March 26, 2015

Killing Lazarus

I don’t remember ever hearing a message about “the plot to kill Lazarus.”

What happened earlier is more familiar. The death and resurrection of Jesus’ close friend Lazarus is recorded in John 11:1-44. Jesus heard that Lazarus was dying but waited an extra two days before he headed off to see him. But the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had been dead four days and was already starting to decompose. As the KJV puts it, “by this time he stinketh.” The extra time had allowed many people to arrive to mourn Lazarus’ death. Then Jesus commanded the stone in front of the cave to be rolled away. Jesus prayed out loud to the Father and said that this was so “that they may believe that you [God the Father] sent me.” Then Jesus commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead and come out. And he did. 

The raising of Lazarus is a familiar story but I had never paid much attention to the “plot to kill Lazarus” tucked away in the next chapter:

“When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” –John 12:9-11

It takes a lot of nerve to plot to kill a guy just after he was brought back from the dead! What was the reason that people wanted to kill Lazarus? Was it because they had something against Lazarus personally? No. People wanted to kill Lazarus because his physical resurrection was undeniable evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be. That miracle was very public and obvious. Many people knew Lazarus had been dead. Now they could see he was alive. People were coming to faith in Jesus because they saw the signs of life in Lazarus. The enemies of the light wanted to put an end to that.

If that is the case with Lazarus, what should we expect?

There is such as things as physical resurrection, but there is also spiritual resurrection. Physical resurrection is when someone is physically dead but is brought back to physical life. On the other hand, spiritual resurrection is when someone is spiritually dead and is brought back to life spiritually. This happens at the moment of salvation. Ephesians 2:1 says that we “were dead in the trespasses and sins” in which we once walked. Ever since Adam's rebellion, each of us come into this world spiritually dead—separated from the life of God because of sin. Even Christians were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3) Thankfully, God did something about this. The next verse says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” This is spiritual resurrection. Salvation is being made alive again.

When God raised Lazarus there were obvious signs of life. He wasn't just laying there anymore. People could tell that he was no longer dead. In the same way, people should also be able to see signs of life when someone receives spiritual resurrection. It doesn’t outwardly look the same for everyone, but at salvation God starts the process of changing us from the inside out. We receive a new heart. New affections start growing—new loves. Sins we used to love become bitter. The things of God that we used to find dull turn from black and white to color. Some people are able to say goodbye to deep sinful habits. Others start to struggle against them—when there wasn’t even a struggle before. People find themselves wanting to read God’s Word, go to church, and pray and worship…not because they have to, but now because they want to. These changes are noticeable.   

Our lives should be a testimony to what God has done. It takes a miracle to physically raise someone from the dead and it also takes a straight-out miracle to raise someone to life spiritually. That new life did not come from the corpse. Corpses don’t do anything. God did it and God gets all the glory. Whether the changes seem big or small, fast or gradual, people see them. Some people will be happy with what they see. Others won’t.

Are you living a life that God’s enemies would be worried about? Or not? Does your life give evidence to the world that Jesus Christ saves and changes lives . . . or does your life, so far, give little or no evidence of Christ’s work?

They wanted to kill Lazarus. If we are living changed lives we should expect that some people won't like it. Darkness hates the light. Sin hates a contrast. Sinners like other people to sin with them because it helps down out feelings of guilt. Those who hate Jesus won't like it. Satan certainly isn’t going to like it. He doesn't want more people to put their trust in Christ. Satan doesn’t want people to look at your life and see undeniable evidence of Jesus’ power to give new life. The enemies of the light want to cover that up. Expect that. Prepare for that. But don’t let it happen.

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