Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown: Part Two – We will see through the lens of sacrifice.

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown:

Part Two – We will see through the lens of sacrifice.

John 12: 12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

 

I’m not sure whether this is desire, wishful thinking or bordering on the prophetic, time will tell. But there is an opportunity during lockdown for the Church to change. Restricting myself to these beautiful verses which will be read and used around the world next week as we celebrate Palm Sunday I share these thoughts, hopes and prayers today.

We will see through the lens of sacrifice, v16

Yesterday standing in a queue outside a supermarket I was talking to someone (2 metres apart) regarding the current crisis of covid-19. The person seemed to have strong opinions on what this was and likened it even to the days of World War 3! I didn’t have the heart to question how this was possible. Understanding the times we live in is something that is important to the Church. “This is that” is our mantra often. It gives comfort to be able to be in control by knowing what this terrible season actually is or means.

In the passage of what we call the Triumphal Entry the disciples are not understanding the times at all.

They now see Jesus welcoming the applause as the Messiah where over the last few years he was dismissing or hiding from it. What does this mean?

They had already missed the fact that Jesus had made plans prior to this arrival into Jerusalem: the loan of a donkey; the hire of a room for the Passover meal; that he had been following the prophecies of Zechariah in riding a donkey.

They see the procession of praise but are aware he has been weeping with words of judgment over the city just beforehand and that he would bring a sentence of doom on the Temple almost straightaway.

They cannot understand.

It is only after his death do they get revelation. His death opens their eyes to see. It is the lens of God. So much so they call it the glory of Christ.

2020 is a year where we will see so many deaths that we had not anticipated. We will hear of many stories of sacrifice from those who throughout the crisis risked their lives at the community foodbanks and the frontline workers who every day got up to face death. We will hear of stories like I heard yesterday from a friend whose wife closed her business and as a previously qualified nurse went back to the NHS to help. A year of death and sacrifice.

People of all faiths will have their stories of course.

But so will the Church and it will mirror that of the gospel, of our Lord.

The gospel is not demanding how people live but telling of how someone died.

Sacrifice could make a come-back in the Western Church. With it will come not only understanding but the glory of God that we have all longed and prayed for.

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown: (Part One) – Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised.

 

Possible changes to the Church after the lockdown:

Part One – Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised.

 

John 12: 12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

 

I’m not sure whether this is desire, wishful thinking or bordering on the prophetic, time will tell. But there is an opportunity during lockdown for the Church to change. Restricting myself to these beautiful verses which will be read and used around the world in a weeks-time as we celebrate Palm Sunday I share these thoughts, hopes and prayers today.

Heroes will be in our memories but found in the marginalised, v12-15.

It was the wrong season. It wasn’t Hanukkah it was Passover. It was the time for the lamb not for palm branches. But when you desperately need a hero, a guru and a celebrity it is amazing what one will do. The story of Judas Maccabaeus is fascinating. The retaking of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple is certainly heroic and inspiring. The heroes of the Church will change. Trying to re-invent one will look and feel strange because a new hero is being birthed right now. During my lifetime I have lived through many heroes of the Church, major Church celebrities have emerged because we have made them so. I enjoyed doing so, bought their books, dwelt on every word and loved it until I discovered they all like me had feet of clay. Some will still want to try and bring Hanukkah out at Passover but it won’t last and it will look ridiculous because the new heroes will be the plethora of frontline workers who every single day with courage went out to work amongst the pandemic. Some of these ordinary people will become famous again like did Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and interestingly Joseph Lister who in the 1860s promoted sterile surgery and the practice of washing hands before surgery. But other heroic stories will be told of Pastors and Church leaders such as one posted online yesterday by my friend Mike:

A testimony by Dr Julian Urban, a 38-year-old doctor in Lombardy

Up until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists…I always laughed at my parents when they went to church. Nine days ago, a 75-year-old pastor came to us for medical help. He had grave respiratory problems, but he had a Bible with him and it impressed us that he was reading the Bible to the people who were dying and holding their hands.

