“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—" - Ephesians 2:4-5
John 11: Lazarus has been dead and buried four days. His sisters both blame Jesus for not being there to stop it. Jesus is moved by their emotion and by their grief, but also by their inability to understand who he is. Jesus didn’t want to be there to stop Lazarus from dying. He allowed Lazarus to die so he could use him as the ultimate object lesson:
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” - John 11:41-43
“Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus was dead. You don’t make choices when you are dead. You don’t do anything of your own initiative or will when you’re dead. You have zero influence, zero control. You can’t speak or move or think. Dead, nothing, no one. But, Lazarus, in the blackness of a tomb and the eternity of death was still subject to the will and sovereignty of God. God spoke and Lazarus had to hear because God’s voice is power unbounded by the merely material, and it renders physical death meaningless. God’s will in spoken Word, “Lazarus, come out.”
Lazarus is commanded to re-enter the physical creation he had departed four days earlier. Lazarus response was the only one possible, he obeyed. Lazarus’ obedience to the voice of Jesus is ultimate proof of Jesus’ claim “I and the Father are one.” And, it is ultimate proof that the boundless power of the Holy Creator God of the universe has come to fulfill his purpose of grace. Lazarus, come out. Lazarus, live! Lazarus, death is only for as long as I permit it. Come out! How awesome!
I don’t think it too far fetched to see myself in the cold darkness, hands and feet bound with linen strips, when the irresistible Word said to me, “Come out.” Isn’t that what Ephesians 2 says? “…we were dead…” Dead, nothing, no one. Zero influence, zero control. Dead and condemned. But God, being rich in mercy, because of his love, sent Jesus to speak the words we could not refuse to hear. “Come out.” God… made us alive… by grace. The same voice that called Lazarus out of his tomb has called us out of ours. You didn't decide to rise from the dead. I didn’t. God made us alive in Christ.
The book of John is the story of how, by the power of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, we are made alive. But our joy in the how is rooted in remembering the why: “God…because of the great love with which he loved us… even when we were dead…” Because of his love God made us alive together with Christ.
It is ironic, and tragic, how often in my life the voice of God does not sound like the love that called me to come out of the tomb of death my sin purchased for me. Instead, so often it sounds like… interference or restriction or something that burdens. I wonder if that is because in the buzz and distraction of life I just don’t hear the voice, or if I have the freedom to not listen.
So, I ask God for the Lazarus experience. That is, the faith to put to death all the things in my life that distort or drown the voice that called me to “come out.” The faith to be dead to the things of the world so that in silence and clarity I can hear! I ask for the faith to believe the voice that is rooted in love and spoken in grace so I have no choice and no other desire but to obey. “Come out.”