Read John 11
Focus on verse 44
I have never personally witnessed a person coming back to life after being dead. I have read books and on a few occasions met people who have apparently had the experience of being declared clinically dead only to come back to life moments or in a few cases hours later. Some attempt to provide a clinical explanation; others claim it was nothing short of a miracle. Either way, something happened that was out of the ordinary. Interestingly, in nearly every case that I am aware of the person, and typically those who witness the event are dramatically affected by the experience. For some it awakens an awareness or new reverence for the power of God, for others it hardens their resolve to find a logical scientific explanation.
In today’s reading Jesus does something that shakes up an entire community. His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had become ill. The family had sent a message to Jesus informing him of it in hopes that He would come and heal Lazarus before he died. Jesus apparently had other plans. He waited several days so that by the time he arrived Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days, so it is not really surprising that John records Martha’s horrified statement, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor!” (v. 39) when Jesus instructs them to remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb. Jesus then offers up a simple prayer of faith, presumably audibly so that all heard him since John records it, and then shouts into the tomb “Lazarus, come out”.
Can you imagine the tension of that moment? John does not record it, but I suspect the silence was deafening as everyone froze in his or her place, not certain what to expect…until they hear the shuffling of something moving in the tomb.
The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him and let him go.” (v. 44)
I cannot imagine what it might have been like to be part of that group of people who were gathered at that tomb. They all knew Lazarus had been dead. This was not a question of – maybe he was just unconscious – he was starting to smell bad! Yet here he was, walking out of the tomb – okay, probably more of a shuffling along like a mummy would be more accurate – at least until they got him free of the linen he was wrapped in.
In the text that follows we are told many who witnessed the event believed in Jesus as a result, but some went and told the Pharisees. It would seem that at this point Jesus was starting to frighten the religious and political establishment to a point were they could see nothing but the threat to their power and influence, so they resolve to kill Jesus, making no pretense about their motivation. (v. 48)
The conflict between the power of God – as seen in the resurrection of Lazarus – and the power of evil – as seen in the plotting and scheming of the Pharisees – is sharply contrasted. This conflict between the power of the truth of God and the desperate attempts of Satan to continue to deceive people with his lies is what forms the often unseen backdrop behind the conflict that continues to rage across the globe.
Satan has a clear objective – to steal, kill and destroy as much and as many as possible before his time is up. God also has a clear objective – to raise us from spiritual deadness to a life of abundance, peace and joy. What remains to be our choice is which master we will serve.