Saturday, April 15, 2017

Take Off the Grave Clothes

Everyone gathered at the tomb. Jesus finally came, but Lazarus had been dead for days. The whispers started to circulate.

Why didn’t He come sooner?
I thought they were friends.
Surely Jesus could have done something to prevent this!
Look how the sisters are grieving. Oh Lazarus, why did you have to die so young?
Look, Jesus is weeping too. Well, a lot of good that does now.

Open the grave? You’ve got to be kidding! He’s been in there four days; the smell is going to be dreadful!

Jesus called to His friend and Lazarus came out, still wrapped for burial. “Take off his grave clothes and let him go,” Jesus told those standing near (John 11:44).

What did Lazarus say? How did he look? Was he deathly pale, pocked, and scarred by the disease that killed him? Or was he pink like a newborn baby? Was he embarrassed by the watching crowd? Or did he dance with joy and hug his astounded sisters? Surely he and Jesus grabbed each other for a man-hug and some hearty laughter.

The Bible doesn’t tell us, except the chief priests decided to include Lazarus in their plot to kill Jesus (John 12:11). Lazarus’ resurrection was big news; evidence that convinced people Jesus was the real deal. And the religious leaders couldn’t have that.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked those standing by to remove the grave clothes? Couldn’t Lazarus have done that himself? Did they need to be a part of the miracle? Did they need to smell death on his wraps to be convinced the resurrection was not a hoax?

I believe that’s part of what we are to do for each other in the Body of Christ today— strip away the grave clothes of death. We need to witness and be a part of the miracle. We were once dead in sin and are resurrected to a new life because of what Jesus did on the cross. The Church is meant to help and heal, comfort and challenge with the Word of God. Sometimes that means stripping away lies and worldly wrappings that hinder resurrected living. Sometimes it means offering hope and rebooting one another’s faith.

What are the grave clothes that keep you from fully living the resurrected life? Do you still wear remnants of shame from your past or worries about your future? Do you fear standing naked before the Lord, or hesitate to leave the comforts you’re accustomed to, even those that smell of death? Does hopelessness weigh you down? 

Tomorrow we will celebrate our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He conquered death and sin and God raised Him to life. Because He lives, we can die to sin and be raised to life with Him. He calls us out of the dark tomb into the bright light of resurrection living. 

Like Lazarus, we need the Spirit of God to fill us with joyous energy that can’t stop praising Jesus. Our resurrected life should pose a threat to Jesus-haters, because it draws attention to His power and authority.

Jesus has called us from death to life. Who is choosing to follow Jesus because of our story? I pray it will be an ever-growing number as we help each other remove the grave clothes of sin and death, and give Jesus all the praise.

Happy Easter! He is Risen!
So can we!

#Easter #resurrection #Lazarus #graveclothes #nomoredeath #Jesusroseagain

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Long Obedience

One of my favorite book titles is Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Long. Obedience. Same. No catchy words in that title to market Christianity to spiritual shoppers. The subtitle of the book spells it out even more clearly: Discipleship in an Instant Society. We see that in microcosm during Holy Week. How quickly the crowd gave up following Jesus when He came in a way they did not expect, or want.

The Jews expected the Messiah to come as a conquering king and deliver them from Roman domination. Instead, Jesus came as a baby and rode into town on a donkey—the symbol of peace. The crowds who praised Jesus with Hosanna! (Save us) on Palm Sunday were persuaded to demand His crucifixion less than one week later.  They were quick to turn from “Save us!” to “Kill Him!”

They were only willing to follow Jesus as long as He fed them, healed them, preached about love, and rebuked their harsh and hypocritical religious leaders. But when He started getting personal—talking about carrying their cross, partaking in His body and blood, forgiving their enemies, praying for those who mistreated them, even loving them. Well, that was taking it a bit too far.
Yet, how different are we? How different am I?

Peterson’s words penned thirty-seven years ago are even truer today: “There is a great market for religious experience in our world: there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.” We want sensation without self-discipline. We want heaven—as long as it doesn’t take too long or cost too much to get there.

But heaven is for those tenacious to know the person of Jesus and become like Him.

The sad thing is many supposed seekers, like most followers of Jesus’ day, are more self-centered than God-centered. “Everyone is in a hurry. The persons who I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach,” said Peterson, “want short cuts. They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points.” Palm Sunday tourists.

Are you willing to commit to a LONG obedience in the SAME direction? Even if Jesus doesn’t relieve your pain? Even if your finances don’t improve? Even when people misunderstand? Even when they leave you, like they left Him?

I say Yes. I have not come this far to turn back now. I will wave my hands in praise on Palm Sunday, and stay with Jesus through the dark in the Garden of Gethsemane. I will weep as He is mocked, beaten, and falsely accused. And I will stand at the cross through the hours of agony as the perfect Son of God pays the penalty for my sins. Only then can I celebrate His resurrection on Sunday morning when the heavens ring with Hosannas and Halleluiahs.

The life of a disciple is a daily walk with the risen Christ. It never changes course. It doesn’t give in to public opinion or current trends. It is steady and sure and worth every sacrifice. Because the goal is heaven and the prize is to be in the presence of our Savior and King forever and ever.

#Easter #PalmSunday #hosannatocrucifyhim #obedience #perseverence #changingcourse