July 25, 2018
1 Corinthians 13:13
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
We began the New Testament series on prayer with Jesus word to his disciples:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12.
Why is this not proving true in our experience? I have a working theory. To track it out we need to go to the tomb of Lazarus and explore another of Jesus’ nine prayers.
At the tomb of Lazarus we see the greatest reversal in the Kingdom of God—from death to life. You may remember, Lazarus lay in the sealed tomb for four days. Jesus arrived intentionally late knowing this would be the scene of his greatest miracle. Here is the prayer as recorded by John the Apostle:
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 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.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” John 11:41b-43.
And in case you don’t know the rest of the story, here it is. The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. v.44
Did Jesus intend for us to pray prayers like this and see these kinds of outcomes in response? If your answer is no, what do you do with John 14:12 and Jesus promise of our doing greater things than he did? If your answer is yes, how do you explain our poor performance?
Backing up a step, do we believe Jesus can still raise the dead? If so, why would we not believe the followers of Jesus could raise the dead through prayer in Jesus name? How else do we suppose it might happen?
It is happening in other parts of the world; just not so much where we live. Why not? My theory: we are asleep to the greater works of God because we have an anemic concept of the greater love of God.
Take a look at this series of verses surrounding the Lazarus story and note in particular the nature of Jesus’ love for this family.
3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
Don’t you think the way these relationships are described is more than a little bit extraordinary? The story continues with Jesus question.
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
There is the challenge of faith, which I admittedly struggle with on this matter of raising the dead. This story reveals a far greater challenge than faith. It is the challenge of love. It is one thing to possess faith and quite another to be possessed by Divine Love. The famous “wedding” text makes this abundantly clear, “and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b
Love is greater than faith and until our love is greater than our faith, we are destined for far lesser things than the greater things Jesus promised we would do. The great secret behind the great power of prayer is the power of great love.
I realize all of this may seem utterly absurd and impractical to many of you. I will admit, this is not a conventional series on prayer. But what if our conventions have become the problem? What if we have allowed the whole idea of prayer to become so casual and so domesticated by our twenty-first century first-world problems it is now a caricature of Jesus’ intentions?
My friends, prayer moves us into the sacred and powerful domain of Divine Love, where the supernatural reversals of the Kingdom of God are meant to be the rule, rather than the exception. There is too much at stake to try and dial this back to a milk and cookies approach.
It is here we come up against the deepest challenge of our discipleship. It is not the challenge of being more disciplined or committed or even faithful. Our greatest challenge lives at the level of our love-less-ness which is the place of our un-blessed brokenness. Do not despair, though, for Jesus wills to lead us through our brokenness to his brokenness which becomes the place of blessedness; a place of beautiful scars—we know this place by its sign: the Cross.
It is to the prayers of the Cross we turn next.
Almighty Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, you are high and exalted yet nearer than our breath. Thank you for raising Lazarus and for opening up the depths of your heart for he and his family for all of us to see. I confess: this kind of love is foreign to my experience. Open me up to this kind of love that holds the power to raise the dead. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- Do you believe it is even possible to raise the dead through prayer in Jesus name? Not just theoretically but practically?
- What do you make of this statement: Love is greater than faith and until our love is greater than our faith, we are destined for far lesser things than the greater things Jesus promised we would do.
- What will it take to move from a casual and domesticated prayer life to an awakened life of prayer—whose capacity mirrors the capacities of Jesus himself?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. email@example.com.