Monday, July 29, 2013

Raising the Dead

The way the people in Jesus’ day understood healings is different from today.  Today, we see an illness as caused by germs or a problem in the body, and if you fix the body, the sickness goes away.  In ancient times, illness was caused by spirits and these spirits attacked the person, causing them to be sick.  Thus, when Jesus healed people, most of the time, people just saw him as getting rid of the spirit that was attacking them, which is why Jesus could command fevers and illnesses to be gone.

            But death was something else.  Again, today we see death as being a person’s body being unfunctional enough that it just stops and no one is able to revive it.  In ancient times, however, death is seen as a person being put under the control of one of the most powerful spirits of all—Sheol, or the power of Death.  And when one is handed over to Death, there is no human who could bring that person back.  Death is a kind of slavery—a person is being handed over to such a powerful Master that no one could call them back.  No one, until Jesus.

* * *

            Jesus and his disciples were travelling through a town called Nain.  In the city, near the gate, there was a funeral.  A widow was mourning the departure of her only son.  Having no men left in her family, the widow was now destitute, with no where to go.  Jesus saw this, and told her, “Do not weep.”  The people around thought he was crazy.  Then Jesus placed his hand upon the cot on which the body was carried and said, “Young man, get up!”  Immediately, the man sat up and began to speak.  All the people were stunned and said, “God has come to visit us!”

            As Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he got word that his good friend, Lazarus, was terribly sick.  Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha and they all lived in Bethany, an easy walk from Jerusalem.  
The messenger who told Jesus the news added, “Please come, Lord.”  
Jesus replied, “This sickness will not end in death, but God will be glorified through it.”  Even so, Jesus did not go to Lazarus, but remained where he was, ministering to people. 

           Two days later, Jesus said, “Come, let us go to Jerusalem.” 
His disciples said, “The people in Judea will want to kill you, Lord. Perhaps now isn’t the time.”  
Jesus replied, “My friend Lazarus is asleep, and I must go to wake him.”  
One of the disciples said to Jesus, “But if he’s asleep, Lord, then he might get better.  You shouldn’t wake him!”  
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand.  Lazarus is dead.  But I am glad he died, so that you might see God’s works and so believe. Let’s go to Bethany.”  
Another disciple, mourning Lazarus, said, “Yes, let’s go, so we can die with him.”

            Many from Jerusalem were there mourning with Mary and Martha, when Jesus arrived, for Lazarus had been in the tomb four days by the time Jesus arrived.  
Martha came out to meet Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” 
Jesus said, “Your brother will rise from the dead.”  
Martha replied, “Yes, I know, Lord.  On the final day, we will all rise.”  
Jesus said, “Do you believe that I am the resurrection right now?  That whoever is faithful in me will rise again, even though he dies? That whoever believes in me will never die?”  
Martha said, “Yes, Lord.  You are the Son of God.” 

            Martha then got her sister Mary and said, “The Teacher wishes to see you.”  
Mary went to Jesus and also said, “If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.”  
Jesus saw her crying deeply and all those from Jerusalem were also weeping.  He saw their love for Lazarus and their unbelief and he also wept.  
Those from Jerusalem said, “See how much he loved Lazarus!”  And some also asked, “Jesus is such a powerful healer—if only he had come here soon enough so that Lazarus wouldn’t have died.”

            Jesus asked Mary, “Where is the tomb?”  
So Mary led him to the tomb where Lazarus was.  It was a cave with a stone in front of the entrance.  
Jesus said, “Roll back the stone.”  
Martha complained, “But Lord, the stench would be awful!”  
Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory?  Do as I say!.”  So the stone was rolled back.  Then Jesus prayed “Father thank you for hearing me.”  Then he shouted to the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”  
And Lazarus, wrapped in linen, walked out of the tomb. 
Jesus said, “Unwrap him and let him go.” 

            Many believed in Jesus that day, and word spread throughout the area what Jesus did.  Even the high priest heard of this miracle and was stunned.  But instead of believing in Jesus, he saw Jesus as a powerful rival—one that must be done away with.

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