Take Ye Away the Stone
By Pastor Hal Mayer
This month I am going to share with you some of the principles of another Bible story in the life of Christ that shows how Jesus works to stretch our faith. Sometimes we have to let go of cherished things in our lives, even though they are good, so that Jesus can give us something amazingly better. Sometimes our hopes, dreams, ambitions and expectations must be dashed so that He can provide a higher joy. We are going to study the 11th chapter of John. Here we find a fascinating story with lots of lessons about faith.
Before we begin, let us pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance. Our father in Heaven, I pray that you will send you Holy Spirit today to speak to us. We thank you for your love and your commitment to saving all those that will hear your voice. Give us today a clearer understanding of who you are and the quality of spiritual life when we exercise faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Let us begin reading vs. 1 & 2 of John chapter 11. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”
If there was any home that Jesus loved to visit often it was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. These three were steadfast followers of Christ. They loved him with tender bonds. And Christ loved them greatly. Here was a place that was quiet and comfortable, a place where He could rest peacefully, way from the press of the crowd and the jealous, caviling church leaders that continually dogged Him in Jerusalem. But more importantly, here was a family that loved to hear what Jesus had to say, especially his deeper lessons.
Our Savior had no home of His own. When Jesus was there, Mary, Martha and Lazarus would sit at his feet and listen to His plain lessons for hours. Their hearts were so open to hearing His truths that He could speak openly and plainly. He did not need to speak in parables with them.
When Lazarus became sick with a life-threatening disease, his sickness was so violent that his sisters feared for his life. They knew that if Jesus would come to them Lazarus would get well. So they sent a messenger with the message to Jesus. “He whom thou lovest is sick.” (Vs. 3) They thought He would immediately turn from His work and come to them. They had expectations of Him, knowing His love for them. He would never deny their request, they thought. And they depended on those expectations in faith. Imagine that; they actually exercised genuine faith in Christ to answer their request. Surely He would respond immediately.
Often we have expectations that we rely on when we interact with others. Often those expectations fail because people fail us. They don’t meet our expectations and we sometimes feel offended that they have let us down. Expectations are dangerous because we depend on them like they are real, when in reality they are often misguided or exaggerated and we are really disappointed when they are not fulfilled. Sometimes we can get angry and hostile to our former friends.
We also have expectations of God. We expect that He will answer our prayers and give us what we desire. While there is nothing more that Christ wants to do for us than fulfill our highest expectations, some times He knows that doing so would actually work against our eternal good. He often does not answer our prayers in the way we want, or as soon as we would like. This creates disappointment and discouragement, and some people “give up on God” because He doesn’t meet their expectations.
Even when we earnestly plead with God for some request, and earnestly and sincerely grasp His promises in faith, it may be that He wants to give us something much, much better; better than we can imagine, so He purposely delays or even denies our requests. If you are Christ’s, then your expectations will be met and exceeded but they may be met far differently than you would have liked. In the end you will be far happier than you could have otherwise been.
I want you to put yourselves in the shoes of Mary and Martha. They loved their brother and they did not want to lose him. Mary and Martha we are told in Desire of Ages, anxiously “waited for a word from Jesus. As long as the spark of life was yet alive in their brother, they prayed and watched for Jesus to come. But the messenger returned without Him.” This was disappointing indeed. They needed Jesus and they needed Him now! They couldn’t wait. Their brother was dying. When the messenger told them that Jesus said, “this sickness is not unto death,” they took courage. They knew that no disease could remain in the presence of the master. And they clung to the hope that Lazarus would live.
Imagine their developing expectations. They expected first that Jesus would come immediately. After all, that is what He had done with the daughter of Jairus. But He didn’t. Then they expected that Lazarus would start to get better. After all, Jesus could heal from a distance. Remember the servant of the centurion? But Lazarus only got worse. Then they expected that he would live, because Jesus, perhaps at the last moment, in order to test their faith, would show up and rescue their brother from the jaws of death.
When Lazarus died, they were bitterly disappointed. Their expectations had been dashed. Their hopes were destroyed. They felt as though they had lost everything. Why hadn’t Jesus come? Why didn’t Jesus, whom they knew loved them, do something? Didn’t He care?
Satan was on hand to tempt them to become offended at Christ. He tried to tell them that Jesus didn’t really love them as much as they thought; else He would have come immediately. But they didn’t buy that.
Satan tried to tell them that Jesus didn’t have to power to heal all diseases, and this one was so bad that He knew He could do nothing for them, so He left them to suffer alone. But they didn’t accept that either.
Satan tried to tell them that Jesus wasn’t really what He made Himself out to be, or He certainly would have done something for them, even if it was from a distance. But they didn’t believe that either.
Vs. 5 – 6 tells us that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” But that “when he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.”
Jesus actually knew that Lazarus was going to die. Moreover, He deliberately let him die. But He also knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that God had ordained this delay for the benefit of Lazarus’ sisters and for His own disciples to strengthen their faith later on in their trials in ministry.
