I was listening to a sermon recently, and the speaker was sharing about a very familiar section of Scripture from John 11, which dealt with Lazarus being raised from the dead. As the speaker gave this powerful message of life from the dead, he shared about how not only did this story apply to those physically dead, it also applied to those who were dead in sin. That morning those verses stirred my heart and caused me to take time later that night to reread and rethink those passages in a new light.
While there is no doubt that life from the dead is a great miracle and as is the case of Lazarus something we should rejoice in, I would like us to look at six principles within the text that can help us to better understand our role in this miracle of life from the dead. A miracle that happens much more often than we may realize.
The first principle is found in John 11:1-3: Identify that someone is sick and or dead.
"Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Miriam and her sister Martha. This was the same Miriam who anointed the Master with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a word to Yeshua, saying, "Master, the one you love is sick!" (John 11:1-3, TLV).
Notice that the two sisters, Miriam and Martha, knew their brother Lazarus was ill. They responded by sending word to Yeshua (Jesus). Also note that Lazarus is identified as the one Yeshua loved. To often we picture Lazarus as a type or representation of a person who is lost in sin, someone who has not yet come to faith in the Messiah. Yet it is clear from the text that Lazarus had been in relationship with Yeshua. I believe Lazarus is to be used as an example of someone who has been redeemed and yet has become spiritually ill and ultimately becomes spiritually dead.
The second principle is found in John 11:21-27: Go to G-D about it.
We further notice that when the sisters knew their brother was sick, they didn't go tell the entire town about his illness (spiritual), they went directly to Yeshua, the one who could actually do something about it.
"Martha said to Yeshua, 'Master, if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died! But I know, even now, that whatever You may ask of God, He will give You.' Yeshua said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to Him, 'I know, he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Yeshua said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She says to Him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, Ben-Elohim who has come into the world'" (John 11:21-27).
Principle three is found in John 11:38-41: Roll away the stone and don't worry about the stink that may come because of it.
"So Yeshua, again deeply troubled within Himself, comes to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Yeshua says, 'Roll away the stone!' Martha, the dead man's sister, said to Him, 'Master, by this time he stinks! He's been dead for four days!' Yeshua says to her, 'Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?' So they rolled away the stone. Yeshua lifted up His eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard Me'" (John 11:38-41).
In order for those who have become spiritually dead to be restored we as the Body of Messiah must roll away every stone we placed between them and restored life. When we roll the stone away don't be concerned about any stink that your helping to set that person free from death may cause. There will always be those who would rather see people remain trapped in death and will come against you for rolling away the stone.
Principle 4 is found in John 11:43: When G-D cries out with a loud voice get out of the way.
"And when He had said this, He cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'" (John 11:43).
Principles 5 and 6 are both found in verse 44 and may be the most important principles for you and I to make a real part of our personal ministry.
"He who had been dead came out, wrapped in burial clothes binding his hands and feet, with a cloth over his face. And Yeshua tells them, 'Cut him loose, and let him go!'" (John 11:44).
Principle 5: Set the resurrected person free.
Notice when Lazarus comes forth his hands and his feet are bound. Even after Yeshua brought him back to life he was still bound and Yeshua told his disciples to cut him free. When someone in our community comes back from the dead they will often still be bound by their sins and failures as well as by our sins and failures in how we treated them during their sickness and death. It is up to the Body of Messiah to cut those bonds and restore them to full movement within the Body.
Principle 6: Remove the grave cloth from their face.
The last step in the process is to remove that which blinds the resurrected and restore person to the fullness of their newness in Messiah. They may be alive and even set free from their bondage but until their sight is restored they will still see themselves as one who was dead and has become partially decomposed. Remember Lazarus was dead four days. It is up to us to remove the cloth from their eyes by our words and actions, we as the Body of Messiah must remove that which keeps them from seeing the fullness of their life from the dead. We do this by reminding them of what the Scriptures say about forgiveness and restoration. We do this by loving them in such a way that the cloth is removed completely.
So we see what Yeshua meant when He said He was "glad for our sakes that He wasn't there" in John 11:15. Because, if He was, we would not have learned, through Lazarus' resurrection, these six important principles. Be assured that people in our congregations and communities are resurrected from the dead in just as real a way as Lazarus was and through this example we learn that we have a great responsibility the process.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer and Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians.
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