Lazarus Moments: Trusting God With Our Decay
Jan 17, 2016 04:07AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I kicked, slammed my body onto, and punched the dishwasher. It had spent the past six months vacillating between functional and dysfunctional. We would get about 15 good cycles out of it, and then it would suddenly start turning off after loading the first water cycle. No cleaning—only wasted water. Some days I would restart it 10 times. We were not friends. On those days I would hand-wash the build-up on the almost-nonexistent countertop while trash-talking my limping, lame appliance for deceiving me once again into thinking it was revived, healed, restored, capable. Nothing I could do in my own strength could make that confounded piece of plastic do my bidding.
Then, for two weeks, my husband and I taught our Junior High Sunday School class, focusing on the content-rich and highly symbolic account of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.
John 11:32-37, ESV, Apostle John speaking
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see."
So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"
There are a few key points to mention before we make a crazy connection between the dying dishwasher and Lazarus—and our lives in general.
First of all, Jesus was called to the scene when Lazarus had not yet passed, and yet He declined so He could continue to do the work of His Father where He was at the time. He knew that without His help, one of His close friends was going to die, and yet He chose to go about His business. Why?
The answer lies in Jesus’s words in John 11:40:
"Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"
When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus was dead four days. Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus and also friends of Jesus, expressed their frustration that their brother would not have died had Jesus come in time.
Still, Jesus took no action. Instead, at first, He joined the mourners in their grief.
Are you feeling the impatience of this moment?
Up to this point, Jesus’s miracles were about healing. The Jews surrounding this cloud of grief had no context for what was about to happen.
Even the thought of calling Lazarus out was completely incredible to the crowd gathering. Their response (my loose paraphrase):
“Um, Jesus, it’s too late, Man. He’s wrapped up and long gone. Yeah, starting to stink, Brother!”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
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."
Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"
After they reluctantly rolled the stone away, Jesus still did not act. I am sure they were expecting an unpleasant wafting from the tomb. Jesus paused and spoke to His Father, confidently thanking Him for hearing Him before the miracle. He stated that He was doing this to strengthen the faith of those in His midst.
That is surely how we should pray.
“Thank You, God, that You hear me and You will answer. You’ve got this before I even ask.”
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
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."
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out."
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."
What has always amazed me about this passage is that Lazarus came out.
Miracles are certainly fascinating, and yet, in John 11:25-26, before the miracle, Jesus stated:
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
He called Himself “the resurrection,” and in this passage, He foreshadowed the events that would soon unfold as He went to the Cross to purchase (for us) eternal life with His Father.
This is the truly game-changing piece of this entire account. And it has the power to change us now just as much as it did those watching Lazarus emerge from his own decay.
What is decaying in your life right now?
- A relationship?
- A dream?
- Your physical body undergoing affliction/disease?
- Your heart—from grief, depression, disappointment, defeat, betrayal?
- A current job?
Where do you need something revived?
Are you slamming yourself into it over and over again, to no avail? Are you trying to restart cycles, like my dishwasher, that simply will not go any further? Are you stuck in the rinse cycle when you really need a good washing?
Do you believe Jesus can walk up to your situation—never too late—and say:
"Lazarus, come out!"?
If you can grab this Truth, the resurrected Christ, and turn your personal decay over to Him in a Lazarus moment, His response to you is so beautiful, so promising, so freeing.
Can you hear it?
Even with the bandages still hanging off our wounds and dying places, this is what Jesus says once we trust Him and come out:
Do you believe:
“Unbind him, and let him go."
- That He sets you free?
- That He will breathe new life into what you were sure was dead and gone?
- That He has cast your bandages off and you can walk trusting His healing in your life?
Oh, Sweet Lazarus, come out!
You can trust the One Who calls you out of your dark place.
It’s not too late.
How He longs to show His glory and power in the places in your life you have believed to be long entombed.
Let Him unbind you and set you free!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.