Have you ever attempted to consider all the potential you have in your life because of Christ? Being created by Him and having His Word in your heart, you now discover God Himself is living inside you. Though we did not know this in the past, why shouldn't we take full advantage of it from this point on? It's only a matter of focusing more intently on Christ's words to find clearer direction. Christ was orchestrating this whole scene with the death of Lazarus, who was about to emerge in power and great glory:
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
All eyes are on Christ as He now makes His way to the dead Lazarus who has been buried for four days. Even still, no one has yet picked up on what's going on as they follow Him to the tomb. As the stone is rolled away, Christ begins to pray. Though He is brokenhearted, He remains intent upon encouraging them in their faith. Let's take a closer look at how all of this developed:
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
As we know, these "Jews" or Judaeans consisted of Edomites and Israelites who lived in Judaea. Regardless, they were all very religious. Here, they have their eyes fixed on Christ and what He is about to do. On top of that, they cried, "Behold", turning the attention of anyone else around to whatever Christ was going to do. GOD CAN USE ANYTHING TO GET OUR ATTENTION WHERE HE WANTS IT TO BE.
What we have here is a subjective observation being expressed with emphasis. Yet no matter how well someone may think they are at overstating the obvious, nothing makes up for a lack of faith. Mere observations or even stating facts about Christ is not the same as believing in or living for Christ. We may assume they know Christ because they convincingly express things about Him. Yet what it comes down to is whether or not it shows forth in their lives. All eyes were upon Him, including the scrutiny of the religious. Though they saw Him, at this point, they still had no faith in Him. The good news for us is, though we have never actually laid eyes on Him, we can still believe!
Oh, how we can so easily misunderstand Christ. You don't have to be a former judeochristian to be a modern day Pharisee. All it takes is for one to be convinced that everything he believes is right and that everyone else better bow down to his ideas. How could they perceive why He wept, whether they were Israelites or not? For they were so puffed up in their own ideas they couldn't even recognize Who He was, much less what was behind His tears- His people's lack of faith.
37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
Based upon the twisted logic of this rhetorical question, one could easily conclude, "Well, it just must not have been God's will" that is, if we didn't already know the rest of the story here. Objectively speaking, this verse captures the nature of an attitude most of us have adopted thru judeochristianity. Though not readily understood, we have been limiting God in our own lives thru this dismissive way of thinking, which has led to us having little or no faith in God. Believing that God is All-powerful and is capable of doing all things is one thing. While believing He would actually do something personally for you or someone you know is quite another. Not believing He would actually do something for you or someone you care for is why we are not experiencing the Hand of God in our lives as we should. This philosophy does not come from the Scriptures.
As Yahweh told Moses, and as we like to say repeatedly, Yahweh is the Ever-present I AM, therefore our faith is to always be in the NOW. Therefore, Biblical faith is believing God wants to do things in our present situations. Essentially, what good is faith if we never see it in relation to ourselves or someone else we know? By all means we should believe what is written in the Bible. But do we really believe what is written in the Bible if we refuse to believe God will do something in our lives today? "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to day, and for ever." STOP SEEING CHRIST DOING THINGS ONLY IN THE PAST BY BELIEVING HE CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE IN YOUR LIFE TODAY.
Refuse to no longer dismiss the privilege and neglect your responsiblity as an Israelite and a Christian to believe, thinking God's ways are now different than they were in the days when the Scriptures were written. When someone's desire they've asked God for comes to pass, we should rejoice with them, not say, "Ah, that would have happened anyway." That attitude is nothing more than a lazy cop-out, and the indication that that individual thinks they have it all figured out, exposing they have no faith.
The reason Christ instructed us to pray, and said specifically, "Thy will be done", is because it is God's will for us to pray believing He wants to do things in our lives. God is in control and all things work in accordance with His will. He also gets great glory when someone asks Him to do the impossible by intervening in their life! Indeed the Bible does say, "And it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment." Yet God is going to receive tremendous glory by raising up Lazarus from the dead, which means he will actually die twice. Therefore it pleases God for us to ask Him in faith to perform things which are out of the ordinary at times, to bring Him glory and honor. If all life is about is "Well, I guess this or that did not happen because it wasn't God's will" then why does the Bible tell us to pray and believe concerning anything? There is a clear testimony to God's divine intervention as a result of prayer and faith in the Old Testament Scriptures which refutes this whole, fatalistic idea:
II KINGS 20:1-7
1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. 2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, 3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. 4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. 7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
HERE IS A CLEAR BIBLICAL TESTIMONY THAT GOD WILL INTERVENE IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES AS A RESULT OF OUR FAITH. The Scriptures clearly state the king was "sick unto death". If that's not clear enough Yahweh Himself spoke to Hezekiah thru the prophet and said, "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live." But then it says Hezekiah "prayed unto the LORD". Before the prophet "Isaiah was gone out into the middle court," the Scriptures proclaim that "the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people... I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee... I will add unto thy days fifteen years". The prayer of King Hezekiah moved God. AFTER GOD ALMIGHTY HIMSELF HAD DECLARED THAT HE WOULD DIE, "he recovered" again as a result of Hezekiah's own prayer.
