The Walking Dead, Lazarus

October 20, 2013

So here we are week two of the Walking Dead.  For those of you who are wondering what in
the world is happening at Cornerstone let’s bring you up to speed.  Through October and November our theme at
Cornerstone is “The Walking Dead” and we will be looking at various stories in
the Bible where people had been dead and then were alive.  There are a number of these stories and often
we just kind of read over them, not really stopping to realize the impact that
this would have had not only on the person who had been given life but on those
around them as well.  To us they are just
words on a page but to those who were involved it was literally a life altering
event.  These are stories of dead people
who came back to life, that’s gotta be a little spooky.

And I know that there are stories through history of people
who were declared dead only to be discovered later to still be alive.  And while most of those incidents happened
before the advent of modern medical techniques they sometimes still
happen.  For example in September of 2007
33 year old Carlos Camejo was declared dead after being involved in a traffic
accident in Venezuela.  When the staff in
the morgue began the autopsy they realized something was wrong when the first
incision drew fresh blood and then the corpse screamed.  Carlos said “I woke up because the pain was
unbearable.”  His wife had been called to
the hospital to identify her husband’s body only to discover him alive and well
and waiting for him. 
But in those cases the person being revived comes as a shock
to everyone involved, the cases we are looking at is when folks are commanded
to come back to life. 
But before we go there back to the Walking Dead.  The Walking Dead is a television show that is
now into its fourth season.  It involves
Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes and a small band of survivors who are trying to stay
alive in a post-apocalyptic world populated by Zombies or Walkers as they are
called in the show.  So far they haven’t
been able to find out what has caused this Zombie Apocalypse or whether or not
they can reverse it.   
For those who are concerned that we are delving into the
dark side here, these are not the Zombies of yesterday that were conjured up by
Voodoo, witchcraft and devil worshippers. 
Instead this has been caused by some unknown biological plague.  This of course is even scarier because it
becomes something that in this day and age of chemical warfare and GMOs could
be entirely possible. 
You say you don’t believe in Zombies.  Well for you sceptics I give you this
photographic proof.  (Photo of kids
texting.)
Earlier this year there was an article in the National Post
entitled: Zombie popularity peaks when society is unhappy: researcher  In the article Dr. Sarah Lauro, a professor at
Clemson University in South Carolina was quoted as saying “We are more
interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered, and
the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast
population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves … or
watching a show like ‘Walking Dead’ provides a great variety of outlets for
people.”
Well there you go.
It was so dark, and so cold. He had
no idea where he was, how long he had been there or what he was supposed to be
doing.  The last thing he remembered was
being at home in bed. He had been sick; nobody knew what to do or even what was
wrong. The doctors had come and gone leaving behind potions and powders that
had little effect besides depleting their already meager budget.
It was then that Mary had the idea
to send a message to their friend.  They
had all heard the stories. How the lame walked again, the deaf heard and how he
had given sight to the blind.
If anyone could do anything for him
it would be Jesus!  And so a message was
sent, and they waited. And waited and waited. The fever left only to be
replaced with chills but soon he was burning up again. The days became
fragments as he passed in and out of awareness. 
He could remember bits and pieces of the conversation, most of it
centering either on how sick he was or wondering where Jesus was. Where was
Jesus? And then, the girls just cried, every time he opened his eyes there was
either Mary or Martha holding his hand and weeping. Why was everyone so sad?
And then there was nothing, well
almost nothing. He dreamt that he had died and gone to heaven there he saw his
parents and his brother who died as a child. And Moses was there and Elijah and
God.  But it must have been a dream
because it was so bright and so warm, and now it was so dark, and so cold. He
had no idea where he was, how long he had been there or what he was supposed to
be doing. And then he heard something, it was someone calling his name and they
were telling him to come out.
Come out of where?  And then as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he
realized that he was in some kind of cave, it seemed vaguely familiar and then
suddenly he knew he was in the family tomb, laid out on one of the shelves.  The last time he had been here they were
burying his father. What was he doing here and who was calling his name?  He swung his legs clear of the shelf and
immediately stumbled against the wall realizing that his legs were loosely
bound together.  He was wrapped in strips
of cloth, even his head was wrapped and he was just able to see between the
strips of cloth wrapping his face.  What
type of nightmare had he awoken into? 
What was happening to him?  Slowly
he shuffled his way to the light streaming through the low entrance toward the
familiar voice calling his name.  And as
he ducked through the opening he heard screams of terror mixed with shouts of
joy, as the bandages fell away from his eyes he looked around at the crowd he saw
his sisters and Jesus and Jesus told the people “Unwrap
him and let him go!”
