Thursday, April 10, 2014

Take the stone away

John 11:17-45

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus was already dead four days. Interestingly, the Expanded Bible translation noted: "Some Jews believed that a soul would stay near a body for up to three days after death."  Later in the text, Martha noted that Lazarus' body already had the odor of decay. So not only did Jesus wait for Lazarus to be dead---Lazarus was good and stinking dead.

This was the last test, the last practice, if you would, before Jesus would enter Jerusalem for the last time. The next death would be His own. This lesson, although painful, would be His last sign before His own resurrection. And so Jesus turns to Martha and says:

"I am the One Who raises the dead and gives them life. Anyone who puts his trust in Me will live again, even if he dies. Anyone who lives and has put his trust in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" 

Jesus has already shown His power over sickness, over demons, over the elements of nature. Now He will demonstrate His power over dead.

His point? He wants all to believe in Him.

And how does Martha do on her pre-test: let's see: 

She answered, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God. You are the One Who was to come into the world.”

Good job, Martha. But then Jesus raises the stakes. He goes with her to the tomb and makes the big ask:

“Take the stone away.” 

This time, Martha does not do so well. She replies: “Lord, by now his body has a bad smell. He has been dead four days.”

Martha is a lot like me. It is easy to sit here and type that I love Jesus and I believe in Him. It is a lot harder to agree to take the stone away. It means something has to happen. It means I expect the miracle to come true. That Jesus will be God, not only in the Bible, not only in theory. But in my real life. 

Martha thinks that too. In the beginning she told Jesus: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. I know even now God will give You whatever You ask.” - and - “I know that he will rise again when the dead are raised from the grave on the last day.” But that is not what Jesus said. He meant right now, in front of your face, I am going to do this for you and show My power in your life. 

I struggle with believing still. Even though I know this, there is this block in my mind, in my heart, in my "it could never happen to me" life. Dear Jesus, give me courage to trust You. To take the stone away. 

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say that if you would believe, you would see the shining-greatness of God?”

They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You for hearing Me. I know You always hear Me. But I have said this for the people standing here, so they may believe You have sent Me.” 

When He had said this, He called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!The man who had been dead came out. 

Look at His confidence with the Father. Look at how merciful He was with the sisters, tenderly redirecting them, encouraging them to believe. Thank You, Beloved for Your tenderness to me, to lead me gently.

Your point to Martha, Your test and preparation for Martha, is the same as the one you have for me. Do I believe in You? Yea? How much? How about this much? How about this much? And on and on You push and prod until we get it.

I don't want to be presumptuous but I want to have great faith. I want to not only SAY I believe but have the "take the stone away" trust in You. Thank You for continuing to push me, to teach me, to not give up on me, as You did not give up on Martha.

As a result, many of the Jews who had come with Mary saw what happened and believed in Him. 

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