The death and resurrection of Lazarus is recorded in the Gospel of John. It’s one of many extraordinary miracles performed by Jesus during his three year ministry. And has important lessons for us today.
The death and resurrection of Lazarus teaches that God’s timing is always perfect
Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany are mentioned several times in the New Testament. And it’s clear they had a special relationship with Jesus. So it seems odd when a messenger rushes to tell Jesus that Lazarus is critically ill, Jesus didn’t leave immediately and go to him.
Instead, he stays where he is and shows up in Bethany four days later!
A possible reason is because there was a common belief that when someone died, their soul hovered over the body for three days hoping to re-enter it. But finally left for good when decomposition started. Martha confirmed this had started when Jesus arrived and asked them to open the tomb. She warned that by now there would be a bad odor.
This means when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, no one could claim a hovering soul managed successful re-entry. But rather, the resurrection of Lazarus was solely by God’s miraculous power. It shows that God’s timing is perfect. And we can trust his timing in our lives today.
The death and resurrection of Lazarus teaches that God’s miracles are not about your faith but his power
We all have moments when we struggle in our faith. Implore God for a miracle. Ask him why? And even though Mary and Martha both believed in Jesus, this was a moment they struggled too. They fully believed Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was alive and sick. But weren’t so sure when Jesus talked about raising him from the dead.
Martha deferred to the end of time when God would raise all believers. But Jesus talked about the present.
And what further complicates the matter is we have this tendency to mistakenly believe God works based on our level of faith. He will answer our prayers if we just have enough of it.
But Jesus didn’t require a certain level of belief in this Bible story. Or chastise Martha for lacking it. He simply affirmed her belief in him. And in this case–whatever that amount– was enough.
Because it’s not the level of our faith that is important. But God’s omnipotent power.
The death and resurrection of Lazarus teaches God uses our circumstances to Glorify his name
In John 11:14, Jesus appears to demonstrate divine knowledge because he knows Lazarus already died. And perhaps it helps explain why he was not in a hurry to leave. And in John 11:4, he reveals the purpose for it: So the Son of God may be glorified through it.
In other words, God had a plan and was already working to carry it out. Although it didn’t look like it, considering Jesus’ lack of action.
Mary and Martha had a plan too. Get Jesus to Lazarus before he died. Because they knew Jesus could heal him. But God’s plan was even better. Because it glorified him in a spectacular manner. And led even more people to believe in Jesus.
Sure. It’s easy to read of a miracle like this and claim to trust God. Much harder when you’re actually struggling through difficult circumstances. But this story should gives us hope. Because it says God always has a plan. He’s working even when you can’t see it. Only asks you to trust and believe in him. And he will cause all things to work together for good. And his glory.
The Christmas Baby Jesus came on a mission. The reasons for it are not just important. They are the difference between life and death. Here are three of them.
The Christmas Baby Jesus Came To Establish A Kingdom
But it was not an earthly kingdom as most expected. And this was confusing and hard for people of that day to understand.
So there was no royal reception. Expensive pomp and splendor. Or red carpet treatment.
But rather, a humble birth in a common stable for animals. Welcomed on the scene by people in the lowest class of social standing. Yet, bathed in the glory of God.
A humble beginning. Followed by a ministry of service. And finally, sacrificial death and resurrection. That brought more confusion and misunderstanding.
Until finally, the truth of this kingdom broke through like the dawning light of a new day. And changed everything.
For the new kingdom that Jesus established is spiritual. And the throne he rules within the human heart.
The Christmas Baby Jesus Came To Rescue Us
It’s pretty obvious the world is broken. The Bible says it’s because we are broken. That we are sinners. Completely helpless to do anything about it. And therefore need a savior.
Jesus was God’s Son in human form. The only one able to live a perfect life. Who qualified as a perfect sacrifice. And could save us.
Although many people still reject this idea. Convinced that we can fix the world. And fix ourselves too. By simply trying harder. Tapping the power within us. Following the path of enlightenment to become our true, godlike self.
However, Jesus said, “no you can’t.” And claimed to be God’s exclusive solution. The only way out of sin. A gift you merely receive.