There was a further reason for the delay. The Jews did not believe that Jesus was Divine. They were constantly challenging His claim to Sonship with the Father. Jesus knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would be the most compelling evidence of His divinity that could ever have been given to the unbelieving Jews. He had to do this in order to give everyone, especially the Pharisees, the opportunity to acknowledge His divinity and His connection to the Father. He knew however, that by the act of raising Lazarus, He would seal and hasten His doom with the Jewish church leaders who already were plotting His arrest and trial. He knew their hatred and their treason. He knew that they had no interest in the truth, only in their power over the people. But He had to give them every opportunity. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus saw that His time was nearing, but He did not hesitate to follow the Spirit in doing this act.
But there yet was one more reason for His delay. He wanted to give us, who live at the end of time, the assurance that even though He has to delay the answer to our prayers, He is still there. He is still answering, and He still gives us the assurance of His love and promises. He will fulfill them in time. He also wants us, who live in the last days, to take courage and strengthen our faith when He must delay the consummation of His promise to return. Our faith will be strained and under much pressure. Our courage will be tested and tried intensely in the final crisis. His delay will seem all the worse because of the pressure. But in the end, the relief will be so profound, we will not remember the pain and grief. Moreover, because of what we have been though, we will appreciate the reward so much more.
From Great Controversy we read on page 621, “The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried.”
Jesus wants to reveal Himself in the patience of the saints. He wants to reveal their faith in the delay itself. If we can learn to live our faith in Him with joy and without complaints when our circumstances call for discouragement and there are disappointed expectations, we will reveal the patience of the saints to the world around us.
The idea of delay is everywhere in scripture. The 10 virgins were even at the door of the wedding feast, and the delay in the coming of the bridegroom distressed them. They even went to sleep. But he surely came.
There was delay in the building of the temple in David’s day, but God assured Him that it would be completed in Solomon’s time.
Those who say, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” and then mistreat His servants, reveal the spirit of Satan, and a great lack of faith.
Imagine the amazement of the disciples when Jesus didn’t mention Lazarus, and made no attempt to go to Bethany. They thought He was indifferent to His friends. It seemed that He had no intentions of helping those that had done so much for Him. Imagine the thoughts that must have gone through their minds. They could not comprehend that Jesus and the Holy Spirit had a higher purpose, a larger plan. They must have thought, “How rude, and unthinking of Jesus, to just ignore a man in deep distress, and his sisters who loved him so much. How could He leave them without comfort?
The disciples were thinking physical again. They thought of how Christ had left John the Baptist to die in prison when He could have delivered him. Now He could have delivered Lazarus. Why wasn’t He interested? This was one of the questions that the Pharisees pressed on the disciples as evidence that Christ was not the Son of God, that He was not Divine. Some thought that perhaps they had mistaken Christ’s mission.
Jesus warned us of trials and persecutions. He ordains them. But do you think He will leave us alone in trial? Many are tempted to turn from Christ because He doesn’t deliver them from their trials, pain or sickness. But the greater demonstration of His power is His sustaining grace through the trial. You cannot become a mature Christian unless you have experienced His power through trial, not merely His deliverance from trial.
Vs. 7 – 10; “Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples said unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
Jesus was simply saying that so long as He had more work to do, there was nothing and no one that could take His life. But those who walk in their own way, after their own perverse nature, after the sparks of their own kindling, and do the works of darkness, there is no safety for them. You see my friends if your life is hid in Christ with God you have no fear to go anywhere if God sends you. You have the angels to protect you. But if you are on your own, and foolish with your time and energies, and play the spiritual harlot, how can the angels protect you? Listen to this statement.
“He who does the will of God, who walks in the path that God has marked out, cannot stumble and fall. The light of God’s guiding Spirit gives him a clear perception of his duty, and leads him aright till the close of His work. That is from Desire of Ages, pg. 527.
Vs 11 “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”
But Jesus’ disciples were continually thinking of the earthly and physical when Jesus was speaking of the spiritual. Vs 12-13. “Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.”
If only we would think in spiritual terms, we could see so much more than what we see with our eyes. Perhaps this is one of the most important lessons in the life of a Christian. You have to look beyond the physical and the earthly and look to the spiritual and heavenly. Jesus wants to talk to you at that level. But while ever we are pursing our own plans, and not the plans of Christ, we will miss these deeper things. So long as you continually do things that make you unspiritual and uninterested in spiritual things, you will never succeed in being spiritual. And when your friends and fellow church members urge you to do things that are worldly and unspiritual, and you join them, you make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to speak to you personally and intimately. The most precious gift that can ever come into your life is for you to hear and understand the Holy Spirit.
