I don’t mean to alarm you, but many of us are zombies. We have been resurrected by a supernatural power, but we are now just going through the motions. We believe facts about Jesus, but we don’t trust Jesus. We believe “that God”, but we don’t yet believe “in God.” I’m not here to eat anyone’s brains, but I hope and pray that all of us would leave this blog on the right path, living The Life as God always intended us to live.
In John 11, Mary and Martha are worried. Their brother Lazarus is sick and he might be dying.
3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
That’s it. That was the message. They didn’t ask Jesus to do anything. Just “the one you love is sick.” Luckily for you, I am fluent in womenese. Guys, if a woman tells you a fact, she is not just stating a fact. If she says, out of the blue, “I like dark chocolate.” What she is really saying is, “I like dark chocolate, what are you going to do about it?” Next time you see her, bring her some dark chocolate. Not milk chocolate, not that fake white chocolate (that is what they called me in high school by the way), get your woman some dark chocolate.
So Mary and Martha say it without saying it. Your friend is sick. What are you going to do about it?
Notice they didn’t say our brother is sick or Lazarus is sick. YOUR friend, the one you love, is dying. They use the verb phileo, where we get “Philadelphia” from – the city of “Brotherly Love.” So Lazarus was more than a friend to Jesus; he was like a brother.
How many of us identify ourselves like that? You are “the one Jesus loves.” You are like a brother or sister to Jesus. The Bible says, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:13-14) Jesus died for you. You are a friend of God. You are “the one Jesus loves.”
On your wedding day (whether past or future), your identity (and maybe even your name) changes to “the one my husband/wife loves.” But if we view it that way, we are saying that single people are “the one no one loves” right now. Our identity should never change. You are and always will be “the one Jesus loves.”
You are not just a friend of Jesus.
5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
This is a different word in the Greek. It is agape, “unconditional love” – not I love you if you love me back or I love you if you have sex with me. It is love with no ifs.
It is “I love you period.” not “I love you…” Jesus loves you unconditionally just as He loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
It takes about a day to travel from across the Jordan River to Judea (where Lazarus and his sisters lived). So by the time the messengers got to Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. If Jesus left right away, Lazarus would only be dead two days. So why did Jesus wait another two days?
Jews believed “For three days (after death) the soul hovers over the body, intending to re-enter it, but as soon as it sees its appearance change, it departs.” In other words, the soul hovers over the body, but once the body starts to decompose and the face becomes unrecognizable, the soul leaves for good, never to return.
This is speculation; no one knows for sure why Jesus waited after he got the message. Why does God wait to answer our prayers sometimes? If He sees us in pain, how can He sit back and do nothing?
Better things await those who wait on the Lord.
You ever bake a cake? You know how it smells so good when you take it out of the oven. You ever get impatient and eat it right away. Meh. It’s ok. But wait for it to cool and put frosting on it and lick the knife and let it firm up. Nothing better than cake when it is finally ready.
Meanwhile, the disciples are trying to eat the cake while it is still in the oven. They are thinking, “Hurry! He’s sick! If we leave now, we might make it in time to save him. They don’t know that Lazarus was already dead by now. Doesn’t matter if he is dead for one day or four days, he’s still dead. The point is that after four days there is no hope. The soul is gone. It would take an act of God to bring him back to life now.
Maybe you have lost all hope. The days run together, the life you were hoping for is not gonna happen, your ovaries aren’t getting any younger. The deadline has passed. Time has run out. God may seem like He is late, but we gave him the wrong deadline. Jesus could have healed Lazarus before he died and that would have been a good thing, but Jesus waited until there was no hope and raised him from the dead. That was a better thing.
7Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”8″But Rabbi, “they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus was not afraid of death, but His disciples were. In the previous chapter, people tried to stone Jesus only two miles away from where Lazarus lived. As we will see, Jesus will overcome even death so we could have life free from fear – even fear of death.
What do you fear? Death? Public speaking? Spiders? Lack of money? Loneliness? Living a life in fear is really not living at all, is it? When you don’t do something because you fear failure or the unknown, you are not really alive. You’re scared to death not scared to life. You’re a zombie. Your brain is working and your limbs are moving, but you are just trying to stay alive. You are not living the life God intended for you. You are just going through the motions.
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus is using a euphemism for death. Death is so scary that we have come up with replacement words that sound more pleasant. Lazarus “kicked the bucket” or “assumed room temperature” or “is worm food” or “kicked the oxygen habit” or “is taking a dirt nap” or “is facing a really grave situation” or “checked into the maggot motel” or “is basting The Formaldehyde Turkey” or “sampling the French Onion Soup with a salmonella spoon.” Oftentimes we just don’t get it. Jesus is speaking to us about one thing, but we think too narrowly and misunderstand Him. Rather than hope Jesus speaks more plainly or audibly to us, we should try to listen to Him more closely and become more open-minded about what God is really capable of.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.21″Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus was talking about later that day, but Martha assumed He was talking about the resurrection of all the dead at the end of times. It never occurred to her that Jesus could raise him from the dead. Death was the end for her. If Jesus had only come before he died, then He could have healed him, but to her it was now too late.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe sin me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believe sin me will never die. Do you believe this?”27″Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Notice Jesus says He is two things – “I am the resurrection” and “I am the life.” He can be both to us, but many of us are content with Him being just one. When we begin to follow Him for the first time, our souls are resurrected; we are “born again.” We were dead in our sins with no hope of escaping the consequences. But now we are alive. We have been resurrected through the power of Jesus so we experience Him as The Resurrection. But some of us stop there. We have been saved from sin and death and hell, but we have yet to experience THE LIFE.