By believing. Acting on faith. And making a choice.
The Christmas Baby Jesus Came To Offer Grace
Grace is an eternal game changer. Granted by asking God’s forgiveness of sin. Received as a gift from Jesus.
And absolutely amazing! Why?
Because you can’t earn it. Don’t deserve it. Yet, God offers it in infinite measure.
Through the Christmas Baby Jesus, God’s grace pours over you like a fresh, cleansing shower. Washing away the old. Making you new. And reclaiming a spiritual relationship blocked by sin. The complete restoration as a child of God.
It’s here you discover that submission is not subjugation. Walking with Jesus the path of true freedom. And the joy the angels sang about that first Christmas day 2,000 years ago.
The Christmas Story Shepherds offer several lessons for us today. Here are four of them from the account in the book of Luke.
The Christmas Story Shepherds Show That God Has Different Values
Sheep were an important resource in this day. As a source of food, clothing and religious sacrifice. So protecting them was important. Unfortunately, however, shepherding was a lowly occupation. Living outside in close company with animals and therefore, considered unclean. Which meant they could not worship at the temple.
So you would normally expect them to be the last ones to learn about the birth of Jesus. But God chose them to be the first.
Why? Because God operates by a different set of values. He starts at the bottom rather than the top. By placing a high value on humility and a low value on pride. And sets aside, social and economic status.
The Christmas Story Shepherds Show The Gospel is Inclusive
The angels made it clear that the good news and great joy was for all people. The Greek word can also be translated all nations.
In other words, Jesus came to save every single person in the entire world. This is what sets the Christmas story apart. It flips the switch when compared to other religions. Rather than man trying to make his way up to God, it’s the only one where God makes his way down to man.
The Christmas Story Shepherds Encourage Us To Fact Check For Ourselves
The Shepherds were visited by a host of angels. Pretty important delivery method in divine messaging. And yet, the Shepherds didn’t just take their word on it. They checked it out for themselves.
It’s a good word for us today. Yes, ultimately the Christmas story and the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be accepted by faith. But faith is not blind or uninformed. You don’t exclude intellect. Turn off your brain. God’s Word is meant to be critically studied. Thoughtfully considered. And carefully examined.
So don’t simply take someone else’s word for it. Read the Bible for yourself. Not just random parts, but the whole thing. Whatever you decide, at least you can say it’s an informed decision.
The Christmas Story Shepherds Encourage Us To Share The Good News
The Shepherds were convinced that this good news was real. All of them, not just one or two. And there was no hesitation. No concern about who to tell. They went home praising God and made known what they were told about the child. And all who heard it wondered.
Two thousand years later and the Christmas story is still relevant. Still good news. Worth sharing. And causes wonder.
Mary makes Christmas extraordinary. Why? Obviously because she gave birth to Jesus Christ. But more importantly, what makes that birth significant. Here are three things Mary’s story reveals that make it not just extraordinary, but a divine event.
Mary Makes Christmas Extraordinary By Fulfilling Prophecy
Around 700 years before Christ, Isaiah prophesized about a coming Messiah. Not just one prophesy, but a number of them. About his birth, ministry and death. Many were very specific. Including the one about the Messiah’s birth.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. –Isaiah 7:14
The story of the Messiah’s birth is recorded in the book of Luke. In the first chapter, an angel appears to Mary while she was betrothed to Joseph. In Jewish law, this means she and Joseph were legally married, but had not yet come together as husband and wife.
Luke identifies Mary as a virgin and Mary confirms it after the angel delivers his message to her. And what a message!
He tells her she will give birth to a son and should name him Jesus. He will be called Son of the Most High. And he will rule an eternal kingdom.
Wow! That’s a lot to take in all at once for a young girl probably 12 to 14 years old. And so she asks an obvious question. One that confirms the prophecy of Isaiah.
“How can this be since I am a virgin?”
Mary Makes Christmas Extraordinary By Bearing A Holy Son
Scripture tells us that Jesus was born for a specific mission. To sacrifice his life for our sins. But in order to qualify as a sacrifice, he had to be perfect. Which means his birth could not be ordinary. It had to be extraordinary.
