Summary: Through the lens of the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead, we can see how death can change our circumstances. Not only does death change our circumstances, but it challenges us in our faith.
UNBIND HIM AND LET HIM GO
Text: John 11:17 - 45
“A letter came from Health and Human Services to a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina: “Your food stamps will be stopped, effective March 1992, because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if your circumstances change.” (TODAY’S BEST ILLUSTRATIONS, VOLUMES 1-4 Compiled by Elesha Hodge. Source: —S. Bowen Matthews, Wilmington, Delaware. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3). We can obviously see the humor in this story. Yet, we also see how death can change our circumstances. Through the lens of the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead, we can see how death can change our circumstances. Not only does death change our circumstances, but it challenges us in our faith.
DEATH CHANGES OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Death means that we will experience separation from our loved ones here. 1) Druthers: I am reminded of how I have often heard how “everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there”. 2) Separation anxiety: When we were little we experienced what is called separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is when we are anxious about being separated from someone we love. 3) Security blankets: Remember the Peanuts character Linus and his security blanket?
Losing a loved one causes us to grieve their absence. That is when we encounter separation anxiety that can be binding. 1) A Clutching grip: Remember how Mary and Martha felt when they lost their brother Lazarus? Remember how you felt when you lost someone close to you? 2) Yearning for the life before the death: Death challenges us with a change we do not like---separation from our loved ones. Don’t we yearn [long for] the days before the separation?
DEATH IS NOT FINAL
Do we think of death as final? 1) Out of the frame?: The British have an expression “out of the frame” which means something is out of a desirable position. Is that the way we think of the death of a loved one? Is that the way the Mary and Martha thought of death? 2) Isn’t death an enemy?: No one wants to lose a loved one. Paul tells us in scripture that death is an enemy: “1 Corinthians 15:26: The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (ESV). Jesus conquered death and took the sting out of it:
1 Corinthians 15:54-58, says: When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (55) “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ [which comes through his resurrection because He is the resurrection and the life]. (58) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (ESV). It is Satan who wants us to think that our labor of living for God and the forwarding of His kingdom is in vain. What should we expect from the father of lies (John8:44)?
DEATH IS A DOORWAY
Isn’t death is a doorway to how we will spend eternity?
1) Appointed time to die: Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that we all have our appointment with death. When we die our soul will separate from our bodies and go to where it will spend eternity! 2) Butterflies: Don’t we normally associate butterflies with anxiety? What do butterflies mean in the context of resurrection? Look at how they are described in the Hymn of Promise: In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons a hidden promise:butterflies will soon be free! …”
What are the lessons of the moving of the Lazarus’s tombstone stone? 1) Lesson One: Jesus reminds us that He is the resurrection and the life! For those who believe death is not final. It is where the mortal will put on immortality! 2) Lesson two: Jesus shows us that He is the proof of the promise of resurrection as he resurrect His friend even when it seemed against the odds. Jesus brought him back from the dead. Nothing is impossible with God! Whether or not someone has an experience where he or she is resuscitated back to life on earth or resurrected to their eternal life beyond physical death, God is the author of that victory! 3) Lesson three: Unbind us O Lord! God does not will for us to be hindered from things that would bind us! Some call the unbinding part of this miracle story a parable.
(John K. Bergland. Ed. Abingdon Preacher’s Annual 1993. William R. White. “Two Funerals.” Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992, p. 110). We all need to be unwrapped from “our need to play God”. (p. 110). We all need to be unwrapped of our “greed or envy” (p. 110) that are nothing more than “bandages of death” to us spiritually! We also need to be unwrapped of other death bandages of regret and unresolved grief. Like Lazarus we need to hear the words of Jesus and escape the things that hold us back … John 11:43-44 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” (44) The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. … As Jesus’s disciples then, as His modern day disciples we need to heed Jesus’s words “Unbind him, and let him go.”