DayBreaks for 1/18/18: If We’d Been There
From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:
More from John 11 today: John 11:43-44 (NIV) – When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out! The 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.
I can’t hardly imagine the spectacle around the tomb of Lazarus. Like most tombs of that time, it was either a cave-like structure carved horizontally into the rock, or a vertical hole in the ground. Either way, such tombs would have a stone placed over the entrance for at least three reasons: to keep out the wild animals that would tear at the decaying flesh, to keep out vandals that might try to steal any valuables and to keep in the stench of decay.
We know from several of the verses that people were gathered around. They’d most likely accompanied Mary and Martha as they made their way to the tomb – it was customary for the mourners to travel together at such times. And we know that Jesus asked “them” to move the stone. What we often forget is what else Jesus asked “them” to do.
When Lazarus came back to life, he was still wound up by the grave wrappings. I don’t know if Lazarus “floated” out of the tomb, or hobbled mummy-like to the entrance, or hopped. We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter – somehow Lazarus got there. But even as he drew his first breath, he may have started to think he was suffocating because of the wrappings around his head and chest. The wrappings needed to come off. And Jesus gave the job to “them”. Surely, if Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, surely Jesus was capable of removing the grave clothes, either by hand himself, or miraculously. But he didn’t. “They” had to do it.
What would you have done if you were one of “them”? I can imagine several reactions if I try to put myself in their place. Consider these possibilities and contemplate what you might have done:
ONE: I might have gotten a good whiff of the scent of death (I somewhat doubt that just because Lazarus was alive, that the smell that had been trapped in the linen was gone) and thought, “No way! I think I’m going to throw up!”
TWO: if I was a perfectionist, I might say: “I’ve never unwrapped a dead person before. How do you do it? What if I do it wrong?”
THREE: I might have been too puzzled to do anything. I might have thought, “This can’t possibly be happening. There’s got to be some other explanation for this. Lazarus must not have been dead – we must have buried him prematurely! It’s a miracle he survived!”
What’s the point of all this? Simply this: I wonder how we respond when Jesus invites us to do something. Are we willing to dive into the stink that ministry can sometimes be in order to do what He asks of us? Are we worried that we’re not good enough or don’t know enough to do what He asks? Would we seek for another way, some other explanation?
We didn’t have the incredible privilege of witnessing the events of John 11 with our own eyes. But Jesus still invites us, just as he invited them, to join him in what He does. Will we?
PRAYER: Sometimes, Lord, we are frightened and confused and feel too incapable of doing anything meaningful or well enough in life. We get so down on ourselves because of the enemy’s constant attacks and our all-too-frequent failures to feel we can be of any use to You. And so we do nothing. Help us to spring into faithful action when we hear Your voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.