Please, right now, let the Lord Jesus make you spiritual. Turn from all the worldly entertainment, sports, food, clothing and anything else that will keep you from growing in Christ. Let Him have your mind, your intellect and your affections. Those things will only keep you from being spiritual. Your heart will be hard as stone eventually and you will no longer hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 14-15 “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”
Believe what? Jesus knew that this trial was a test of their faith in His divinity, that He was indeed the Son of God sent into the world to redeem sinners. The disciples wondered if He intentionally avoided going to the home of His suffering friends in Bethany. It appeared that He had left them alone. But Jesus was far seeing. He knew that they needed to have absolute confidence in his divinity and that nothing could settle that matter unless He delayed and allowed Lazarus to die so that He could raise him from the dead.
Were Mary and Martha they really left alone? Of course not. He felt every pang of sorrow that they endured. He was there in His mind and heart strengthening them for endurance. Jesus never leaves us alone. His Holy Spirit is always there to sustain His faithful followers. His grace upholds them. This is the work of faith in the life.
When you have faith that Jesus has your best interests in mind, you don’t need to fret or become upset when things don’t go the way you want them to. You don’t need to become angry. You don’t need to complain that God isn’t with you and that He doesn’t hear your prayers. If you are surrendered to Jesus, He is with you. He feels every pang of sorrow that you have to endure. The moment of greatest discouragement is the moment when Christ is nearest. He is answering your prayers in a way that you cannot comprehend perhaps, but He is answering them, and you will be most satisfied in the end. 2 Peter 2:9 says, “The Lord Knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” From every temptation and every trial He will bring you out with a firmer faith and a richer experience.
Vs. 17 “Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
By the time Jesus got to Bethany, Lazarus had been in the grave four days. This is important because this would prove that there was no trickery in Jesus’ actions. This would be incontrovertible proof that Christ had the power over the grave. Yes, He had resurrected another person from death. Jesus had raised the daughter of Jairus shortly after she had died, but the Pharisees were such inveterate enemies of Christ that they deceitfully spread the rumor that that miracle was trickery and that she wasn’t really dead. In fact, Jesus had Himself said that she was “not dead, but sleepeth.” Mark 5:39. Of course they were misinterpreting Him.
The customary funeral arrangements included hired mourners who created much ado and noise. It also included Jewish dignitaries in this case, because Lazarus was somewhat connected in the church. Some of the people that came however were no friends of Christ. They came, not out of sympathy with the bereaved, but with less noble motives. They were spies.
Vs. 19 tells us that “many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.”
Of course some of them were genuine in their sympathy, but others were not. There was a lot of outward display, noise and commotion as was common in those kinds of funerals.
A messenger came to Martha and told her that Jesus was coming. Vs. 20. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.” Mary had not heard the messenger, but Martha, in her sorrow and pain, hungered to see the master.
Vs. 30 tells us that Jesus had stopped a little away from the town of Bethany and had kept his distance from all the noise and commotion. His spirit chaffed at the scene. So He stayed away.
Vs. 21. When Martha found Jesus she said “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” She expressed her hope that Jesus would have healed her brother and that now He would comfort her. But her faith in Christ was strong, and she continued, vs. 22, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” In other words she hinted that Jesus could even raise Lazarus from the dead.
Vs. 23. “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.” Jesus was not trying to deceive her, but wanted to strengthen her faith. He knew that she was going to think about the final resurrection of the just, and wanted her to begin to stretch her mind to the present possibilities if she exercised faith.
Vs. 24 “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She was thinking about the future last resurrection, not the present. She was thinking about the fact that God would one day raise up the righteous to eternal life. She wasn’t thinking that the very Lifegiver was right there with her. And that He was going perform His greatest miracle that very day, as proof of His right to raise the righteous in the last day.
Jesus took the opportunity to encourage her faith and speak of His power to one who was sad and hurting. Vs. 25 & 26. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
Desire of Ages says, pg. 530 that “In Christ was life, original, unborrowed, underived.” In the presence of Jesus there is life. In the presence of Jesus coupled with belief in His divine love and power, there is nothing that can keep the grave closed.
This statement also tells us that there can be no doubt that He was the Son of God and that He had eternally pre-existed with the Father. His divine life was His own and came from no one else. He was the only begotten of the Father in the sense that He took on Himself the qualities of being the Son – the only son of the Father. The word begotten cannot mean that He somehow was not always there, or that He somehow came out of the Father. His place of equality with the Father was subordinated when He became, by choice the Son. He is referred to in the bible and the Spirit of Prophecy before His sojourn on earth as the son of God because he had taken that role.
What was Jesus saying to Martha? If she believed on Him, she would have eternal life. He was not saying that she would not die the natural death of this life. He was saying that He would put His Spirit in her and she would be eternally saved, so long as she lived with Christ in her heart. This lesson is full of hope for sinners. We can be restored and redeemed and in the end, we will have an eternal home with Jesus. But we must have Christ within.
But there is a deeper lesson. Jesus can certainly raise those that have died their natural death, but He can do an even greater miracle. He can raise the spiritually dead to spiritual life. When Jesus raises those who have been dead in their “trespasses and sins,” Eph 2:1, they walk in newness of life in Christ Rom 6:4. Not only are they forgiven of their sins, but they take Jesus into their hearts and He gives them victory over the devil. He changes their loyalties, their loves, the things that matter. “Behold, all things have become new…” 2 Cor. 5:17
Have you been dead in trespasses and sins? Is there some besetting sin that has continually frustrated you and you can’t let go of it? Jesus can raise the dead, my friend. Have you wandered far in your experience from Christ and no longer have an experience with Him? Jesus can raise the dead, even after they have been dead a long time. Have you given up on living a victorious life in Christ? Jesus can raise the dead.
