John 11 Sign of Resurrection, a Precursor, a Threat to Pride

It’s not finished yet. The impact and message of this sign has greatly affected the culture. The threat is real. You sent a message to the world, through one born of the lowest class and to your own people. Is part of the problem that the status of the leaders puffed them up with importance so they felt all change should come through them, for their partial glory? I suffer from the sin of pride. It is a trying balance to do a job well and not be puffed up over it. Often a job title and company you work for will expect a level of authority to ooze out of one in your position. Yet that is not genuine. Many feel like imposters in their jobs in fear they will be found out. We may judge ourselves harshly and hold to a perfectionist standard. Now, in this case, the raising of Lazarus, in the eyes of Jewish authority, is perceived as if a gauntlet has been thrown down. They are challenged. Their authority is challenged. Their careers are at stake, and in their minds, so is the very existence of the Jewish people. If they cannot control their people, the Roman authority will squash them likes dirt under their sandals. Those are not sandals like ours today, but are marching war shoes and probably spiked!   They see this display of power in the resurrection of Lazarus as a complete challenge to the very safety of the nation.

2015-05-11 13.37.44“It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish, and not for the nation only, but that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

These are words from the high priest. God used his position of highest earthly Jewish authority to prophesy exactly why Jesus must die. He doubtlessly said the word to placate the consciences of the others as they contemplated murder. God is at work for His good purpose in the midst of the evil devices of mans heart.

  • What evil has man done against me?
  • What has befallen me as a consequence of a loving action of mine?
  • Have I been sideswiped emotionally by unexpected threats?

God is at work. Rest assured, there is nothing man can do that God cannot upturn for His purpose, use for His good for us- not that we are His ultimate end but that in working through us we honor Him and bring Him His due glory.

  • Does Jesus understand when we suffer unjustly?

Most assuredly, we are not alone as we go through trials, conspiracies against us.

Jesus’s response was to leave the area- until it was time.

John 11 Grave or Garden?

My notes push forward but I am not yet ready to leave the graveyard. I’ve never been much for graveyards. My adult experience consisted of being asked by my dad to go and visit my moms grave, a lunch date. I had to help him search through the flat markers (done to keep it simple so they can mow.) My daughter takes her kids on a special trip down state to visit their dad’s grave to see his marker. It took me a year to get the marker for Dave, my husbands grave. Nice town cemetery and it was one I could walk to. In fact the town does just that every Memorial Day. Lots of speeches and music. I got a bench for a marker. Next time I am back in the state I will have to go visit.

2015-12-26 13.50.10Nothing much happens in a graveyard. You can listen to the birds – at least in my hometown. In Israel, the garden was not part of the graveyard. It’s different. More like stone rooms and stone beds and mummy style wrapped bones on cold slabs, openings closed by large stone doors that were rolled into place. We bury our dead differently here. In pretty wooden boxes inside concrete boxes dug into holes in the ground. Either way, they are all dead. It’s finished. It’s over. The only change left possible is for those who are living. Life is about change, but not death. Boring endless death. You can bring your guitar and play some music, sing a song, sit and talk to the dead, but they don’t talk back. They stay in the grave, unchanging, naturally dead.

Jesus.

Jesus spoke into the fact of death. The author of life called out to one dead remnant of a man, wrapped, placed on a stone slab laying, cold, with rotting body. Jesus, the good shepherd, creator of life, called across all that is possible, all of time, into the deep stillness, with a name. He called life back out of the past, reconnected it with the stinking flesh, recreated that flesh with new life and health. He did it in three words. A command that even in death, could not be disobeyed.

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Credit: Kirsti Ims

Thrill. Every molecule of creation must have felt the thrill of power calling to Lazarus. The simple command that had to be responded to: Lazarus, come out!   This same voice that created out of nothing with the command let. Now it spoke again. Today all creation waits to hear that voice.

Lazarus lived. Under the command of his shepherd, he rose. He left the graveyard. He returned with his sisters. With his neighbors and friends. Jesus’s love, Jesus’s power and authority changed everything. There is no more death! Not for His sheep.

Pharisees could not see. They were blind. They did not want it. They were not His sheep. They did not want Him. They had to eliminate Him. They could not comprehend Him.

It did not matter, as there was yet one more death to conquer, His own. Jesus had to personally travel the cold stone slab path that he had called Lazarus away from. Jesus had to enter the depths with His own mortal creation, the door of life enters death, mingles in the deep stillness defeating the spiritual powers of darkness to triumph over death with His own flesh renewed, restored and improved.

dsc_0416The graveyard is no longer a grave but a garden. What was buried is blooming. The door to life is a birth into a life that every cell of our body knows is true, yet we live in that promise by faith in what our good shepherd did for us once upon a time. A time He is author of and commander of. A time we can live in with confidence and hope.

