May 3, 2017
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.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “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!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
My friend, Matt LeRoy, who helps lead an amazing church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, tells a bit of an unconventional Lazarus story. Taz, one of the homeless men who participated in their church, turned up missing and by all accounts he was dead. The church went into their signature extravagant love mode and held a powerful celebration of life for Taz. Imagine their surprise when a few weeks later Taz showed up at church! From that point on they called him Tazarus!
Death was not part of God’s plan for his creation. It was a consequence of human sin—not a consequence as in punishment, but as in irrevocable laws of the universe, like gravity. If sin, then death. It turns out the law of sin and death was not so irrevocable after all. In fact, it’s not really accurate to call it a law. It’s an aberration. The only true and real law is the law of the Spirit of Life. The law of sin and death merely describes the outcome of rebellion against the law of the Spirit of Life.
The law of the Spirit of Life is profoundly creative. The law of sin and death is pure destruction. The ultimate destruction is the death of a human being and death seems to get the clear win. The story of the Gospel of John so far is the story of the law of the Spirit of Life reversing the effects of the law of sin and death. Paraplegics walk again. The blind see again. Discarded women thrive again. And yes, today we see a dead man live again. Death may seem to win the battle but Life wins the war. Love overcomes sin and life overwhelms death.
The question is do we wholeheartedly believe it, or do we just nod in casual assent. This is the big if. Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Too many of us live somewhere between true belief and disavowal. Our faith is tentative. We want to be all in but something causes us to hold out. We can’t not believe yet we can’t seem to go all-in either. We are like those ancient Laodiceans in the book of Revelation to whom the Spirit speaks these words, ““I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16.
I mean, what would it take for us to believe? Would Jesus need to raise someone from the dead? Let’s be honest. It doesn’t come down to what Jesus does or does not do. It comes down to what is broken in the deepest place in us. Our lack of belief is not because of our obstinance. It’s our brokenness. Our biggest problem is not sin. It’s our broken ability to trust. That’s why we sinned in the first place. We didn’t trust in the goodness of God. The healing we most need is the healing of our broken capacity to trust. That’s the problem behind all of our problems.
Isn’t that what it all comes down to? Trusting Jesus. He intends every sign, every saying, and every sermon to call us into an ever deepening relationship with himself and with each other.
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
We want to see in order to believe. Jesus says it’s just the opposite.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who heals the most devastating dis-ease we have—our trust. Come Holy Spirit and open us up to this brokenness within us all and lead us toward healing. Thank you for your utter trustworthiness. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
- Where do you find yourself on the spectrum between all-in belief/trust or disavowed indifference?
2. What keeps you from trusting more? What is it about you, your story, your brokenness that keeps you from growing in trust?
3. Are there relationships or events or trauma in your past that have broken your ability to trust? Be merciful with yourself. Jesus is. What would pursuing healing look like?
P.S. I meant to mention this before, but we have been running a huge campaign to benefit the thousands and thousands of small churches across the land. (we delineate small as an average Sunday attendance of 150 or less). Learn more here. We’ve extended it to May 7.
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.