Martha expressed her faith in His divinity. Vs. 27 “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Mary didn’t understand all the theological issues involved in her expression of faith in her Lord. She only knew that He could do what ever He wanted to do, and that He was the Divine Son of God. Of this she was convinced. She couldn’t explain it, but she knew it.
With a mix of sorrow and joy Martha went to find Mary and said, in vs. 28 & 29 “The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.”
The people in their home thought Mary went to the tomb to weep. But Mary went to Jesus. What a lesson! While many weep, His followers come to Jesus. When you are tempted to turn to others for comfort, come to Jesus. When you are tempted to look for worldly solutions to your problems, come to Jesus. When you are beset by difficulties and trials, don’t go to the worldly counselors. Come to Jesus. When you are burdened with guilt, don’t go to worldly psychologists. Come to Jesus. When your heart is breaking, don’t go to the mourners and weepers. Come to Jesus. Mary did the right thing. Instead of mourning at the tomb, she came to Jesus in hope, hope that He could help her, confident that He could do something. Our extremity is God’s opportunity. When we think all is lost, that’s just the moment when Jesus comes to us to encourage us and strengthen our faith.
Vs. 32 “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
Vs. 33 & 34. “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.”
The scripture says that Jesus wept (Vs. 35). Why did He weep? Jesus knew that there were many there who would refuse to accept His love. He knew that there were many people there who would turn from His love and power. He knew that there were many people there who would soon be in the crowd shouting “crucify Him, crucify Him.” Jesus wept because these souls would reject His mercy, spurn His love, and clamor for His death. He also wept for His beloved church because of the fact that it would be rejected of God and souls would be lost. Jesus knew all this, and He wept. How He longed for His rebellious church. How He yearned for their salvation, and that they might turn from their rebellion and come back to Him.
Today Jesus weeps also. He weeps over His remnant church that continually walks in the sparks of its own kindling just as the Jewish church of old. He yearns that they might be restored to a condition so that He can pour out His Holy Spirit. He weeps for you my friend. He longs for you personally. He yearns for your love. He doesn’t want to see you lost. He wants to see you in heaven. He wants your heart, your mind, your soul. But He will not take it by force. Some of you are already His, but not all. He is pleading, urging, yearning that you might turn from your sins and live. He loves sinners and wants to restore them to purity and holiness.
Are you a sinner? Can you break from sin yourself and make yourself righteous? That is impossible. But Jesus can do that for you. Are you tired of living in sin? Has sin burdened your life and left you feeling empty, disappointed and spiritually dead? Sin never takes you anywhere but to disaster and heartache. You don’t need to stay there. You can have Christ. You can posses Him and make Him your life. He is “even at the door” of the tomb in your heart. He wants to raise you to life again and give you the joy that you cannot find anywhere else.
There is one more reason why Jesus was weeping. He wept because of the weight of sin that was already pressing on His soul. He wept because of the woe of the human race. He wept because of the human suffering, because His heart is bound up with human sorrow. And He wept because they were weeping over the dead while the Lifegiver was even at the tomb.
When the Lifegiver is present the tomb hath no power. When Jesus speaks He can raise the dead to life. His power is unlimited.
Vs 36 & 37 “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?”
There were those there that disbelieved in Christ. They were looking for an occasion to criticize Him. They wanted to find a reason to disconnect the people from Christ, by raising questions about His divinity.
Vs. 38; “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”
Jesus came to the grave. He stood at the door of the grave. He knew that behind that stone door was one who needed to be resurrected. Behind that closed door was one that would be the greatest testimony of the love and power of the divine Christ for the lost race, and the pledge of the future resurrection of the righteous. Lazarus was unaware of what was going on outside. He was in unconscious sleep, as is the case with all who die in this world. But Christ was about to bring Him back to life.
Vs. 39. “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.”
When Jesus is at your heart’s door, He says to you, “take ye away the stone.” You may have a heart of granite, like that sepulcher with its stone door. He pleads with you, “take ye away the stone.” Let Him bring you to life – spiritual life. You may feel that you don’t want to change, and you resist His appeal. But He says “take ye away the stone.” Your life may stink from being dead so long. But He says “take ye away the stone.” Let Him resurrect you and make you fresh and new again. Not with the ravages of the disease of sin, but with the health of spiritual youth. “Take ye away the stone, my friend.
The scripture says that “Jesus wept.” He wept because of those that would not take away the stone of unbelief in front of their hearts. Today Jesus is even at the door and he is weeping for those that will not take away the stone. He pleads with you, “take ye away the stone.” Can you not hear Him now? You can become the greatest testimony of His power and His love if you just follow His instructions, “take ye away the stone.”