If King Hezekiah would have bought into what so many are teaching today, he would have died and missed out on fifteen more years of serving God in this life. WHAT WILL WE MISS OUT ON FROM OUR GRACIOUS, LOVING GOD IF WE DO NOT REPENT OF THIS SUBTLE, MAN-MADE PHILOSOPHY?! Talk about having regrets! THEREFORE, BIBLICAL FAITH MEANS NOT ALWAYS ACCEPTING THAT GOD DOESN'T WANT TO INTERVENE. This aligns perfectly with our text, as Lazarus is dead and Christ is troubled because nobody believed. If having faith doesn't mean anything to God, then how come Jesus wept? Besides, how are we to have the abundant life and do the greater works Christ promised unless God wants to intervene thru our faith? Stop believing in a fatalistic, hit-and-miss god and embrace our Immutable Father Who is ever merciful, Who at the depths of His Divine Essence is Infinite Love.
Found in another place in the Gospels, it says of Christ, "And He did not do many miracles there..." why? Because it wasn't God's will? No- "because of their unbelief". It is a lack of faith on the part of sorry, irresponsible Christians that prevents God from intervening. Those who teach our people to cop-out on trusting God are a huge part of the problem, not the solution. STOP TAKING FAITH FOR GRANTED WHEN THE SCRIPTURES TEACH THAT WHATSOEVER IS NOT OF FAITH IS SIN, AND THAT IT IS IMPOSSILBE TO PLEASE GOD WITHOUT IT. As Christians we should avoid anyone who tries to explain away the power of prayer and the importance of faith in our daily Christian lives.
WE PROVE WE BELIEVE WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE PAST BY BELIEVING AND TRUSTING CHRIST IN OUR LIVES EACH DAY. Does it make any sense at all for someone to use the Scriptures to prove why people shouldn't live by faith? They are like the Judaeans in our text who thought they could read Christ so well. Yet they did not even understand why Christ was weeping or consider what Christ could do to change the present situtation with Lazarus, even as they watched Him make His way to the grave. So many think they know Christ, but they do not understand His ways because they look for ways to minimize others' faith in His effectiveness. They try to reason and qualify why He did not do something, completely outside of faith. The ones who downplay or discourage people from believing in God's power to intervene in our situations are actually criticizing God more than anybody else. BUT THOSE WHO WANT TO BELIEVE WILL EVENTUALLY WITNESS THE GLORY OF GOD AND REJOICE IN IT.
Here we get to a critical place in this narrative, where everyone is gathering to the scene and Jesus is weeping. The religious critics pour more cold water on the situation by publically stating their own carnal perception. They could only think of Christ in terms of what He once did, rather than what He could do now. Many, who even claim to be believers, see Him as One Who arbitrarily blesses some while ignoring the outcry and needs of others. OUR GOD SEES THRU EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE TO THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE. He is not interested in proving our explanations and excuses for not having faith. He is looking for those who will believe in Him to do the impossible.
They were trying to use what He had already accomplished as a way to discredit Him; imagine that. They were attempting to limit Christ based upon what He had already done. Yet our God is unlimited in power and has limitless capabilities still today. We should never limit God within our lives by what we think He cannot or will not do. We only limit ourselves when we seek to put conditions and limits on Him.
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Christ's sorrow over their lack of faith does not seem to dissipate even after He leaves Mary's presence. He continues to carry a heavy heart as He makes His way "to the grave." This foreshadowed what would begin in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He shed many tears and then His precious blood on the cross for our sins. Christ saw "a cave, and a stone lay upon it" which foreshadowed His burial. Now however, resurrection will occur with the living Christ standing outside the tomb, rather than being raised from the dead within it. THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE KNEW FULL WELL WHAT ALL OF THIS FORETOLD AND MEANT.
