Tuesday, July 5, 2011
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD
“Lord, the one you love is sick,” the messenger says in an urgent tone. Lazarus, the handsome and the likeable brother of Mary and Martha, must be very sick to press Jesus to go over. The sisters are almost like personal friends of Jesus, having had close contact with him several times. Expecting their Master to quickly move on, the disciples are surprised when he says, “We shall stay put for two more days.” “Huh? Master, Lazarus is very sick,” Matthew protests. He knows that His Lord’s relationship with the boy is close.
“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” Jesus speaks confidently. The disciples are encouraged by the first sentence and cannot figure out the second. But no death is good enough for them.
Two days later…
“Let us go back to Judea,” Jesus tells his followers. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” John says, reminding his Master of the danger. Why the hurry? Anyway, he reasons that Lazarus is going to be alright.
“Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light,” Jesus responds, slightly agitated. Obviously, whenever one does what’s right in the eyes of God, wouldn’t there be simple protection from Him up above? Remember how I walked on the treacherous water just the other day? Jesus prays that they would trust God for simple matters like that.
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up,” the Son of God adds. “Er…Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better,” James utters. “Lazarus is dead!” Jesus clarifies. The eyes of the disciples widened. “And for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him,” Jesus explains further. The “dead” word hits them like a sudden twister. And the “wake” word sounds too far fetch for a dead person.
“Let us also go, that we may die with him,” Thomas says sadly to the rest of the disciples. Jesus shakes his head and waves them on.
A little later…
“What a shame to die so young!” Jesus and his disciples have overheard the commotion about Lazarus being buried in the tomb four days ago.
“Lord!” Martha cries and runs toward Jesus. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” she says in between sobs. “Perhaps, two days ago, there may still be hope as the body has not decomposed yet but now, I really don’t know,” Martha thinks to herself. She struggles between belief and unbelief.
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus says authoritatively. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Martha says, showing sign of resignation. But deep in her heart, how she wants to hold her cheerful brother in her arms again right now.
“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?” Jesus says gently to her. With the Son of God, there will always be life!
“Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world,” Martha answers. She is theologically right but practical wise, as every human is, she struggles to the fact of actually believing in an extraordinary miracle like this.
Martha is greatly consoled at the words of Jesus. Seeing Jesus turns his head around, her mind suddenly thinks of Mary, her sister who needs the touch of grace from the Master too. She runs to get Mary.
“The Teacher is here. He is asking for you,” Martha tells Mary. The name of Jesus is like a healing balm to her dejected body. She feels enlightened already at his call for her. The Messiah is all she wants to talk to at this moment. She has been hearing cries of disappointment and despair and now, all she needs is a word of God! Mary dashes out of the house like a desperate woman. The mourners in her house follow suit trying to help her cope with death. But their words are not enough to console her.
When Mary sees Jesus, she falls down at his feet. She says the same thing to the Messiah as her sister, Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus senses a deeper hurt in Mary than in Martha. Jesus thinks about his own violent death not many days from now and that another Mary, his own mother, will have a deep cut in her heart too.
“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asks. One of the mourners answers “Come and see, Lord.” The Son of God looks at the tombs all over the place and begins to weep. He knows everyone who buried in these tombs by name and how some who had rebelled against God and rejected His love. How he wished he can just call everyone to come out of the tombs, giving some an eternal second chance.
“See, how he loved him!” they exclaim. They see Jesus crying for the first time. And they say dejectedly, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” They look at Jesus with eyes of you-could-have-healed-Lazarus-and-not-hurt-the-sisters look.
With tears still streaming down his face, Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” Martha protests gently, saying, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Jesus knows Martha has accepted the fate that death is part of life and she will see her brother again when the time comes. Who wouldn't, as Lazarus' case is like beyond the grave! “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” the Son of God says. Words of life always proceed from the mouth of the Saviour of the world. Jesus waves to the caretakers to roll away the stone. He looks up and prays in a loud voice, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” The people turn to look at each other. They are surprised that no bad odor seems to emanate from inside the tomb.
“Lazarus, come out!” Jesus shouts. The crowd is hushed and a sense of fear hovers all around. A sound of breathing can be heard from the inside the tomb. Everyone tries to hide behind Jesus. Then the figure covered with white linen from head to toe starts to hop out, like "it" is asking the people to unbind him. Shrieks of fear and anticipation from the crowd inch up few decibels. Mary and Martha are now on their knees praying that the walking, breathing white ‘figure’ is their brother.
Then, the air of confusion is torn away by the words of Jesus, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Many people in the crowd are stunned and astounded follow with tears of joy. Before the caretakers can release the resurrected Lazarus completely from the wrapped linen, Mary and Martha already hanging on to him tightly.
“Hey, sisters, let me breath or else…” Lazarus says in between wonders. His eyes lock on Jesus’ and Lazarus gives the miracle worker the widest grin of his life. It's like Lazarus is saying, I-knew-you-can-do-it. The three in the family quickly kneel before Jesus and worship him. The crowd follow suit. The disciples, seeing all that is happening, kneel before their Master, believing that indeed, Jesus is truly God!
The story above is taken from John 11:1-44. This is the last story of Jesus’ seven miracles in the Gospel according to John. Although I added some words into the stories, it is in no way deviated from what God wants to teach us. What I do with PS Bible Ministry is turn readers back to the Word of God, the Holy Bible and find for themselves what God is saying there. And I believe that God’s Word is always fresh for all generations!