This morning, the world we live in likes to "tamper" with the evidence. When evidence mounts to oppose someone's opinion or position, they sometimes pull out all the stops to extinguish the flame of opposition to their position. However, whether evidence is tampered with or not, one thing man cannot change is the truth. Truth remains the truth regardless of circumstance or situation. Consider all the injustices that have occurred in human history. Some we are aware of (after enough time has elapsed) while others perhaps go unnoticed and uncovered perpetually. Yet, the truth is that the Lord rights every injustice. Whether in this world or the next, the Lord will avenge that which is right and just. (Romans 12:19) Since truth will stand fast, upheld by our Lord's righteous character, we should seek to honour the evidence of truth and earnestly contend for it as testimonies ourselves to the truth of God and His holiness.
In our study verses, we are afforded yet another glimpse into the life of our Lord as He interacts with a precious family. The previous chapter clearly states that Christ loves these people, and we are afforded many insights into His intimate conversations and experiences with them. He is in Bethany in the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Previously we read where Christ raised Lazarus from the grave, and though this magnificent display of power was of the same caliber of His other miracles of healing, it made a huge impact on those that witnessed it and testified of it. To man's perspective, raising the dead is the most powerful display of ability and might that we can imagine. Death to the natural perspective is so final, total, and complete. Therefore, a reversal of the finality of death amazes and mystifies the natural perspective. It cannot be explained away or passed off as phony.
As a brief aside, I am always amused when I see "faith healers" on television or read about them in the news. They draw away huge swells of people that are taken in by their production. If these people really do have the power to do what they claim, I would like just once to meet them in a cemetery somewhere and watch them raise the dead. Scripturally speaking, one would expect a man of such power and might to be able to do the one as easily as the other. In other words, if a man can heal a cripple or take away a physical disease, why would he not have the same power over death? Christ in His ministry showed no such lacking distinction. His efforts to heal the sick were equally seen and displayed when He raised the dead back to life. Lazarus' case was the most definitive of the three we have recorded in Scripture. With the widow's son and Jairus' daughter, both of them had been dead a relatively short time, but Lazarus was dead for four days and manifested it by the odour of death that came from his tomb.
Because Lazarus' death was so manifest and plain to all, the raising of him back to life was equally manifest and plain to those that testified of it. No gainsayer could logically or convincingly sway those that saw it that they really did not witness what they witnessed. Lazarus was now a living and breathing testimony of the power of Christ over death and the grave. By his very presence, people could see him and be reminded that the man called Jesus brought him back from the icy grip of death's cold hand. Since Lazarus is now "evidence" and proof of the power of God, Christ's detractors now seek to rid him as well and tamper with the evidence. While not changing the truth of what happened, removing Lazarus from the picture removes credible evidence that could sway people into believing in the Jews' enemy: Jesus.
The mindset truly is remarkable! Consider that Christ has the power to raise the dead. He has already proven it with Lazarus. What if they killed Lazarus? What is there to prevent Christ from raising Him again? What if they kill Christ? What is to prevent Him from raising Himself? No doubt, they failed to consider these things in their thirst and desire to rid themselves of the Man that endangered their position with the people. His presence condemned their actions and turned the hearts of the people, and He must be stopped before they are left without any followers. In this quest, they stooped to levels that do not even logically make sense.
Today we find a relevant correlation. As Lazarus was a living testimony of the power of God over death and the grave, so the Lord's people today should stand as towering lights and testimonies to the power of God over sin and depravity. Every time we observe a child of the King act honorably and nobly in this world, we see a living testament to the hand of God that has quickened from death in sins to life in Christ. Nothing else or short of that could effect such a grand and marvellous thing. Since men – by nature – love darkness and hate the light, these towering testimonies will condemn them just as the Light condemned those in His day by His presence and testimony. (John 15:18-27) We should not marvel if the world hates us (I John 3:13), for it hated our Master before us and is verily not our friend either.
Consider the apostle Paul. Whenever he engaged in life as Saul of Tarsus, no greater threat or enemy to the people of God could be found. No greater passion for his purpose could match him. Yet, God's work upon his heart and call into his service turned his life around 180 degrees. When people observed this changed man, they observed a living testimony. When God today takes us as sinners vain and wild and makes us like a little child, we see the same evidence. What did they try to do to Paul? Same thing they tried to do to Lazarus. Their lives stood in jeopardy for trying to do the right thing. (II Timothy 3:13) We should expect nothing different in our lives today.
In that day, their avenue to put people to death was easily navigable. In many countries today, that is still the case as God-fearing people are slaughtered by their enemies for seeking to be shining lights in their communities. In our country in America, we have been amazingly blessed to not stand in fear of natural death for following the Lord. On the weekends when we go to church, I never worry about someone banging the door down and arresting or killing us. Yet, there is another method to kill living testimonies besides natural death. If someone can tamper with the evidence in this way, it can sometimes have a more significant impact than natural death.
What if Lazarus had been convinced to declare, "I don't think Christ really raised me from the tomb?" What kind of impact would that have had on those that believed in Jesus? How many that believed because of Lazarus' personal testimony would have had their faith, belief, or trust in Christ overthrown? Someone might say, "Preacher, that is such a foolish analogy." Indeed, it might be, but consider that many today do something similar. After God calls us from nature's darkness into His Divine Light, He does not chart our every step, action, and thought. We are required and commanded to honour Him in our lives, but we many times do not. Just as Lazarus was capable of later denying what happened to him, so we can today begin to deny things that we know to be true but fail to honour them as we should.
When a child of the King fails to shine as a living testimony of God's power over our sin and death, we find the correlation to our "foolish" Lazarus analogy. Sometimes the pattern of life is not so much marked by what is done or said but by what is not done or said. For example, most denials of Christ are not found in the statement, "I know not the man," though it sometimes happens as it did with Peter. Most of the time, denial of Christ occurs when people say, "I think or I would rather…." when posed with the idea of going to church, reading their Bible, or praying. When other things get in the way of the fellowship of the Master, we are denying Him in our lives and failing to stand as living testimonies to His power. When our natural lives look and sound like those around us in the world, we appear or sound dead like this old world.
Lazarus here was sitting and eating at the table with Christ. This type of intimate fellowship and association with the Son of God only further manifested his testimony of devotion to this One that had done so much for him. Our lives of godliness and obedience serve as further witness and testimony to the devotion we have for Him who hath quickened us by His grace. A child of the Master today denying Him in action or inaction is akin to Lazarus failing to admit the truth of His raising from the hand of Christ. That death of godly living and obedience is a death that the enemies of the Master seek to elicit from us to kill the evidence of His work in this old world. Every time we cave in to temptation and fleshly desires, we are allowing the enemy to – in a sense – kill the evidence. As Lazarus' reversal of testimony would have injured those that believed on Christ because of him, so our ungodly lifestyles can harm those that look up to us as examples of the walk: like our children. May we stand as living testaments to Christ and His power. May our feet continually find rest under His table, and may we not forget what He has done for our souls by His personal victory over death, hell, and the grave.