As He gets to the grave, He still has a broken heart. You can imagine His arrival, along with the crowd. THE ATTENTION OF ALL IN THE COMMUNITY WHO KNEW OF THE SITUATION WITH LAZARUS AND THIS FAMILY WAS UPON WHAT CHRIST WOULD DO NEXT. How would you prefer Christ to approach impossible situations in your life? When He looks in your heart does He see something with little more hope than a grave? Or does He see faith with expectancy and the potential to do the impossible for His honor and glory? Our eyes must be upon Him.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
You could imagine the gasps as this had to be the last thing many would expect to hear Him tell them to do as He stood outside the tomb, "Take ye way the stone". In order for Him to perform this miracle, He felt the stone must be moved. Some were probably thinking, "Isn't it already bad enough He let Lazarus die?!" or "Why continue to put this family, and everyone else in the community for that matter, thru all of this." Yet this was the final step that had to be taken in order for this miracle to take place in their midst. Right now He may be saying in your heart concerning something in your life, "Take ye away..." such and such- Will you do it? IT MAY BE ALL THAT STANDS BETWEEN YOU AND EXPERIENCING GOD'S GLORY.
But why did He have to involve others in this; could not have Jesus just moved the stone Himself? It was a test of faith for them to see who would trust Him. No one would ever forget the ones who obeyed Him by moving the stone, for they were putting their credibility and reputation on the line for Him. You could imagine someone whispering, "Well, I never! Anyone would be crazy to do that." When it comes right down to it, for you to take Christ's words to heart regarding faith, and apply them to your own life, people may think you are crazy in this faithless society. From an earthly perspective, what He was telling them to do was ridiculous, disrespectful, even sacrilegious. Yet those who stepped up to remove the stone proved they believed in Him. What has God laid upon your heart to do, to prove you believe in Him? Are you willing to obey His voice by taking what could be the next or even last step toward your great blessing? You are if you are a believer in Christ.
Without any hesitancy, Martha exposes her own reluctance by expressing her concern for embarrassment over the odor. She is so focused on keeping up appearances that she's completely missing the magnitude of what is about to take place in this moment. BEING PREOCCUPIED WITH INSIGNIFICANT THINGS MAKES US INSENSITIVE TO WHAT CHRIST MAY BE DOING. Don't forget, she's the only one Christ directly told what was going to happen with Lazarus, yet she ends up being the one who raises such a stink.
This proves that just because someone has gathered some great information, that does not mean they necessarily comprehend spiritual things very well. Though Martha had been given great knowledge, even directly from Christ, she still seemed to be the most clueless and worried of them all. THE ONE WHO HAD THE MOST INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON DID NOT HAVE A CLUE WHEN IT CAME TO HAVING FAITH IN CHRIST. So for some silly reason, she was trying to prevent Christ from putting the finishing touch on an event which was going to be a great blessing to her family.
CHRIST IS RIGHT AT THE POINT OF BRINGING HER BROTHER BACK TO LIFE AND STILL ALL SHE CAN FOCUS ON IS THE EMBARRASSMENT OF HIS DEATH. Are you willing to go thru a few embarrassing circumstances to see Him do the impossible in your life? Are you willing to walk thru the valley of the shadow of death to see Him bring new life?! While learning to live by faith, you will experience brief, temporary discomforts in order to witness something beautiful coming to life for the glory of God. Stop focusing on the trivial and fix your eyes on Him. NOTE HIS PATIENCE AS HE GIVES HER ONE MORE CHANCE TO PICK UP ON THIS:
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
ALL EYES ARE NOW ON THE DIRECTOR AS THEY'RE ABOUT TO WITNESS THE GLORY OF GOD. Once again, He challenges Martha to realize how important it is for her to believe His words. This illustrates how abundantly merciful God truly is with us even in critical times. He is directing her to assume her role as a believer yet again. Some cannot see how God's glory waits behind the barriers we've made, or even beyond a little temporary embarrassment.
VIEW YOUR OLD WAY OF LIVING AND THINKING AS A TOMB YOU ARE READY TO RISE UP OUT OF, EVEN LEAVING BEHIND SOME OF OUR OLD BELIEFS. Leave your past in the dust along with the cold, darkness of your failures, as they remain in the grave behind you. No matter how much you think life stinks, God can cleanse and give you victory over all your defeats, as you begin obeying the words of the Director, Yahshua Christ. Just as Christ is reminding her of something He had already told her not long ago, our inner man can remind us of things if we will just control our thoughts and not dwell too much on our senses.
No matter what, the show must go on; the Director doesn't allow her to distract Him. In the midst of all that can pull your attention away, keep your mind on His words and His glory. When fleshly concerns and uncomfortable circumstances begin to get to you, remind yourself of His promises. What it comes down to is if you long to see the glory of God enough, you will sustain your belief.
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
As Christ was still dealing with Martha, they removed the stone, removing what stood between Christ bringing Lazarus back to life. What stands in the way of you coming to life in your spiritual walk? Could it be some old, worn-out beliefs? Is it fear of what others might think or say? The result will be a whole new life of power and blessings.
