Let’s throwback. Back to a recent time when, by all measures, we should have been at our spiritual best but, in fact, were nothing short of spiritually dead: Lazarus Saturday.
While Lazarus Saturday may merely seem like another significant miracle in Christ’s ministry, it is also a lesson for us about spiritual death and resurrection. By this point in the Great Fast, many of us were probably feeling spiritually dry, burned out and impatiently hungry. It is important that when we are feeling spiritually dead that we make the same effort as Lazarus and his sisters did. In the Gospel of Lazarus Saturday (John 11), we notice THREE actions that took place before Lazarus was loosed from his bondage:
(1) SEND WORD TO HIM
We send word unto God when we kneel in prayer and ask for His guidance and strength. Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem at this point of His life. They might have also known that Jesus could heal from a distance, yet they wanted Him to come to heal Lazarus and to be present with them. Before Jesus had even entered into the town where Lazarus lay, Martha went out to meet Him and displayed her great faith in saying, “Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27). How many of us, when we call unto Him, proclaim our great faith? Or do we begin our prayer by asking why we are suffering? Do we ask with the faith that can move mountains or do we “ask amiss” (James 4:3)? St John then goes on to say that Mary was “sitting in the house” while Martha spoke to Christ but “as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him” and “fell down at His feet” (John 11:29). Are we quick to leave our places of comfort in order to seek Christ? Do we throw ourselves at His feet, disregarding the multitude surrounding us or are we hesitant? Can we acknowledge, like Mary, that had Christ been present in our lives, we wouldn’t have progressed to that spiritual death? So, before we can be set free, let us agree that, like Mary and Martha, we must send word to Him of our sickness
(2) ROLL THE STONE
As Christ approaches the tomb of Lazarus, we notice that there is one obstacle standing between Lazarus and Christ: the stone. Have we ever stopped to identify what it is in our lives that stands between us and Christ? At this particular point, we can often question why Christ didn’t just remove the stone Himself with one word of authority? He didn’t because that completely defeats the purpose of our repentance if Christ is doing all the work, right? We must be the ones to actively move those barriers and expose our own “stench” before the Lord, even if we feel like it’s been “four days” and it’s too late.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Christ delayed his trip to Bethany an extra two days to arrive at the tomb four days after Lazarus had died. Jewish tradition holds that the spirit of a deceased will linger for three days after their death before departing and so, at this point, Lazarus was well and truly dead according to all those who witnessed this miracle. Sometimes, sickness and death can enter homes even where God is honoured and loved because it presents an opportunity and platform for His delivering help.
We should see to it that the Son of God is glorified in our physical weakness so that He might receive a testimony to His saving power.
Jewish tradition also believed that four days after death, the body is in such an altered state that one cannot be sure it is the same person. It’s interesting how four days may seem like such a short time, yet what a great change it makes with the body of man. Likewise, we often think that a short term or “one-off” sin won’t alter our spirit very much and tend to forget that it too can cause rotting and stench. But even when we feel like we’ve lost ourselves in our sin or become deformed in our corruption, remember that this serves as a chance for Christ to be glorified and it is never too late to “take away the stone“.
3) LOOSE HIM
Now that we’ve been fully exposed before God and made the effort to clear the road between us, we have one more responsibility: loosen ourselves. Lazarus’ hands and feet were bound with “graveclothes” (John 11:44). He was alive but remained disabled in his bondage. His face was also “wrapped with a cloth” (John 11:44). He couldn’t hear, see or speak. Like Lazarus, we too emerge from our sin wrapped in graveclothes; alive but not fully free. We are still covered in a way so that we can’t hear the voice of Christ, see His glory or spread His Word. Have we ever stopped to think of what ties us down to the world and stops us from fully being with Christ? Perhaps we don’t like to dwell on it because it may be too hard to accept that we need to loosen ourselves from these ties. Maybe it’s a bad friendship, a toxic relationship or a particular sin we like to enjoy every now and again. Or could it be the hardness of our hearts or our lack of faith?
Friends, I urge you to remove the cloth from your face and rip off your graveclothes today! Let us put off our “former conduct, the old man, which grows corrupt and be renewed in the spirit” so that we may “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Christ cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43) rather than, “Lazarus, rise” (as you would say to someone who was supposedly lying dead in a tomb) because it is in Him that we are alive (Acts 17:28). So let us too come forth to Him and proceed to remove these ties to earthly matters so we can gain freedom!
So when you feel as though you are spiritually asleep, do not be disheartened or rest in your “stench” but remember that your “sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
SAYG ~ Monica Francis.