Letters to the Prison - Week 130

Hello, everyone. We’re so glad you’ve joined our study of John 11.  Last week, Jesus raised a dead man to life. We say that so casually.  But pause for a moment and consider the gravity of what we just read about.  It’s the sort of thing we could sit with our whole lives and never get to the bottom of everything it means for us.  It's just so hugely important.
Jesus was almost “casual” about it himself.  He issued a simple command…
…and Lazarus obeyed it. As we consider Lazarus’ helpless condition –he was dead… and, having been wrapped in grave cloths, was buried in his tomb… for four days—we’re reminded here that Lazarus still had to decide to obey Jesus’ command to “come out” (John 11:44).  Just like the lame man in chapter 5…  Jesus didn’t use any “hocus pocus” or theatrical healing ritual…  he didn’t ask God for anything… he just issued a simple command: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8) and the lame man obeyed his command.
This is a huge lesson for us. We don’t have any control over our physical birth… did we help our mothers give birth to us?  No. Likewise, we’re in a helpless spiritual condition when Jesus activates our faith and calls us into his kingdom, too.  Jesus makes it plain that the Holy Spirit is the one in control of a person’s spiritual birth (John 3:3-8). We, as sinners, are dead in our trespasses (see Colossians 2:13-14 and Ephesians 2:4-7)… as dead (maybe more so!) as Lazarus in his tomb… and yet, when Jesus calls and we hear him, we still have to obey him.  God’s word is full of commands. They’re clear.  Do we obey them? When Jesus calls us, we might suddenly find ourselves alive in the tomb, but if we never obey the command to “come out,” what will our new life look like?  What will it smell like?
Further, when Lazarus walks out, he immediately needs help from the people around him (John 11:44). Is that like us? It sure is. We might hear Jesus and begin to obey him, but we need help. This is why Christian fellowship is so utterly important. Believers need a community of other believers to help them along the way. We’re so grateful for you!
We could consider the spiritual implications of what Jesus has done for Lazarus our whole lives.  But the more serious question is: How will we respond to what Jesus has done?  We see immediately that there are two options as we continue our study:
•Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, -John 11:45
Belief is one possible immediate response to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Having just heard what Jesus has claimed and having just seen what Jesus has done, it’s hard to imagine anyone not believing in Jesus.
And yet, we also see that more than a few people who were eyewitnesses to this event did precisely that: Not believe. Not that they could deny what Jesus had just done… no one present at Lazarus’ tomb could seriously deny what everyone there witnessed with their own eyes. We too, upon reading the account, recognize how difficult (impossible, really) it is to be skeptical about Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. So, what are these “unbelievers” not believing? We’ll look more closely next week.  Until then, what do you believe about Jesus? We love you!

Dean A. 

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