Monday, January 19, 2015

Jesus Wept

“Janel, what do the scriptures mean when it says, ‘Jesus wept’?” His soft question broke into the quiet air on the porch and hung expectantly.

That verse. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the entire Bible. How could I have known that those two little words would lead into creating one of the biggest impacts of my entire trip. Knowing what had unfolded in Evans’ life just months prior, I knew better than to give him a surfacy answer. There was something deeper to be uncovered here.

“Well, let’s look it up,” I offered. I flipped to the concordance, found the verse reference…John 11:35. We opened up to John chapter 11: The Death of Lazarus. I began to read him the scriptures…

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days… 

Yet…He stayed where He was two more days. The words don't seem to fit.  And in His delay to come to the rescue of His friend, the great Healer, it seems, missed His cue. Lazarus dies. And Jesus’ words about this sickness not ending in death seem to fall to the ground. Unfulfilled.

On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days… 

And the questions are brewing. The thoughts, escalating…

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

Her words sting in the moments.  Heavy words. Familiar words. Isn’t this the wondering cry of all our hearts when bad things happen to us? Lord, why didn’t you show up? You could have protected him from dying…why didn’t you? Do you not love us? Have you forsaken us? You could have stopped this from happening….if only You had been here…

I pause and look at Evans. This account is not just a story to him. It is his own. The sting of death arrived tragically at his family’s doorstep just months earlier, and now, he is suddenly fatherless…the man of the house at age 14.…left to make his way in the shadow of death’s aftermath.

I stare at the red words that come next. Bright red words that seem to shout and stand out and wave their arms frantically as they plead for attention on the page. Words of life. Healing. Answers.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

I’m starting to see it now. This is why Evans asked me his question. The Lord has led him to this scripture on purpose.  This is how he'll come to know.  This is how he'll come to know that it wasn’t that God didn’t love him…that’s not why his father died...

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 

It wasn’t that God had forsaken Evans and his family. No.  That's the lie, the accusation of the enemy.  Our enemy who wants us to believe that God has pulled away from us....

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this many from dying?” 

The lies and accusations will always be offered to us, and will always be easier, less work to believe.  We must hunt for truth.  Sometimes, His glory, His blessings come to us in disguise.

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

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 

Sometimes, it's only when you stare death in the face that you see how it can be a teacher.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 

I read the words in red to Evans. They dance out of my mouth.  I feel it coming.  How when you are in the presence of Jesus, death never has the last word. And scripture too is alive and becomes your own story told.  I smile and know it...our thoughts aren't standing at Lazarus' tomb anymore. We are at the grave of Evans' father.  I tell Evans how it's here, right here, that God wants to give Evans the answer to death, just as He wanted all those gathered at Lazarus' tomb to know too.  I tell him how all of our bodies are going to die one day, but there is One who can bring us back to life...who holds death's keys.

Then I ask him. Point blank. “Evans, do you believe this?”

Without even a moment of hesitation he gives a confident answer of faith, “Yes.”

I want to leap out of my chair. I sense the power of the moment. I feel the demons fall back, their accusations that God has forsaken us falling to the ground, shattering. Somehow I understand it….that this moment for Evans is to be celebrated. Like one whose eyes had just been opened. I start talking fast and tell him about getting him a Bible and about the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside of him and then I hear it. The words roll in like a soft wave inside me. “Believe and be baptized.” 

I pause and seem to interrupt myself, “Have you ever been baptized?”

“No,” he answers.

Swiftly I say it, and out loud so as to hold myself to it, “Okay, well, once we get to Cape Coast you can be baptized! I will baptize you!”

I will? I will!

I erupt into an explanation of baptism and how it is an outward demonstration that symbolizes what has just transpired in his heart. He smiles and nods in understanding and when I ask him if he wants to be baptized, again, there is no hesitation, “Yes.”

I am wowed, and His words ring true. It is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.  Even in the valley of the shadow of death He opens our eyes and we see His glory pass by.

So they took away the stone. 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.”

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

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

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