You don’t need to resist. But you must cooperate with Him. You must open your heart and let Him resurrect your life. You must let the Resurrection and the Life move your dead spirit to live again.
“Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” When you are about to give your life to Christ, there are always some others that will try to prevent it. They don’t know what they are doing. They try to get you to do the old things you used to do with them. They try to distract you with entertainment, food or parties. It might be a girlfriend or a boyfriend that prevents you from taking away the stone. It might be a husband or a wife, or a child that keeps you from taking away the stone. They don’t want you to change. But it is change that you need. It is a new life that you need, a new way of looking at things, a new way of understanding the things of God. You need a resurrection. Your life is worthless if you haven’t been resurrected by Christ. He is even at the door; “take ye away the stone.”
Many allow the clamor and commotion of this world to prevent them from letting Christ resurrect them. These are like ministers, paid from the sacred tithe, who tell you that Jesus doesn’t expect you, even with His power, to overcome your sins. They question His divinity similarly to the Jews in Jesus’ day. They become so easily distracted by the “hired mourners” whom the devil has paid to comfort you in your sins so that you won’t seek freedom in Christ. These paid mourners are also like the ones that return their tithe and offerings to the Lord begrudgingly. These are like those that complain and grumble when there is soul-winning work to do. They are the ones that are unhappy when the preacher preaches too long, or find excuses to miss church or prayer meeting. These are the ones that come half asleep to morning worship. These are the ones that say that the community isn’t ready for evangelism. They pull at you and hug you and hold on to you so that you cannot “take ye away the stone.”
Vs. 40 Jesus saith unto Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Jesus was reminding her that He was the Son of God and that if she had faith, she would see her sorrow turned to joy and she would love Him more fully. When ever Jesus resurrects the dead to life, they love Him. He changes them and they are so happy that they cannot hold it in. They cannot keep it quiet. There is not one natural impossibility that is impossible with the all-powerful One. Skepticism and unbelief are not virtues, they are vices. Only when we surrender to the word of God can we have power. That is when we will see miracles. You cannot have it any other way. Simple faith in the promises of God are the only way you can survive the crises in this world spiritually.
But faith requires action, cooperation with God. Jesus could have removed the stone by the flick of a finger. Angels that excel in strength would have instantly obeyed His command. But instead Christ asked for cooperation. God does not remove from us that which He has given us the power to do. He expects our cooperation. When Christ lives in us, we do cooperate with heaven. This is the simple truth of the gospel. If we want to live holy lives, we simply need to invite Christ in and cooperate with Him each step of the way.
Vs. 41 & 42. “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
Jesus clearly linked Himself with God the Father, something that the Jews really had a hard time accepting. It is the divine connection that provides us with the saving grace of Christ.
Vs. 43 “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
When Jesus resurrects you from the dead, He calls you by name and says, “come forth,” “John, come forth,” “Susan come forth,” “David, come forth.”
Vs. 44 “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” Again Jesus asked for cooperation from the human agent.
When Jesus raises you from the dead, you may have to have some help in getting out of your “graveclothes.” He sometimes sends someone to lead you to truth and unwrap the tangles of false doctrine and error. Sometimes he sends someone or something to unwrap the entanglements of this world so that you can hear His voice more clearly. Sometimes He unravels your whole life; you lose your job, your home or your family, so you can see clearly and walk freely. We grieve and sorrow and complain, but perhaps He is resurrecting you. Think of it as a new opportunity, and chance to change, a time to start over.
Moreover, you may have to find new friends. You may have to go to new places. You may have to eat new foods. You may have to find someone to help you be accountable so that you don’t fall back into sin again. The church, your fellow believers are designated to help you get rid of your graveclothes. It is the church that Christ appoints to assist in the work of salvation.
Lazarus was alive! What a reunion! Sorrow is now turned to joy. The pain is gone. His body if full of health and vigor. Mary and Martha run to Him in thankful tears for what Christ has done. Great was the reward of their faith. Great will be the reward of all who have faith in Christ.
Jesus is not only the resurrection and the life, my friends, but He is also the truth. All that He has given us in prophecy will be fulfilled. All that He has promised will come to pass. Jesus can raise the dead. He can raise anyone from the dead. He can raise you up from the dead. So many of the people today are walking around as if there is no life in them. They have no desire to know God and yet they pursue all manner of ways and means of finding life. They go after all manner of things that take them away from a desire for an experience with Christ.
Do you have that kind of experience? Do you feel that you are a dead man or woman, perhaps a dead man walking? Jesus wants to resurrect you from the dead, like He did to Lazarus. He will make you alive and growing and powerful in the truth.
Vs. 45. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
The result of this miracle was that many of the Jews who were friends of Mary and Martha believed that Christ was indeed the Son of God, and that He can raise the dead to life. What a spiritual lesson! Jesus can take your spiritual death and make you live. He can take your sorrow and turn it into joy. He can take your burdens and make them light. Your joy and happiness depends on the recognition that Jesus, the Son of God can and must live in your heart. This influences others and they believe too, because of what happened to you.
