"Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead."
Kenneth L. Samuel
Dr. Fred Craddock, my homiletics professor in seminary. used to tell us, "Preach Christ! Use words if you have to." Dr. Craddock's point, of course, was that people are much more impacted by what they see than by what they hear. Sermons in the flesh are more powerful and more enduring than moral proclamations and divine meditations alone.
At a certain point in his life, the only thing that rivaled the popularity of Jesus and his message in the Jerusalem vicinity was a living manifestation of Jesus' power and a living illustration of Jesus' message. According to John's gospel, the power and the proclamation of Jesus were manifested and illustrated in the resurrection of Jesus' friend, Lazarus.
When the crowds that gravitated toward Jesus got word that Jesus was dining at the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, they came to that house to investigate for themselves. They came to see Jesus, certainly, but they also came to see what Jesus had done in the resurrected life of Lazarus.
Every person who has experienced the life-giving power of Jesus is up for inspection. People still want to know, is it really possible to hear the voice of Christ and defy the conscriptions of imminent death? People still want to know, does the eternal life promised to us by Christ make any real difference in this life? People still want to know, does Christ really have the power to give you life in the face of those who are invested in your death? People still want to know, is there any hope beyond the grave?
People still come because they want to experience our worship, enjoy our music and listen to our great sermons and testimonies about the life-giving, death-defying, body-healing, sou- saving resurrecting power of God in Christ Jesus. But they also want to see the evidence of our wondrous proclamations manifested in our everyday lives. They really want to see living illustrations of those who were once dead but who now celebrate life and life more abundantly.
What will they see? What can they touch? What will we show them?
Loving Savior, you have made us to be living illustrations of your power over death. Now touch our lives so that we may show forth your greatness and your goodness with gratitude and grace. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.