If you are involved or have been involved in ministry, you would agree with me that ministry is messy. The greatest example of this is how God reached into the mess by sending Jesus to die in our place in order to change the mess we were in into the message of the good news of the Gospel and the hope we now have in and through Jesus.
One famous biblical account recorded in the book of John demonstrates this truth so well. It’s the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We pick up the story right as Jesus reaches the tomb “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:38-44 ESV)
Notice how quick Martha is to point out the mess to Jesus. Jesus didn’t allow the mess to stop Him from performing the miracle. He was willing to reach into the mess in order to proclaim His message. Just like Jesus, we need to be willing to reach into the mess. We can’t allow the mess to prevent us from proclaiming the message of Jesus.
If you notice at the end of the story, Jesus instructs the people to take off the grave clothes that were still bound around Lazarus. I never noticed this before but a friend of mine pointed out to me a profound statement that this part of the story exemplifies. She said “Jesus calls them out of the tomb, but we are to help them take their grave clothes off.” In other words, Jesus raises them from death to life but we need to help them break free from the addictions and habits that have kept them bound while they were in the grave. Too many times we want people to clean themselves up before we allow them to become a part of our church. We have people whom Jesus has called out of the grave but are still walking around with their grave clothes on because we are not willing to reach into the mess. I heard someone once say “The church should be a hospital for the sick, not an asylum for the saints.” As soon as the doors of the church open, the world should be running into it for healing not condemnation. We should be reaching out with helping hands not turning our backs towards them.
Perry Noble, founder and Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, said “The mess that we made is not greater than the price that He paid.” So let’s be willing to reach into the mess in order to proclaim His message. Let’s take off the grave clothes that are still keeping people bound. As Jesus calls them out, let’s help set them free.