But there were others that were very angry, and they went to tell the leaders of the church what had happened. They knew that this would not be appreciated and they knew that it would set up a confrontation between Jesus and the Jews.
Vs. 46 says that “some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.”
My friends, the tragedy is that this miracle confirmed some in their unbelief. Amazing! How could it be? This miracle actually led to the famous statement of Caiaphas who said that “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” Vs 50.
The scriptures say this was a prophetic statement, unwittingly said by one of the archenemies of Jesus.
“And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
God even uses His enemies to prophecy.
Here is one of the most significant statements. Yes it was expedient, but not for them. It was expedient that one man should die, so that all who desire can be resurrected to life. It was expedient that Jesus would die for you and me. It was expedient that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead so that you and I can be raised from the death of trespasses and sins.
Vs.53 says; “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” Those who refuse to come to Christ will eventually take counsel against Him and crucify Him afresh.
Christ is waiting for you to take away the stone. Why delay and continue in sin? You don’t need a life of sin. It will only hurt you. You need Christ. You need His love. You need His power. You don’t have to be discouraged. You don’t have to keep falling into sin. You can be free you know. You can invite Jesus in your heart right now and ask Him to raise the dead. But you have to take away the stone so He can come in. You have to take away your unbelief. You have to take away the idea that He cannot give you victory. You have to take away that stone that prevents Him from bringing joy into your life.
Do you want that today? Let us ask God together to give us the courage to take away the stone that separates us from Christ. Together we’ll ask God to open our hearts and let His love resurrect us from the dead.
Our Father in Heaven, Thank you for Jesus who gave Himself over to death, that we might have life. Thank you that He is the resurrection and the life. Please Father, send your Holy Spirit so that we can have the courage to take away the stone and let Jesus resurrect us from the dead. In Jesus name, Amen.
We hope you have received a great blessing from this month’s message. Your prayers and gifts mean much to us. Thank you for your support. The song you have just heard is I will Arise and Go to Jesus, sung by the Hartland College Three Angel’s Chorale. It is recorded on a CD with other beautiful hymns. If you would like to have a copy of the CD, just send $16 post paid to U.S. addresses to cover the cost, and we will send you one. Our international listeners should inquire the additional cost of shipping.
The following is a prophetic intelligence briefing for those who love the appearing of Jesus Christ and are watching the fulfilling prophecies. We can see the signs of the times telling us that we are nearing the world’s great crisis. May the Lord find us faithful.
Our first item this month: The Vatican and Verbal “Terrorism.”
Historically, the middle ages featured the Inquisition which kept the people in fear. Officials sought out and persecuted those that did not agree with the dogmas of the established church. Many of God’s faithful people languished in dungeons or were burned at the stake for their faith. History repeats itself, and now as we near the very end inquisitional practices are again being resurrected even in western countries like America, such as indefinite secret detention of suspects and torture in secret prisons without access to lawyers, evidence or a speedy trial.
Usually, western nations and the Vatican associate terrorism with religious extremism that uses violence to make its political impact. But I have also been watching the expansion of the definition of terrorism to include others that do not endorse violence, but are merely out of the mainstream of religious thought. I have long sensed that the day is coming when God’s people may well be labeled as a new kind of religious “terrorist” because they preach the fullness of the three angel’s messages.
In a shocking new development, on May 2, 2007, Reuters reported that the Vatican has begun to label its critics in just these terms. I quote;
“The Vatican’s official newspaper accused an Italian comedian on Wednesday of “terrorism” for criticizing the Pope and warned his rhetoric could fuel a return to 1970’s-style political violence. In an unusually strongly worded editorial, L’Osservatore Romano said a presenter of a televised May Day rock concert… had launched “vile attacks” on Pope Benedict in front of an excitable crowd.
“’This too is terrorism. It’s terrorism to launch attacks on the Church,’” it said. “’It’s terrorism to stoke blind and irrational rage against someone who always speaks in the name of love, love for life and love for man.’”
If you think that the presenters offending remarks were really extreme, here they are. “”The Pope says he doesn’t believe in evolution. I agree, in fact the Church has never evolved,” said Andrea Rivera. He also criticized the church for refusing to give a Catholic funeral to a campaigner for euthanasia, while at the same time giving funerals for other Catholic political leaders who killed many people. Rivera was merely pointing out an inconsistency which was painted as “vile attacks” on the Pope.
The Osservatore then referred to other critics linked to Marxist oriented websites to support the claim that this will be a return to the violence of the 1970s, suggesting that some are starting an “insidious ‘war’, a new season of tension, which is inspiring those who are looking for motives to return to taking up arms.”
“Prime Minister Romano Prodi, a devout Catholic… called for calm. ‘We have to have calm and good sense,’ he told reporters. ‘Unfortunately the rhetoric has continuously been getting harsher over recent months. This country doesn’t need it.’”
