Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Asking the Unthinkable, Expecting the Impossible

Part 8 in the story series, "Second-Guessing God's Goodness ..."

Jesus stood at the face of Lazarus's tomb and then said the most unthinkable thing anyone could have imagined.

"Take away the stone."


How could He? Did He want to go inside the grave and look at the friend who He should have snatched from the jaws of death? If He'd just shown up earlier, none of them would even BE here at this grave! And now He wanted them to take the stone away? Was He out of His mind? How inappropriate! How selfish! How self-abasing, to want to grieve next to the dead body that He should have made whole when the man was alive! Take away the stone? Who did He think He was, anyway, God?

Martha spoke up on behalf of the group. Surely they were all thinking those things, and yet she managed to try to speak ease into the uncomfortable situation by offering a practical observation:

"But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

"Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"

The words stung Martha and the entire crowd. And with that question, Jesus threw down the gauntlet between hearts of doubt and hearts of faith. But were the sisters willing to go that far? If they opened the grave and nothing happened, they'd be seen as foolish women following a false prophet whose only interest was in self-glorification. And yet ... were they willing to make their loyalty and friendship to Jesus even stronger, by placing faith that He'd do something good for them?

In short, did they really trust in God's goodness, or did they second-guess it?

They went for it. They moved the stone. In spite of Jesus asking the unthinkable, they did it. With that one action, they effectively were saying to him, "OK. You told us to do this, and we trust you, no matter what. You can do the impossible, and we expect the impossible."

Jesus prayed aloud.

"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

Then He paused and stared at the tomb, one which was extremely similar to that which He knew He'd be laid shortly.

No one moved. All eyes focused on Jesus as they waited for ... what, exactly? They were almost afraid to guess.

Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"

They heard a rustling from within the cave. Shuffling footsteps. Then they caught a glimpse of white linen as the head of a wrapped man bent underneath a low-hanging archway.

And Lazarus, wrapped in his grave clothes, some covering his face, walked out of the grave, four days after his death.

"Take off the grave clothes and let him go," Jesus said simply.

And yet.

After this miracle ... this unthinkable, impossible act of God Himself ... do you think it would be logical for all present to believe?

Yes, it would be.

But that isn't what happened.

Tune in for part 9 of the story series, "Second-Guessing God's Goodness."

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