Think about your favorite place in the world. Maybe it is up north or somewhere you like to vacation. Maybe it is your bed, where you would like to spend more time. Imagine you have no worries, no fears, no burdens. You have a pina colada with one of those tiny umbrellas in it. AHHHHH, this is the life. Right?
Now replace “this” with “Jesus.” Jesus is the life. That is what He is saying here. I’m not saying life is a beach when you become a Christian. In many ways, it gets harder. But we no longer have to worry anymore. We no longer have to bear our burdens alone anymore. He is in control so we don’t have to be.
Martha was a zombie. She had been resurrected when she started following Jesus, but her life was unchanged. She was going through the motions. She was not living The Life, she was just living life.
How do I know she was a zombie? Because she believed “that” not “in.” She says to Jesus, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” She is stating facts about Him. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus had a beard. Jesus’ middle name does not start with “H.”
Jesus wants us to believe in Him. He says it two times. What does “believing in” mean?
If you believe in someone, you are confident in their character and ability. If you believe in Jesus, you believe everything He says because He cannot lie – even if it looks like the exact opposite. If He says He is your provider, then you believe He is even though your gas tank is really low and your bank account is empty. If He says He is your healer, you trust Him even though the doctor gave you two years to live. Jesus gives you life, not the doctor. If Jesus says He is your Peace, your savior, refuge, your friend, your resurrection, your life, then you place your faith in Him no matter what the circumstances might be right now. And if someone questions, Do you believe in Him?, you confidently say just like the little girl, “uh huh.”
That’s what “believe in” means. It is the Greek word Pisteuw, which means have faith in, believe in, put personal trust in. If a raving lunatic says, “You look great.” you believe that because it is a true statement. Doesn’t matter who said it, it is still a fact. But just because the lunatic got one thing right doesn’t mean you should believe everything he says to you. Why? Because he’s a lunatic. If Jesus says, “you will live, even when you die.” you believe Him because He said, “I am the resurrection.” And because you believe in Him, you do not have to fear even death. If Jesus says, “whoever lives will never die” you believe Him because He said, “I am The Life.” And because you believe in Him, you live The Life as He intended. Free from fear and anxiety. Free from selfishness and hatred and bitterness. And you do what He says.
Or you can stay a zombie. I thought you said Jesus loves me unconditionally. Yes, He does! Jesus loves all of us. And Jesus loves zombies. He goes to zombie movies on opening night. He buys the extended edition dvd. He loves you even though you are a zombie, but He wants more for you. He wants you to live The Life. But you have to trust Him to do that. You have to believe in Him.
Truth be told, we are all zombies in some area. Some of us don’t trust Him with our time. We call Him our Lord and friend, but we are too busy to pray or read the Bible. If we treated our best friend like we treat God, how long would we still be friends? If you are too busy for God, then you are just that: too busy.
Some of us don’t trust Him with our money. Even though God is the one that gives it to us in the first place, we can’t trust Him enough to give Him back 10%. Do we trust our bank accounts more than God?
Or we don’t trust Him with our love lives. We date people we shouldn’t even be friends with or settle for someone even though you can’t really be sure they are even a Christian. Or you blame God that you don’t have a love life. You trust Christianmingle.com more than God.
34″Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.35Jesus wept.36Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Himself weeps. Real men cry when it is appropriate. Not like Tom Cruise “you complete me” where his eyes get a little wet, but a good cry. Jesus was overwhelmed with emotion. His good friend is dead, everyone is weeping around Him and have lost all hope, and some people are doubting Him.
Jesus weeps with us. He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead in a few minutes, but He wept with those who were weeping. Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” He does not stand by unaffected when we weep. He keeps track of every tear and collects them in a bottle. He loves you that much.
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.”40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”41So they took away the stone.
Martha’s got a point. Dead bodies stinketh (as the King James Version so eloquently states). But she is not expecting Him to raise Lazarus from the dead. He won’t smell so bad after that.
Notice Jesus gives two commands starting with the word “take.” “Take away the stone.” Who is He saying this to? Not Lazarus. Not Mary or Martha. He is saying it to Lazarus’ friends. Don’t just sit and stare, help Lazarus. He can’t move the stone himself. Think of your friends and family. Are you an obstacle in their life or are you helping them take away the stone that keeps them in the tomb?
This is why we have small groups. This is why we pray for others. This is why we share our burdens rather than keep our problems to ourselves. We cannot follow Jesus alone. We must allow others in our lives to help take away the stone that keeps us from Jesus. What stone do you need taken away? What is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus?
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.42I 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!”
Jesus called Lazarus by name because if he just said, “Come out!” ALL of the dead would have to obey Him and come out of their graves.
Things were difficult for Lazarus. Death still had a grip on him. He was tightly wound up in grave clothes that made him look no different than any other dead guy.
This might be you. You are too wound up by the cares of this world and the burdens of the past. Anxiety and fear paralyze you. You can’t help others; you can’t even help yourself. You are trapped in a tomb and God is calling you by name to come out.
44The 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.”
Some of us are still wearing our grave clothes. Our lives look like death warmed over and smell like we’ve been dead for years. We don’t have to be zombies anymore. This is the second command of Jesus. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” He doesn’t tell Lazarus to do it himself. He can’t. He can barely walk. He is too wrapped up in himself to help himself or others. Once again, it is his friends that are told to do it. If we want to live The Life as God intends for us, our friends or a small group is a good start. Many of us are going through the same thing so we can relate. Some of us have already been there, done that. We can help each other. If nothing else, we can pray for each other.