If you are just joining me, welcome! You can find an explanation of this series here: Day 1 – Introduction.
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” John 11:41b, 43
Story: John 11:1-44
It was the first morning temperatures really dropped, and the kids and I were going nowhere fast in a car that wouldn’t start.
“So much for being on time,” I said, and slumped back against the seat. I was trying to take the kids to school. Which neighbors could give us a jump? Weren’t they all at work already? I texted my husband, not knowing when his work schedule would allow him to check messages.
“I’m going to pray and try once more,” I said, sticking the key back in the ignition. Just futile choking noises.
“Dear Jesus, please help our car start.” When I turned the key, the same choking hung in the air, but a bit longer, so I held my hand on the key, hoping. Suddenly it started!
“Praise Jesus!” I shouted.
“How did our car start?” my seven-year-old son asked when our celebration quieted down.
“We prayed, and Jesus answered,” I said, convinced we had been heard.
“God started our car for us!” my six-year-old daughter said.
But battery problems in cold weather seem like nothing compared to the seasons of winter that hit our souls. When we’re turning the only key we know to turn but only feel the futile choking of our insides – then what?
Jesus hands Martha the solution to the blinding effect her grief rendered. Belief in Jesus can restore our vision.
Wait just a bleeping minute, I imagine Martha thinking, I did believe! You didn’t come when I needed you! I turned the blasted key of belief and you let it all die anyway! I gave you my life and what did I get? Dead relationships, dead ends, dead dreams, dead faith, dead desires. You could have saved us and you didn’t! Now it’s too late!
I mean, can you blame her?
Jesus wasn’t giving Martha any Faith 101 lessons. They had an established relationship. Jesus knew her well, knew that Martha’s faith muscle was burning and that this was a killer exercise. She clearly wanted to see God’s glory and was still attempting to believe even if she was shaking like crazy, trying to hold a believing posture that felt impossible.
I hate exercising. I hate sweating. I hate making time to take showers after working out. But I started a BeachBody program a couple weeks ago. I’m not so naive I believe I’m going to have some amazing body in 21 days. But I might be stronger. I might create healthier habits. I might help my kids think exercising is normal. But did I mention I hate it? It’s hard.
There is so much truth, though, in what the instructor, Autumn says on her dvds: “Hate me today, love me tomorrow. You have to do something you’ve never done if you want to see something you’ve never seen. If you’re tired of starting over, then don’t quit; the only one you’re quitting on is yourself.” (Note to self: Keep all easy-to-throw objects away from tv while submitting to this voluntary torture.) And my amazing coach, Jaime, continuously reminds our accountability group that she never regrets pressing play.
Martha was going to feel the soreness of this workout for a while. But the pain would be temporary. And she would not regret exercising her faith muscle.
Dead things don’t negate, but highlight, God’s power to resurrect.
Take the stone away. Jesus commanded the removal of a barrier separating the dead and the living, because nothing separates God’s children from the love he has for them, not even death. Maybe taking the stone away looks like opening a door? But who wants to open the door to dead insides and expose decay? Uh, Jesus? Lazarus has been dead four days, and well – we might all keel over from the stench?
I learned through a Beth Moore study once that the ark of the covenant – the symbol of God’s throne and presence among His people – was really a coffin! The mercy seat, where God sat, was sprinkled with blood in a precisely detailed way once a year. If God rules over death and painstakingly offers me Christ’s blood to show me mercy, maybe exposing my death to his life isn’t so terrifying after all. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.
However reluctant, they took the stone away. They had done their part. Now Jesus would do the rest: He looked up, thanked God for hearing him for the benefit of those within earshot, and commanded the dead to rise. And Martha and her sister Mary witnessed the dead come back to life.
What dead thing am I afraid to expose to him? What do I need to believe about Christ to exercise my faith muscle today? Do I trust that he will be just as gentle with me and work as powerfully on my behalf?
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26