The Lazarus Effect
By Marty Norman –
Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him”(John 11:35-36 NIV).
Jesus had many friends. But Mary, Martha and Lazarus were counted among his closest. So it is no surprise that when Jesus arrived at the tomb after Lazarus died he wept, for he loved much. Even the Jews saw how much he loved him.
As we enter into the month of February, the world’s epitome of and definition for love, we hear repeated commercials and advertisement regarding expressions of that love through the gifting of candy and flowers, valentines and gifts. It might do us well to stop and compare scriptural love to worldly love.
Recently I watched a rerun of “Shakespeare in Love” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. A fun movie, although fictional, its viewing prompted research on my part of the play it depicted. According to worldly standards and reviews read, “Romeo and Juliet” is a portrayal of true emotional and spiritual love.
The story of love is birthed in the midst of chaos and broken relationship as two members from feuding families find each other and fall in love. Residents of a broken world they are unable, because of prejudice and judgment, to come together in freedom. They, therefore, choose to die in order to not be separated. It is through their love experienced in death that their families reconcile as they set aside differences and forgive.
Although awe-inspiring and spell binding, Shakespeare misrepresents real love. His love is based on emotion, a worldly romantic, passionate, love at first sight kind of love, unselfish but limited by the boundaries and stipulations of others.
Contrast that with scriptural love. Unconditional, it is self-sacrificing the kind of love God has for his children. Pure and without judgment it is uplifting. According to I Corinthians 13 this kind of love is patient and kind. It does not boast nor is proud, rude or self-seeking. Rather it rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
First John 4:19 (NIV) tells us that “we love because he first loved us.” A clearer statement can’t be found. We love as we are loved. One cannot give love if one has never received it. Even in the best of circumstances, there is no way that worldly love can express or portray this kind of supernatural love. For real love is a commitment and a covenant. Rather than a feeling it is a decision, based on an act of the will. Denying self, one chooses to put others first. We choose to love by serving others. We put ourselves second, sacrificing in ways that are at some cost to ourselves.
John tells us that Jesus was love. He demonstrated the extent of his love by sacrificing himself. John 15:23 (NIV) says, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Jesus did for us on the cross.
One of the most beautiful examples of love in scripture is the story of the sinful woman who anoints Jesus before his death with a vial of perfume. Some report that this was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. As she anoints Jesus’ feet, this woman never stops kissing him. Her gratitude for his love and forgiveness has no bounds. Of her Jesus says, “Her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47 NIV).
The Lazarus effect is very powerful. Applied to our world today, this unconditional, selfless, protective love can change the world. The Bible illustrates that love heals all things, even to overcoming death. Here the love of God, the love of Christ himself, brings life, not death. In this type of love God is glorified.
As humans we often need a physical manifestation in order to understand a spiritual principal. But in this case, one need only look into the eyes of a baby or small child. The light, love, hope and trust seen in their depth will bring one to his knees. I am blessed to see this manifestation on a daily basis from my grandchildren.
Let us learn a lesson from the story of Lazarus. Even in the depths of our prisons, tombs of death in which we reside, let us listen for the voice of the one who loves without measure. When he calls, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43 NIV), let us hear our own name. Let us set aside our grave clothes and move into the light of love that is Christ.
And having experienced the Lazarus effect, let us pass it on to others by loving them unconditionally as we introduce them to Jesus. By doing so, they too will be brought out of the darkness of the tomb into the light of eternity.
Marty Norman is a wife, mother, and grandmother of five, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of “Generation G – Advice for Savvy Grandmothers Who Will Never Go Gray.” You can learn more about her at: www.martynorman.com, http://martynorman.blogspot.com, http://savvygrandmothers.blogspot.com.