Thursday, April 2, 2020
Text: John 11:38-44
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Overcome with emotion, Jesus finally arrived at the entrance to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. The grave was not one like we would find here, a hole in the ground, but it was in fact a cave with a large stone to cover the entrance. There is no indication that Lazarus was a man of extravagant wealth, which means that he would have been wrapped up and buried in a common grave, alongside everyone else.
Thinking that Jesus wanted to see his friend one last time to pay his respects, Martha objected to his request to remove the stone. Lazarus had now been dead for four days. Decomposition was well underway and there would be an incredibly strong and unpleasant odor, or, as the King James Version so eloquently puts it, “he stinketh.” But the horrific stench was no obstacle to what Jesus had in mind. Although Martha had just proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, she did not, or could not, believe or understand all that this meant.
They removed the stone at the entrance of the cave, and the entire crowd of onlookers heard Jesus pray to His Father, as He thanked Him in advance for what He was about to do. With a loud voice, Jesus called into the darkness of the cave, “Lazarus, come out.” Then, with all the theatrics of mummy come to life, the previously-dead man shuffled out of the door, still wrapped from head to toe in the strips of linen he had been wrapped in. More than one commentator has noted that if Jesus had not precluded His command “come out” with the name “Lazarus”, it is possible that the entirety of the remaining population of the cave would have shuffled right out behind Jesus’ friend.
In spite of His delay, in spite of the doubts, in spite of the tears, even in spite of the stench, nothing could stop Jesus from doing exactly what He intended all along. Why did Jesus not heal when He first heard of the sickness? Why did He allow Lazarus to die? Why did He delay His arrival, allowing Martha and Mary to endure the grief and sorrow of losing their beloved brother? He said back in verse 15, “For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” The pain, the waiting, the sadness; all were vehicles to move people to faith. Although it seemed like Jesus was passive and unresponsive in the moment, He was waiting patiently for just the right moment to unleash His power.
Only Jesus could take the untimely death of a brother and friend and turn it into an opportunity to believe, praise, and glorify God. He still has that power today. As Genesis 1 and John 1 tell us, it was by His voice that Jesus created the world, the universe, all that we know, at the very beginning. His voice still has the power to raise the dead to life, as He did that day for Lazarus. He speaks authoritatively today in the hearts of all who believe, transforming cold, dead, hearts of stone into warm, living, hearts of flesh. He has the power to not just meet, but exceed, even our wildest expectations for Him. Do we believe it?
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You are our good and mighty God. Help us to remember that Your character and power are the same today as they have always been and always will be. Remind us that in the midst of the chaos and pain of our lives, even during the times that You appear to be silent, You are sovereign and active. We pray that you would take what satan, the world, and even our sinful natures intend for evil, and you would use those things for Your glory. We thank You for the work that You have already done in our lives, and ask that You would give us faith to continue to trust in You and You alone. We ask this in Your Great Name. Amen.