Saturday, July 7, 2007

More Glory

The story of Lazarus is a familiar one, but one I never get tired of because I love what it reveals about God's heart for us, and how God sees a bigger picture and has a greater good and a greater glory in mind for us than we could imagine for ourselves. Our nature is to stop short and play it safe, go for the quick and easy fix, but God is God and He knows what He is about in each of our lives and He is willing to risk our "safety" for more of His glory to be manifested in us because He loves us.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus were siblings who lived together in a town called Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem where Jesus was staying at the time. They knew Jesus and were good friends with Him, so when Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him that the one He loved was very sick. When Jesus heard that he responded to the disciples with him, “Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God.” Then the Bible says a very peculiar thing. It says that although Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus He stayed two more days where He was and did not go to them.

Finally He decided it was time to go, and He told the disciples with Him that Lazarus was dead and that He was glad He wasn’t there because this would give them another opportunity to believe more in Him. As He was going Mary went to meet Him, and when she saw Him she fell at His feet weeping, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” When He saw her and the others weeping He was so moved that He was groaning and troubled inside, and He began to weep too.

It was obvious to those around how much Jesus loved Lazarus. But there were some who said, “He healed a blind man, why couldn’t He keep Lazarus from dying?” And Jesus, again groaning inside, headed for the tomb where Lazarus lay and asked some to move the stone covering the entrance. For Martha it was too late, Jesus hadn’t shown up in time. Lazarus had been dead for four days now and all that was left was a terrible stench - to which Jesus made the reply, “Didn’t I tell you that you will see God’s glory if you believe?” Jesus then lifted up His eyes and prayed to the Father, asking that these people would believe in who He was. Then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus, who had died, arose and came out. Interestingly, he did not burst out of the grave fully free, but he came out still bound with the graveclothes, and his face covered with a headcloth. And then, rather than Jesus Himself fully freeing Lazarus, He turned to those nearby and instructed them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Sometimes when we are going through something hard or scary or even life-threatening we cry out for Jesus to come and rescue. Yet seemingly He doesn’t hear; or at least doesn’t show up when or how we think He should. To us this will end in “death” if Jesus doesn’t respond immediately. But look at what Jesus knows – He knows that what we are experiencing does not have to end in death but that it can glorify God in time if we will let it. Our vision is so short-sighted that we can only see and feel what is here and now, and it isn’t always good or pleasant. It often even is painful. That’s why it hurts when He seemingly doesn’t show up, or He shows up too late by our standards. As with Lazarus He waits to come - even though He is moved with compassion by what we are going through - because He loves us.

God sees a much bigger picture than we do, He has an eternal perspective on things that we don’t naturally have. God wants glory - we were created for glory. He wants to be glorified here on earth and the way that happens is through people who are willing to let go of what they see and what they want, and believe by faith in God’s greater and eternal good. Though all the events up through Lazarus' death were painful and hard to understand, in the end, Lazarus rising from the dead was much more of a testimony than being healed would have been. It had a much greater impact on everyone – and especially on Lazarus!

Interestingly, though, being raised from the dead wasn’t the end of the story. Lazarus was still bound even though he was physically healed and made alive. Jesus could have freed him from the graveclothes too, but instead His instructions were for those close to Lazarus to unwrap him and help bring him into full release from his death situation. This is a beautiful picture of how God operates in our lives and puts us in proximity to others who can render the help we need to experience more freedom. Jesus could have done it all for Lazarus, but instead He wanted to demonstrate how we need one another, how we need others to be "Jesus" to us, and how we need to receive from them (and in turn we need to be available to be "Jesus" too).

This is not a solitary life, it is a member life He has put us into. And just as it must have taken a little time for them to unwrap Lazarus, it takes time for us to get freed from all the things in our life that bind us. Our part is to keep coming, trusting and receiving, and as we do God will get more glory in this whole process of us coming out of "death" and being freed from the woundedness and brokenness that hinders our walk and our growth. What a defeat to our's and God's enemy! When God is glorified in us, our lives testify to Satan and to others of God's greater wisdom and power and greatness that can triumph over even the most seemingly hopeless of situations.

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