I'm currently writing this on my phone as I've tried all day to write a post on the computer with no luck - so let's hope there's no awkward autocorrect mistakes as I am desperate to talk to you about this week's Sisters in Christ reading!! You'll have to excuse the lack of pictures and prettiness but luckily the gospel doesn't need any sparkles or graphics because it is SO incredible as is!
This week we're looking at John 11. In this chapter, we read another "stand out" story of the Bible. What do I mean by that? Well, whilst the entire bible is incredible in itself, there are certain stories and teachings that people tend to remember - and one of those stories we read here, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
I saw it in my youth group kids a couple of weeks ago. We were acting out this very scene from John 11 - but the kids already knew exactly what was going to happen next as they'd remembered the story after being told it months before. Now, they're bright kids but really, kids tend to remember more about boogers and celebrity gossip than Bible stories - but this one stood out to them. Sure they can mumble off the fruit of the spirit and give you a cliff notes version of the gospel, but this was one of the few stories they could really remember.
Why? Because it's pretty remarkable! Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was dead for four days and Jesus says to him; "Lazarus, come out!". The dead man walks from the tomb with his hands and feet still wrapped in sheets of linen and the cloth still covering his face. He was a man waiting to be buried - but Jesus gave him life!
But there's more to the story than that! You might remember that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead - but have you taken the time to really take in the entire story and think about what it means?
Lazarus wasn't just a random resident of Judea - he was the brother of Mary and Martha - the Mary who loved Jesus so much that she poured perfume on His feet. The sisters sent a message to Jesus, asking for His help - but He didn't come as they expected....
I think we all have those moments where we're waiting for Jesus and He doesn't fit our time frame. Sometimes it feels like He takes way too long to respond - sometimes it feels like He isn't listening at all (but He is!). Don't you think that's how Mary and Martha would have felt?
They sent word to Jesus - only to have their brother die before their eyes. Jesus was healing the blind and making the crippled walk and feeding thousands - but He didn't take the time to heal Lazarus. Surely their hearts were broken...
By Jesus had a reason as to why His response was delayed.
Jesus's delay didn't mean that he didn't like Martha or Mary (or us!) - His delay was due to the fact that He had other plans for them because He could see something that they could not.
Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus's illness would not end in death. Was He not listening to what He was told?! Did He not realise Lazarus was already dead? No, Jesus could see beyond death and knew that in this case (and the case of all believers!), death was not the end of the story. He knew that the purpose of Lazarus's death was to bring more glory to God.
Two days later, Jesus told His disciples they would be returning to Judea. This was a big surprise for them as Jesus was telling them they would be returning to what was, essentially, the danger zone. The disciples couldn't fathom why Jesus would want to put them all in jeopardy but Jesus responded with a cryptic comment;
"Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by the world's light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light"
And He told them, presumably whilst they were still scratching their heads as we are wondering what He meant, that He needed to go and wake Lazarus up - and off they went.
Jesus's disciples must have been used to the mysterious, confusing nature of some of Jesus's comments as they had somewhat of a roundabout way of getting more information. They pointed out that the literal meaning of His comment didn't make sense; if Lazarus was asleep, he could wake up by himself - so why risk their lives to wake him up?
Jesus explained; Lazarus was dead.
But then He went on to say that He was glad He wasn't there. Why? Because His disciples might believe what was about to happen.
Jesus was about to do something that was far more awe inspiring than simply making a sick man well. Not only was He going to raise Lazarus back to life - He knew exactly what was going on the whole time from all that way away and He knew exactly what was going to happen next.
Jesus had light which His disciples could not see. It was this light which told Him of His own death in Judea (and His resurrection). Jesus had complete control over all that happened - but whilst He could have stopped everything from happening (even His own death), He chose to do what He did because that was what He had come to do.
Jesus gave life to Lazarus and He would soon give His life for the people. Jesus had power over death - even His own. Jesus became mortal so that He could die - and whilst that may seem like a tragedy. It was for our salvation and an incredible gift!
God brought incredible good out of evil.
We can't see the bigger picture of life, stumbling in the darkness - but God can always see the realities which we cannot. We have to trust God to work things out in the way that He knows best.
Just like Mary and Martha, we may not feel that God is working to our time frame or expectations - but He is doing something far greater, in line with His plan for us. We may not realise it at the time, but that's exactly what He is doing. Mary and Martha could have kicked up a fuss, but they trusted Jesus and their brother walked from the grave alive and well.
Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would live again (though Martha assumed He was talking about the final day) and He says to her;
"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they will die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
And in response, Martha says yes. She believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Martha knew that life and resurrection could only be found in Christ.
But Lazarus isn't the only person Jesus will ressurect. In fact, Jesus will awaken us all. He calls out to all who are spiritually dead - and some walk from that tomb to find new life in Jesus. But just like Lazarus needed help removing his grave clothes, we need to help these people who are alive again.
As the church, we need to help roll that stone away - even though doing so might uncover a stench or something unpleasant - because there is so much laying behind that stone. We can help the people who are responding to Jesus's call.
It's not about us. We can't change hearts or attitudes - but Jesus can. We don't have to rely on our own strength because we rely on His. We have to act as Disciples of Jesus Christ, serving Him by serving and loving others and helping those people take the very first steps out of the tomb and into the light.