The Fragrance Of His Presence
His Part And Our Part
Today’s Study Text:
“Now Jesus, again sighing repeated and deeply disquieted, approached the tomb. It was a cave (a hole in the rock), and a boulder lay against [the entrance to close it]. Jesus said … ‘Take away the stone.’”
John 11: 38-39
“The perfume of holiness travels even against the wind.”
Thoughts for Consideration:
What boulder or impediment in my life blocks the presence of my Heavenly Life-Giver?
What can I do that would remove the blockage?
“He called them that they might be holy, and holiness is the beauty produced by His workmanship in them.”
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us.”
C. S. Lewis
For a moment put yourself within the crowd of witnesses at Lazarus’ grave. If things were to run normally, the throng expected that Jesus would “pay His respects” to the deceased and then return to the familiar home of His dearest friends. The disciple John even alludes to this scenario in John 11: 31, 34 – when Mary left her home, those with her “followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to pour out her grief there…And He (Jesus) said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’”
However, to the complete surprise of everyone assembled, including Mary and Martha, Jesus gave a command. “Take away the stone.” Make no mistake, Jesus had the power to speak and the stone would have moved if that was what He had chosen to do. But that isn’t what He wanted to do. We might ask, “Why not?” It is at this point that I find the thoughts of J. R. Macduff so helpful. As he explains, “Jesus said, ‘Take ye away the stone!’ Why this summoning in any feeble human agency when Jesus’ own independent (decree) could have effected the whole?...Might not He who has ‘the keys of the grave and of death’ have Himself unlocked the portals?”
The obvious answer is, “Yes!” But then the lessons which we may uncover from this event would most likely be lost. As Pastor Macduff asks, “What, then, does the Saviour teach His children?” What is it that you and I can gain as we witness the removal of the boulder? As Macduff points out, “Jesus alone could bring back Lazarus from his death-sleep. Martha and Mary could weep an ocean of tears, but they could not weep Lazarus back. They may linger for days and nights in that lonely graveyard, making it resound with their bitter dirges…Too well do they know the spark of life is extinguished beyond any earthly rekindling! But though the word of Omnipotence alone can bring back the dead, human hands and human efforts can roll away the stone.”
While Christ can “abolish” death and “give life,” we have our part to play, especially when we consider “spiritual life and death.” And this is a very important lesson for us to absorb in our daily walk with Jesus. As John Newton so beautifully expressed, our salvation is “wholly of grace, not only undeserved but undesired by us until God awakens us to a sense of our need of it. And then we find everything prepared that our wants require or our wishes conceive, yea, He has done exceedingly beyond what we could either ask or think. Our salvation is wholly of the Lord.” We can’t revive our dead selves. We have no power to rise up out of the pit of sin and death. Praise God we have a Saviour who has rescued us.
But, if I want to deepen my spiritual life, I need to be aware that if there are personal boulders I’ve allowed to obstruct my relationship with Jesus – I need to do my part with the daily study of God’s Word and through prayer to keep the wide line open with Jesus.
As J.R. Macduff concludes, our salvation is “all of grace, from first to last – free, sovereign grace. We have no more merit in salvation than the beggar has merit in reaching forth his hand for alms…But neither must we ignore the great truth which God strives throughout His Word to impress upon us, that He works by means. Oh! let life be more than it ever has been to carefully remove every barrier between ourselves and Jesus.”
In 1905, Charles A. Tindley penned the words to the hymn, “Nothing Between” which I find appropriate for our lesson today – may we “keep the way clear! Let nothing between.”
“Nothing between my soul and the Saviour,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial
Triumph at last, with nothing between.”
Charles A. Tindley
“If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice
The trivial round, the common task
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves – a road
To bring us daily nearer God.”
“Lord Jesus Christ,
alive and at large in the world,
help me to follow and find You there today,
in the places where I work,
and make plans.
Take me as a disciple of Your kingdom,
to see through Your eyes,
and hear the questions You are asking,
to welcome all others with Your
trust and truth,
and to change the things
that contradict God’s love
by the power of the cross and
the freedom of Your Spirit.”
John V. Taylor
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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