Building at Front.png
Sign in Front.png
Stained Glass Window.png
The raising of Lazarus is an unprecedented and unduplicated miracle in that Lazarus had been dead so long his body was decomposing. The entire resurrection event was stage-managed by Jesus to provide a climax to his public ministry – demonstrating His divine control over life and death. There was a crowd there that day that had made the short, two-mile walk from Jerusalem and who carried the report of the miracle back with them. What the crowd also saw that day was the humanity of Jesus – because they saw Him lose control over his emotions, they saw him shudder and shake, and weep because of the pain his friends were suffering.
In fact the experience of Jesus as simultaneously human and divine is the goal of John’s gospel, because it is that experience that brings us life. Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you might have life in His name (John 20.30-31). “Life in His name” is a phrase we must give our full attention to. Jesus, the guy from Nazareth is, indeed, the Christ, the Son of God. John says he has chosen the signs included in his gospel because he is confident they will produce faith in Jesus as Christ, in Jesus as God. His expects nothing less than that we experience Jesus as Human and Divine simultaneously.
The first of the seven signs Jesus performs in his public ministry, the changing water to wine in John 2, accomplishes exactly this. It is simultaneously a story about a guy who has a disagreement with his mom (and who gives in to her anyway), and about a God who can change the molecular structure of matter.
This is, of course, how John and the rest of the apostles experienced Jesus every day – fully Human/fully Divine. This experience was not compartmentalized, broken up into times of Humanity and times of Divinity. Jesus was simultaneously their friend and their Lord, their brother and their God. He is ours as well, and John is fully confident that the Divine Word will sufficiently give us an experience equal to theirs (I John 1.1-4).
If Jesus is not fully Human he is not qualified to be our Savior. If He is not fully Divine he is not big enough to be our Savior (See Hebrews chapters 1-4). The writer of Hebrews makes clear that every time we pray, we experience Jesus as simultaneously Human (tempted in all points like we are – 4.15), and Divine (without sin, full of mercy, able to help – 4.15-16).
This, of course, is how He is able to reconcile us to God, because He is simultaneously us and God. God is fully contained in Jesus’ body (Colossians 2.9), and in Him we are made complete (Colossians 2.10).
The beauty of John’s gospel is that he doesn’t just explain the theology, he tells us the story. By putting us in the moment when Jesus went from crying to demanding “Lazarus, come forth!” we know subjectively, personally what Paul and the writer of Hebrews explain objectively, theologically. It is this lived experience that produces life-giving faith (John 20.30-31).
This is why we need time with Jesus – time every day in the gospels. Without the gospels we might have accurate facts, but we will not have life.
And it came about soon afterwards that He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large multitude. Now as he approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt, and he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. And fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us,” and “God has visited His people.” Luke 7.11-16 NASB
When Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son the effect upon the crowd leaving the city, and the crowd entering it was fear. They were “gripped” with fear. I must admit His actions that day have an opposite effect on me. Few episodes from His life make Him more real, and more accessible to me than the handing of this young man back to his mother.
I was thinking about this last Wednesday night as Greg Scates did a masterful job presenting this passage during our summer series. He compared this resurrection account with Elijah’s raising of the widow’s son in I Kings 17. There were many similarities and some glaring differences. The biggest difference, of course, is the lengths Elijah has to go to raise the Widow of Zarephath’s son, and how Jesus only has to say “Get Up!” I thought of another difference – a detail that makes this resurrection story different from all others. The raising of this young man is unsolicited. Jesus just does it because He cares and He can.
Jesus sees a woman crying and like almost any other man he feels compelled to make it better – to do something to fix it. It is very much like the moment at Bethany when Mary falls weeping at his feet in John 11. Jesus shakes and cries and says “Where have you laid him?” There was none of the theological discourse he had with Martha – just a visceral reaction and a need to act. Jesus is God and can raise the dead. Jesus is a man, who responds the way most any man would. I hear Jesus say “Don’t Cry,” and then fix things and I feel closer to him as a man, as a disciple, as a younger brother.
When I was 22 and conducting my first funeral I chose this passage as my text. It was a funeral for a man I didn’t know – who had been estranged from his family in Ohio for decades, but who was back in Ohio to be buried. I told this story and said that we all have different relationships with each other, and we all have different relationships with Jesus, but that there is one constant – that Jesus cares. I told them that whatever they were feeling that day Jesus understood, and he cared. What is more, Jesus was waiting to address their most urgent needs. I thought to use that passage in a moment of panic and desperation, thinking that if I was more mature I would have something better to say.
Thirty years later I haven’t thought of anything better to say. I have used this passage many times since, always with the same effect: a sure sense that Jesus is present, and that He cares. There is no fear in that, in fact it has the opposite effect.