Well, today was the final part of The Greatest Story Ever Told. I decided it was time to move on before this series turned into the LONGEST story ever told.
We looked at the last of the seven signs, or miracles, that are described in the Gospel of John. The seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus from the dead on John Chapter 11. The story begins with word coming to Jesus that "the one he loved" had become very ill. We get the impression that Lazarus was more than just an acquaintance or relative of someone close to Jesus. Keep in mind that he is referred to as the one Jesus loved; it will be important later.
Jesus then says in verse 4 that this has happened to bring glory to God. Just as we discussed last week when Jesus used similar wording in regard to the blind man -- it is important not to read into this phrase words that are not there. Jesus does not say that God made Lazarus ill (and eventually dead) for some purpose. The enemy is the one who brings sickness and disease. However, God knows the beginning from the end and will take whatever the enemy means for harm and make it into something good for those who will believe.
Then Jesus also say that this will not end in death. But we know that Lazarus does, in fact, die. Jesus promised that death was not going to be the end.
Let's put this situation and Jesus' words in the context of "the story" we have been discussing. The story is about restoration of what was lost in the Garden. It comes to completion in Revelation 21 and 22, but the process truly begins at the resurrection of Christ.
To put it into the proper context we need to spend a little bit of time in Genesis 3. Just because the story does not begin there, doesn't mean that what happens there is not important. We do not focus on sin, but we must understand it if we are going to defeat it.
Satan tempts Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. He is only able to do so because Eve did not understand the Word from God concerning it. This is how the enemy likes to attack believers. If we do not understand the Word, he will twist it and use it against us.
God is not legalistic. He is always looking at the hearts of men. He is not standing by waiting to curse you or withhold His blessing when we do not obey the letter of the law. However, this is how the enemy likes to work. He is like a slimy lawyer (not all lawyers are slimy -- in fact a member who happens to be a lawyer pointed out to me this morning that there are also slimy pastors, touche). He is looking for a technicality to give him permission to operate in your life. Since we will never FULLY understand all of the Word it seems we are at a disadvantage. However, we have Christ Jesus who has already paid the price for all of our sin. When the accuser speaks and accuses us before the Father, Jesus immediately inserts, "Objection! That statement is irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. I already paid for that sin."
Eve succumbed to the enemy's temptation. Of course, Adam was not innocent. He was right there and, as the head of the household, should have stopped Eve from eating. Instead he eats as well. Then he blames God for giving him that woman. When this happens, a spiritual death took place. Man had been made to be a spirit that lived in the body. When Adam and Eve chose to "know" evil (intimately know -- like a husband knows his wife) they chose to be ruled by the flesh. So, the result of the sin entering the world brought about death.
But, remember, Jesus says that this (the story) will not end in death. For Jesus paid the price to overcome death, hell and the grave. He overcame the sin that caused the death.
Remember that Jesus began that process in J0hn 11 by acknowledging that the "one he loved" was ill. We are the ones that God loves -- the ones He so loved that He gave His only Son for (John 3:16).
Why did Jesus wait until Lazarus had been dead for four days to raise him? There are a lot of interesting theories. One of the things that I believe plays a role is the four day themselves. There are places in the Word that imply a day can represent 1000 years. There were 4000 years between Adam's spiritual death and the resurrection of Jesus that brought the spiritual rebirth.
Of course, Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead. Just like every other miracle He does, it required someone to have faith. He needed Martha to believe that Jesus could raise him. At that point Jesus spoke and Lazarus was back among the living.
Now, all along I have been saying that these seven signs in the first 11 chapters of John illustrate what was to spiritually take place in the second half of the book of John. You will also remember that we have been saying that this entire series has been about pointing out the purpose of God' actions being restoration of the shalom that existed in the Garden of Eden at creation.
So, if we go over to John 20:15 we see a really remarkable thing that jumps out at us with the choice of one single word. I've read this scripture so many times and had never noticed this before. Mary Magdelene goes to the tomb on the resurrection morning to look for Jesus. She sees a person and asks them what happened to Jesus' body. She does not realize it is Jesus. But what is amazing is the act that it says she did not know it was Him because she mistook him for a gardener... a GARDENER!
Adam was the first gardener. He was to tend and keep the perfect garden God had created. We know, of course, that he failed. Jesus comes as the second Adam. He takes back the garden and immediately after resurrecting in victory is mistaken for a gardener! He begins the process of restoring the Garden. He becomes fruitful and multiplies (though all of us, His bride) and begins building the CITY that we read of at the end of the story in Revelation 21 and 22. How cool is that!
Join us next week as we celebrate Dad! It will be so much fun. It'll be a day designed for men with free beef jerky, cool cars, fun music and my desert racing video. You won't want miss it. Then I will be starting a new series on the 26th. See you at church. I LOVE MY CHURCH!