Last week, I began a series to help us better identify with who we are because who we are is indicative of what we believe about ourselves based on life’s experiences. If you didn’t get a chance to read that one, you can do so here. I identify so well with Barabbas from a salvation perspective. He was in prison awaiting death when unbeknownst to him, he is told, “You’re free to go. Someone has taken your place.” That is the exact picture for those who have accepted God’s gift of salvation. We’re free to live because someone, Jesus, took our place. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He took our sin so that we could share in His righteousness. So Barabbas represents me well in his story.
But there’s another character that represents me and probably you as well. His story is one of being close with Jesus but probably not being able to understand the ways of Jesus some times. I get that. I just don’t understand some of the things that happen in the world. Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper? If I could answer that, I’d be rich! I think that’s why it’s called faith; trusting in God even when you don’t understand what God is doing.
This character is Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary and the close friend of Jesus. His story is found in John 11. We are not sure how old Lazarus was at the time but he probably was considered a young man around the age of Jesus. For whatever reason, he became very sick. Martha and Mary knew that their close friend Jesus had done wondrous miracles and they had no doubt that he could fix this situation. He evidently wasn’t too terribly far away as well so Martha and Mary sent someone to tell him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” This was a 911 call to come right away and take care of our brother!
How often do we make 911 calls to God? Me- pretty often. When things aren’t going my way, when I can’t understand why life is happening the way it is, I have Jesus on the speed dial! “Lord, I need you to fix this and need you to fix it right now!” Relate? But my experience is that most of the time, Jesus never gets in a hurry. I will admit that today, myself and several others, had prayer answered exactly the way we wanted it to go. It was for a person who had a seemingly stressful phone conversation coming up with another person. We prayed that this person would be receptive to her conversation and we later got word that he was already expecting the phone call! The call went as smooth as silk! We gave thanks to God and were very happy. But, my prayers usually don’t work that way. How about you?
So Jesus is told that his close friend is very sick and it was expected that he would be on his way to help him. But he told the messengers, “This sickness will not end in death.” (Hang on to that) Here comes the unbelievable part. Rather than Jesus heading over to help Lazarus, he stayed put for two more day! Lazarus was his friend and Jesus was very close to this family. How could he act this way? This had to be so stressful on them. I am Lazarus. I can’t understand how God cannot pay heed to my pleas some times. When I’ve hit rock bottom, it seems that God isn’t even listening. Can you imagine the hope Lazarus must have had when he learned that his sisters had sent word to Jesus? He must’ve smiled, knowing his sickness would soon go away. But it didn’t. And God often doesn’t act when I want him too either.
After lingering for two days, Jesus tells his disciples, “Let’s go wake Lazarus from his sleep.” The disciples were in no hurry because the Jews had threatened to stone Jesus the last time he was there so they say, “Lord, if he’s asleep, he’ll be better soon. Let’s hang out here for a few more days.” So Jesus tells these nincompoops, “He’s dead!” That must’ve really helped them understand everything. Sometimes when we don’t understand God, it’s best just to shut up and follow along. He doesn’t tell us all the answers but he allows us to watch and see what He’s doing. We don’t always have to understand, just hang around and you’ll know soon enough.
When Jesus arrives, he learns that Lazarus had been buried four days prior to his getting there. This doesn’t seem to phase him too much. Maybe it’s because he knows something that none of the rest of them could see just yet. Death is no match for Jesus, He always has the final say so. I am Lazarus. I was a dead man walking and didn’t even know it. My body was fine but my soul was deathly sick. I needed what Lazarus needed. I needed to meet Jesus. Jesus got to the tomb and the entry way was covered with a stone. Jesus said to remove the stone. They said, “Uh, Lord, he’s been dead for four days and it ain’t gonna be nice up in there.” That’s one of the things I love about Jesus. He was willing to go and do what no one else would do. He didn’t mind getting messy for others. As followers of Jesus, we should be willing to get messy for others too.
I am Lazarus. Before Jesus, I was lifeless and hopeless. But Lazarus is the Romans 8:28 man. What everyone saw as terrible, God saw as beautiful. He could take something so horrible and bring good out of it. There are terrible things that take place in our world today. Perhaps you’re in a situation that seems hopeless and you wonder why God isn’t doing something about it. He is. You just don’t see it yet. He loves you and asks that you trust him even when you don’t understand him. He’s bigger and better than your situation.
Everyone thought Lazarus was dead. Their minds were made up. They took his blood pressure, he had none, so they buried him. He was dead. Things are not always what they seem. Don’t give up on God so easily. Remember earlier that Jesus said, “this will not end in death.” He meant what he said and he was a man of his word. The crowd saw Lazarus as dead but Jesus saw him as asleep. So he shouts to wake him up, “Lazarus, come out!!!” And this man who was sleeping heard the calling of his name and he, indeed, came out! Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” What. A. Story. I am Lazarus. You are Lazarus. It’s time to hear his voice and wake up from our slumber! He came to free us to new life but so often we act as if we’re still dead men walking. Jesus says, “Get up and go!”
Again, I don’t know where you are or what’s going on with you. But I do know that God doesn’t want us just surviving. He wants us thriving. He brings freedom and longs for us to get up and get going and enjoy the life we have. The good news is, it’s only going to get better. They may bury us in a grave. But one day, that same voice will say, ” Come out of that grave!”
I want to leave you with a song that tells this story much better than I ever could. It’s my story, it’s your story. Celebrate and enjoy!