JOHN 11:38-44: “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. “Remove the stone,” Jesus said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” CSB
OBSERVATION: How do I see myself? What is limiting my life? What perceptions do I have of myself that I have allowed the world to define? When I look in the mirror what do I see? Do I see a child of God with unlimited potential, or a broken man bound by his own failure and personal limitations?
The story of Lazarus is a story about perception and reality. There are always two realities at play in our life. There is the perceived reality, and there is the true reality. It is hard for us to discern between the two. And if we are not careful, we will embrace the wrong reality. We need to learn to discern the perceived reality from the true. The true reality is how Jesus views our life.
In the story of Lazarus the only one who saw beyond the perceived reality was Jesus. When Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep, they did not understand His words. Jesus spoke of his death, but spoke of it in a temporary way. Jesus knew He was being sent by the Father to raise Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again from the dead, Martha perceived He was talking only of the resurrection. And when Jesus asked where they had laid Lazarus, the crowd that followed Mary mocked Him in their hearts.
When Jesus beheld their unbelief, when He discerned their hardness of heart, when He beheld the grief of Mary and Martha, He was both filled with compassion and anger. And when Jesus beheld the tomb where Lazarus had been placed, with the stone rolled into place – “Jesus wept.”
I believe Jesus weeps whenever He looks over His children that have been bound by the perceptions they hold of themselves, or that they have allowed others or the wisdom of this world to place upon them. Jesus looked upon Lazarus as one who was destined to show forth God’s glory. Everyone else looked at Lazarus as one who was dead. And Martha, completely bound by her perception of Lazarus’ death, saw a life that was beyond any hope. It had been 4 days. His body was now in decay. It was beyond hope.
Yet, there is no life that is beyond hope in the Lord. There is no sin, no failure, no self imposed perception, and no declaration of unworthiness by others that can limit the power of God’s grace. The story of Lazarus is a story of the power of redemption. It is not simply a story of a miracle. It is a profound declaration that every perceived concept we hold about ourselves can be broken and redeemed by the grace of God.
- “After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
Notice the contrast between God’s perception, and the perception of everyone else. Jesus saw God’s purposes in Lazarus. Jesus treated Lazarus as one destined for glory. He did not perceive him as dead and decayed, but as one sleeping, only to be awakened by God’s grace. Everyone else treated Lazarus as a dead man, without hope, and no remaining purpose. They bound Lazarus in grave clothes to proclaim their perception and understanding. And they laid him in a tomb. Jesus proclaimed – “Lazarus, come out!” And Jesus did not stop there. He also proclaimed – “Unwrap him and let him go.”
The Lord desires to both raise us up and set us free. He wants to deliver us from all the false perceptions of our life that we have placed on ourselves, and that we have allowed others to wrap around us. We may have heard these perceptions so long that we believe them. However, they are simply grave clothes that need to be removed. They are keeping us from walking in the new life that the Lord has called us to. Jesus looks at our life and commands – “Unwrap him and let him go.”
Lord, this morning my heart breaks for all those who have embraced a false perception of their lives. It is not the reality of how You see them. It is the lie that has been wrapped around them. They are alive, but bound by these false perceptions. I pray that they will hear Your voice cry out – “_____________________ come out!” And I pray that they will yield to the gentle ministry of the Holy Spirit who desires to unwrap them from the grave clothes of these false perceptions.
Lord, set us free by Your mighty power!
In Jesus Name!