What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?
On a Georgia cemetery: “I told you I was sick!”
Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:
For not rising.
The rest God knows – so does the Devil.
What you do and how you feel when God is deliberately late reveals who you are inside. These misgivings are exactly the dark corners God want s to clean up, if you’ll let him.
John 11 The Message (MSG)
The Death of Lazarus
4 When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.” (imagine the sisters… waiting and waiting for Jesus to show up… only to have him come… late. How would you feel if God were late? And not just late- but purposefully late?)
5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” (The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing)
8 They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?”
9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.” (Jesus is playing a different game)
11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”
12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap. (What actually IS death? Have you ever thought about it?)
14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.” (??? Jesus, um… are you feeling ok?)
16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We might as well die with him.” (God is purposefully late- and Thomas decides to just trust him anyway)
17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. (bodies start to rot after three days) Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. (Professional wailers! Imagine the business cards…) Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house. (Jesus is purposefully late. What do you do? How do you naturally react?)
21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”
23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”
24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”
25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”
28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”
29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept. (shortest verse in the Bible)
36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”
37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”
38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. (The word for moved is one of the strongest Greek words “embrimaomai” which is from the Greek root word “brimaomai: and it literally means “to snort with anger.” Was he angry at Death? The whole situation?) 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. (what I want to know is… when did the raising of Lazarus actually happen? before or after the stone was rolled away?) 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.”
Lazarus. First Christian Martyr?
According to ancient Cypriot tradition he went to Kition, Larnaca, Cyprus, where later he was met by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey through Cyprus, and was ordained by them as the first Bishop of Kition.
He is said to have lived for thirty more years and on his death was buried there for the second and last time. The Church of Agios Lazaros was built over the reputed (second) tomb of Lazarus.
So what was on Lazarus’ tombstone?
“Lazarus, four days dead and the friend of Christ”
Can you imagine what that must have been like for him… to die… again.
I bet you Lazarus never meant for all of this to happen… he probably never imagined everything would turn out this way.
Sometimes we plan out everything- we want things to go a certain way… of course, they end up going any other way but our original intentions. And I want to say that maybe that’s part of a grand point God is purposefully using to illustrate within our own lives. Yes bad things, like Death, happen to good people. But maybe God is doing and allowing things like these to happen so we know he is the one in control. Our lives are not our own. Safety is an illusion. We are in his hands. To think anything else would be to kid ourselves.
In the middle ages, when you were about to embark on a long journey, people would wish you a safe strip and say, ‘as God wills it’. And they meant it. Their whole hope and trust and faith rested as easily on the knowledge that God was in control as we do for our chairs we sit in to continue holding us up.
Has God been late in coming or acting in your own life? Be honest here. Not just late, but… according to pretty good sources… even PURPOSEFULLY late? Maybe it was on purpose because it is times like these when it really shows what you’re really made of. How you really feel. It gets down deep to your heart- all those hard, heavy, deep, meaningful questions you keep way down inside. The ones that scare you- the ones that might hurt. The ones, maybe, you are afraid for God to touch and deal with.
Think about how differently Mary and Martha reacted. When God moves in his own timing, does this bother you? Do you hold it against him? How do you believe the story of life regularly plays out?
What I want you to know today, is that if you can get down deep where these things reside- this is the exact place God is wanting to be let into, as well. When Jesus comes into your life, he doesn’t just come for the floors and the counters- the dishes and the trash. He comes for the Attics, too. The scary basements- the clogged sump pumps- the cracking foundations of your life. He’s a carpenter- a stone mason- a builder- even a gardener, from time to time, you know…
If you’re legitimately mad about real life circumstances- maybe he is too. Roll the stone away, he says- Who cares if it smells, let’s get to work- come out already. Trust others to get the death-clothes off you so Jesus can show you how to really live already.
Like what you read? Join in with your own insights, stories and art- send them to email@example.com. Thanks and God bless -Ryan