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Monday, March 20, 2023

True Religion and Seeking God in our Lives

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One of the best stories in the Holy Bible is how Jesus Christ brought back to life a man named Lazarus. This story is quite in­teresting because it is not just an ordinary one; it is about Jesus bringing back a person from the dead. Well, let us conveniently wrap up the manifestations of the power of God in the resurrection and, instead have a moment of meditation with God.

The death of Lazarus, Jesus the comforter of our souls

Let me tell the story briefly as narrated in the Gospel of John Chap­ter 11. Lazarus was sister to Mary Magdalene and Martha. Mary Magdalene was the same one who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. They were from Bethany in Judea. Bethany was approximately two miles from Jerusalem. Lazarus fell sick, and so the sister sent a word to Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus loved Martha, her sister Mary and Lazarus their brother; just as God loves us and our families. Although Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days before going to Judea.

On arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already passed on and had been buried in the tomb four days before. Martha went out to meet Jesus, but Mary stayed at home. When Martha met Jesus, they had a very interesting conversation. Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, God will give you whatever you ask him for.”

Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha an­swered Jesus, “I know he will rise again on the last day.” Then Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Martha went back and called her sister Mary. Mary got up quickly and went to meet Jesus. When she reached where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the people who had come along with her also weeping, he was touched and was deeply moved in spirit. Jesus asked where they had laid Lazarus.

Jesus wept. Jesus was greatly disturbed and that he wept are highly significant words that summarise the emotions. Jesus, once more deeply moved, went to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid at the entrance. Jesus ordered them to take away the stone. But Martha protested complaining that there would be a bad odour, for Lazarus had been buried there four days. Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?” After they removed the stone, Jesus looked up and said a prayer, “I thank you, Father, that you listen to me. I know you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here so that they believe that you sent me.” Then he called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Suddenly, he came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. Jesus told them to take off the grave clothes from him and let him go.

Religion and tradition vis-à-vis spiritualism

This story is so dramatic that if you are not careful, you will be obscured by the wonderful miracle of Jesus, especially in raising a dead man, and fail to learn its essential lessons. Let us try a few.

Mary and Martha seek Jesus because Lazarus is sick, but now it is even worse, for Lazarus is dead. I’m not sure, but the urgency in Martha and Mary seems to have been overtaken by other events. For example, the disciples of Jesus were not very comfortable with him going to Judea.

When Jesus arrives, it is Martha who rushes out to meet him and informs him that Lazarus had been buried for four days. Jesus’ re­ply is that the brother will resurrect. Mary interprets Jesus’ words at face value. It is true that Lazarus will resurrect, but to her un­derstanding, that would happen on the resurrection day. But with authority, Jesus answers with some very significant words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ In other words, if Jesus has come, you do not need to wait for the other resurrection because he is the resurrection.

For Mary, she is too confined to tradition and religion to the extent that she does not notice she is next to Jesus who is the resurrec­tion and the life. How many times are we humanly overwhelmed in our own situations and by our life challenges that we actually forget about God? Do we have heavy trouble or crisis, or are we in unbearable trouble? Or, to put it more candidly, how often do we altogether fail to recognize the power of God in our lives?

God is faithful: Lesson on faith

Martha comes to meet Jesus. But she is too overwhelmed by the death of her brother that she is busy crying. Jesus is so overcome by emotions that He weeps. This demonstrates that God is overly con­cerned about our lives, our lives challenges, and even our suffering. More so, God will surely come to our aid even in the most difficult circumstances.

Jesus walks to the tomb where Lazarus is laid, but now it is Martha who is preventing him from assisting in her distress. Jesus wants to wake up Lazarus, but Martha says there is a bad smell. The Lord is concerned about our challenges, heavy troubles, burdens, pains, sickness and disappointments. Jesus simply calls Lazarus. This is the heartbeat of the story. This implies that just a simple prayer to God would do the unexpected just as it happened with the resurrection of Lazarus.

Many biblical scholars have argued that the resurrection of Lazarus is the heartbeat of the entire New Testament, the Gospel, and the entire Bible. This is because it resonates with the creation story in which God created the universe as well as Christ’s later resurrection. Jesus has power over life and death because God is the creator of life. But even when confronted with God’s power, men like the ones in the story, refuse to believe. Yet in all this, God is the giver of life, both literal and eternal life.

Lazarus received back his life in an astonishing manner because literally, he was brought back to life, few days after his death. But God promises much more than literal life; there is better physical life, spiritual and eternal life as well. It is wonderful to know the power of God and the power of prayer. Just a word from Jesus, who is God, and the unexpected happens, Lazarus wakes up. We should faithfully accept the power of God in our lives.

Three lessons stand out so steadfastly. One, like Mary, we need to seek God. Of course, this should always be and not only when we are in difficulties. Two, we need to learn and apprehend God’s power over our lives. Three, we need to practice the true religion. True religion is about God’s grace, faithfulness, and trust in God. But, do we really trust in God, or is this a suggestion in our minds? Do we really understand what God requires of us? Do we also acknowledge that God is faithful in his promises? We must learn to fully trust in God in all aspects of life.

We need to learn to lean on God even in time of crisis

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