NEW GROUNDS FOR BELIEVING
As a former pastor, Randy has officiated many funerals and counseled with grieving people who feel lost without the one they loved so dearly who has left earth for heaven with Jesus if they believed. I helped Randy on many occasions in my past with the music and the loving comfort counseling. We have learned that many come to “pay their respects”, to bring a casserole, or file by to acknowledge with tears the one loved who is now dead. To those empathetic, tears automatically flow when we see another cry and mourn their loss. The moment is touching.
Because of being a part of so many funerals, we have also noticed that for some people it is just a ritual they feel they must perform. They know of someone who knew of someone who knew the deceased. Or some family members come to unleash the guilt they have because of rarely visiting the person when they were alive. Some come to gossip and give reason as to why the deceased died. (Yes, we’ve heard it.) Some complain about the pie, the dry ham, the service, along with gossiping about who was not there. Gossip is such a “sport” to we humans. There are many reasons why people come to funerals.
In the Jewish community, when a person died, paid mourners come to cry and wail whether they know the person or not. It is their “job” to provide this service to the community. So, knowing this, we understand when Mary jumps up and runs to Jesus, the paid mourners follow her to continue their wailing work. It is not so much about the “one they love” who died but it is about doing their job.
To carry this thought a bit further, some of the Jewish leaders are in attendance, not to grieve but to see if Jesus shows up. They know Lazarus and his sisters are friends Jesus loves dearly so they are pretty sure Jesus will show up. Yes, there is another agenda with limited power at work here that is not of God. The Jewish leaders want to kill him. Even the disciples knew and expressed this fact before making the trip.
As soon as Jesus arrives, we see anger well up in Jesus, not because of the death of Lazarus, but at the false wailing who accompany Mary and the leaders in attendance to see what will happen next. They have yet to believe Who is in charge and Who will be the Victor over death. Love for Lazarus and his sisters did not bring the tears to Jesus eyes, it was the displayed hypocrisy. Jesus knew from God what He was going to do—raise Lazarus from death—to show the glory and power of God! The tears come from a jealous God, through Jesus, who grieves over those who do not believe in Him.
“When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
He previously asked a grieving Martha, who was probably organizing the casseroles in the kitchen, “do you believe?” If fact, our whole theology of faith is laid out in the words of our Savior and Lord to Martha when He said, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
Before making the trip Jesus told his disciples, ““You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.” Jesus did just as He said.
John 11:1-44, The Message
The Death of Lazarus
1-3 A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”
4 When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”
5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
8 They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?”
9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.”
11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”
12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.
14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”
16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We might as well die with him.”
17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.
21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”
23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”
24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”
25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”
28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”
29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”
37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”
38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”
The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”
40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”
They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”
43-44 Then he shouted,
THINK ABOUT IT…
“You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.”—Jesus
The raising of Lazarus was done so that people would believe. Lazarus will eventually die a second time but will live forever in heaven because he believed.
“Lazarus, come out!” Still wrapped up in death clothes, Lazarus inhaled the breath of God who gave him life! Imagine this heart-stopping phenomenon along with the startled faces of the crowd who observed this walking mummy emerge from the tomb!
“Unwrap him and let him loose.” Death and the wrappings of death cannot tie us down when we believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord!
A short time later, Jesus will die for the “ones He loves”—Lazarus, his sisters, his beloved disciples, his earth family, and you and I who love and believe Him. Jesus died for all sins, our sins, paying the debt in full. Jesus gives us “even greater grounds for believing” by defeating death once more (as he did for Lazarus) and rises again. He is, indeed, the resurrection and life forever. He is the great I AM.
“Do you believe this?”—Jesus is asking.
I believe. I trust You with my life. All of it. To you be the glory forevermore.
In Jesus Name, Amen