We were all tired, discouraged doctors, psychologically and physically spent, and so we found that we were listening to him… We realized that we have reached the limits of what man can do. We need God, and we have begun to ask for his help, when we have a few moments free. We cannot believe that we who were fierce atheists are now seeking for interior peace by asking the Lord to help us…

The 75-year old pastor [has now] died. Despite the fact that in the last three weeks we have had over 120 people die in our unit, and we are all exhausted and feel destroyed, he succeeded, despite his own condition and our own difficulties, to bring us a PEACE that we no longer hoped to find.

The testimony was gathered by Gianni Giardinelli and translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino.

 

Jesus didn’t ride on a warhorse but an animal representing the common people. He rode from the house of poverty (Bethany) to the oppressed and the marginalised. There will come a day when He will ride a horse of judgment. But the scene is bizarre as all around him signs of Hanukkah is celebrated and yet He rides in saying ‘I’m not that kind of hero’. I’m here as a different king to the one you are used to. The tables have indeed turned. The true king has come and He is found in the marketplace.

Possible tensions during lockdown: the veiled offence.

Possible tensions during lockdown: the veiled offence.

John 12 v1-8 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

It is just 6 days before the Passover, it is close now to the reason why Jesus came and the tension of this incredible story is building. This is a difficult season with what seems the whole of the Jewish world against Jesus. He is followed everywhere. For some time now every word has been scrutinised and every action questioned.

There are times when the followers of Jesus should stay together and this is that time!

However what seems to happen is that the tension of the context pushes emotions to the surface and though we may not see the motivations we do experience fall-outs.

During this time of lockdown the petty squabbles of the past will fall away but at the same time the Spirit will permit hidden things to come to the surface. Post-lockdown the Church will be different because there will be a repositioning and revealing of what had been hidden.

Let’s go back to the scene.

Martha is rushing around serving the food as usual. Lazarus is reclining ready to eat along with the disciples. Then Mary does something which is outrageous. The offense that it causes to others outweighs the generous gesture.

Judas who in that home at that time everyone thought was a good man and they were happy with their treasurer speaks up for the rest.

One thing we need to remember about offence it is this:

The offended never speak about the real offence they always latch onto something that they think justifies their offence and which is understandable to the most. This is what I mean:

The offence: Mary wiped his feet with her hair.

This was embarrassing, the disciples didn’t know where to look for it was culturally offensive

The veil of offence: Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.

“That makes sense Judas. Well said. We need to look out for the poor. That’s what Jesus has taught us. We totally agree!”

This is akin to a misogynistic man walking out of the church because the teaching isn’t ‘deep enough’ or ‘correct theology’ veiling the truth that the man hadn’t known beforehand that the preacher was a woman! Yes, it has happened.

Veiled offence uses something that is accurate ie Mary could have given the perfume to be sold for the poor and this was wasteful; but uses that to cause division when the truth is that she honours Jesus in an offensive way by letting her hair down.

Whose side are you on?

Not now.

Put yourself in the scene. In the scene Judas is a good man.

Let me ask another question. Do you get offended? Are you today? Has someone said or done something that you carry a sense of injustice about; something obviously wrong and you have colleagues who can support you in this? Be careful of veiled offence.

The Spirit will permit our stupidity to cleanse the hidden scene of offence.

These are tense times for the Church. Everything has changed.

The followers of Jesus need to stay united together.

However certain followers may need to be exposed and then later repositioned.

How did Lazarus live post-lockdown?

How did Lazarus live post-lockdown?

John 12 v1-2; 9-11; 17-19

  1. His home and life honoured Jesus.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.”

We are all in our homes now. It feels strange to be here all the time. We have an opportunity to fill our homes with honour to Jesus for who He is. You may think of many difficulties to that based on who lives with you. However just like they honoured Jesus for the life of Lazarus so you can at least become even more thankful for what you have. They prepared a table of thanksgiving to Jesus and we can also lay before Him in thought, mind and words the things that we are grateful for. Every day we can choose something or someone to be thankful for.

  1. He lived free of intimidation

“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

People only fear what they have never faced.

When you have died once you are not afraid to die again.

The Christian has already surrendered their whole life to Jesus, all that we have and own we have laid it down and have taken up our cross and followed him. That is our position. We have no fear in death nor the threat of it.

What a very strange thing to threaten a man who has already died with?

Lazarus was not concerned with the threats.

The people who are least afraid today regarding covid-19 are Christians.

