TODAY’S READING: John 11
Let us be clear. Every false religion of the world are demonic death traps. Jesus stands at the doors of those graves, and He does not like death. Jesus groans and weeps over the spiritually dead (John 11:35). Should we not stand with Jesus at the grave and groan? Two evangelists in the early days of the Salvation Army received a difficult assignment in a place of much spiritual death. After repeated futility they wrote William Booth and lamented that they had tried everything and nothing worked. He wrote back simply: “Try tears.” Sometimes we just need to stand with Jesus and survey the wreckage of death, crying.
Missions work is not complicated; it’s just hard. Someone has to do the difficult, unglamorous labor of rolling away the stones (v. 39). We cannot look at the amazing movement of Iranians coming to Jesus today without consideration of Robert Bruce who in the 1860s wrote from Iran: “I’m not reaping. I’m not sowing. I’m not even plowing. I’m just gathering rocks from the field.” Though the church is but a few thousand, the largest indigenous church on the Arabian Peninsula is in Yemen. We may recognize the famous quote: “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” We forget Ion Keith Falconer said these words upon arriving in Yemen in 1885. He only lived there two years, dying in 1887. In 1921, his mission was expelled. The first indigenous church was established until 1961, seventy-four years after Falconer died. None of us harvest without someone long before removed stones. There will be no harvest tomorrow if we are not faithful to move stones today.
Jesus reminds us that if we believe, we will see glory (v. 40), and His life guarantees that suffering must precede that view. When Jesus groaned at Lazarus’ grave, Luke used a word recorded only twice in Scripture, a word with the connotation of “disappointment in lack of trust.” I wonder if Jesus groaned not only because a loved one was dead, but also because the living ones did not believe. We must believe that God can raise Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, Secularists, lost family, beloved friends, and unreached peoples from the dead! This is our work: to believe!
Fred Farouk, himself a convert from Islam, humorously points out that “unreached peoples don’t poop.” It’s easy to fall in love with an idea, map, chart, even a statistic, but discipleship is messy, mentoring is draining, and investing in others is arduous and unceasing labor. Resurrection is exciting, but the real work is in the loosing and letting go (v. 44). We cannot microwave discipleship, and the Great Commission will not be fulfilled from our banquet halls or our mission tour vans. We will have to live among the dead, deal with the smell, and unwrap the stinky grave clothes that defile the dead.