Some mornings when I get up to write, it is down right fun! This was one of those mornings.
I actually got up with enough time to get my head straight, preparing for a joint meeting of our Town Council and the County Commissioners, which I would need to facilitate.
I always begin the morning with coffee and devotions, but usually much earlier if I intend to write. Yet the further I got into my devotions, the more this word seemed to pursue me. At a certain point I decided to flip over to the New Testament (now reading in II Samuel) to review once more the story of Lazarus just in case this was more than a series of fleeting thoughts. I opened the book and immediately in the right column was John 11, The Death of Lazarus. I know you have had these moments when even the pages cooperate with God?
The title from Stinking to Standing actually bubbled up as I continued to ruminate around the various sectors of my life now being explored for my next book, Judah: The Journey to Delight. The last sector in my life now contains three areas, obviously not yet fully experienced: Purity, Participating and Passing. Actually I was thinking about just how long it had taken me to come to this spiritual place that I presently live, much less attracted to some of the sins that earlier in my life had such a great hold on me. My thoughts were also around the fact that I’m getting older, and with that comes the need for more heightened daily spiritual intervention. My physical tank runs toward empty much faster and I find myself more often at the “pumps” if I can refer to my moments of prayer in that way?
Of course as I pushed further into this final discourse on life, the last sector, “the passing” brings intrigue. Yes, there will be a time when this body falls off… “Oh death where is thy sting, oh grave, your victory?”
It was in this mental context that I began to reflect on the intervention that was necessary to raise Lazarus from the dead. In four days a body can become quite rank as bacteria, always present in the body during life, is allowed to become rampant, no longer inhibited by the antibodies that normally pulse through our cells with each heart beat (the body is amazing).
There lay Lazarus, swollen with body gas, cells rupturing, fluids back filling each cavity, emitting rank odors from each pore of the skin and every orifice of the body!
Jesus took quite a risk, when He decided to stay over two more days after notification of Lazarus’ illness. I might have rushed over while Lazarus was still alive, just to make it a little easier on my faith!
Remember also that the request was sent by Mary, the now dear friend who had earlier “poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” This chapter is loaded with intense human dynamics centered around this dear family, with even the geographical area posing real threats on Jesus’ life. He will be surrounded by maniacal Pharisees threatened by His miracles…the momentum is building toward Calvary with every word and detail. Thomas is even sensing that this journey could cost them their lives.
Was Lazarus’ death and resurrection a trial run for this God-man, who unlike us faced death in a way that no man will ever die again? Sure, my body will one day fall off, but I then will find myself in the presence of the Lord. His life was at much more risk, for upon His death, this God become flesh, would die as an unrepentant sinner, descending into a tortuous Hell with no assurance of a Savoir…His death was an “extreme makeover” for all sinners! There was no one before Him…it was all faith for this ‘very-man” who was just as I am. He faced the same fears and the same possibilities as I would have faced, we hear that at Gethsemane and, if this faith walk did not pan out all creation was at risk! He, in fact was carrying the sins of the whole world.
Yet He like Lazarus, also rose from dead on the third day (not the fourth) with the very keys to death, Hell and the grave!
I think His tears in verse 11:35 were the result of His realization of just how much work still needed to be done around the faith of His followers, as their weeping was still about grief and loss, even though the one who had promised resurrection was standing among them…they were all still clueless of His intent! In fact, each time I read this account, I am struck by His apologies to God for the weak faith of His followers. Hear Him as He prays in vs. 41… praying aloud, not because His Father demands it, but so that those listening could make the connection between what He is praying for and what is about to happen within every cell of the now rotting flesh that lay just behind that stone.
The words, “Lazarus, come forth” must have terrified all of Hell as demons saw first hand what lay ahead if their last attempts at His destruction failed! Lazarus stood up, and mankind witnessed Christ’s power over the grave…sin was loosing its sting!
Interesting what happened next, the religious crowd (vs. 47-49), still shrouded in their own death rags, missed the point entirely and begin even more so their frantic movement toward the crucifixion of this miracle working carpenter named Jesus.