June 29, 2008
Stories of Transformation from the Book of John
Pastor Brian Shimer
Jesus comes to set us free from grave, from sin, from darkness into life!!!!
- Vacation Bible School is a great time as we have the privilege of joining Jesus in the love he has for children – Jesus loves children. He never missed an opportunity to hold and bless the children who flocked around him. Jesus was a person who shone with love, great love and grace and children rallied to him. Jesus’ love was felt by many. We experienced that love this week as we sang great songs, enjoyed great skits, and told stories of God’s love day by day. I am glad all of you could be here today.
Today we have one more story of God’s love to share – the love Jesus had for a dear, dear friend named Lazarus.
One day Jesus got a note from the sisters of this friend, their names were Martha and Mary that this friend was very sick and they asked him to come. Now if you had received a note that dear friend of yours was sick, what would you have done when you received that note? Would you have gone immediately or would you have delayed in your departure?
Well, Jesus chose not to depart immediately. He waited a few days before leaving to go see this friend.
Jesus was God on earth so every time we see someone ask Jesus something, it is a picture of prayer. We pray to God for things we want God to do in our lives and in the lives of others. When we pray just like Jesus did with his friends Martha and Mary, sometimes God does not come instantly to meet the need, sometimes God waits. Sometimes only by waiting can God’s purpose be achieved in a situation.
This was the case for Lazarus and his sisters. It was not so much that he needed healing as it was what everyone was to learn through this situation by him delaying his arrival in their home town of Bethany.
By the time Jesus got there, his friend Lazarus had died and had been in the tomb for 4 days.
- Now while the sisters had been waiting and waiting and waiting for Jesus to come they had been saying to one another, “if only the Lord gets here, then Lazarus will not die”. But Jesus had not arrived. So by the time he got there they came to him and said what they had been saying to each other: “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
It must have been hard from them. The wait. The mystery of why their prayers were not answered as they had hoped. But the delay was not a sign of God’s lack of love for them but of a greater love. Sometimes God delays for it is only through the delay that we can ever see his greater glory.
This was the case for them. By the time Jesus arrived all the Jews would have believed that Lazarus was really dead.
The Jewish people in this era buried people by putting them into a cave and rolling a big rock over the entrance. They would wrap the body in strips of cloth like a mummy and then put them into the cave.
When Jesus arrived in Bethany he had a conversation with both Martha and Mary and had told Martha that he was the “resurrection and the life” – a promise of his power over death. Martha did not believe this had anything to do with her brother, but with a future time perhaps. However, then Jesus asked to be shown where they had lay Lazarus’ body, and once there Jesus prayed a prayer that let’s us know that God the Father had commanded him to wait, had had him wait in order to demonstrate the true power and authority he had. Previously in the book of John Jesus had said that he had life in himself and that a day was coming when those who were in their graves would hear his voice and “come out!” So when he reached the tomb he had them remove the stone from the entrance.
And then do you know what Jesus did? He shouted. Have you ever shouted? Certainly you have shouted! Well, Jesus shouted and commanded saying,
“Lazarus, Come out!”
- Do you know what happened? Lazarus there in that cold tomb was brought back to life by the voice of the Savior. He awoke, and walked out of the tomb. He would have been hobbling a bit for he was wrapped in all those grave clothes. Imagine the shock of the people.
They were all standing around staring at Lazarus the mummy until Jesus said: “Unbind him and let him go!”
Freed from those clothes, Lazarus was free to enjoy life and enjoy it with a new depth of faith a new belief in the God who loved him enough to not answer his prayer immediately but to wait so that many more would be able to know that Jesus is really the resurrection and the life.
This story is not just about one man coming back to life, but a story about how much God loves you and me – enough to work in our lives in such a way to set us free from what holds us in bondage that is worse that just grave clothes or even death. God loves us enough to set us free from sin, from slavery to sin, from the spiritual death which is all we know without him.
The word Jesus shouted to Lazarus, he is shouting to you. Jesus is saying “Wake up!” “Come forth!” to you and to me. Calling us by name that we would walk out of the tombs we are in, in this life. Tombs of unbelief & slavery to sin in our lives. Tombs of doubt and fear and hopelessness and slavery to prejudice.
Jesus is calling us to step out of our tombs. But notice. Jesus also commands the community of faith to unbind us. IT takes relationships with people in the community in which God has placed us to set us full free from the “trappings” of the place of bondage. To those brothers and sisters around us Jesus calls and says, “Unbind him” “Unbind her” “set them free!” It is in community that we are set free.
Both are true. God calls us forth and then the community works with God to set us free.
What binds you in darkness? Jesus is calling your name today. How much he loves you and wants to free you.