One minute he was dead. And the next minute, he was standing in marvelous light.
Yes, Lazarus died. In fact, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Wrapped in burial cloths with spices (visualize an Egyptian mummy and you get the picture), he was placed in a cave and a stone was rolled across the entrance.
Picking up the story from John 11:38-53, Jesus approached the cave and said, “Take away the stone.”
But practical Martha…the one who had once prioritized cleaning and cooking above spending time with Jesus… said, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad order, for he has been there four days.” I like the KJV of her reply. “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”
Gotta love helpful Martha and her honesty!
Regardless, the mourners obeyed. They removed the stone.
Jesus took a moment and thanked God, the Father. Then…
Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.” Again, the “they” obeyed. They had removed the stone that separated death from life and next, they removed the cloths that would set Lazarus free.
Every time I read this, I am touched by how Jesus includes others in His miracles. I’m amazed that He allows man to participate in His divine works on this earth. He doesn’t need help but He chooses to include us. And He does it for the purpose of increasing faith. His desire is for the unbeliever to believe and for the believer to grow in faith.
This past weekend, I witnessed God allowing the church to participate in something bigger than itself. My friend, Becky Kiser, author of the book Sacred Holidays (check out Beckykiser.com and join her podcast!), invited women to participate in #NewyearNewthingRetreat. She didn’t know if anyone would attend, other than her faithful friends, but she obeyed the nudging that God placed in her spirit. And 55 women accepted the invite. Most women didn’t know anyone else attending and they were diverse in their walks through life. But one thing they had in common…they wanted Jesus to show up.
So Becky prepared and did her part but then God took over. Lies women had believed about themselves were stripped away and destroyed. New life was breathed into weary souls. Passion for God’s plans for each woman was ignited. And commitment was made to seek God and His ways. I saw the church rise up and obey. And I saw God do what only He could do.
Lazarus didn’t leave the tomb intact. He was still bound by stinky grave clothes. We, those who have accepted the gift of eternal life with Jesus, did not become a sinless, holy people upon our “Yes” to Jesus’ lordship. Yes, we are considered sinless by God through the blood spilled on the cross, but we still struggle with sin that ensnares. We often need help with removing our “stinky” bindings.
Jesus gave birth to the church for His good purposes of loving one another. The church is multifaceted and complex but it is also simple. It is the body of Christ, His hands and feet, helping remove bindings so people can walk in freedom.
Many witnessed the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection. Many believed. Yet this beautiful miracle was a key factor that lead to Jesus’ death. Why? If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both out place and our nation.
The chief priests and Pharisees recognized that their status and power were at risk. So they began passionately plotting to kill Jesus.
However, they would never be able to kill the powerful foreshadowing we see of Jesus’ approaching death and resurrection. We also have reassurance of our resurrection from the grave one day and stepping into His marvelous light.
Questions to ponder:
Where have I witnessed resurrection of that which was once dead being brought back to life?
When have others helped me (or tried to help me) out of my “stinky” grave clothes? Am I helping others?