Jesus had just finished praying aloud to the Father, his face raised to the sky. Perhaps he also raised his hands. Certainly his voice rang out to the people crowded around him. It was an unusual prayer, for there was no request in it, no plea to imbue Jesus with great power, no appeal that God might display mighty signs of presence, or for God’s visible glory, or even that Lazarus might be raised from the dead.
Jesus’ prayer was a simple statement of fact: the Father always hears Jesus, in all things. Jesus had merely spoken this truth aloud so that those gathered around him might know that God had sent him.
That was all.
So then, saying this, with a loud voice he cried out, “Lazarus! Here! Outside!”Jesus to Lazarus, John 11:43
Imagine the sun flaring, the blaze even brighter, haloes of radiance emanating with such brilliance, it is as though the sun’s rays cascade over the cave of Lazarus’ tomb. The sweet summer breeze has turned into a hot wind, causing all the leaves on all the trees to flutter and whir. Birds flap into the air, and call out in alarm, for the surge of power is mighty, and everyone present can feel it in their chests, in their eyes, and in their fingers. It is as though a Galilean gale had suddenly erupted among them, hundreds of miles south of the Sea of Tiberius.
Mary, with frightened fascination, has thrust herself against Martha, and Martha, with firm if also frightened faith, stands straight and tall, her arm around Mary to bolster her.
The fetid stench of death, which had come from the cave as the stone had been rolled back, had at first overwhelmed them all, sickening those closest to the tomb. But now, the scent of lightning replaced that first thick miasma.
And then, as one, the assembly gasped, many gone ashen with horror and awe. Their hearts are pounding, their mouths gone dry, some sway with vertigo, others clap hands to mouths. For, in the shadows there is movement, and emerging from the cave comes a pale figure, wrapped in stained grave cloths.
Raised to Life in Scripture
It was not unheard of, for God’s mighty power to so course through a prophet that life was reignited in the dead.
- The prophet Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s only son.
- The prophet Elisha brought back the Shunammite woman’s only son
- The Prophet Elisha had asked Elijah that he might have a double portion of what the Lord had given him, and God granted this prayer. Perhaps some of that double portion is seen in how a deceased man, hastily thrown into Elisha’s tomb, came back to life when his body touched Elisha’s bones.
- Luke’s Gospel records Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s only son from death.
- Mark’s Gospel records Jesus’ raising of a synagogue official’s young daughter to life.
In each of these instances, those who were dead had only just died that day. Not less of a miracle, per se, but perhaps more within the realm of acceptable? For their bodies had not yet begun to display the rotting effects of decay.
However, there was no question of Lazarus’ decomposition. To restore anything to life in that state was beyond thinkable.
Lazarus had obeyed the call of God, and the voice of the True and Good Shepherd, even from the otherwise impassible purlieu of necrosis. Lazarus had come hither, from death to life, he had struggled his way out of his tomb, and into the light.
But he was otherwise helpless, his hands and feet bound, his whole head and face completely covered.
I imagine everyone gathered round were still dumbstruck, awestruck, trying to gather their senses and process what—who—was standing before them.
Unbind and release him, let him goJesus to the gathered assembly, John 11:44
It is a striking depiction of what God does in the life of every believer.
It is God Who creates new life within you and me, Jesus calls us by name and brings us out of death and into new life. Then God calls others to come help us unwind the old life from ourselves, all the things that had bound us in death.
You and I do that for each other when we pray for each other, when we encourage each other, when we are willing to share our lives with each other, and help carry each other’s burdens.
When you and I speak the truth from a place of love for each other, and faithfully stick with someone all the way through whatever it is they are going through, we are helping to unwind those grave clothes and set that person free.
You and I both need that.
We need to help each other, and we need to be helped by each other. We need one another.
The Impossible is Possible
Nothing can stop Jesus from giving life to those who trust Him
This resurrection was the final validation of who Jesus is, being God, truly having the authority to raise up life. Jesus said he could do it, and now he proved it—not Jesus alone, but God-Three-In-One, God from the beginning, who created all things, who sustains all things, this one God and Christ.
God who raised up the widows’ sons, who raised up the only children of bereaving parents, who has the power to recreate life in otherwise truly rotted and dead things, this God will literally, physically, raise up the dead on the great and terrible day of Judgment, that great and glorious day of Restoration.
God loves the impossible, God is always up to the challenge.
Jesus transformed a decomposing body into a fully healthy man, soul intact.
God reversed the order of decay.
By the same power, God can reverse the order of decay in our lives, too. In what ways, then do you and I need to see Jesus’ life-giving power?
- Is it time to come out of the tomb, or is it time to be unwound from the graveclothes?
- For those who have already responded to Jesus calling your name, then in what ways can you say that you have been delivered from the power of death and corruption?
- For those who have been going through the process of transformation, where do you still need help being unwound?
- For those who have answered God’s call to release and unbind those captive in their gravecloths, who is God sending you to, to help set them free?
[Lazarus’ Grave | Marion Doss from Scranton, Kansas, USA / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]