Lazarus is now a hardened soldier. When the enemy pressed in hard he did not fear.

Satan wants to keep you locked-down in your fear and discouragement. But Lazarus people are unstoppable. If the grave could not hold them then petty arguments or threats from others are not going to stop them. The only thing they fear is not doing the will of God. I am not speaking about arrogance or dictatorial people. These could look and still feel very vulnerable at times but when the heat is on they rise to be giants for God.

I believe what intimidated us before lock-down will not anymore hold us back.

  1. He lived for others

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Large numbers of people were being impacted by his testimony. Even though Lazarus never preached he was a walking sermon. Satan wanted to keep Lazarus in lock-down for he knew the influence he would have if he was raised.

You were once locked-down. In your sin and misery of life. But Christ raised you to new life. Everything changed. No one can hold you back. So even now in the middle of a global crisis GO! Make a commitment to influence others. Be kind. Love. Serve. You made it now help others to get there too.

 

Possible lessons from the lockdown

Possible lessons from the lockdown

Only God knows how we will emerge from this year of the virus.

But in a short break from the story of Lazarus, John shows us that there are lessons we can learn when faced with a threat. Even if we see it through the Pharisees eyes and that threat is Jesus!

John 11: 45-57

  1. We will not be the same, v45-48

It is possible that the Church will emerge quite different post-virus. It needs to.

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

The Council meeting was about keeping things the same way. Antagonise the Romans with a Messiah and see a rise of terrorist followers and we have lost everything for they will clamp down on us. We must keep our positions.

I am writing almost daily to my Pastors at the moment to encourage them and last night I wrote of the changes that could possible take place:

“I think the church may emerge stronger in areas we were weak in and weaker in things we boasted in before the virus.
I think pastoral care will get a new lease of life.
I think the gospel will cost us less in cash but more in terms of commitment.
I think what intimidated us will no longer be important.
I think some will leave in the lockdown and there will be a repositioning of ministries and positions and God will dispense of a wineskin that we struggled to get rid of.”

 

  1. God was in the bad day, v49-51

One of the most moving testimonies is when the sufferer says that God was with them through their trial and trauma. How is that possible? How can God be in it and not make it better.

We often cannot see the good or God until much later.

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation …”

“It is better”

It is better that Jesus dies. It is better that the most horrible thing that could happen to a man happens to Jesus.

Who said that? Caiaphas, the High Priest. We might have known!

NO.

“He did not say this on his own.” It was a prophecy previously.

It was God saying it is better that we have this bad day.

This was not Romans 8 v 28 God making good from bad. This was God saying, it’s my idea.

The death of Jesus, God’s idea.

The bad day? We could possibly say later, much later perhaps, God was in that bad moment.

 

  1. There has to be a substitute, v51-53

“…but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

The thought of the Council was this: we are going to die under the Romans, so let’s kill Jesus.

The thought of God was the same except they would die at the hands of God!

God substituted His Son for us on that cross.

God still desires to substitute His Church, the body of Christ for the world, on that cross. Take up your cross.

The Church wants to live and God wants the Church to die.

We have to come through this virus on our knees.

We have to give our all for Him and the world.

If we knew lockdown would happen in 3 weeks-time and we would never re-emerge, what would we say to our neighbours?

 

  1. We need to regroup, v54

“Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.”

Jesus took refuge 30 km northeast of Jerusalem. It is in the hill country overlooking the desert wilderness.

John doesn’t tell us what he did there nor what was said to his disciples. They just went there as a group. Overlooking the wilderness. The wilderness which spoke to every Jew of the presence of God in a place where you least expect Him. Which spoke to every Jew of the Word of God, the Torah, the revelation of God, being birthed in the desert.

In the regrouping they were encouraged. And we need to regroup more and more. In fact during this season it will be all about small groups. Let us not let go of the power of the small group post-virus.

 

  1. We will understand the time, v55-57

There is a time for everything Solomon says.

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Right now we are not free to do what we want to do. All our calendar plans have been deleted. We were in control of the time, when things would happen and when they wouldn’t. Now the time controls us. Coming out of this experience we must understand the times we are living in.

The call to Lazarus

The call to Lazarus

John 11 v43-44 “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Last night we heard the news about further containment that is needed to help stop the spread of this virus.