  • Am I ready to leave the grave garden now?
  • To live this blooms’ moment for His glory and honor?
  • To join my shepherd when He calls me out of the grave to glory?

John 11 Jesus Walks Alone

The ultimate shepherd gathers His flock from afar. The catalyst is sacrificial death, the plan is to kill Him. Jesus knew ahead of time, that raising Lazarus would be the last straw for the fear based religious leaders. He left the area, heading north and staying in Ephraim.

It’s Passover time. The world and all the people know that Jesus was a wanted man and would be arrested on sight if He came this Passover to Jerusalem. Everyone is on edge. It’s just not the same this year. 2015-05-11 16.38.08

  • Now He is known.
  • His claim is known.
  • His power is known.

The gauntlet was laid down with the raising of Lazarus. The expectations were high. Politics was on everyone’s minds. Well, almost everyone’s. Jesus had greater things on His mind then the world understood at the time. How hard it must have been to contemplate His next move.

Every step into that town was a step closer to His ultimate sacrifice. In their minds, every step was a step closer to a new political day, a slap in the face against Rome, a throwing off of years of tyranny. Jesus understood all this. His followers did not. How alone Jesus must have felt. No one could walk His path for Him. Only He can walk it for us. It was a death march for eternal life. Jesus saw it all.

John 11 Love Leads

Many of those who ran after Mary out of care and concern and found themselves unexpectedly witnessing the greatest miracle of Jesus so far, believed.  It is striking to try to grasp how this revelation of Jesus was received. Many, but not all, believed. If the very love of Jesus, seen in His presence, His tears and His astounding gift of resurrected life could be rejected by some who witnessed the bodily resurrection of Lazarus, then who are we to ever take credit for anyone’s salvation or anyone’s rejection of Jesus. Even Jesus did not convert them all.

The significant verse is in the response of the Pharisees when the eyewitness reports came to them. What are we doing? For this man is performing many attesting miracles (signs). If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Credit.Ims.Kirsti.8.13.17What do theses men know? That what Jesus has been doing is proof, and acceptable proof about who He is. That the evidence is so great that all will be believing. That is exactly what they said. Yet what about them? They who have studied the scriptures? What do they also believe? That the power of Jesus will not protect them from Rome. That therefore Rome is greater than their Messiah. That they love their position in life more than they love the people they are leading. Contrast human leadership to the Messiah, the great shepherd, who loves the people He is leading more than His position, more than even His life.

John 11 Gravestones

  • What stones are set in front of my disappointments about life?
  • What dreams are locked away in a cave of death, wrapped in clothes of tears and/ or resentments?2015-12-12 17.19.54
  • When The Lord of life asks me, will I obey?
  • Sure, I may make lots of excuses for the “burial” of my dreams, hopes, joys. But, will I obey?
  • Will I allow the stone to roll away and will I allow The Lord of life to call forth my dead hopes and dreams?
  • Will I obey Him further and unbind them and let my dreams prosper?

Is there someone in your life you have held wrapped in bondage-death to the relationship? Roll away the stone and let Him go unbound.

John 11 Remove the Stone!

He is at the tomb. He is deeply moved. He was moved the first time when Mary wept and she could not express the same confidence that Martha had expressed (v33). Now, hearing the crowd of Jews express a confidence that had first come from Martha, then later from Mary. And now the crowd also raises the question  “He could have kept him from dying.”

Yes, He could have.

DSCN4494How emotional was this? Of course, Jesus knew this- he could have come sooner; he could have prevented this, yet He chose not to so that God would be glorified. Yet, in this moment, no one understood this but Jesus.

Until…He took action.

Remove the stone!

That is a command not a suggestion. In the face of the death, lying on a cold stone bed, kept inside a cold stone tomb, locked up forever in sorrow and grief.

Remove the stone!

  • What stone of grief do I have locking away some dead sorrow?

‘What did I tell you Martha?  Believe and see God’s glory.’

Connie, (insert your own name), Believe Jesus and see God’s glory.

How could I have known when I first wrote this in 2014, and then, one year later, how different my life would be.

  • What stone do I yet have?
  • What do I still have locked away and hidden inside?

Yes Jesus, I shall trust you even with-that. Only You can deal with that. Only You can touch that heart that seems so dead to you, so cold, so lifeless. You can bring life where there is no life. You change hearts minds and actions. He is yours Lord.

John 11 Jesus Grieves With Me

2015-05-11 17.03.40Does it matter? Both women greet Jesus with the initial greeting – ‘you could have prevented this’- but Mary is too grief weighted to follow it with any words of hope.

  • She weeps.
  • The Jews weep.
  • Jesus weeps.
  • No one weeps alone.

He was deeply moved in his spirit – he must see Lazarus. He must take the planned action that Martha hopes for and believes for and Mary is too lost in grief to even think of asking or hoping for.

He weeps. It’s that deep heart and gut wrenching grief that you only experience when you have been struck by the death of a loved one.

