Earlier this month I challenged the folks at Midway to join me in a journey through the gospel of John by reading five chapters of the book a week. I did this for several different reasons. First, I believe that the word of God is powerful and able to change the life of the reader. Second, I believe that our average church member has not yielded themselves to this life-giving word. Finally, I believe that people are more willing to engage with the text if they are held accountable by their peers who are also reading it. That being said, whether you have been traveling with us on this journey from the get-go or you’re just beginning your journey, let me share with you some reflections from one of this week’s chapters.
Chapter 12 marks somewhat of a shift in attention in John’s gospel. Jesus does the impossible: he strikes his first blow against that enemy death by calling Lazarus out of his grave. By doing so Lazarus becomes a walking billboard for the Messiah. It’s hard to argue with a formerly dead man. I’d like to draw your attention to another change that has occurred from chapter 11 to chapter 12. In John 11:1, John introduces Lazarus as “Lazarus of Bethany” but when we arrive at John 12:1, Lazarus receives a new title. He is identified not as “Lazarus of Bethany” but instead as Lazarus “whom Jesus has raised from the dead”. Again in verse 9, we read that the crowds came to see Lazarus, “whom (Jesus) had raised from the dead.” This leads me to my first reflection:
- When Christ raises an individual from death to life our identity changes.
Lazarus was no longer average “Lazarus of Bethany” instead he was well-known as Lazarus, the one who lives again. What, then, is our identity in? Do we find our identity in our jobs? “That’s so-and-so the mechanic.” Maybe we find our identity in our family. “That’s whats-her-names son.” Maybe people know us because of our hobbies. They know us as a golfer, hunter, camper, or cook. Yet, we’ve been given a new life that brings a new identity. We are the born again. We, like Lazarus, were once dead, but Jesus spoke and now we live. Our identity must be in Christ.
- Our new identity should point people to Christ.
Next, because of Lazarus’s new found identity, verse 11 says, “because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Once again, it’s hard to argue with someone who has been brought back to life. The evidence is clear. His heart is beating, his blood is pumping; his lungs are operating. There is no doubt that Lazarus is alive. This natural draws a crowd. People are not impressed by someone coming to a new-found intellectual conclusion. Thank God, that is not biblical conversion! Biblical conversion is reanimation. It is a “quickening”. Christ brings us back from the dead. The heart of stone that was formally ours is replaced by King Jesus with a heart of flesh that will beat! Verse 18 says, “The reason why the crowd went to meet (Jesus) was that they heard he had done this sign (raised Lazarus).” Our transformation should be undeniable. I pray for a work of God in our church where we see many come out of their graves at the mighty shout of Jesus. I pray for a work in which all we can say is, “Look what God hath wrought!”
- Only Jesus can bring this change.
Through the gritted teeth of the Pharisees came the amazing testimony, “Look, the world has gone after him.” May God grant this again! No politician can bring this change! No country can bring this change! Only Jesus brings this change! Immediately after this statement John shows us that even the Greeks proclaimed, “We wish to see Jesus.” If we desire that these statements be made again then we must do one thing: lift up Jesus. Jesus says in verse 32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Today we must lift up the person and work of Jesus to a dead world. It is only through death – Christ’s death – that we can live. Church, point to Jesus! Lift high the person of Jesus and God will draw all people to him. Our message has not changed; we must tell every man the sweet words of Jesus, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” – John 12:36
I hope you continue to see and savor Jesus in the book of John. What a blessing are these words of life!