We must not try to walk in newness of life wearing the clothes of death.
Jesus, at the grave of Lazarus, would demonstrate the power of the life He brought to the world. Born of a virgin, He had life in Him to share with us. A foretaste of our destiny is seen in the cemetery at Bethany. This corruptible shall put on incorruption!
The Cemetery in Bethany
At the tomb of Lazarus, amid the grief of the crowd, Jesus groaned in His spirit. Unlike the loud utterance before, this sound emitted from deep in His chest. His great heart was stirred and this was the sound of it.
Approaching the tomb, He saw the great stone rolled to cover the entrance. The groan became a command,
“Take away the stone.”
After a brief moment of hesitation, strong men sprang to obey. Martha warned against the removal of the stone; the air from inside would surely be foul.
“…he has been dead four days.”
Jesus turned sharply in her direction,
“Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Martha, regretting her objection, shrunk her shoulders to their smallest dimension at Jesus’ rebuke. Then, remembering who He was and the promise He made, she straighten up to her full height to see what the power of the resurrection could do.
A Stone No Longer Needed
With tools and levers and the muscles of strong men, the stone that sealed the tomb of Lazarus was rolled away. Onlookers covered their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a 4-day-old internment. Amazing—there was no odor. There was a fragrance like flowers in heaven, if there could be flowers in heaven.
Recognizing the essence of glory, Jesus looked to heaven, knowing the work inside the tomb was finished. Smiling, He spoke to the Father,
“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
The mouth of the tomb yawned in darkness, revealing no miracle, yet promising everything. The fragrance of new life, filled the cemetery, taking the breath of those who looked on.
The Command of Life
Jesus gathered His prodigious strength and shouted specifically to Lazarus, lest every occupant of every grave would obey Him,
“Lazarus, come forth!”
Silence and then a slight rustle. A figure, wrapped from head to foot, struggled into the light of the open tomb. Frozen in place by the wonder of it all, no one sought to assist Lazarus. They could see him breathing through the tightly wound linen covering his face and struggling to free his hands and feet. The aroma of heaven spilled into the atmosphere all around him.
Laughing, Jesus suggested a plan of action to those closest to Lazarus.
“Loose him, and let him go.”
Never before was there such joy in a cemetery.
Like Lazarus, we have been called from death to life. We have been rescued by the command of Jesus. We who once were dead are alive again. No one but Jesus can do this. However, many times we still are wrapped in the clothes of the grave—the attitudes, philosophies, and values of this world. The Holy Spirit wants to “loose us and let us go” and He uses people, godly people, to do the work. That’s why we need the church.
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NKJV
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Lord Jesus, You are the Victor over death, hell, and the grave. That heavy stone could not contain the new life You gave to Your friend, Lazarus. It was his story and it is our promise. You rescue from death those who believe in You and confess You as Lord! Sometimes, Lord, we try to live this new life with the rotting graveclothes still on our backs. Lord, free us from worldly thinking! Liberate us from the culture of death that surrounds us. Help us walk in newness of life! Amen and Amen.
Rise Up O Church of God
Words: William Pierson Merrill; Music: William H. Walter
1. Rise up O church of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength To serve the King of kings.
2. Rise up O church of God! His kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood And end the night of wrong.
3. Rise up O sons of God! The church for you doth wait.
Her strength unequal to her task Rise up and make her great.
4. Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where His feet have trod.
As foll’wers of the Son of Man, Rise up O church of God!
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved