A Stinkin’ Mess with a Prophetic Message
Me Thinks, He Stinks!
By Ed Delph
April 18, 2022
Well, Easter was this past Sunday. While resurrection is still on our minds, let’s glean some transformational lessons about another ‘raised from the dead incident’ that preceded, foretold, and contributed to the Easter Resurrection. The event occurred shortly before the resurrection of Christ.
Did you know that God allows some problems to stink before He acts? In other words, as my friend Jack Canada’s song says about God, ‘He may not be there when you want Him, but He’s always right on time.’ And when God seems to arrive late or in another way than you expected, it’s never a case of indifference. It's because of God’s timing in working out His eternal purposes.
Let’s set the stage. The first resurrection, in this case, was a man named Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus. Lazarus had two sisters, Mary, and Martha, who were close to Jesus also. The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very sick. But, Jesus delayed two days before he came to the town of Bethany, where Lazarus was.
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus was dead. The Scripture recalls the incident. “So, when Mary…saw Him and fell at His feet saying, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” John 11:32.
So, we have Lazarus dead in a tomb, the two sisters crying, and the people wondering if Jesus cared or could do anything about Lazarus. This scene is where the shortest verse in the Bible is, "Jesus wept." But understand many times when you're down to nothing, God's up to something. This occasion was a staging, a prophetic preview of Jesus’ future that was just days away. God was getting his people ready for what he had ready for them.
Here are the lessons and insights. I’ll start with Scripture, then make observations.
Lesson One. “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 dead man's sister, ‘by this time, there is a stench, for he has been there four days.’" John 11:39.
Martha has “stinking thinking” as you and I would have had. Even though she saw Jesus perform miracles before, she thought, "It's too late, too hard, too much…it's been four days and it’s going to stink." Think of this. It takes a problem to have a miracle. Every healing Jesus did started with a problem. Martha’s problem was not the problem. Her very human-stinking thinking was the problem.
Lesson Two. “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ 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.’” John 11:40-42.
This whole event was a set-up for the benefit of the people there. Jesus was going to be in the same position in a matter of days. Jesus performed this miracle, so stinking thinking would not stop God’s people from believing God when things got intense after Jesus’ crucifixion. This event happened for us also that we would not stop believing in God. God has a time and an unchangeable purpose for His and our benefit. Faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is the presence of belief.
Lesson Three. “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.’" John 11:43-44.
Jesus says to them and us, “Take off those stinking grave clothes and those stinking chains of the slavery of the fear of death that many are held captive by their whole lives. God is alive. There’s eternal life." God speaks to them and us, “In My house, there are many mansions. If it were not so, I wouldn't have said so." Note: Jesus had to say "Lazarus," or the whole graveyard would have come out of their tombs.
Lesson 4. “Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. ‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away our temple and our nation.’ So, they plotted to take his life from that day on.” John 11:46-48, 53.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ started with Lazarus coming forth from his tomb. The religious establishment didn’t want their people or the Romans to know about Lazarus’ miracle. They might lose their places and faces and graces of honor. Those in power don’t like to lose power. So, they plotted to take Jesus’ life. They orchestrated the crucifixion of Christ. But death could not keep Jesus in the tomb. Like Lazarus, up from the grave He arose and never died again.
Our takeaway: What looks like a big mess or impossible situation could be something God has allowed for His greater purposes. God is not indifferent. In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus served those He loved. Jesus glorified God, highlighted God’s power over death, and prepared his people for the future. He even wept. He didn’t want stinking thinking to mess up the message of Easter. Get the message?
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com