Last Friday it was my turn to give a brief devotional in our morning staff meeting, and I completely forgot about it until about 15 minutes before I was supposed to speak. I quickly racked my brain for what to share, and landed on one of my favorite Bible stories, the story of Lazarus. (I have to give credit to my Aunt Julie for this story being fresh in my mind recently.)
John chapter 11 tells this incredible story. Jesus hears that His dear friend, Lazarus, is gravely ill. In verse 3, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, write to Jesus and tell Him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Jesus responds to this news hopefully, saying in verse 4, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory.” And yet, Jesus doesn’t go to Lazarus. He waits. Finally, He attempts to gently break the news to His disciples that Lazarus has succumbed to his illness, telling them he is “asleep.” Of course, the disciples are a bit too slow to catch onto what Jesus is telling them and He has to come right out and say he died. Then, they all travel to the tomb to mourn the passing of their friend…. or so it seems.
In reality, when Jesus gets there, while He does indeed weep in mourning for the loss of his friend, He has a more joyful ending in mind. Jesus goes to the tomb and, strangely, asks for the stone to be rolled away. This perplexes the other mourners. One of Lazarus’ sisters even tells Jesus, “Ummm, Lord? That’s a dead body in there. It’s going to stink!” However, that doesn’t stop Jesus from carrying out His plan.
After the stone was rolled away, verse 43 tells us that Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And indeed, Lazarus, still wrapped in his grave clothes, walked out of the tomb, fully alive once again.
WOW. What an amazing story! And full of hope! This story shows us the ultimate power of Christ; the power that He has over sin and death. As Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” The story of Lazarus is the story of the future for all Christians. Someday, we will all get sick, face hardships, and die, but that death is not the end. Just a Jesus loved Lazarus, He loves us, and He will says to us “Come forth!” into eternal life.
Of course the story of Lazarus is about our future hope, but I also feel as I read John 11 that it is not just a story for the future. It is a story for the now. In the chapter right before the Lazarus story, Jesus is preaching to the Pharisees, and in John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That doesn’t mean in some distant future, that means right now! Living a life with Jesus, in accordance to God’s will, is a full life.
Reading the story of Lazarus with this context gives me a new insight. When Jesus says, “come forth” He is calling Lazarus to resurrection in this life. What open tomb of mine is Jesus standing in front of, calling me to come out?
“Sarah, come forth out of your worry! Don’t you know I’ve got a plan for you? Sarah, come forth out of your stress and mixed up priorities! Put Me first and the rest will fall into place. Sarah, come forth out of your bad habits! I created you for more than that!”
What is Jesus calling you out of? Worry? Addiction? Confusion? Pride? Doubt? Whatever it is, listen for His voice. Listen to the power in it! When you hear Jesus say “come forth,” obey! Come out; even if you stink or are covered in grave clothes like Lazarus. Come out to the full life that He has promised you.