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“TAKE AWAY the stone…” John 11:39
We’re all familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. But have you given thought to the fact that before Yeshua says, “Lazarus, come forth”… Yeshua first gives another command?
Understanding this simple but profound lesson and its implications from our Master – can change the number of stunning miracles we get to personally experience. In fact, there are several dramatic lessons our Redeemer teaches us in this resurrection story.
What command did Yeshua issue prior to calling Lazarus back to life? Do you remember?
Click on “continue reading” to finish the rest of the story and learn a profound lesson that can change your life.
Let’s pick up the story in John 11. Martha, one of the 2 sisters of Lazarus, actually left their home to go meet Jesus who was on the way, close by. She demonstrates tremendous faith in her statements. Yeshua teaches that our initial death is more like a sleep – we “wake up” and live again (v.25-26). And then Martha makes the exhilarating confession of faith that she believed Yeshua to be the promised Anointed One, the Son of God (v. 27). We’re sometimes hard on Martha because of her preoccupation with the kitchen duties one time, but here her understanding is fabulous. Let’s read it.
John 11:20-27 “Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You."
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
Next, in John 11:28-37, he meets with Mary, the other sister and Yeshua himself weeps as several began to say if he had only arrived earlier, Lazarus would not have died. Let’s pick it up in verse 38.
Here we see the command that preceded the shout-out to Lazarus.
John 11:38-45 “Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone."
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days."
They had buried Lazarus in a cave and sealed it with a great rock to keep out animals, predators – and the horrific stench of death. If you’ve never smelled a dead person several days after he died, you have no idea how awful it is.
But here’s today’s lesson from our Saviour: Before the crowd could see a dead man come back to life, be resurrected and walk out, they had to first take away the stone that would block that miracle from being seen. OK, OK, I know: Yeshua could have worked it out anyway, stone or no stone, but he’s teaching us a lesson here: first, take away the stone you have in the way of miracles in your life! We have to remove the hindrances that are keeping us from experiencing powerful miracles. In this case it was a large stone, a rock, sealing the mouth of the cave that had to be removed first.
Don’t you remember what Yeshua told his disciples? He said they would do even GREATER works than he had done – if they but believe. John 14:12 is the reference. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
So if we’re not doing and seeing works as great as our Savior did, maybe we have to learn his simple remedy: Take away the stone!
What stone do you and I have that is blocking us from witnessing powerful signs and wonders and miracles?
The most obvious one is simple unbelief. The people of Nazareth, for example, did not believe that their own local guy Yeshua, as they saw him, could do anything impressive, so guess what? Mark 6:1-4 tells us clearly that BECAUSE of their unbelief, even Yeshua could do no mighty work in Nazareth except for a few healings – all because they had “a stone” of unbelief in the way of powerful miracles. .
The stone in our way could be almost anything.
Sometimes the stone we have in the way of a great miracle is bitterness. That gets in the way of our God working mighty works in our lives. Or maybe your “stone” is resentment. Or unrepented ongoing sin. That’ll kill miracles too. Or refusing to forgive someone. Sometimes the stone in the way is our habit of putting other things in our lives ahead of the pearl of great price. Remember the parable of the Wedding Supper? Many were called to be a part of this fabulous wedding, but they put other things ahead of God’s calling. They had to first go check out some land they had bought, or try out the new oxen they bought, or spend the next few days with their new wife.
Now watch what happens next.
Let’s finish the lesson in John 11:40-44. “Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. “
What follows is a bonus point from our Teacher: Thank our Father even before we see the miracle. Our Father sees the end from the beginning. Nothing is impossible for him. SO when we thank our Father even before we see the miracle, before the pain leaves, before the asked-for item in our prayers materializes – then we’re living by faith. Faith, remember, is the evidence of things NOT (YET) SEEN”. Yeshua thanked Father in heaven while the dead man was still very dead. He says “I thank you that you HAVE heard me.” But the dead Lazarus was still 100% dead - - but our Example is thanking God for having heard him!
If you wait to thank God only AFTER you’ve seen the miracle… where’s the faith? Faith is living in a thankful and expectant way even BEFORE we see or experience the answered prayer. The stone blocking the way has been removed and now we can –in faith, move mountains.
Yeshua also asked the blessing on the 5 loaves and 2 fish when there were only still 5 loaves and 2 fish visible (Matthew 14:19).
Let’s finish the story in John 11:41b:
“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go."
There you have it.
Your homework: identify the “Stones” you have in your life that hinder or block you from seeing more mighty works from God in your own life.
Then take away the stone.
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