Celebration or Criticism?
I want to explore a miracle from the Bible today, but from a little bit of a different perspective - that of the crowd. We could look at the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, seeing the wonder of a man dead and buried for four days coming forth from the tomb completely bound in graveclothes, face muffled in a swath cloth. Unwrapped, free, alive and fully restored - now that is a miracle of astronomical proportions, is it not? I imagine Lazarus 'stood out' a little bit, as he had been to heaven and was now alive to talk about it. Yet, there were some in the crowd that day that stand out just a little bit themselves. The Jewish leaders - men of learning and intense study of the Law of Moses. Their response to this miracle? Some believed and some ran to the Pharisee religious leaders to 'tattle on Jesus'.
And so, at last many of the Jewish leaders who were with Mary and saw it happen, finally believed on him. But some went away to the Pharisees and reported it to them. Then the chief priests and Pharisees convened a council to discuss the situation. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “For this man certainly does miracles. If we let him alone the whole nation will follow him—and then the Roman army will come and kill us and take over the Jewish government.” And one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, said, “You stupid idiots—let this one man die for the people—why should the whole nation perish?” This prophecy that Jesus should die for the entire nation came from Caiaphas in his position as High Priest—he didn’t think of it by himself but was inspired to say it. It was a prediction that Jesus’ death would not be for Israel only, but for all the children of God scattered around the world. So, from that time on the Jewish leaders began plotting Jesus’ death. (John 11:45-53)
There are always going to be some in the crowd that just cannot see the good in what God does when a life is restored. Standing before them is the greatest witness of the grace and goodness of God, and they just cannot accept it. Instead, they criticize, make fun of, and put down the life change. A man brought back from the grave - standing there with them in full view - and they don't glory in the revelation of God's redeeming grace - they criticize it. The world doesn't like to see transformed people - it frightens them! They cannot understand the grace of God - the transforming power of the one true God. So, God uses those he has transformed to tell his story - because all those who look on will do is criticize and attempt to squelch that message of transformation.
In bringing Lazarus back to life, Jesus showed his power. If you look at the account, you will note that Martha kind of thinks Lazarus is 'beyond restoration' because she reminds Jesus in no subtle manner that Lazarus has been in the grave four days and he 'stinketh'. In other words, the decay of death has already been at work in his body. Tombs in Israel were not air-conditioned morgues - they were sweltering pits, sealed up, and allowed to do their work. Bugs would have invaded the space, heat would have begun to speed the decomposition of his body, and he indeed would 'stinketh'. Jesus knows exactly the condition of Lazarus' body, but it doesn't matter - he knows there is more power in one word from his mouth than all the forces at work in that decaying body!
The world cannot help but point out how much a person has done wrong and just how 'impossible' their 'return' from that fallen state would be. They completely forget that though a man's life 'stinketh' because of the 'decay of sin', God's redeeming words, "Come forth", speak health, hope, and healing into the most disgusting of lives. Criticize if you want, but I am one of those disgusting lives, made whole, redeemed by grace, and fully restored. How about you? Do you hear the words to 'Come forth' from your place of captivity - the place where sin has done nothing good and left you to rot in place? Don't fear the criticism of those who won't celebrate the miracle, but come forth, be whole, stand as God's pride and joy before them. Let God celebrate that miracle! Just sayin!