There are several points that should perhaps be made. If the Catholic Church can get traction in public sentiment against her critics on some sort of religious “terrorism” charge, eventually the non-violent proclamation of bible teaching regarding her can also be painted as “vile criticism” and inciting violent terrorism in front of an “excitable crowd.” I suspect, based on prophecy, that the time will come when God’s true people will also be included in such denunciations by Rome and others in league with her, leading to the same kind of violence against true believers as occurred during the Inquisition.
Next: Pöttering and the Pope. The EU President Invites the Pope to Address the Euro-Parliament.
Zenit reported on March 23, 2007 that “Benedict XVI has been invited to speak to a plenary session of the European Parliament by its president, Hans-Gert Pöttering. Pöttering made the invitation today when he was received by the Pope in private audience.
“According to the president’s press office, Pöttering ‘took advantage of this occasion to invite the Pope to speak during a plenary session of the European Parliament.’
“During his visit to Italy’s capital, the German-born president participated in a congress organized by European bishops on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
“Pöttering had been one of the advocates of recognizing the Christian roots of Europe in its constitution.”
Again, there are a number of important points to be made. First is the fact that the Treaty of Rome was signed in Rome in 1957 on the 25th of March and established the European Economic Community (EEC) which has now morphed into the European Union. Its preamble made it clear that it was only the beginning, and that the EEC would evolve over time. The signatory states, it said were “determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”
No doubt the Vatican was very happy with this development. Its far-seeing eye would recognize that this was the first step toward its earnest desire to re-establish the Holy Roman Empire. It is therefore significant and rather ominous that the treaty was signed in Rome, considering Vatican ambitions for Europe.
Second, Dr. Pöttering has quite a history. He has several degrees in Law Politics and History. His doctorate in Law was earned in 1974, but he has several other doctorates. He has a long history in European politics and is presently the new president of the European Parliament, elected in January of 2007.
Perhaps the most significant point to make about Dr. Pöttering is that he is an active agency in support of the pope’s vision for a united Europe around the Vatican. He visited John Paul II in 2003 and 2004, Pope Benedict in 2006 and 2007. He is very active in working to create a new Europe in modern garments, but under old Rome.
The Papa Ratzi Post, a blog that chronicles the life of Pope Benedict XVI said that during his March 2006 visit to Pope Benedict, Pöttering “noted in his speech to the Pope and participants in the audience that the[his] group had fought to get a reference to God in the European Constitution.” The effort has so far been unsuccessful, as of the time of this recording, though Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor worked very hard to get it included during her just completed term as President of the European Council.
On May 15, 2007 in Brussels, Pöttering and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and German Chancellor and European Council President Angela Merkel, hosted an ecumenical gathering in Brussels with the three major monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. While encouraging mutual respect between religious faiths, everybody knows that Europe’s cultural roots are Catholic, hence this ecumenical meeting would be to the advantage of Rome in consolidating the influence of these religions on behalf of Rome.
Pöttering, a Roman Catholic (according to internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia) is working hand-in-glove with the Catholic Church to bring about the Holy Roman Empire. Inviting the Pope to speak to the European Parliament strengthens the papal hand in European politics.
Next: The Pope Criticizes the EU for Excluding God.
Reuters reported on March 25, 2007 that “Pope Benedict strongly criticized the European Union on Saturday for excluding a mention of God and Europe’s Christian roots.
“In a toughly-worded speech to European bishops, Benedict said Europe was committing a form of ‘apostasy of itself’ and was thus doubting its own identity.
“The Pope, who like his predecessor John Paul often calls for a mention of God and Christianity in the European Constitution, said leaders could not exclude values that helped forge the ‘very soul’ of the continent.
“’If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify,’ he said…
“One of the Pope’s compatriots, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, aims to relaunch the EU constitution and last month (February) made a plea for the bloc to include references to Christian roots.
“Plans to include such a reference in the original EU treaty, [which was] rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, were blocked by French President Jacques Chirac.”
“Merkel, as holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, is now in the process of reviving the constitution. Comments from Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, have encouraged religious leaders around Europe to redouble efforts to modify the constitution,” said Reuters.
“Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he had pushed for includsion of Catholic roots in the document but that the main task ahead for Catholics was to carry on dialogue with religions like Islam and Judaism.”
Why does Benedict and many of the leaders of Europe want a reference to Christian roots in the EU constitution? Benedict knows that a reference to the Christian roots of Europe in the EU constitution will inevitably mean Catholic Christian roots. The Vatican continually works to establish the Catholic Church as the state church or the authoritative church of the new Holy Roman Empire in this case. This reference would be a strong foundation for a future powerful Catholic European Union, as Rome seeks to overthrow all that Protestantism has accomplished and re-establish popery and its persecutions.
Before we finish this item, I would like to share a note and some research about the French leaders.
