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Wednesday Walk Through the Bible, John 11:1-45, particularly verses 29-45 (NIV)

#WednesdayWalk, an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who went to mourn with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus.

I arrived at the house to help console Mary and Martha about the loss of their brother Lazarus. A somber mood greeted me as I entered the crowded home. As I made my way through the front room, I tried to locate Mary and Martha. A few minutes later I spotted Mary near the doorway and watched as she quickly left the house. The room emptied out as everyone followed Mary. It appeared she was going to the tomb where her brother was buried.

I followed the crowd for a ways when suddenly everyone stopped. That’s when I spotted Mary bowing at the feet of a man. I asked the person next to me who Mary was bowing to and was told the man was Jesus. I had heard about this man and his miracles, but had never seen him in person.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I heard Mary say to Jesus. She began to weep. Indeed, if it was true he could heal the sick, he could have prevented the death of Lazarus. But now it was too late for him to do anything. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the pain on Mary’s face. “Where have you laid him,” I heard Jesus say with a troubled look on his face. There was murmuring in the crowd as some responded, “Come and see, Lord.”

For a moment we all stood stood still, silent as we watched the tears stream down the face of Jesus as he wept with Mary. It was obvious that he loved Lazarus. Some people in the crowd were saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” I thought the same thing, but now there was nothing he could do. Who could overcome death?

A moment later we made our way to the tomb. I noticed it was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. That’s when I heard Jesus say something that shocked us all. “Take away the stone,” he said. Martha being the practical one advised Jesus, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” To which Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

What did he mean, “if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Then, to my surprise, against Martha’s advice, they actually took away the stone. I held my nose as I watched it roll away, prepared for a strong stench. Then Jesus looked up and said, “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.”

For a brief moment we all stared at the open tomb. I would not have believed what happened next if I had not seen it myself. To my amazement Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Then the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. I stood frozen as Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” I could see it was indeed Lazarus as the cloth was removed from his face.

I whispered to myself the words Jesus said only moments ago, “that they may believe that you sent me.” Could this be the Son of God as some people had told me before this day. How could I not believe in him after seeing him raise Lazarus from the dead?

If I boil down the essence of obedience, it usually comes down to a battle of wills — a battle between God’s will and my selfish will. More times than I like to admit, my insistence that I have a right to do something drives me to disobey God. Yet so many of the people in the Bible teach us quite the opposite. 

This is what impresses me about Joseph in Matt. 1:18-24. He had his life planned out for the foreseeable future. He would marry this local girl Mary and they would live happily ever after. Except verse 1:18 tells us that before they came together “she was found to be pregnant.” Joseph responded as any Jewish man might have at that time and decided to act according to Jewish law which gave him the right to divorce her (Deut. 24:1). 

We get a sense that Joseph was a man who deeply desired to follow God. Verse 19 tells us he decided to quietly divorce her to prevent her from facing public disgrace. He planned to follow Jewish law yet he had empathy for Mary. But God had a different plan for Joseph.

In verse 20, an angel tells Jospeh in a dream, “do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Verse 24 tells us that when Jospeh woke up, “he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Joseph decided to set aside his right to divorce Mary and instead obey God’s command.

Joseph modeled for us what obedience to God looks like in practice. He laid aside his selfish rights, his plans, in order to follow God’s commands. We should be willing to do the same by letting the Spirit of God guide us instead of our selfish will.

Occasionally, someone asks me, “What is your life verse?” Some people I know will instantly answer that question, but not me. For years I wrestled with trying to identify one verse that would encompass my life — a verse that would inspire and motivate me to continue my walk with Jesus Christ.

I found it difficult to identify one verse in the Bible that could contain such an infinitely powerful God whose mercy and love for me never fails. Then it hit me that this is at the heart of my faith. A God who never gives up on me, even though I have given up on Him many times. From the fall in Genesis through Revelation, we find a just and loving God who constantly seeks to restore mankind to Him. As we dig deeper into scripture each page reveals more and more about the Character of God.

This is the God that Moses remarked, “For what God is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do (Deut. 3:24, NIV)?” The same God that caused Naaman to say, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel (2 Kings 5:15).” The God who Mary described as “…the Mighty One who has done great things for me (Luke 1:49).” The God who Paul said is filled with great love and mercy, the God who made us alive in Christ when we were dead in our sin (Eph. 2:45). The same God who the Psalmist wrote, “…what God is as great as our God (Psalm 77:11)?”

Now when people ask me what my life verse is I tell them, “Gen. 1:1 – Rev. 22:21.” The typical response is, “But that’s the entire Bible. You can’t do that! A life verse has to be one verse.” That’s when I explain that the Bible is my life verse. It is the story about how the God of Israel, the creator of all, cares enough about me to reach across the millennia to save me from my own destruction. A God who continually strives to restore me to a right relationship with Him. Through his grace he gives me the way to join him in eternal life.

This is the God I want others to know. A God who never gives up on trying to save us from destruction. A God who constantly pursues us even though we may push him away. The infinite God who created the universe is infinitely interested in us to the point of sending his son Jesus to sacrifice his life for us in order to save us. The Bible as a life verse causes me to ponder how far I will go to bring salvation to those around me so they can understand the height and depth of God’s love for the people of this earth.

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