“Remove the Stone”

 

John 11:38-44

Before this section of Scripture, Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus, asking Him to come and heal Lazarus from his sickness.  But Lazarus died before Jesus got to him.  It was all a part of the plan, though!  When Jesus came to the town of Bethany and met with Martha and Mary, who were overcome with grief, He wept.  

Jesus responds when we cry out to Him.  He comes. Even if we think it’s too late.  It is all in His perfect timing, for His Glory, not our own. )

 

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb.

And when our cry is over/about someone for whom we are asking for their salvation–for them to be brought from death into life—He is deeply moved.  He comes here in this passage to the tomb—just like He comes to that person in our lives.  We may have given up and figuratively placed that person in a tomb, and rolled the stone in front, thinking all is lost.  There is no hope, because He hasn’t come to them yet, and they are so deeply entrenched in their ways they won’t ever see Jesus’s sacrifice as being for themselves.

Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

Who had placed the stone there?  Man.  Humans had rolled a stone into place before the cave.

All too often we ourselves are the channel through which Jesus will move to bring others to Life, but we act as the stone, keeping them from the Life-giving blood of Jesus, by acting in our own flesh, which is contrary to God.  We have given up hope.  We have rolled the stone over the place they hold in our hearts, and sealed up the hope for that person. That person for whom we had cried out to God to heal, to deliver, to raise to new Life.  Though we mourn their loss, we decide in our hearts that God has chosen not to save and rescue them, to deliver them from the evil forces at work in their lives.

39 Jesus said, “Remove this stone.”

Who did He ask to remove the stone?  Lazarus’ friends and family that were gathered around the tomb, grieving and mourning over the loss of their friend.

Jesus, in His infinite power, could have just spoke and the stone would have rolled away.  That’s probably what would happen in an action film—some superhero character that has the power to speak and things to happen—never would that character choose to tell someone else to do it, unless they were exerting their power or influential status over them, and in turn puffing themselves up to be even more powerful and sought after.

However, I don’t believe that is what is happening here.  Jesus could have moved that stone by His spoken word, or He could have ordered it to be moved, had He been an earthly king with the earthly status to have people running here and there for Him. But He does not have some earthly power status, because He chose not to.  He chose to be born into an unknown family in an unknown town, in a stable.  Jesus’ whole identity is wrapped up in being fully God, but also being at the same time, fully man, identifying with us on the most intimate level.

Sure, He could have ordered them to move the stone, but I think really He is assertively just asking them to.  That’s Jesus’ style.  Assertive. Meek. Gentle. Humble. Full of compassion and grace.  He has come to be with Lazarus’ friends and family.  He is there, in their midst, weeping with them, identifying with them.  That’s how He is. He chooses to walk with us, to talk with us, to laugh and cry with us.  To enjoy our company, as we enjoy His.

He loves us so much that He chooses to use us, to work through us to reach others.  But all too often, we are the very hindrance to the work which He is trying to do, because we have rolled that stone into place, over our hearts and over any hope that that person may come to know Him.  So, He assertively asks us, gently, humbly, fully of meekness and compassion, “step out of the way so that I can work.”

Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.

Oh ye of little faith!  How often are we just like Martha?  “Lord, it’s too late!” we cry, “You can never do anything now.” “They’ve been through so much much and mire in their lives, and they are so entangled in sin knee deep and falsehood that they are just too impure for You to do anything with.”  But, we forget, we were once like that, too.  We once were covered in filth, stained beyond black with our darkness, our self-deceived lies that we told ourselves time and again.  And yet, Jesus specializes in the hard-to-reach people.  He specializes in changing people, like He changed the water into wine.

Just because that person is 90 does not mean that they can’t have Jesus today.  Even though that person is a worshipper of Satan, does not mean that they cannot have Jesus today!  4 days was sure enough time for the body to have begun its decaying process.  And though 4 days or 40 years, someone that is dead in their trespasses is never too far from God–as long as they are alive and breathing on this earth and can make that decision for themselves.