A few hours previously I was discussing with one of my Pastors how many people would be permitted at a wedding that was being held this Saturday. The difficulty of having to reduce a wedding party from 50 to a handful was painful but not as much as knowing that it will now not be able to take place at all.

During this season we are buoyed by the funny jokes and pictures posting on social media. I saw a picture of 2 people wrapped head to toe in toilet roll the other day. Not sure what the caption was but as I think of Lazarus this morning that picture comes to mind!

We are in lockdown and Churches are rapidly adjusting to a new way of life. But thankfully we are not underground and even during this season God will continue to do great things. One of our Pastors from a small church wrote, “So we did livestream yesterday like everyone else and a young lady that has been to the church a few times with her boyfriend gave her life to Jesus afterwards when she was chatting with one of the people who comes to church online via messenger!”

Even in lockdown people can be set free!

We know we will at some point hear the wonderful call to come out of our homes and gather together again. To socially get near and not be distant. Those gatherings whether with friends, groups or larger gatherings will be special. Can you imagine taking communion together again?

How the Church emerges from this will be interesting to see. I’ve privately speculated, some are prophesying, but I wouldn’t want to call it just yet. It all depends what happens to us in lockdown.

But the call will come, “Come out!”

A call that has been stolen from the Church to announce someone’s secret but now new public identity. We need that phrase back. We need to use it more without worrying of any connotations.

Lazarus was not carried out. He had to take responsibility. He somehow got up still tightly wrapped in the grave clothes and came out of the grave and was standing there at the edge of the tomb.

You can be contained for so long that you have learnt a certain behaviour and moving forward becomes very difficult indeed.

At some point you have to take a risk and leave that what held you.

Lazarus was in the present but he was hindered by what had happened in the past.

The real Lazarus could not be seen.

Ever since Adam hid in the garden, God has been calling “where are you?”

God knew where Adam and Ever were but He wanted them to acknowledge where they were and why.

Come out!

Where are the next mighty men and women of God? Where are the next generation of believers?

They are not in the pews.

They are trapped behind the pain of unresolved issues, bitter break-ups and rubbish decisions.

They are trapped behind the empty symbols of worldly success.

They are trapped in dungeons of unforgiveness and can find no release.

They are in lockdown. In prisons of despair. They need to hear a call from a friend, “Come out!”

The Lord has anointed us to go to the broken-hearted and heal their wounds freeing them from their pain, to proclaim freedom for those within the prisons of life. To call out those in the grip of darkness and to comfort all that mourn.

That’s our call. To go. It won’t change this side of heaven.

Let’s get calling even now and get prepared for when lockdown is over to go and call like never before. This virus has contained us but Jesus will free us from a greater containment.

 

Frontline workers risk contamination

Frontline workers risk contamination

John 11 v43-44 “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Recently I met a few people who have been trapped behind grave clothes for many years. I only had a short time with them and I wasn’t able to do a great deal but before we said goodbye one of them thanked me for helping them deal with some past issues.

The love of Jesus is still drawing men and women from their graves of pain every single day.

Today our brilliant frontline workers are going to work risking themselves being contaminated. We all know so many of these workers who simply keep going because it is the right thing to do.

Lazarus is a risk to the Church from the grave clothes, death, decay and contamination.

I pray the Church will learn from what the frontline workers are demonstrating and take up the responsibility to help those who have been in dungeons of despair.

Yesterday for the first time church buildings were locked down because of the contamination. I was in one building getting ready for a live stream service and I looked out at the empty chairs and wondered who would normally sit in that row, in that chair. We will come back to a gathered worship service and when we do we will be really grateful for them. We won’t mind the technical glitches, we won’t mind if the band was too loud or whether they played our favourite song, just being together will be worth everything.

However, the frontline workers teach us that we are not in our buildings to warm seats and fill pews. We are there to be equipped to then selflessly lay our hands on death clothing and say, “We are going to unravel your nightmares. We are going to stand with you and untie the bondages of hurt and anger, lust and abuse, pain and bitterness. You are not going back into that grave!”

There is a greater contamination than the corona virus and God has a frontline army, the Church and the call is still the same and that is to take off the grave clothes.

We need to risk being contaminated more.

Dave, the stone and Jesus.

Dave, the stone and Jesus.

