“Take off the grave clothes and let him go!” Jn 11:38-44 WBC 4/1/4
Stunning passage. Stunning words: “Lazarus! Come forth!”
Can remember reading it as a new Christian
- 22 years on I’m still certain this happened, as written
o even more so since my trip to Lagos
- it’s gripping and tragic. Sorry don’t have time to read all
o can feel the emotion.
o Jesus’ best friends. ‘Jesus wept’
o Example of life- bad things happening to good people and it breaking Jesus’ heart
And Him working in it
“DEAD FOUR DAYS” (v39)
This was a great miracle as Lazarus dead 4 days
- actually- this miracle was the turning point for Jesus (v45)
You may think a situation is hopeless. Bad smell. Dead.
- but we believe in the resurrection of the dead!
Now- I’m going beyond the physical, here. I DO believe people physically get raised from the dead (not least, Jesus!)
- but this morning I’m talking about my… our realm of experience
You may think someone is BEYOND saving. In a terrible state
- like in Eph 2:1-8 & Col 2:13 where it uses the terminology ‘dead in our sins’
o = how we’re described before we’re born again
o in the darkness. In the cave. Away from the ‘light of Christ’ Jn 1:4
You may think they’re beyond hope… saving
- but they’re not
- Jesus has the last word!
- One word from Jesus and the dead can live! Come out of the dark cave
Jn 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
“ROLL AWAY THE STONE” (v39)
But note- before Jesus can tell Lazarus to come out- He asks his followers to roll away the stone
- why? Why didn’t he just ‘zap’ it? Can He raise the dead but not move a stone?
o Because those who wanted Lazarus raised… pleaded with Him… played an active part in bringing him to new life
God, often, doesn’t just ‘up and answer’ our prayers. He involves us.
- often we pray for something… but do nothing more
o for all kinds of reasons- fear, uncertainty, apathy maybe
But what they did was key to the dead being brought to life
- this stone stopped Lazarus hearing… being able to be raised
o it was a genuine, big and real block
THEY must roll away the stone. Not least because THEY put it there!
We think, nowadays: ‘oh there’s no point in doing anything. People aren’t interested’
- rubbish! THAT’S one of the boulders we must remove
o now wonder they, sometimes, aren’t interested!
o “oh I’ve only found something that has changed my life completely. But you won’t be interested”
Nobody would dare market a product like that! How dare we present eternal life in the same way!
- Rubbish! People’s hearts are crying out for liberation! Jesus. God
o They’re just so starved they don’t know it (yet)
- Identify the boulders… blocks… remove them… and people come. God does the rest.
Remember: God hasn’t put the blocks there! Believe it or not He STILL wants people to know Him!
What are the stones?
1) The church. Christians
I think I think the biggest stone over the mouth of the cave is God’s people
- it’s how we act and how we are perceived.
Listen! Nobody who comes into contact with genuine people who gobble them up in love are going to stay in the tomb!
- loved- whether they ‘toe the line’ or not. Valued. Not evangelism fodder
- but we do fail. Even here (and seriously- you’re pretty good)
- “We were finding it very difficult to get to know folk at WBC (apart from yourself and Sheila) and felt God calling us elsewhere.”
o Now- I know that wasn’t completely true! You have to make an effort, too, to get to know people
But why leave this kind of thing open to misunderstanding?
You folks whose HG is involved in Alpha… or going to be involved
- you need to be HERE. Welcoming. Gobbling them up. ALL of you. Not leaving it for the wolves to do so.
o Praying for them. Being ‘shepherds’ to the newborn flock.
Maybe another stone is that Lazarus, wrongly, perceives that ‘the church is really for women’
- that’s rubbish, too! I’m SO thrilled by what the Lord is doing in our men’s lives
o men! Come forth! Rise up! Roll away the stone! Make a noise! Take the lead
roll away the stone- and God will bring Lazarus to life
God IS willing. The dead WILL come to life. We have to just remove the stones
- seriously! Don’t worry or pressurise. Remove the stones & let God do His stuff in His time & way.
2) Stone hearts
Interestingly- another thing the Bible describes as a stone block can be the hearts of people: hard. Cold. Cynical (even though desperate)
Maybe this is the stone we have to roll away. How do we do this?
- some more words of Jesus Mt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
o Let them see it’s genuine and it works
- Also, again- love. Unpressurised
- And- read, think and pray so you can answer their ‘stones’ when they ask. Or maybe Alpha will answer their ‘boulders’?
