REMOVE THAT STONE!
Iam writing this response to a post by a dear friend and man of God on his website entitled “Called To Restore”. Thank you Dennis for sharing this important message. I am convinced the entire Body of Christ needs to read this as most are afflicted and hindered by those things spoken about in this message. I would also like to add another thought to this expansive subject. It has to do with learning what prevents us from seeing the Glory of God in our lives. It is a simple lesson but one that could have great impact in our lives. For the illustration, let us look at the story of Lazarus once more.
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “ Take away the stone.”Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “ Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “ Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:38-40 NKJV)
Lazarus had died and Jesus had already stated that if we believe in Him, even if we die, we shall be raised up and if we live, we shall never die. But, to show how little our faith truly is, we still insist that if Jesus had been there before Lazarus died, He could have healed him and avoided Lazarus’ death altogether.
You see, WE have plans and God has plans. We think that God should follow our plans but He will never be ‘lassoed’ into the thinking or the desire of men. When things do not work out as WE plan them, we consider that ‘God must not have willed it’ and then we move on. Jesus comes to this scenario with a different lesson to teach us. A lesson that is designed to push OUR boundaries far beyond what we are able to conceive and into the realm of the Spirit, the realm of the kingdom of God, where nothing is impossible for Him. We may believe in healing or even believe in deliverance but once neither of these occur, we are convinced that nothing ‘could’ have been done. Some have further pushed their ‘envelope’ through fasting and prayer but if nothing happens as they expect, then it MUST be God’s will for they’ve done everything they knew to do.
It is this very MINDSET that Jesus purposely comes LATE to the scene so that a greater truth than any have ever considered, could be demonstrated. You see, we are so ‘fixed’ on what we believe God is capable of doing, we actually relegate Him to OUR expectations and OUR faith. Anything that falls outside of this, we deem ‘unreachable’ to man, even those with ‘sufficient faith’. But God will always ‘push’ us beyond what we consider our limits and His. Like it says in Psalms 50:21, we reduce God down to our level of understanding and expectation. Because we haven’t seen it, because we haven’t heard of it, because it is outside the realm of our experience, we just cannot believe.
Before I get into the focus of this message, I want to point out something that has been greatly misunderstood by most. Let’s take a look at a few verses BEFORE the one I quoted above:
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “ Where have you laid him?(John 11:33-34 NKJV)
“He GROANED in the spirit and was troubled…”
Interesting choice of words to describe what in the original had a more far reaching expression than what we see here. We see this as a mere human reaction, Jesus ‘sympathizing’ with their great grief and sorrow but this is not what is being said here.
The word translated to ‘groan’ actually means “(to snort with anger); to have indignation on, i. e. (transitively) to blame, (intransitively) to sigh with chagrin”. Jesus was NOT sympathizing with those who were mourning but this illustrates that He was, to use a modern day term “miffed”, “put out”, “not happy”. Personally, I believe the translators had a lot of difficulty understanding this ’emotion’ coming from Jesus and sought to use a word that more closely expressed a ‘sympathizing’ tone rather than what it really was.
Now, why would Jesus be ‘miffed’ or ‘annoyed’ or ‘to snort with anger’? To understand this, we must understand from where He was coming from and the message He has been working to bring to the children of God. Everywhere He went, He was met with a people of little to no faith. Only on rare occasions did He encounter someone who had the kind of faith He had hoped more had and some of those were not of the children of Israel but foreigners. Throughout His ministry, His one purpose was to point the way to the Father which required a faith that few walked in. Everyone was amazed by the supernatural works wrought by Him but none understood that what He did, He was actually teaching that they all could do and even greater works. This was simply BEYOND their capacity to accept for themselves. Imagine being sent to only those who nodded their heads in agreement but never had faith enough to put into practice those things you are trying to show them. Not an easy task and yet, this is what Jesus faced every day of His ministry. A people who drew near to Him with their lips but had hearts that were far from Him.
Later in the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews considers what Jesus is about to perform, as something that is elementary, basic, and should be ‘commonplace’ among believers:
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2 NKJV)
What had become ‘commonplace’ to the writer of Hebrews and I would dare say all of the New Testament writers, was well beyond those we see in the gospels. To them, something like the raising of the death was far beyond their experience and only on rare occasions was this seen in the scriptures and that was reserved only for the prophets.
Now to get back to the reason why I am writing this.
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “ Take away the stone.”Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “ Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “ Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?(John 11:38-40 NKJV)
Before He instructed them to take away the stone that covered the tomb, He had already spelled out that He is the resurrection and the life and if we believed, we would see the Glory of God. Yet, when it came to actually doing what He promised, there were those whose lack of faith and lack of understanding, tried to prevent it and to them, had good reasons for it. In this case, that ‘STONE’ represented several things with the first being UNBELIEF and what caused that ‘unbelief’, judgment. You see, judgments, our perspectives, our understanding, our limitations, our traditions, our belief systems create for us a ‘model’ by which all we understand and do is established. Our ‘judgment’ in this case, represents the ‘limits’ of our faith. Jesus instructs us to REMOVE that limitation and He does so ABOVE our objections. We think that we have ‘good and solid reasons’ for not believing, as I illustrated above but none of them can find their justification in the eyes of an all powerful God who created all things from nothing except His Word.
Jesus, wanting to push their envelope of understanding and possibilities, required them to ‘first’ remove that stone of judgment and unbelief. For the fruit of our judgments is UNBELIEF and unbelief is the chief reason for disqualification in the eyes of God. It was because of their unbelief, the first generation of the children of Israel who were delivered from the power of Egypt and brought by the power of God to that land of promise, refused to enter in. It was because of unbelief that Israel, the natural branches of that cultured olive tree, were cut-off and because of faith we were engrafted in. (Romans 11). If we too do not continue in faith but allow unbelief to enter in, then we too would be cut-off, just as they were. Unbelief has that power to separate us forever from the will and purposes of God in our lives. This is the biggest reason we have to remove all judgments because of that fruit it produces…Unbelief.
Jesus was actually ‘miffed’ because with all the signs, all His messages that pointed to the Father, we still put limits of what God can do because of our judgments, because of our unbelief. We look at situations we have not been able to find solutions for and we convince ourselves that it cannot be done. Do you realize that the only thing that cannot be done by God is to override our will? If we choose to put our faith in traditions (commandments of men) instead of His commandments, we render His power of no effect! Everything else and I really want to give as much emphasis as possible, EVERYTHING ELSE falls into the realm of possible in the economy of the kingdom of God. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE to him who believes. That means that all of our traditions, all our judgments, all of those stones have been removed to those who choose to believe that there is nothing impossible with God.