John 11 v 38-42 “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.”

Nobody had ever said such a thing.

It was unacceptable.

The power in Jesus to command it was the same power that would roll the stone away when he was behind it.

That stone says: You will never do anything again. You will never recover. You will always remember what you once had is gone.

Jesus said, ‘Take it away’.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Removing the stone was for the purpose that the people may believe in who he is, the Messiah, the sent One.

This of course furthered the desire of his opponents wanting rid of him.

It’s amazing how your belief in another’s resurrection can lead to the attack on your own life.

It’s not unusual for people to hold to some sort of life after death.

But the offence comes when Jesus is involved.

To think that it is Jesus who commands the stone to be taken away; that it is Jesus who brings people from their death into eternal life; to think that Jesus rose again, well this is just offensive to some.

When the Apostle Paul said, ““It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”’ (Acts 24:21) it was because of his belief in Jesus.

It is what unites and divides. It isn’t the stone, it is Jesus.

This one thing, the resurrection of Jesus, is not only the foundation of our faith but the true essence and meaning for our faith.

Why so?

If Jesus Christ was not raised then he lied about his own resurrection (Mark 9:31).

If Jesus Christ was not raised then the cross has no power to save (1 Corinthians 15:3).

If Jesus Christ was not raised then God who raises the dead has not vindicated him (1 Corinthians 15:20).

If Jesus Christ was not raised then sin and death cannot be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

If Jesus Christ was not raised then there is no new life in God now (Romans 6:4).

And even more importantly as we face a new chapter of life without our loved one:

If Jesus Christ was not raised then there is no hope that anyone be raised (1 Corinthians 15:18-19).

“Take away the stone” and “that they may believe that you sent me” are linked.

Take away the stone and roll away the stone are linked.

The resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus are linked.

Dave Ayling is resurrected and alive and in his eternal home today only because Jesus raised him to new life and brought him to that place.

Dave the stone and Jesus.

I was buried beneath my shame; Who could carry that kind of weight?

It was my tomb; ‘Til I met You

I was breathing, but not alive; All my failures I tried to hide

It was my tomb; ‘Til I met You

You called my name; Then I ran out of that grave; Out of the darkness

Into Your glorious day; You called my name; And I ran out of that grave;

Out of the darkness; Into Your glorious day.

 

A few days ago, Jesus commanded the stone of death to be removed and Dave went running to Jesus. It will happen to us too. We all go the same way. But whether that stone is removed is dependent on whether you believe on Jesus being the One who was sent to make all this possible.

The tears of God drove Him to tear the sting out of death!!

The tears of God drove Him to tear the sting out of death!!

John 11 v33-37

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

 

Jesus wasn’t deeply moved in spirit and troubled when he heard that Lazarus had got sick.

When he arrived into Bethany and found out that Lazarus had already died, Jesus didn’t weep.

When Martha expressed her desire that Jesus would have got there sooner he didn’t seem phased by that.

Jesus wasn’t weeping because he loved Lazarus as the onlookers thought. Nor was he weeping because he had failed to keep him alive as the critics (who are never far away) claimed.

Here is his friend, Mary, at his feet in total surrender to the situation, weeping.

Surrounding her are her friends, supporting her, weeping with her.

Their cry move him deeply and he becomes troubled which can also be translated as angry.

He weeps and is angry.

Why?

It is because he realises the power death has over people’s lives. The power of death that he would take on and overcome and which this miracle would definitely lead him to. The cross!

A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3)

He weeps, he doesn’t say anything, he just stands and tears fall moved by their grief. He teaches us that there are times such as this when not to speak is paramount and entering the pain of another everything.

His anger at the power of death drives him forward to the greatest battle in heaven and earth of which he will ride victorious. Which is clearly seen when someone dies in Christ there is huge hope realising that the loved one is actually not dead at all.

We have hope because our Saviour stood in a village just outside Jerusalem and amidst the pain of family and friends became so moved and angry at the situation that he also wept.

The tears of God drove Him to tear the sting out of death!!

What happened when the loved one died?

What happened when the loved one died?

