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Occasional ramblings and writings. Occasional being the optimal word.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Calling off the Search

About a year week ago, our Pastor preached a series called “Who’s Counting on You?” “REACH.”

In one of the messages, he described the Bible as the ultimate search and rescue because Jesus was sent to seek and save that which was lost. [Luke 19:10]

The term ‘search and rescue’ made me think about watching the news when they talk about a missing person. There are three terms I hear used in regards to missing or distressed persons:

Search and rescue: This means someone’s in trouble, and there’s a good chance they’ll be found alive

Search and recovery: Someone’s missing and the most likely scenario is that they’re dead, so now the rescuers are looking for a body rather than a live person.

Search called off: They’re gone and there’s no way we’re going to find them, so we’re ending the search. We're quitting and giving up.

I wonder what it must be like to be a family member of someone who’s been missing and to hear an official tell you that they’re calling off the search. I don’t even want to know what kind of pain the loved ones must be feeling. I mean, they’ve basically been told that they should give up hope on ever seeing their loved one again.

It’s harsh to think about, but I feel like this is how some of us have treated people in our lives.

As Christians, our top priority should be to share the gospel with the “lost.” However, are we really doing it?

There are people we have in our crosshairs so to speak. We have set our focus on saving this person or that person and take every opportunity to try.

Then there are people we’ve given up on. People we’ve decided are too hard-headed to listen. People who have told us no time and time again.

We’ve given up hope. We’ve called off the search. We’ve basically written them off for dead.

As I began to think about this concept I very strongly felt three words come to me—“Lazarus, come forth!”

Then I had the realization that even when hope is gone, there’s still hope.

There are three instances in the Bible where Jesus raises the dead. And I think we can learn something from each regarding bringing the “dead” back to life—or more accurately, giving life to the dead.

The first instance is where he raises the son of a widow:

11Soon Jesus and his disciples were on their way to the town of Nain, and a big crowd was going along with them. 12As they came near the gate of the town, they saw people carrying out the body of a widow's only son. Many people from the town were walking along with her.

13When the Lord saw the woman, he felt sorry for her and said, "Don't cry!"

14Jesus went over and touched the stretcher on which the people were carrying the dead boy. They stopped, and Jesus said, "Young man, get up!" 15The boy sat up and began to speak. Jesus then gave him back to his mother.

16Everyone was frightened and praised God. They said, "A great prophet is here with us! God has come to his people."

17News about Jesus spread all over Judea and everywhere else in that part of the country.      Luke 7:11-17 [CEV]

The second is where Jesus raises the daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus:
21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

24 Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.   Mark 5:21-24 [NLT]; 35-43 [NIV]

Finally, the most famous instance and what came to mind when I thought about this—the story of Lazarus:

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place 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.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.”  John 11:1-45 [NIV]

Ok, now that you’ve done a butt-load of Bible reading, let me see if I can get what I’m thinking out of my head and into words.

1.     When someone gets their life back, they won’t be able to keep quiet.

What’s one of the first things the widow’s son did when he was raised? He sat up and began to speak. If you had just been given your life back, wouldn’t you want to tell everyone? So many of us forget this.  Ten years ago, I was pretty much dead (literally), but I was given another chance. However, I don’t talk about it too much. Blame my introversion I guess.

2.     When someone gets their life back, they’re going to be hungry.

When Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter he told those in the room to do two things: 1. Don’t tell anyone (yeah, right!), and 2. Get the girl something to eat. When someone’s “brought back from the dead” they’re going to want to fill up on as much as they can get—be it attending as many church services as they can, or diving head first into their Bible, or reading as many books on theology or other topics as possible.

3.     Be prepared for unexpected miracles.
You may have noticed in the story of Jairus’s daughter, I used an ellipsis (…). Well, that was a little sneaky because I wanted to surprise you. Here’s what I left out:

 25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”  Mark 5:25-34 [NLT]

When Jesus was on his way to perform one miracle—BOOM—he pulls off another one. An unexpected one.

So, when your dead person has been brought back to life, be on the lookout for other miracles. I don’t know what: someone else being raised, someone being healed, financial breakthrough, a new job, unmerited favor, the list goes on and on.

4.     The response might not be immediate.
Your person may or may not have their world rocked in an instant. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where he was two more days. I’m sure He did this because He already knew what the outcome was going to be, so He wasn’t in any kind of hurry. With your person, you may have to invite them a few times. You may have to share with them a few times.

No piece of rock ever became a sculpture after just one blow of the chisel.

5.     When they’re raised, they just might stink.

When Jesus asked them to roll away the stone, they warned Him that there was going to be an awful stench. Clearly he didn’t pay that no nevermind, and neither should you. Yes, your person may still smell like smoke or beer, but give it time. All of that will soon go away.

6.     When they’re raised, they’re going to need help shedding what binds them.

When Lazarus came out, Jesus told those that were there to take off the graves clothes and let him go. When your person is raised, they may struggle with what’s been binding them. You may need to help. Spend time with them so they won’t be tempted. When you go to church, take them with you. Call them. Text them. Owl them. Whatever. Keep encouraging them.

7.     People are going to say it’s impossible

In the case of Jairus’s daughter, people laughed. Some of Jairus’s people told him his daughter was dead and to not bother Jesus. In the story of Lazarus, there was doubt all around. All kinds of people tried to stop Him, but they didn’t.

You might experience some of the same. “Why you taking him to church? It ain’t gonna work.” “Why bother with her? She ain’t nothin’ but a _____.”

But if all the people who were hoping to see their loved one raised listened to all the naysayers, what would’ve happened? Nothing.

8.     If it grieves you, it grieves Him.

In each of the instances, we see examples of Jesus’s compassion. He sees the widow crying and comforts her and without even being asked, He raises her son.

Jairus comes and falls at Jesus’s feet and pleads fervently for Jesus to help—and He does! He saw the anguish this was causing Jairus and He went with him—no questions asked.

We see His compassion all over Lazarus’s story. (BTW: John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible).

If you truly want you person to come "back to life," if it truly grieves you to see them gone, then He’ll do it.

9.      He ain’t gonna do it in private.
Granted, in the case of Jairus’s daughter, He only took a few people with Him, but there were still other people there. It’s not like He said, “Wait here. I’ll be back with a live girl in a minute.” There were always others around to witness it.

10. Those that see it will be changed as well.
After he raised Lazarus, it says that many of the Jews saw what He did and believed in Him.

I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.

Now, whom have you written off as dead? Whose search have you called off?

It just might be time to grab a flashlight, get out there, and start the search again.