Take Away the Stone

Is there something blocking your miracle?

In the course of life it is inevitable that we will face trials, betrayals, sorrows and even death. Among the core beliefs of the Christian faith are that God is the Redeemer, the Life Giver, the Shepherd of our souls. It is my firm conviction that God’s will for you and me is a life of abundance. Jesus said he was, “The resurrection and the life.” And yet, many people live far below this standard. If the will of God is our best, our good and to create a people for Himself, then what stands in the way? I’d like to examine that in this message through the story of Lazarus.

[Jhn 11:1-45 NKJV] 1 Now a certain [man] was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was [that] Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard [that], He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to [the] disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 [The] disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 “But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard [that], she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 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?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” 37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 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?” 41 Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up [His] eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 “And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said [this], that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.

Resurrection Life Awaits You

Let us begin to examine this story and its application with some questions. First, has something died in your life? Have you lost a loved one, an opportunity, your reputation, your joy, your marriage? Fill in the blank for yourself right now and ask yourself, “What is the cause of my greatest sorrow?”

In my own life, I have recently suffered the loss of a woman I loved. We were engaged and after what seemed to be a number of confirmations from the Lord that He was bringing us together, she abruptly ended the relationship after we had a few conflicts. I was blindsided and shocked by this. There was no negotiating, no discussion, no willingness on her part to work through the conflict. She simply wanted to end it. It has caused a world of pain and left me broken with many questions. It was this recent event that was the impetus for this message. I began meditating on how God can raise something from the dead. What is His response to those who have lost something so dear?

It is in the valley of the shadow of death that we grapple with questions about God’s character. The devil finds us at our weakest and wants to exploit us. Will we in these places continue to believe the truth that God is able to work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose? Will we accuse God, harden our hearts, or turn to drugs, alcohol or some other carnal release?

What is it you have lost? What has seared your heart with pain? Who or what has died?

Jesus gives us this precious promise that, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And that if we would believe, we would see the glory of God. This is God’s will for us all. He has not forsaken us nor is he the author of our pain or confusion. We must hold on to the truth that before resurrection life takes hold of us, there must be death. That somehow God has a plan in all of this even if we don’t understand.

What’s Blocking Your Miracle?

Many years ago (bc) I was living in San Ramon, CA, and we were having a party at our apartment (a regular occurrence). Someone had called the cops on us due to the noise. They were banging on the door for many minutes before we finally noticed. The music was so loud that we couldn’t hear the knocking…

Could it be that something is keeping us from hearing the voice of God?

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.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:39-40 NKJV

In order for us to experience God’s resurrection power, we must first take away the stone.

The Stone of Unbelief

The first thing we see in this passage is a struggle to believe. Martha initially questions Jesus when he tells her to take away the stone in front of Lazarus’ tomb. Her response?… “But Lord…”

This “but Lord” is the root of unbelief. It is that human tendency to doubt God’s power and to look at the reasons it is ridiculous to do what God says. “But Lord… he has been dead four days and there is a great stench.” Jesus’ reply is always the same when confronted with unbelief, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

Thomas struggled to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. The disciples didn’t believe that Jesus was greater than the storm. Most of the children of Israel didn’t believe that God would bring them all the way into the Promised Land.

What is your “but Lord …. ?”

The Stone of Offense
Where did he get this wisdom and this power? Is this not the carpenter’s son?

We see another barrier that blocks the resurrection power of God. It is the rock of offense. Jesus goes into his hometown and preaches the Word and the people were offended at him because they couldn’t understand where he got the wisdom and the power he was operating in. They were judging him according to the flesh and according to their limited human knowledge and experience with him. This offense became a stumbling block that prevented Jesus from doing many miracles in this town. (Mark 6:1-6)

The apostle Peter writes,

Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, [He is] precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; [1Pe 2:9 NKJV]

Are you offended at God or someone else? Unforgiveness and offense are two of the greatest barriers to resurrection life. They must be removed.

The Stone of Disappointment

“If only you had been here…”

How could Jesus have known Lazarus was sick and then stayed where he was two more days? Didn’t he care? Didn’t he know that time was of the essence? Martha and Mary both confront the master with the same statement… “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death but that the glory of God should be revealed.”

How many of us are blocked by the stone of disappointment? Things didn’t work out the way we expected. If God is so powerful and loving, why wasn’t he there in time? This is an insidious tool that the devil wants to use in our lives. Have you suffered a setback? Has your ministry, business, relationship or life not worked out the way you hoped or prayed for? Could it be that God has a different plan? Will we believe that we serve the Redeemer of all things? Can we say like Job that though he slay me, yet I will trust him?

The Stone of Shame

“He has been dead four days! He stinks!”

Many people will not open up their hearts due to the shame they feel. What they have been through, their ugly past, their insecurities, their failures. This stench is so bad that it’s easier for most people to hide behind the stone of shame. Martha argues with Jesus that the tomb should not be opened. He was not ready for what was inside. We don’t want to deal with the stench.

What is it inside you that you do not want anyone to see or smell? Do you think God does not already know what’s there? Are you afraid of being judged by others? Will you allow this shame to be taken out of the way so that life can be breathed on dead bones?

The Stone of Fear

“We were like grasshoppers in our eyes…”

In the book of Numbers, Israel sends out spies to survey the Promised Land. Of the twelve, ten gave a fearful report. They saw that the land was good but that the inhabitants were fierce and giant. They looked at their own strength and found it was insufficient. This fear stopped the people of Israel from entering the promise.

Fear is having more faith in the problem than in God. The people of Israel had seen many miracles. They had seen the Red Sea parted. They had been fed with manna again and again. They had seen the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. They had received water from the rock. Yet after all of this, the stone of fear blocked them from God’s abundant life. They did not enter in.

Take Away the Stone

You will not receive resurrection life until you remove the stone from your heart. God speaks to Ezekiel concerning the people of Israel and says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ez. 36:26

As Jesus said to Martha, “Take away the stone.” It is critical to understand that this is our responsibility not God’s!

Repentance is the process of opening up our hearts fully to God. An analogy of this is given in scripture many times through the breaking up of hard ground. This takes work and intentionality.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap in mercy. Break up your fallow ground. For it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground and do not sow among thorns.” Jer. 4:3

God desires to breath His resurrection life into us. His plans and purposes for us are beyond imagination and he is good… no matter what we have suffered or lost.

What about you? Which of the stones mentioned is blocking you from the life of Jesus Christ? Will you remove every barrier to receiving his miracle power?

5 thoughts on “Take Away the Stone”

Leave a Comment