Lazarus and Jesus were good friends. The Bible says Jesus loved Lazarus, and Jesus spent a lot of time with Lazarus and his sisters. But in John 11 we see Jesus arrive late, four days after His friend’s death, like a delayed ambulance responding to 911. He waited several days to respond to Lazarus’ sisters’ cry for help. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus as their brother lay sick, yet Jesus doesn’t respond right away. Finally he comes, and he weeps. Often the verse, “Jesus wept,” is the first people focus on here, but here’s what struck me. After saying, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Jesus has the stone rolled away from the entrance to the cave where Lazarus lay. He gave thanks to the Father, and says the words the sisters had been waiting for, “Lazarus, come out!” The scripture says in verse 44, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face…” When I reread this last Sunday, I thought, ‘How did he know which direction to go if his face was covered?’ It was the sound of Jesus’ voice, His shepherd’s voice, that led him, not just from the grave, but out of death itself. You see sometimes we are blinded by the world. Someone I know recently said she gave up Facebook because she felt like she was looking at it every five minutes, and it was taking over her time and, well, her life. There are so many distractions that can get in the way of what is truly important, but it is comforting to know that even when our spiritual face is covered God still cries out to us, “Come out!” Come out of your distraction to the joy of life! Come out of your dark cave to a life of praise and celebration! Come out of addiction. Come out of your lies. Come out! Come out! And see the One who loves you, who weeps for you, who gives you new life.
In this day in age there are not many shepherds, so it may be difficult for us to imagine the Lord as our shepherd. One thing we probably can relate to, however, is owning a pet. Let’s just skip owning a cat because we don’t really want to use cats as role models for following…they kind of lack the ability to follow unless a bowl of fish is involved.
When asked to meditate on Psalm 23 this last Sunday I recalled a photo my sister posted of her dog Bruiser. A few things you must know about Bruiser is that he is a crazy hyper, little Min Pin with giant ears (now you know why they are usually clipped) and enormous adoration for my sister and niece. He just cannot get enough attention from his human family, which was even documented on a video my sister shot of him lying on the bed. His tail would slowly wag, but as soon as she would glance his way his tail will bounce from side to side like a metronome set to the fastest tempo.
Psalm 23 describes a person through the metaphor of a sheep, following God and obeying Him, and in turn receiving many blessings, even in times of hardship. Don’t you know, that even when Bruiser is punished he knows a treat is soon coming. Even when he doesn’t know where my sister is taking him, he doesn’t fear because she is with him and has his best interest in mind. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Why should we fear if it’s just a shadow? Because we don’t realize it is? Bruiser trusts that my sister knows the difference between a shadow and the real thing.
My point is, if a little min pin with attitude can trust and obey and reap great rewards in doing so, how much more can we? And how much more will God provide great rewards?
When I shared this with my sister she shared about a message she recently heard from some pastor friends who travel the U.S. preaching the gospel (or gossip as one of my Sunday School students said). Their dog takes part in their ministry, and recently they had to take the dog to the vet. When looking at the dog’s eyes they noticed a cataract in the shape of a heart. The vet told them that the dog’s vision is now heart-shaped. Dogs constantly keep an eye on their master. They are curious and hopeful creatures, begging for more when you’ve given all the treats. Isn’t that the way we are? When we see through the lens of love, we see that all we have is enough, and all we need is our Master.
It is not often I write about pets because I don’t have any of my own. Not many landlords in the Bay Area allow pets, but I get to enjoy others’ pets and they truly teach me so much. Every moment has the potential for joy, hope, anticipation, forgiveness, the list could go on and on, but in our humanness we forget the simplicity of all of it. This week I hope you feel free to pant for God’s attention and follow His every step. You are sure to receive many treats.