Jacques Chirac was a secularist, and is now out of politics, partly because of a political crisis over the rejection of the EU constitution by French voters. In his stead is Nicolas Sarkozy a Roman Catholic. Slate Magazine reported in February 2005 that France’s famous secularism appears to be on the wane. “One very popular politician,” it said, “Nicolas Sarkozy, [then] chief of President Jacques Chirac’s UMP party [and now President of France], has made a bid to bring religion and state a little closer together.
“Sarkozy generated huge media attention with the publication of his book La Republique, les religions, l’esperance (The Republic, Religions, Hope), in which he talked about his own Catholic faith and called for a greater role for religion in public life.
“He has also argued for amending France’s law separating church and state, which turns 100 this year (2005). The 1905 law bars any state funding of religious groups and is the cornerstone of French secularism. Amending it would allow for the financing of mosques… The idea behind helping mosques is that doing so would bring Muslims more into the mainstream, thus countering extremism,” said the Slate.
Sarkozy was just elected President of France. It will be interesting to see how his Roman Catholic religious roots will play out in European Politics, even as they receive a cool reception in France.
Next: Doctors, Social Workers to Become Police Informants?
On May 21, 2007 the BBC reported that in Britain public servants, physicians and social workers could be asked to ‘snoop’ for police.
“[Town] Council staff, charity workers and doctors could be required by law to tip off police about anyone they believe could commit a crime.
“The Home Office proposals, leaked to the Times newspaper, insist public bodies have ‘valuable information’ that could identify potential offenders.
“Possible warning signs could include heavy drinking, mental health problems or a violent family background.
“The Tories say the plans would require staff to ‘snoop on their customers.’ Civil liberties campaigners are concerned that people could be put under police surveillance despite having committed no crime.
“The proposals… are being viewed as an attempt to close a loophole which allowed Soham murderer Ian Huntley to get a job in a school, despite previous accusations of violence.
“The leaked document states: ‘Public bodies will have access to valuable information about people at risk of becoming either perpetrators or victims of serious violence.’
“It says that when staff become ‘sufficiently concerned’ about an individual, that person should be ‘risk assessed’ and, if necessary, referred for further attention. New laws would also be needed to place staff under a statutory obligation to report concerns.”
What does “further attention” mean? Will citizens who have committed no crime be brought in for questioning or psychological evaluation? Will there be times when apparent unexplainable behavior will be misunderstood to be questionable and therefore reportable? This kind of law would simply open up the possibility of detention even though no crime has been committed or even contemplated.
When someone has a background of violence as in the case used to press for this new approach, there are laws in place that would prevent the convicted criminal from getting in among those that he would place at risk. But this proposal goes way beyond and attempts to create a system of reporting in which civil employees in Britain, physicians and others are required to report anyone that is out of the ordinary and with a certain type of profile. A similar arrangement was in place under the Inquisition. Imagine what could happen once this type of system is in place. Once people are in the practice of snooping, spying and reporting on fellow citizens, will it be easy to use this system against those who might fall outside new laws regulating religion and religious expression. Think of the implications for God’s people some day.
This is a principle of a police state. “The Guardian,” reported the Christian Science Monitor, “noted that supporters of the plan say it could be used for good, citing its ability to identify threats…” While that may be true in some cases, the fact is that human nature is such that it virtually guarantees that such a plan would be abused and innocent people would suffer, be detained, or subject to “further attention” on basis of suspicion alone.
The Times of London report on the plan “comes amid a spate of criticism of Britain’ use of closed-circuit (CCTV) cameras to watch the nations streets. Deputy Chief Constable Ian Redhead of Hampshire expressed concerns on a BBC program that the country may soon face ‘an Orwellian situation…’ The Telegraph notes,” said the Monitor, “ that there are some 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain, an average of one for every 14 people.
“The latest tool goes even further, taking surveillance to the skies. The Press Association,” said the , “reports the launch of a helicopter drone that will keep watch over Merseyside. ‘The drone is only a metre wide, weighs less than a bag of sugar, and can record images from a height of 500m.’”
Britain’s surveillance society is well advanced already.
Next: Jesuit General to Quit.
On February 3, 2006 the Catholic News Service reported from Rome that “the superior general of the Jesuits, Dutch Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, has informed members of the society that he intends to step down in 2008, the year he will turn 80.
“In a February 2 letter addressed to all members of the Society of Jesus, Father Kolvenbach said a general congregation to elect his successor and to discuss other important matters would begin Jan 5, 2008 in Rome. Each of the 91 Jesuit provinces in the world will hold a provincial congregation by March 1, 2007, to prepare for the Rome gathering.
“Father Kolvenbach, who was elected superior in 1983, told the Jesuits that before making his decision he obtained ‘the consent of His Holiness Benedict XVI’ and had listened to the opinions of his assistants at the Jesuit headquarters and of all the provincials.”
According to CNS, the Jesuit order has almost 21,000 members worldwide. Stay tuned.
Well, our time has run out… Until next time, may God bless and keep you and your family in His loving and protecting care as we near the end. Keep the faith!
Sometimes we have to let go of cherished things so Jesus can give us something amazingly better. In the 11th chapter of John, we find a fascinating story with lots of lessons about faith.