Must
have been quite a shock for everyone but Jesus. 
Dead men don’t come out of tombs, but Lazarus did.    He would never be looked at the same way
again, he would always be the man who Jesus raised from the dead, there would
always be questions and there would always be scepticism.  For many Lazarus would be thought of as The
Walking Dead. 
But what can we learn from the story
of Lazarus? And how does it apply to us and what spiritual application can we
find in this story of the walking dead?
Let’s go back to the story: John
11:39
“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s
sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be
terrible.”
Lazarus Was Dead
He wasn’t just sick or not feeling
well, he hadn’t gone into the tomb to lie down and take a nap, the man was
dead.  He had been sick, didn’t get
better and he died.  That’s the way that
life works, Robin Williams said “Death is nature’s way of saying, Your table’s ready.”  Well, Lazarus’s table was certainly
ready.
Now I’m sure that there are those
that thought that maybe Lazarus wasn’t really dead, maybe he had just been in a
coma and woke up when Jesus called him. 
Quite a coincidence wouldn’t you say? 
That the man had been declared dead, been wrapped in a funeral shroud
and laid in a tomb and four days later at just the time that Jesus ordered that
the stone be rolled away he awoke from his coma.
Let’s skip the conspiracy theories
and acknowledge that the man was dead. 
Martha knew he was dead, Mary knew that he was dead, Jesus knew he was
dead, the crowd knew he was dead, Lazarus was dead.  What was it that Ebenezer
Scrooge said about his partner “Marley was dead
to begin with; old Marley was as dead as a door nail.”  And so was Lazarus.
Spiritually each one of us is or was
dead. That is not open to debate any more than Lazarus’ condition was open to
debate.  We’ve covered this material
before.  Humanity was created perfect and
placed into a perfect world that they could inhabit and live in fellowship with
God.  The only condition was that they
not eat the fruit from one tree, they could touch the tree, they could hug the
tree, they could kick the tree as far as we know they could even cut the tree
down and use it as fire wood but they could not eat the fruit from that tree.  Why did God put that temptation before
them?  I don’t know.  Why didn’t he make the world a place with no
restrictions and no guidelines?  I don’t
know, but I do know that when the first couple made the decision to disobey God
they severed the relationship between them and God, an action that not only had
repercussions for them but for all of humanity as well. 
The Bible says in Romans
3:23
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
And in the Old Testament the Prophet Isaiah
said Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn
leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
The consequences of our sinful actions are
spelled out in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death . .
. and in Ephesians
2:1
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
Just as Lazarus was dead physically,
and there was no debating it, each person on this earth is dead spiritually and
there is no debating that. 
And while death is a condition that Lazarus
would share with the entire human race that’s where the similarity ended,
because even though he was dead he didn’t stay dead. And so the second thing we
need to realize is revealed in  John
11:43-44
Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the
dead man came out . . .
Lazarus Was Alive  Now that’s neat.  The man had been
dead and in the grave for four days, and he walks out of the tomb by
himself.  I don’t know who it was more of
a shock for, his sisters, the crowd or Lazarus. 
We know who it wasn’t a shock for, it wasn’t a shock for Jesus, because
that’s what he asked for and that’s what he expected to happen.
The entire incident became an integral part of
Lazarus’ identity, in John 12:1 Six days
before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of
Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.
After a while that must have gotten
more annoying than being dead, “Oh, you’re Lazarus, the guy that Jesus raised
from the dead.”  People would point to
him on the street and say “that’s Lazarus the guy that Jesus raised from the
dead.”  And people were probably always
asking him, “So what was it like being dead?” 
But the fact of the matter was this Lazarus had been dead and now he was
alive.  And that was a miracle.
In the same way miracles can happen in our
spiritual lives as well.  Remember what
happened?  From that first couple we
inherited our tendency to sin, from that first couple we inherited our desire
to rebel. In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 So you
see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from
the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all
belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
If we are spiritually dead because
of sin then we need to find a solution to the sin problem and that solution is
Jesus Christ.  We are told in the
scriptures that when we ask Christ for forgiveness that is what he does, he
forgives our sins.  They are gone, Henry Ward Beecher said “God
pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting
forgiveness.”  What an incredible
picture.
Colossians 2:13 You were
dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.
Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
And just as Jesus stood at the entrance to the
tomb and called for Lazarus to come out he is calling each one of us to enter
into the life that he has prepared for us. Earlier I read Romans
6:23
For the wages of sin is death, . . .
but we all know that isn’t where it
ends, the passage continues by saying but the free gift
of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
And we know all these things, I am
preaching to the choir here.  Most of us
have experienced that new life; we aren’t strangers to the forgiveness of
Christ and the life that he offers.  Like
Lazarus we have heard Jesus call our names and we have answered the call.  We know that when we die we will go to heaven
do not pass go do not collect two hundred dollars.  I know that and you know that.  And that leads us to our third point: 
John 11:43-44 Then
Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and
feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them,
“Unwrap him and let him go!”
Lazarus Was Free
When Lazarus came from the tomb he
was alive, he could walk again he could talk again, he could love again.  But he wasn’t free.  He was still bound by his grave clothes, even
though he was alive there was still more that had to be done.
When we accept the forgiveness that God offers
we are given life, but often times we are still bound in grave clothes.  We bring old baggage into our new
relationship with Christ, baggage that we need to get rid of.  The bible tells us in Titus
2:14
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and
to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
And just as it wasn’t enough for
Lazarus to be given life without freedom we need to be unwrapped and set free.
What are some of the things that bind us, what are some of the things we need
freeing from?
He wants to Free Us From Our Hurts Here’s a sad fact of life, none of
us make it through unscathed. From the time we are children things happen that
hurt us.  It may be physical, emotional
or spiritual but the hurts are there.  If
I was to ask you to just close your eyes for a moment and reflect on how you
have been hurt, hurt by circumstances and hurt by people. Everyone here could
think of something said or done that cut them. 
And it hurts, that’s why they call them hurts. And I’m not here today to
say they shouldn’t hurt, Proverbs 18:14 The
human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?
But I am here to say that Jesus
wants to help you carry the hurt, he wants to eventually wipe it away and free
you from its consequences.  Right
now?  Maybe, I’ve seen the power of the
Holy Spirit reach into a broken spirit and fix it in an instance, and I’ve also
seen him work over a period of time slowly bringing about a complete healing.
I know some of your hurts, and I hurt with you,
you there are times that my heart is broken because of what people here are
going through, and I wish that I could reach out and fix it.  I can’t but God can.  He wants to free you from your hurts, not
minimize them, He isn’t going to tell you to suck it up and get on with life, 1 Peter
5:7
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
That’s his promise, God cares about
you, and he wants to heal your hurts and free you from them, but you have to
let go.  Leo
Buscaglia said “Don’t hold to anger, hurt or
pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.”
He wants to Free Us From Our History  Every one of us brings a little bit of our history into our new
relationship with Jesus.  Even though the
bible tells us that we are born again and are new creations, that doesn’t erase
all of the influences both good and bad that that have touched our lives up to
that point.
But we don’t have to be controlled by those
things we don’t have to be controlled by our past, we are brand new creations
and we need to claim the promise that is given in 2
Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has
become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
All of the mistakes we had made, all
of the sins that had been committed are gone, we are starting over.  Sometimes we blame the past for the way we
behave as believers.  Maybe there are
certain behaviors that used to be part of our life and you don’t want to give
them up, so you say you can’t because of your past. Sometimes I can be a little
sarcastic, and it’s easy to say “Well that was the way I was brought up”.  But that doesn’t excuse it.   Man up, own your problem and allow God to
deliver you from them.  Sarcasm may have
been a love language in my family but that doesn’t make it right or necessary
for me to use that as an excuse when I’ve hurt someone with my words. 
He Wants to Free Us From Our Habits. “I just can’t help myself.”  How many times have you heard those words or
for that matter how many times have you said those words?  Our lives are so often governed by our
habits, good habits and bad habits.  And
we come to the place that we think we are slaves to those habits, because we’ve
always done it we will always do it.  But
we don’t have to be.  Remember 2 Corinthians 5:17 This
means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life
is gone; a new life has begun!
We are new, but it’s not easy to
break those old habits, that’s why self-control is referred to as a “Fruit of
the Spirit”, because it’s something that’s really tough to do by ourselves but
the Spirit wants to help us to have that control. 
Jesus wants you to be free, and not just a
little free listen to what he said in John 8:36 So if
the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
If you have asked Christ for
forgiveness and have accepted his salvation you are alive, but have you been
released, from your hurts your history and your habits? If not you can be,
Jesus is calling your name today, will you listen?  Because Lazarus didn’t have to come out, he
could have stayed in the tomb, Jesus wouldn’t have gone in and dragged him out
and he won’t drag you into the Kingdom.