A Part to Play – January 2011

This month’s devotional is written by Inheritance of Hope staff member Aaron Hedges.

John 11:38-44 tells a fascinating story.  Much significance is packed into the short account, and we too easily 

overlook details that give the story life and richness.  Let’s take a fresh look and imagine being part of the story as it happened.

Jesus arrives at the tomb of his recently deceased friend Lazarus.  He tells some people with him to remove the stone sealing the entrance of the cave-style tomb.  When Jesus, with a well-established reputation as an authoritative teacher and miraculous healer gives a command, everyone rushes to obey him, right?  Wrong!  Not even close.  Jesus’ order is met with objection rather than obedience.  Martha, described not as Lazarus’ sister but as “the sister of the dead man,” very reasonably explains to Jesus that her brother has been dead four days, which means there will “be an odor.”  She is reminding Jesus that dead people stink!

Fortunately Jesus is not deterred by the objection, no matter how rational it is.  His response to Martha shows that he is focused on the glory of God.  Some people then remove the stone from the tomb, and Jesus begins to pray.  After his brief prayer, Jesus cries out – in a loud voice – “Lazarus, come out.”

Pause.  Put yourself in this moment.  Even if you already know the rest of the story, let yourself experience this incredibly tense instant.  Jesus just talked to a dead guy.  He told a dead guy to leave his tomb.  The sound of his cry to “come out” fades away, and the smells of the grave linger in the silence.  Your mind races – “What is he doing?”  Your heart is pounding.  Your breath is caught in your chest.    “What if it doesn’t work?”  This is so public.  There are a lot of people around watching and listening, and he was loud.  If this doesn’t work, there will be no hiding it.  Jesus’ full authority, his entire reputation, is on the line.  Never mind the whole messiah idea, Jesus’ very sanity as a human being is at stake.  You hear nothing.  You see nothing.

“The man who had died came out.”  This is an absurd statement!  You just don’t read things like that every day, but it happens in our story.  A person who was dead is leaving the tomb.  Jesus has miraculously given life to a person in the grave.  This is incomprehensible, yet the most intriguing part of the story is still to come.

The person who was dead comes out of the grave with hands and feet bound with linens and face covered with a cloth – a real life mummy.  For some reason – some mysterious, exciting, and hugely inefficient reason – Jesus tells the people with him to finish the work that he started.  “Unbind him, and let him go.”  This baffles me.  I am pretty sure that Jesus could have dealt with those grave clothes himself.  He brought a dead man back to life, so I think he could handle unwrapping a few linens.  At the beginning of the story, I am confident Jesus could have taken the stone away from the tomb, too.  Jesus could have moved the stone, given life to the dead, and freed him from every sign of the grave.  He could have done it all on his own, but he didn’t – he involved others.

At Inheritance of Hope, we are blessed to be involved with the miraculous work of God.  To be sure, God is the central and most important character; He and He alone gives life.  It would be tragic, though, for someone who has received God’s life to continue acting as though they were dead.  Imagine if Lazarus received life from Jesus but continued wearing his grave clothes!  We have a part to play in God’s life-giving miracles for young families bound by the things of death.  We can unwrap discouragement and replace it with encouragement.  We can loosen anxiety and replace it with peace.  We can peel away loneliness and replace it with relationship.  We can unbind a history of fear and replace it with … an Inheritance of Hope.