Obedience: Excuses, Obligation, or Adventure?

Last Sunday I talked through John 11 and the raising of Lazarus. I spent most of the time talking about the dilemma Jesus presented the disciples with before He got to the place the miracle would take place. Jesus asked them to journey back to a dangerous place with Him. It made no sense. We read early on in John that Jesus could heal long-distance. Do that! No need to go back to rub shoulders with an angry mob! Why did He require such an act of faith from His disciples? Here are a few excerpts from the account:

John 11: “…when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

So, the first response of these stained-glass window canonized saints was to question God and make excuses. “What are you thinking?”, they said. “What Lazarus needs is sleep!”, another asserted. They were really telling God that He obviously didn’t understand the situation as well as they did. Have you ever done this? “God, you obviously aren’t aware of my busy schedule!” Where in your life are you making excuses? Where are you saying, “I hear you God, but You’re not thinking about the implications of Your request!”

The next type of response to God’s request comes later in John 11. Thomas boldly implores his friends, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him!” Thomas is driven to be obedient to the senseless request from the Son of God, he just has no faith whatsoever in God’s ability to deliver. Have you ever been there? “OK, God! I’ll do it. Fine! This is gonna be a disaster!” Can you think of a space in your life right now where you’re choosing obedience but maintaining a bad attitude? My guess is that God is not all that impressed with your guilt-driven obedience that exhibits no trust in God’s faithfulness.

There could have been a third response from the disciples, but there wasn’t. They weren’t perfect either. They could have been inspired by Jesus’ previous demonstrations of the supernatural ability to walk right through a riot unharmed. Luke 4 speaks of a time when an angry mob drove Jesus to a cliff. Then, at the last moment, when all appeared to be lost, Jesus somehow simply walked right through the crowd or “passed through their midst” and went on His way. Any disciple could have said, “Guys! Let’s trust Him! He’s done this before! We follow Him all over the place and are constantly amazed!” Can you think of something in your life that represents a call from God that you don’t trust? Could you have the faith to say, “OK. I’m in! I don’t see how this will work, but You are faithful and I trust you!”

When we can get to a place where our obedience is driven by trust, God can show us incredible things and we’ll know Him in the deepest and most exciting ways.


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