- And- PRAY.
Pray! Jesus is the King of Hearts. He knows people’s hearts.
- blocks vary from person to person so
o a) think about it. Identify it as best you can
o b) ask God about it
o c) Pray into it
o Jesus said – whatever you bind or loose on earth will be done in heaven. I reckon this applies to boulders as well!
That’s what January is about:: our month of prayer
- ‘all together, now’! Come be a part of this!
3) Stone- law
in 2 Cor 3:7 Paul describes the OT law as engraved on stone and bringing death if people think that law… good deeds… obeying rules… can save them
Maybe this is the stone that needs to be rolled away… in Winchester…
- “being nice and good will save me”
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Roll away the stone!
Doubt can be a big stone to Seekers
- “will they… He… accept me?”
o better believe it! “I will NEVER turn away ANYONE..”
- doubt: ‘I don’t understand everything’
o join the club!
o Funny thing is- when you… when Thomas… meets Jesus those questions just don’t matter so much!
But as I looked at this passage- it’s the doubt of Jesus’ followers who almost stop the new life, here!
- Martha’s full of statement of faith until asked to remove the stone
o Then: ‘but there’s a bad odour’
= true! But forgot it was JESUS asking her to roll it!
Sometimes it’s OUR lack of faith… obedience… boldness… that stops Lazarus being set free
- if Our faith doesn’t stand us in good stead- what example is that to others?!
No! ‘didn’t I tell you that if you believe you’ll see the glory of God?
- raising the dead doesn’t depend on:
o great faith. Rather obedience… & God’s faithfulness
You roll the stone. HE’LL do the rest (in His way)
Illustr: door knocking response. We didn’t DO anything! Just nudged the stone!
o Many: remember my sermon on ‘believing for breakthrough’?
Changes happen when just a FEW roll the stone
One person… obedient act… can turn a tide
Sing: as we see the world
He is the Lord
Two brief points:
“LAZARUS- COME OUT!”
the Jn 10 ‘my sheep hear my voice… and I call them out’ bit refers to Jesus calling His Jewish followers out of Judaism
- but it applies here, just fine, as well
Jesus knows your name. Jesus calls His own by name- out to freedom
- as we move on to something common to ALL believers- may you hear His voice… words
“TAKE OFF THE GRAVE CLOTHES AND LET HIM GO!”
Out Lazarus… the one who has found new life… comes
- or should I say ‘hops’. The process isn’t finished, yet!
He had to play his part in responding to Jesus’ words
- God expects that of all of us. We always have to do our part
- As you mature, God will expect more of you
But here, there’s nothing Lazarus can do. Bound hand and foot!
- how lovely on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news
o well. His feet are tied and smelly. NOT a good witness to others!
- smell of death around him. Old clothes. Old self
o habits. Interestingly- in Eph 4:22 Paul kind of describes the old self like old clothes that have to be taken off and ‘new self’ put on
we are to do that. Trouble is- Lazarus can’t
- can’t walk with the Lord properly. Can’t see His light properly Can’t speak to others of his new life
- can’t serve; hands are tied.
Needs a good clean up!
- (Baptism is a really good image of his phase)
Once given ‘new life’ you are ‘saved’- and enter a process of becoming ‘Christ-like’. Sanctification. Discipleship- if you like
- and it takes time! (so don’t be depressed if you’re not perfect, yet!)
And at times we need Jesus to say to us ‘be free’ and others to respond to Jesus’ words ‘unwrap him and let him go!’
- sometimes Jesus’ words are enough
o ‘break the chains’. Just able to give up drink.
o Maybe they will be for you, Lazarus, this morning
Hear with faith!
- But very often the love & nurturing care of others is essential
o Particularly for Lazarus. He’s only just been ‘born again’
He’s still in his afterbirth, for goodness sake!
Having caught the fish… WE have to clean them
Phases: sowing, reaping, cleaning and keeping
• We’re in all three. Previously we’ve been mainly sowing.
Be a fish… Lazarus… cleaner. Pray for others. Pray for Beta leaders
- & a few key folks we’ve got investigating : lifebuilders & FIC
- this ‘unwrapping is so key’
And please set your mind to grow to a point where you can
- loose others
- free up Lazarus’ hands- so he can serve & use his gifts
o Alpha folks- bring a friend and come help/guest on the next course?
- Free up the eyes so can get into the Word of God
- Free up the mind- to think
- … the mouth to tell (testimonies are so great!)
SING: Jesus shall reign where’re the sun