Even though it might be kind of creepy, wouldn’t it be cool to see some dead people come back to life? Or what about dead situations, dead relationships, dead finances, dead employment opportunities suddenly infused with new life? The story of Lazarus offers some clues and some hope for us. You know the story: It’s that part in the Bible where you read “Jesus wept,” and then He raised his good friend, Lazarus, from the grave. Yep, that one.
I love the story, but it kind of ruins funerals and memorial services for me. I’m always thinking, “Maybe instead of sitting here listening to all the nice things people are saying about the deceased, we should be shouting, ‘Come forth!’ like Jesus did for Lazarus. Who knows?” Maybe one day I’ll actually get up enough guts to try it…
Raising the dead: What a concept! This story is instructional and inspirational on so many levels. I’ll start with my favorite point:
There is power in gratefulness: If you read this passage closely, you’ll notice Jesus does something unusual right before commanding Lazarus to “Come forth!” What is it? He gives thanks. That’s right. Jesus’ exact words are:
“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.” (John 11: 41b-42)
Author Ann Voskamp comments on this passage: “Gratefulness precedes the miracle. Gratefulness raises the dead.” I like that. How often do we find ourselves in a grateful state of mind when we’re in the midst of pain and suffering? Or when we’re in dire need, praying for a miracle? Or when we’ve experienced a great loss? Our natural tendency is to give in to despondency and despair, but Jesus surprised everyone in the crowd by giving thanks.
“There is no situation beyond God’s help.”
Let’s picture the scene: The mourners have been gathered together for a few days now to offer support to Lazarus’ sisters. Everyone is weeping, perhaps even fasting, and some are probably clothed in sackcloth and ashes to outwardly show their deep sorrow. Bottom line? Grieving is on the agenda, not gratefulness.
Jesus’ fierce love for Lazarus brings Him to tears, but quickly He collects Himself, determined to do what He has come to do all along. He raises His voice, shattering the sounds of bitter weeping and wailing as He offers thanks to God. His statement probably even sounds a bit “off” and insensitive: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me…” I can just see the people in the crowd looking around at each other in disbelief and whispering, “Did He just say, ‘Thank you’? For what? Did He and His Father want Lazarus to die?”
These people were missing something: There is no situation beyond God’s help. In their minds, there was nothing left to do but to mourn the dead. They had no hope, no faith, and nothing to offer Lazarus’ family but sympathy, and Jesus wanted to get their attention. He also wanted to teach them to never give up hope in God. So He thanked God before the miracle happened in confidence of what was to come, and stated that He did so for the benefit of those looking on, so they would open their hearts to greater faith and to salvation.
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