do anything. What we don't know is whether God will
do what we ask and at the moment we ask.

Had others not cooperated with Jesus, would this miraculous sign have
been performed? Was the involvement of these mourners a sign of
their faith and proof that they did believe in Jesus?

The tears that Jesus shed that day--what was that all about? Was he
weeping because he loved Lazarus so much? Because of the ordeal
Mary and Martha were going through after he delayed so long in
coming to their aid? Because he had to go to these extremes to teach
these people to believe he was sent from God? Was Jesus crying
because of how this situation looked from God's point of view? Were
these divine tears or human tears? Maybe Jesus was getting a
glimpse of how his followers would feel when he "brought glory to
God by giving up his life." Death viewed from the human side can be
so tragic, and nothing like the triumphant homecoming as described
in Christian theology.

 

                                           John 11:40, NIV
40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you
would see the glory of God?"

 

Here's what Martha needed to do. She had to believe and trust Jesus.
The situation required her consent before they could remove the stone
door of the cave. She had to agree to exposing the stink and nastiness
of the burial site.

 

She had to believe that Jesus is what he had told her, the resurrection
and the life. Not on some "last day" but here and now, in this time and
place. Jesus was asking Martha to believe something no one else had
ever believed before! It's easier when there is precedent. But Jesus was
not establishing a precedent here. This was to be once and done, and
prelude to his own death and resurrection.

If Martha believed, she would see the glory of God. The word "glory" is
often associated in the New Testament with the death of Jesus. While
it was happening, his crucifixion appeared to people more like shame
and humiliation, yet Jesus claimed it would bring God glory. But that is
all in the future tense, and Martha lived in the present.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Martha submitted to the
appeal of Jesus. She gave in to his request and his ability to inspire
faith even in hopeless situations.

 

                                             John 11:41-42, NIV
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,
"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you
always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people
standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

 

October 13, 2011
After Jesus got everyone lined up and on board, and with the stone
rolled to the side and the entrance to the grave exposed, it was time to
pray aloud so everyone could hear and become involved. "Father, thank
you for hearing me." Jesus had already sent his request heavenward.
He knew God had heard him and always did hear him. The prayer at the
gravesite was not for the sake of Jesus but for those who had come to
the tomb with him. In order that the question of whether Jesus was sent
from God would be settled in the affirmative.

Jesus, strong and confident. Ready with one mighty sign to demonstrate
that he was sent from the Father, that he was one with the Father.
Knowing also that this one feat would create a great stirring of interest
among the masses, and an equal hostility among his opponents. Thus
it signaled the beginning of the time being right for Jesus to give up
his own life.

 

                                            John 11:43-44, NIV

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus,
come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet
wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus
said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

 

October 19, 2011
"Lazarus, come out!" Do you think that's what happened on Easter
morning?--God's voice permeated the tomb where the body of Jesus
had been laid and called out loudly. "Jesus my son, come out!"?

It's no use trying to figure out how Jesus resurrected Lazarus. Jesus
calling in a loud voice reminds me of the creation story in the beginning
of Genesis wherein God said, "Let there be light!", and there was light.
Jesus called out to Lazarus and Lazarus roused himself, stood up and
hobbled out of the grave. Then it was time for the mourners to participate
yet again. They had to remove the grave clothes and set him free. That
was their chance to touch the body of Lazarus and verify that he who
had been dead is now alive.

There is no further description about the event. We are just left there,
in a hush. Everyone is silent. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, the other mourners,
Jesus--no one spoke another word.

The reaction to this event will be mixed. But I imagine it will take days for
the magnitude of what they witnessed to sink in. The sheer surprise of
seeing Lazarus walk out of the tomb must have been stunning. The
turnaround of emotions--what would that be like?

I have heard sermons and read meditations which suggest we are all
like Lazarus in the sense of being bound and shackled by sin, or laid
low by so many things that bring us down. Even the ruts we are in serve
as graves. Then Jesus comes along and calls us by name, saying,
" . . . , come out!"

Symbolically, every morning we have a new chance, often with the help
of our friends, to unwrap the grave clothes and walk into a new day. We
are not doomed by what happened yesterday. Today is a new opportunity
to get it right, to start over, make amends, forgive ourselves and each
other, to sit and be quiet in God's presence.

For Jesus, this incident may have foreshadowed his own death and
resurrection. But for us it can mean our own breaking free, if not forever
at least for the moment, from the gloom of worry, stress and fear, from
our sins of not loving as we ought to love. It's an invitation Jesus offers
us every day, every moment, to come out into the miracle of renewal.
Of course it is God's will and great desire, that we stay out of the caves
of death. If Jesus is our life and resurrection, then we are not meant
to live in the pits.

"Lazarus, come out!" is like the dry bones that rattled back to life in
Ezekiel's vision. Jesus can give life to anyone no matter how dead!
E. Stanley Jones wrote that Jesus is "resurrecting your mind, your
body, your spirit, your hopes, your outlook, your everything. In him you
are resurrected now." Am I willing to believe and trust Jesus to fulfill
this promise in me? As Jesus had told Martha--If you believe, you
will see and experience the glory of God, not off in some distant
future, but here and now.

                     <prev                                                              next>