John 11:38-44: ”Take away…Take
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, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”NIV
Someone observed that it’s a good job Jesus put a limit on His command: ”Lazarus, come out!” (43). If He’d just said, ”Come out!” He would have emptied the cemetery!! I see that point, and it makes me smile.
This story got me thinking again about how we are often invited to partner with Jesus in performing miracles. There is no doubt that Lazarus’ emergence from the tomb – alive – was a God-given miracle (40-44a). Jesus did it in answer to the prayer of faith (41, 42).
But people got to play a part in the miracle. This is reflected in the two commands:
”Take away the stone” and ”Take off the grave clothes…” (39a, 44b).
”Take away the stone…So they took away the stone” (39, 41). When they were obedient, all heaven broke loose, you might say (or it was revealed that heaven had already broken loose inside that cave.)
The ”stone” speaks of an obstacle in the way of the full manifestation of the miraculous.
It is a big thing; a heavy thing; a daunting thing. It’s a something which will require concerted effort – possibly with others: ”…they” took away the stone (41).
It may be easier to raise unbelieving objections than to get on with the work being asked of you (39b). You can also imagine objections being raised to taking the grave clothes off a corpse having just come to life (44b). ”And the dead man comes out – a heart-stopping moment of shuddering horror and overwhelming joy, mixed together like dark mud and liquid gold…If we don’t feel it’s power, and feel ourselves driven to awe and thanks and hope, then either we haven’t learned to read or we have hearts of stone.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, pp.13, 14.
But when we play our part, Jesus does His. We are ”workers together” with God.
How does this speak to you today?
Is there some resurrection life miracle awaiting your involvement? What will you do in response to this challenge?
What is the stone and where is that stone you need to ”take away”? Are you willing to do it, or making an excuse?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for expecting you to do what you ask me to do. Help me now to rise up and take action.