John 11 v17-32 “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

(Every morning for well over 10 years now I have published my devotional writing from the Bible. I haven’t written about my favourite themes just the systematic reading of the Bible. I obviously have accumulated thousands of blogs from chapters and with a few of the books of the Bible most of the verses. They are not written to engage Bible students and theologians into debate. They are just an ordinary guy writing what is in his heart as he reads the amazing Bible. Others have written far better on certain subjects. I don’t have the time to think too long or research the books and the internet, the grammar isn’t brilliant I just throw it down on the paper and then type it up and post it once my devotional time is over. I don’t know how many read it but If it helps anyone, even just one person then I am encouraged. Why am I telling you this?

At times the blogs have been very cathartic for my soul as I have journeyed through a particular season. These are days where it is a great example of this. Yesterday a dear friend, a colleague, someone who had helped me develop Elim globally, a member of my apostolic team in the Midlands, the mentor to my son who served him as his assistant minister and more importantly than all that a wonderful husband to Julia and father to great sons, Ben and Tom went home to the Lord Jesus. No one saw it coming except God but the family and friends have seen touches of God from last Sunday morning through to yesterday. For me, it was the fact that as I am reading through John’s gospel having started prior to Christmas we reach chapter 11, the story of Lazarus the day after Dave collapsed. Is it a coincidence? I would rather believe it is one of the many touches God brings to us at difficult times.)

What happened when the loved one died?

  1. People came to the door to comfort Martha and Mary.

Over the last few days as our friend laid dying and then yesterday when he eventually left us I have seen again first-hand the amazing comfort people can bring to those who are grieving.

Emotions are raw and unpredictable, tears are constant from either weeping or laughing at the most bizarre things, there is no definitive in mourning, it is unpredictable, wild, but it definitely hurts.

Family and friends draw near, despite corona virus they hug it out, they hold on as if to say ‘don’t you go too!’ People around us become even more important. We find ourselves expressing our love and appreciation of each other. We are thankful for what is left.

Comfort is a beautiful word. It walks into the pain and plays a part of however the hurting chooses.

Martha and Mary had people knocking on the door wanting to play a part.

 

  1. Martha runs with belief, v20 and v27

Will you believe?

Martha believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus and also believed it was never too late even after 4 days, v21  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha believed that Lazarus was not finished that he would rise again, v24, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Martha believed who Jesus was, v27 “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Will you believe even when things die or people die that God will bring them into eternity?

Death is no threat to Jesus or to my friend Dave Ayling.

  1. Mary runs and bows down before Jesus, v28-32

At a time when it just isn’t fair.

When all you feel is pain and loss.

When anger rises at the injustice of it all.

When you cannot move, think, eat or breathe because death has weakened you.

I have been present at so many deaths. I have seen the tears of a deserted wife as the husband of many years rejects them. I have seen the tears of a mourning wife when their plans have been ripped up. The pain rises from within the depths of their soul. There is no pain quite like it. There is joy at the pain of birth. But not here at this moment. It is raw. What can the person do?

They can fall.

Fall down at the feet of Jesus.

Fall down in their pain.

Fall down in their confusion.

And most importantly fall down in their submission to Jesus who knows more than we do.

 

The crowds comforting, Martha believing and Mary falling down but of course there is someone else.

Jesus. What is he doing when the loved one dies?

He was waiting for things to get worse, a further 2 days, 4 in total, v17-18. The only dark day for Jesus was the cross. Everything is about that day. For Jesus, there is no dark days outside of that. He is resurrection and life. If he waits it is not because he doesn’t know what to do nor that he is not interested. It is because of a bigger plan, a better plan than Lazarus dying. (Lazarus was raised to life we know the story, but he died eventually, his resurrection to life on earth was not about him but a help to taking Jesus to his darkest day, the cross). There is a plan in the waiting.

He is instilling hope to Martha, v25-26 “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Lazarus wasn’t dead, he was alive. Those who love Jesus never die, never. They always are living. They just go into another space, a better place than earth, to live again.

He is calling Mary, v28-30. He is near to the broken-hearted. Psalm 3 v 2 reminds us of the many voices that are plaguing us in times of difficulty, “God will not, has not, never will.” But there is one voice that matters. The sweetest voice in all the earth. The voice that calls you to him now, in your grief, in the pain, ‘come to me’ and where is Jesus? He is always at the place of belief (v30)? That’s where he is waiting for you and for me today.