I attended a conference for preachers a month or so ago and one of the speakers shared a message from John 11 that really affected how I think about a sermon, but more importantly about how I think about the lessons learned from the raising of Lazarus. I shared these thoughts with a group of our leaders before a strategy session a few weeks ago.
In John chapter 11 we read about the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is informed that his friend Lazarus had died. He told the disciples that He needed to go back to Bethany because Lazarus had fallen ill. The disciples told him it was a bad idea because there were people along the way that would want to kill Jesus. Long story short, they went back anyway.
When Jesus approached, Martha was the first to run out to Him and express that if He had been there Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus told her Lazarus would live to which Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (meaning judgment day. She had been listening) Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall never die.”
Next Mary approached Jesus with the same words, “If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.” With Mary, Jesus wept. Teaching us that Jesus meets us where we are. Martha needed instruction. Mary simply needed consoling.
Jesus went to the tomb. Lazarus had been in there four days and Martha told Jesus it was going to smell. Jesus neverminded that comment, approached the tomb, and yelled, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came out, wrapped like a mummy and Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
I won’t steal everything the guy at the conference said, but here are some takeaways. Jesus could have been there when Lazarus was sick and healed him. We read about that scenario several times in the Bible. However, Jesus had a better story for people to see and tell. And what almost kept the people there from experiencing a better story? With the disciples it was fear. With Mary and Martha it was wanting Jesus to do things their way. For Lazarus, it was mummy clothes.
What keeps you and I from a better story? Many of us have a story of redemption we can tell. A story of how God took us from death to life. But, doesn’t He have more in store for us? What keeps us from experiencing a better story? Maybe it’s fear. Fear of becoming an outcast. Fear of rejection. Fear of death perhaps. When we realize God has a better story in mind, we can set aside fear to boldly follow.
Maybe what keeps us from a better story is that we want God to do things our way. But, our way, as awesome as our dreams can be, does not measure up to the greatness of God and His plans for the universe. Sometimes we need our human thinking to take a back seat while God does His thing.
Maybe what keeps us from a better story are the bindings of death that try to keep us down. Jesus said in John 16, “In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Let’s not let the death trap of the world hold us back from following Jesus, without fear, into a dying world and help free people from eternal death.
Right before I started writing this I saw a post on Facebook of Carrie Underwood singing the song, “Because He Lives.” Do you remember that chorus? “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth living just because He lives.
Lazarus faced death twice in his life so we could read a better story. Jesus died once in His life so that we could have a better story. Blessings to you this week as God writes another chapter on your heart.