Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lessons from Lazarus

I always joke about what I'm going to be when I grow up. What I want to be isn't the funny part, but the fact that I still don't feel like I've grown up yet. Absolutely, by the standard of chronology alone, I am an adult. But I still feel like there is so much in front of me. My favorite saying is that if you woke up breathing today, God has a plan for your life. I am in that cool place of being excited about the plan. I love that He continues to refine the vision He has given me.

I want to major in stone-work, with a minor in communications. To put this in less cryptic terms, we need to read a familiar account with fresh eyes. John 11 recounts the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Lazarus was dead; that is not in dispute. Four days had passed since he was bound in cloth strips and laid in the tomb. When Jesus arrived on the scene, the mourning was in full swing. The sisters, Mary and Martha, were upset with Jesus for not coming sooner, when His presence might have made a difference. His answer: I am the Resurrection.

Let's stop here and process for a minute. Lazarus was dead in a pretty basic use of the word: there was  no life in his body. But the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead as well,dead in our trespasses and sins,  before we allow the grace of God to enter our lives. It is a much less obvious form of death, but even more crucial, because it is harder to see, at least through our own eyes.

Jesus asked the women to take Him to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. Once there, He commanded the people to roll away the stone blocking the entrance. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, All-powerful, Who created everything in the earth, asked the people to roll away the stone. He could have done whatever He does to move and create things, exploded it into a thousand pieces, caused it to roll away itself, but He invited the people into His work. He allowed them to take part in the transformation of Lazarus from death to life. When the sisters saw what He was up to, they were skeptical. "Lord, He stinketh already" are the words recorded.

Ever been around someone so lost in their sin that they "stink"? I know I am guilty of seeing people as too far gone to be helped, including myself at one time. Based on scripture, though, we know that God does not want anyone lost. Is is possible that the stench of sin is what an invitation smells like? An invitation to share the light and the hope of Christ with someone?

When the stone was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, Jesus called "Lazarus, come forth." It was the words of Jesus that held the power, not the act of rolling away the stone, but the people were still allowed to participate. Can you imagine what it was like to have been there that day? Telling your kids and grandkids, "I helped roll away the stone at the Lord's command, and then the dead man came walking out." Talk about falling on your face in worship! A front row seat to see God at work!

God has given us as believers a chance to take part in this very miracle. We are commanded, actually, to be stone-movers, to offer counsel, to speak the truth in love, to those who are dead in their sins. Picture yourself as a holy sledge hammer in the Hands of God, crushing the boulders of sin that are keeping people from life. We can take part in the miracle of the Lord's work of bringing those people who carry the smell of death into life. Just for clarification sake, I know that once we have accepted Christ as Savior we are no longer sentenced to death. But consider the next instruction given...

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, walking, he was still bound by the strips of cloth that embalmed him. The next thing Jesus commanded the people was to "Unbind him, and let him go." Do you know anyone who has accepted Christ, is saved, but still bound by their own trangression? Jesus used human hands to free Lazarus from his final restraint, which is our invitation and example to do the same.

One final thought, from the perspective of Lazarus. Can you see him, blinking and squinting against the light of day, after having been bound in a prison of darkness with no sight for four days? Ever been around a new believer, someone fresh from the pit, who can't seem to get enough of the Light? They are not seeing anything the rest of us aren't, but they are seeing the dazzling brilliance of Christ with a clarity I'm afraid we lose over time.

When I grow up, I want to be the hands that Jesus uses to roll away the stones of sin and shame that lock people in a tomb of death. I want to be the voice that gently leads them to the truth, that although the smell of death surrounds them, there is Power at work that is waiting to free them. I want to be a voice, heard with the ear or read with the eye, that will help unbind my spiritual sisters from the strips that hold them captive, even if they are not in the tomb of eternal death anymore. On my own, I know I have no power to do anything. But when we allow ourselves to be used of God, with whatever gift He has generously given, we are given the privilege, if not the responsibility, to be stone-workers, to help open the door to the Lord's working in the lives of others.

Give me eyes to see, Lord, the rocks clearly, that block the entrance to freedom, that I might help open the way to You. Give me ears to hear, Lord, Your command when it is time to roll away that stone. Give me a heart to trust, Lord, that Your timing is perfect, that You are the Resurrection, and in You, death has lost its sting.

1 comment:

  1. ahh, yes--to keep that which so quickly gets lost--seeing Christ as if for the first time. Being amazed by who He is and what He continually does...that is the cry of my heart as well. so well put--thanks!