Aloha Friday Message – April 4, 2014 – Believer, Come Forth!

1414AFC040414 – Believer! Come Forth!

Read it online here, please.

Isaiah 25:7-8 – And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Happy Aloha Friday, Beloved. We are already at the fifth Friday of Lent, and this coming Sunday the Gospel is about Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. The account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is powerfully emotionally and spiritually. This family was one of Jesus’ favorites. You can tell by the intimacy he enjoyed there that Jesus loved this trio of believers. It was Mary who anointed Jesus feet with fragrant spikenard ointment and dried his feet with her hair just six days before his Passion and Crucifixion, and this act prefigured his donning a towel and washing the feet of the apostles on that holy night. Jesus was at their house often, and perhaps they had known each other since before he began his ministry. We can imagine how these three people lived in their home in Bethany. There is no mention of other family or parents. Bethany was close to the Mount of Olives. Jesus passed through there on his way to Jerusalem more than once. It was near Bethany that the Disciples witnessed his Ascension. These three, then, were people Jesus really, really cared about. He loved them in a very special way.

Around the time of this event in Jesus’ life, there was a strong movement among some of the people to capture him and kill him. His Apostles, Disciples, and other friends were very concerned about these constant threats on his life. Jesus knew about the threats, and he also knew how it would all turn out, he knew what would ultimately happen to him near Bethany, in the Garden of Olives. He knew what had happened to Lazarus, too; despite knowing all the pain associated with that knowledge – Lazarus was dead and Jesus would soon be crucified – Jesus stayed with his mission of teaching and healing. When someone tracked him down to tell him about Lazarus, Jesus told them, “He is only sleeping.” They took that to mean Lazarus was resting and getting better. He told them point-blank that Lazarus had died, but his death would not be the end of the story or his life. Finally he says he will go to his friends’ house so that he can demonstrate God’s power and will. That’s when one of my favorite Bible characters pops into view again. Here’s the passage.

John 11:1-45 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas fascinates me! He always seems to be a beat behind, or maybe he was just a strong pessimist, “Oh, well, if we’re going to Bethany, we’re all gonna die!” Then again, he might have been the bravest one in the bunch, ready to die with his Master and friend. Later on (John 14:5), Jesus is telling them – in the Last Discourse, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. You know where I’m going. I’ll come back and get you.” Thomas pops up again and says, “How can we know where you are going? We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” And of course Thomas is most famous for saying, “I won’t believe he’s back until I see him for myself.” Thomas wasn’t in the Cenacle – the Upper Room – when Jesus first appeared to the 11 after his resurrection, and so he got stuck with the moniker “Doubting Thomas.” Odd that he should doubt Jesus was resurrected because he had been a witness to the resurrection of Lazarus. He stood there with Jesus, Mary and Martha, and all the other mourners as Jesus, his heart stirred emotion and tears in his eyes, and he shocked them all with what he said.

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

Everybody there went, “What?!?! It is not a good idea to move that stone. It’s going to smell really bad, and … you don’t really want to do that now. You should have come a week ago when he got sick and you could have healed him, but now, it’s too late. He’s rotting away in his grave.” Jesus must have given them quite a look before he turned toward the tomb where Lazarus had been placed. He told Martha straight out, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Somebody, maybe several people, maybe even Thomas (although there’s no way to know for sure who moved the stone) had the courage to lift that stone out of the way. Then The Moment:

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Lazarus, come forth!

Lazarus, come forth!

Lazarus came out of the tomb all wrapped up in the trappings of death. He came out to new life. He came out to fresh air, sunshine, solid ground, and within a short time – a few weeks, perhaps more – he and Jesus were reclining at the table enjoying a feast prepared by Martha and enjoying the fragrance of the ointment Mary was lovingly massaging into his feet. Jesus’ tender sympathy for these friends shows us the very human side of his person. His heart is deeply moved, and he groans inwardly because of their pain. He joins them in shedding tears, but he is also hearing the cries of the mourners and sees the impact the loss of Lazarus has on this tiny community of Bethany. Together they had shared in the joys of life, in the happiness of Jesus’ visits, and now they shared in the mourning, weeping, and immense sorrow of these two sisters who had lost their beloved brother, a brother who had entertained Jesus in his home. In fact, these sisters hoped and prayed that they would be reunited with their brother. They just did not expect it to happen that day!

Some of the bystanders had insinuated that if Jesus could make the blind see, he could sure have gotten here in time to save Lazarus’ life. Jesus actions deliberately counter that idea. He gave them something much more powerful than a healing to talk about. He gave them a resurrection in broad daylight in front of many witnesses.

So let’s get to the point. For whatever reason we doubt God’s love or Jesus saving power, he is always ready and able to exceed all our expectations. Whether we go to our death with him from bravery or loyalty or from a sincere fatalism that recognizes our frailty, if we die with him we shall rise with him. And when we rise with him he will take us where has prepared a place for us. But we need to respond when he calls.

Take away the stone. The stone in front of your tomb. Move it! Yes. Take away whatever it is you are hiding behind, whatever it is that keeps you in your tomb of death, and step out to meet your Lord in the Light of his Word. He calls you to come away from the death of flesh to be alive in Spirit, alive in your Creator, your King, your Saviour, or as Thomas put it so well, “My Lord and my God!” Come away from the death of sin and come alive, renewed, revived, and resurrected from your former self. Shed the wrappings of death, and the stench of decay. Listen with your ears and hear with your heart. Strip away the things that bind you to your death. Loose the things that stop you from walking into his Light, his Everlasting Life. Be freed of the trappings of death. Take away the stone! He is calling you.

And here is something to think about: Jesus did not move the stone. Lazarus did not move the stone. Neither Martha nor Mary moved the stone. The friends of Lazarus moved the stone. Sometimes we are liberated from those things which have us paralyzed as if we were dead by the love of others around us. They take away the stone, they open the way to new life. WE have to get up and go out of the tomb and back into life! We have to respond with every fiber of our being when the people who love us call, as Jesus did,

“Beloved, come forth!”

Rise up. Go to him. Live. He has already swallowed up death in victory!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

chick

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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