40 Jesus said to her “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Step back, submit to God, and allow Him to work through us.  We cannot control, nor can we fathom the infinite work that He will perform in someone else’s life.  What we must do is step back, humbly submit to the work that God is doing in and through us, and let Him do the work that He set out to do in and through and for them.  Sit back, pray, watch, and be amazed at what He does!

Believe that if things start happening in your life, He is working.  Believe that He is able and that He is willing to move and act in ways unimaginable to us, but in ways particularly and acutely personal to them to draw them to Himself.

41 So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.

I admit as I read over this passage, my eyes went a little fast over this part and for a second, though I knew better, I read “I think You have heard me.”  Instantly I knew that was wrong, so I had to go back and re-read this.  Yes, indeed, He says thank—not think.  But how many times we say that to our Father?  “I think You heard me.”  Because we are not sure that He is really going to answer that prayer.  We are not positive what He will do—or if He will act, because we have not yet seen Him move.  But we don’t have to see Him move in order to know that He heard us. Oh, aren’t we sometimes just like the people that are standing all around Him in the following passage:

42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent me.”

He gave us His Word that He will hear every utterance we speak.  We know that He hears us and He listens.  But sometimes, we don’t believe it.  I know I need to work on that part a bit more.  Trusting Him.  And speaking His promises out loud in front of others is a good way to acknowledge that indeed He is faithful to hear us and to act according to His will, and it also reminds us that God is in control, that He is faithful, and that He intimately cares and acknowledges us and loves us.

43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

He calls us by name.  He calls to our hearts and asks us to follow His voice, out of the darkness and into the Light.  All we have to do is obey.

In this passage, it says that He cried out with a loud voice.  To me, this signifies that undeniable tug on our hearts, that aching to be in His presence before we come to know Him intimately for ourselves.  The world in and of itself can be deafening sometimes, but when you are being called by God, all the background noise fades.  And His constant beckoning voice is what we hear with our hearts, over and over again, until we finally wake up from our slumber, and rise and follow the voice of Jesus.  We find ourselves over time so in tune with this call that it drowns everything out–even the things that were once pleasing to us before.  Instead, we turn our eyes toward that open door, the light pouring forth, and choose to follow His beckoning call as we come out into the daylight, into the world gathered around us.  Yet, we are changed.  We are now brand new creations, forgiven and set free of the sting of death forever.

44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It doesn’t matter what we have been bound with—shame, addiction, regret, selfishness, self-righteousness, a form of self-made religion or man-made religion, hate, bitterness, anger, adultery, sex outside of marriage—it does not matter what we have gotten ourselves entangled into.  When Jesus calls us by name and asks us to come out of the darkness we are in, all we have to do is follow.  The power of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross is enough to break any chain, once we make that decision to follow Him and make Him our own.

I envision him walking out into the bright daylight.  Notice that he left something behind? The darkness in that cave.  His bindings, as he now stands before Jesus, fall off.

In the same way, when we are set free like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, we are full of new Life and live from that moment forward in Victory over death and the darkness that we too left in that cave.

Jesus can do this for anyone–at any age.  It doesn’t matter the circumstances.  So let us believe again.  If it is us and our unsubmitted hearts that are acting as stones in front of the burial place we have placed that person in subconsciously, let us remove that stone. Let us step out of the way.

Submit ourselves to God.  Quit going back into that cave that we ourselves left long ago, soaking in that darkness that we had once left behind.  Get out, into the Light, and let Jesus cleanse you once again as you surrender at the cross once again.  It’s a continual, day by day, sometimes minute by minute surrender.  But oh, it is worth it!

Remember, nothing you can ever do will make us righteous before the Almighty God.  All we can do is humbly submit, accept the work and that sacrificial gift that Jesus gave us at the cross, and let Him begin to work in and through us to reach others, to be that light in their darkness, and remove the stone so that they can finally hear His voice and come forth, like we once did.

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