Ever wonder why God has to be so difficult?
If anybody has the resources to crush slavery, to end death, to bring peace, certainly it is God. We celebrate His resurrection. His power over sin, His victory over death. This moment in our human framework when Jesus just walked right through Hell’s doorway and back into our linear timeline.
God has power over death.
‘Lazarus, come forth,‘ And, everybody who was dead in their sin understands that their name is Lazarus.
God is powerful. God is victorious.
So, sometimes we miss the next words of Jesus. We are so thrilled with the fact that Lazarus walked through the death-tomb doorway that we miss what Jesus said next. ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go. (NIV) Unbind him, and let him go. (NASB) Loose him, and let him go. (HCSB)
And when the Marys went to the tomb on Easter morning, the stone was rolled away and the body of Jesus was missing, but the grave clothes were there.
And when Lazarus walked back into life, somebody had to help him roll out of those grave clothes.
One story of two men and the scripture is careful to mention the stone, the women, and the grave clothes. With all of this obvious power over the life and the death cycles of our human reality, why is God still patiently, painstakingly, achingly concerned with these mundane details?
See, a resurrected Jesus marched his way out of a tomb, sans the grave clothes, and down to a beach to fire up some fish for a fisherman who had forgotten for a moment. And there was the smell of fish on the open fire. And, there had been a boat so full of fish it almost sank and the sheer weight of those fish tore the nets. And, there had been boy with a fish that fed five thousand.
And, that is why God seems so difficult.
If God can do that, why doesn’t He?
Miracle. Miracle. Miracle. And then?
Because there are kids in Syria who are forgetting what their mommy smelled like while they waste away in refugee camps. And, there are girls being violated and prostituted, and there are babies picking beans for my morning Java, and Ukrainians putting on armor on the Monday after Easter Sunday.
Did God came to free us from our slavery or not? Or did he come for only some of us? The lucky ones. The blessed ones. The ones with the right credit cards, education, political agendas, language, religion. The ones born in the right period in our human history.
Because there sure are a lot of tomb stones littering our 21st century. And there are overwhelming numbers of voiceless people – in fact, there are more people enslaved right now than in all the rest of history added together. And, it just seems like a God who cares enough to mention the mundane details of grave clothes, and tombstones and women might remember us.
Miracle. Miracle. Miracle. And then?
And then … Pentecost when the Church was born with tongues of fire.
It took the fact that Hungary shuts down the grocery stores for two days to celebrate Pentecost Sunday to remind me that the power of this resurrection did not end in April with a nice Sunday dinner in our best Easter dress.
Feed my lambs.
If you love Me.
Take care of my sheep.
Feed my sheep.
Funny how this difficult God weaves us into the mundane details before the miraculous tongues of fire that find us tucked away in an upper room.
Take off the grave clothes. Unbind. Loose the ties.
Oh, this difficult God who defines for us what it means to be the Church: rolling stones away, declaring freedom, tearing off grave clothes – finding our way through the mundane details.
It would be so much easier if God would just wave his magic wand.
But, he does not.
And, when he does not use his magic wand, then, what does the Church look like in difficult places? Places like Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova? Places where the Church looks like Roma, like Prostitutes, like Women, like Abused, like Addicted, like Illiterate, like Educated, like Orphaned, like Homeless, like Unemployed, like Pimps, like Lazarus?
Come on. Come with us and see : empty tombs, immovable stones rolled away, voiceless people testifying of God : the mundanely, unmagical mercies of a difficult God.
… Lazarus is dancing.