Because after Adam and Eve sinned, all the following generations were conceived in sin. And therefore we all sin. I know, sounds confusing. But simply put, we are all trapped in sin. And can’t get out by ourselves.
And since only God is completely holy, only God can conceive a holy son. Which he accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Mary Makes Christmas Extraordinary Through Her Trust And Submission
But now, Mary’s reputation is on the line. To announce her pregnancy before her marriage to Joseph was legally complete would cause a scandal. And if Joseph denied being the father, it could mean divorce and even death by stoning.
She had reason to fear for her life. And the life of her baby. What if Joseph rejected her? What would she do? Where would she go? How would she support herself and her child?
Questions probably swirled through her mind like a raging storm. There was a lot to consider. To worry about. And yet, she demonstrated an extraordinary faith. And a response that demonstrated trust and submission.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as those words appear. There had to be uncertainty. Confusion. Fear. But she pressed forward. Believing that God was faithful. That he had her back
So Mary faithfully bore and gave birth to the world’s savior. Raised him. Served with him in ministry. And stood beside him faithfully as he sacrificed his life. She was an extraordinary woman. Who introduced the most extraordinary gift to the world.
An attitude of gratitude makes life better. For others and for you too. I discovered this from a church mission trip, fixing up homes in Kentucky Appalachia. In an area with one of the highest levels of poverty in the country. And the experience reminded me how well I have it.
Here’s how you can discover an attitude of gratitude too.
Serve Others For An Attitude Of Gratitude
Gratitude begins with a mindset that gets out of yourself. Looks at the plight of others and asks the question: what can I do to help? To make a difference?
It moves beyond fault finding and blame shaming. Rises off the couch of social justice arm chair quarterbacking and gets in the game. Becomes a problem-solver rather than a problem identifier. Moves from talk to walk.
Serving others broadens your perspective. No, your problems may not go away. But it prevents them from dominating your life. And adds significance as you lift up others.
Learn Contentment For An Attitude of Gratitude
We live in a culture that promotes accumulation and comfort. And the answer to the question, how much is enough? Is always a little more than what we have now.
Because contentment is like a fishing lure of enticement…always trolling just out of reach.
But scripture reveals the secret to contentment. It is from God and is LEARNED.
It’s not an unexpected epiphany. A warm fuzzy someone gives you. A level of enlightenment achieved somewhere on the quest for more stuff. You learn it on the journey of discipleship. As you seek first the Kingdom of God while navigating times of scarcity and plenty. And you realize God provides for you in both of them.
Compare Down For An Attitude Of Gratitude
We naturally compare ourselves to other people. And usually compare up.
I was doing exactly that one day as I drove through my neighborhood. Comparing as I looked at all the nice cars in driveways. An SUV here. BMW there. Mercedes around the corner. Wait. Dude. You should move further up town!
My 15-year old, compact car with 175,000 miles was an eyesore. At least in my view. Rust spots appearing on the doors and fenders. Dimpled like a golf ball after driving it in a hail storm. Although it otherwise ran great.
Then as I left the neighborhood and pulled onto a main road, I passed a bus stop where a group of people waited for their ride. And I felt a spiritual nudge and a gentle voice say, “those people don’t have a car.”
It switched the direction of my comparison. And provided a lesson I will never forget. There is always someone who has it better than you. And someone who has it worse.
So take a pause the next time you start a comparison pity party. And compare down. Your inventory of blessings will change your attitude into gratitude.
Thank God For His Blessings For An Attitude Of Gratitude
Don’t wait for a comparison pity party wake-up call. Regularly and intentionally reflect on your blessings. Do you have a place to live? Food to eat? An income? Generally in good health? Surrounded by loved ones?
Chances are you can say “yes” to at least some of these. And you know people with much less. The point is, there are always things you can appreciate. So take the time to appreciate them. Stop looking at the glass half-empty and start seeing the one half-full.
And thank God for his blessings. Because God is the source of all that is good. And his best gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ. When you’ve received that gift, there is no comparison.
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