In our text, as soon the stone is removed, a divine conversation begins. Here we have God in the flesh, praying. We see the Son of Man (or Adam) exhibiting for us looking to the Father for divine intervention. How do we know? Because of when He says, "I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it." In most cases, when Christ is doing a miracle He does it without saying anything aloud to the "Father" or otherwise.
Do you believe God always hears your prayers? You do if you believe He lives inside you. As a white individual, you're not only a son of Adam but a son of God, and we are told to come boldly to His throne of grace. THOSE WHO WERE PRESENT WERE ABOUT TO BE EYE WITNESSES OF A GREAT MOVE OF GOD. What they were about to witness would change their lives forever, and it would lift Christ's earthly ministry to a whole other level. Do you believe Jesus was "sent" from Yahweh, that He was God in the flesh? Then why not follow His example of faith. Look to the Father by faith, knowing He hears your prayers. Be an encouragement to those around you in this way as well. PUT OTHERS EYES ON THE DIRECTOR BY SETTING THE RIGHT EXAMPLE BY FAITH.
When they moved the stone, that was all the faith He needed to see in order to raise Lazarus from the dead. This is the first indication of faith we have witnessed within this entire cast of characters. It was just in time, and though it may not have been a huge quantity, it was the quality of faith- mustard seed faith, which is all He requires.
Removing barriers leads to coming forth in power. When you change things in your life, that's an indication that God is doing a work within you. He doesn't give us the power to make tough decisions and real changes unless something powerful is about to happen. All it took was for a stone to be removed by them and a few words to be declared by the Director:
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
Christ perfectly set the stage for this. As all eyes were fixed on the open tomb and the Director; the time had come for action. Though He was surrounded by scepticism, pessimism, and doubt, "he cried with a loud voice" with power and authority, "Lazarus, come forth." With three simple words Christ raised the dead. THROUGH THE EYES OF FEAR, CHRIST WAS WAY TOO LATE; IN THE EYES OF FAITH, HE WAS RIGHT ON TIME. If you're beginning to understand the essential importance of your role as a believer, Christ is directing you from within your heart to come to life in your faith. At this point, do not be concerned with whether or not anyone else is coming forth, as Christ only called one from the grave here. "Lazarus, come forth". DO NOT LET YOUR FEAR TELL YOU HE HAS CHANGED IN ANY WAY. Our faith is the missing ingredient in the midst of our desperate situations, not God; He is in you. 'Hear His voice calling from within to come to life.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Picture it as Lazarus emerges from the tomb, being "bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin". What could not be seen was what flowed within him, new life and vitality- resurrection power from another dimension. None of them who witnessed this would have ever guessed it ,when this first began, that "he that was dead" would actually come back to life!
What's depicted here is exactly what we need to happen to our race: coming to life from our dead faith. Stop waiting for others and everything else to change- you make the change by coming to life by faith. Maybe you've been wondering, how can I make this happen? You can't on your own. The Greek name "Lazarus" comes from the Hebrew Eleazar which means God is my help. WITH GOD'S HELP YOU CAN COME TO LIFE. Christ didn't just say come forth, He called his name. It is your personal responsiblity to respond to His call to faith.
Even if we've come to life in our faith, we still have our old fleshly tendencies to deal with. Our ego wraps us up like "graveclothes" keeping us "bound hand and foot" from walking and functioning effectively in the Spirit of Christ. We must obey the authoritative direction of Christ as it pertains to the inner man, "Loose Him, and let him go." SEEK FREEDOM FROM THE BINDING EFFECT YOUR FLESH HAS UPON YOUR SPIRIT BY OBEYING THE WORDS OF CHRIST. Carefully remove the "napkin" of whatever covers your spiritual eyes and ears, helping you to discern His inner direction more clearly. Coming to life from within is just the beginning of a whole new opportunity to serve God, just like it was for Lazarus. For from then on he knew he was a walking, living testimony that the Resurrection and the Life had revealed His power for His people to believe in.
Everyone's perception of Lazarus and his family was changed because of what Christ had done. They went from being the family who appeared to be the most let down by Christ, to being the ones God had chosen to display His honor and glory through in a mighty way. Be careful not to judge others too quickly who seem to be walking a little different pathway. As long as they are white and are following the direction of Christ, we never know what God might have in store. Don't be the one who mistakenly passes judgment on someone God is directing toward an amazing outcome.
If God's setting the stage to do something awesome wasn't strange and peculiar, how would it ever gather our attention? Just because we cannot explain or put our finger on something, doesn't mean God's Hand isn't on it. The last thing we should do is jump the gun and get on the wrong side of God, especially when He's in the process of doing the impossible. Seek to follow His direction, expecting great things for His glory.