Jeus Wept

 

The Jews see His grief and recognize love in His cries. They do not know even now just how great His love is. They too ask the same question both Martha and Mary confronted Jesus with at first.

 

  • Could Jesus not have prevented this?
  • Think of all the wonderful signs he had done.
  • Did he not make claims?
  • Why did He not stop this?
  • Am I a Martha, a Mary, a Jew in the crowd?
  • Am I all of them?
  • What will I trust Him with in my grief, in my loss, in confusion and in hope?

 

John 11 Bringing Our Grief to Jesus

After Martha proclaims trust in Jesus and that God will do whatever Jesus asks, and the yes, I believe, Martha goes for Mary.

Who do I go for?

…while Jesus waits.

Martha spoke only to Mary “The teacher is here, He is calling for you.”  She did not even say His name to keep it private for her.

2015-05-13 10.45.01That reminds me of the song Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling, a song I first heard in my rebellious early 20’s and fell in love with without understanding, yet He was calling me.

Mary jumped to see Jesus. The action was abrupt. So abrupt that it caused the others to follow her out of concern and all secrecy was lost. These who followed her are also Jews from town, from the city, some most like the very Jews who had recently sought to stone Jesus.

Mary, followed by the Jews who were seeking to comfort her, arrives.

In her grief, she falls at Jesus feet.

  • Am I a Mary or a Martha?
  • When I once sat at His feet, has my grief caused me to stay at home when He comes?
  • Or do I go to Him immediately and proclaim my trust in Him?
  • Or do I wait for a personal invite then fall at His feet bringing a crowd with me?

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.

 

 

John 11 Trusting Jesus Anyway

  • Am I a Martha who goes and gets my sister with treasured hope?
  • Am I Mary, at home with my friends grieving?

How long did Jesus wait? Ten days since the message was sent. Lazarus died day six. Jesus showed day ten. He was dead four days, plus two plus four. It took four days to arrive. He had been buried for six days after sending the message. They were four days into the grieving when Jesus finally shows up.

Word arrives that Jesus is there and Martha runs to Him. Mary did not move. Martha’s greeting tells where her heart has been and her thoughts that are churning in her these last few grief filled days. “You could have prevented this, yet I trust you”.

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Credit: Georgia Greer

Martha, the one corrected for being a doer more than a listener. She knows that

  1.  Jesus could have stopped the death and sickness.
  2.  If Jesus asks anything, God will do it.

Why? What is she hoping for now that Jesus has show up?

Jesus brings up resurrection.  Your brother will rise again. Martha knows of this, is this what she is hoping for just now? Is this what she has asked? Is she being careful not to ask too directly?

Jesus speaks the “faith verse”. I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live, even if he dies, and everyone who believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

DO I BELIEVE THIS? YES!

Martha believes the prophets. Martha had the big picture here. She met Jesus. She said basically my brother is dead, but You can fix it. Jesus clarifies and checks her understanding with His question. He validated it, then she goes and gets Mary.

John 11 Grief

This is my favorite chapter in this book. It’s a turning point for the book and after this sign John shares, the book moves quickly to point out the growing polarization of the nation.

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Credit:Sabrina Kim
  • What can I observe in this section about the how Jesus interacts with those he loves?
  • What do I observe about the disciples He is preparing to become leaders?

They are told the plan but not the details. Yet they are told enough for them to have a choice.

  • What about those who are suffering because of the plan?

This is Mary and Martha and the now dead Lazarus. They are being used for the glory of God but they only know the pain of loss. They had so hoped it would not end that way. And they must have felt abandoned by Jesus who they were certain could have and would have prevented the death if only He had come when they had asked.

For God to do his plan, He chose a family. A broken family. In this culture of marriage and tradition we see 3 siblings, no spouses, single adults with some past. Mary, a former prostitute, a sinner scorned by the town, sheltered by her siblings. Who knows the past of the siblings, but they now live together. Loved by Jesus. The family with the ‘skeleton in of the closet’ past now exposed, and forgiven much. This is who Jesus chooses to live with when He comes to the area. Now they unknowingly are chosen to suffer for the glory of God.

The ‘leaders in training’ (the disciples) expect to die with Jesus as they hike back to Jerusalem. The mood is heavy. Thomas expresses their love when He says let’s go and die with Him.

  • Am I willing to suffer in ignorance of His plan for His glory?
  • Can I trust Him with my deepest sorrows?
  • Am I willing to die with Him? For Him?

They were, they thought, but could not until after grasping His resurrection power. I have that. I am not without the truth of what happened. I am blessed to have His story to know and learn by and His example to read and follow.

Lord, I don’t know your plan, but I trust your heart, your love for me. Help me in my suffering and sorrows to glorify you and seek your face in the midst of pain of loss and suffering. When I crumble, when my fears and tears cause me to stumble, forgive me, and pick me up gently and firmly place me back on my feet again.

As you have!