Lord, He Stinketh!

In John 11, we read the account of Jesus coming to the town of Bethany after learning that his friend, Lazarus, had died.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
John 11:38-39, NIV

When I was a child, for several years we took a family summer vacation to an encampment on the Frio River. Frequently, there were large church groups using the campground for retreats or conferences. I will never forget, as a little boy, hearing a preacher quote John 11:39 from the King James Version, “Lord, he stinketh!”

Why would John include such a detail? Because John wants us to know that when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead it is truly from the dead. Lazarus is not merely asleep and not pretending to be dead. His body has already started to decay.

In the Nicene Creed, we confess:

I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

If we were to be a little more poetic, we could say (echoing the thoughts of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional character, Samwise Gamgee, in “The Lord of the Rings.”[1]):

I believe all the sad things will come untrue,
that spring will come after winter,
and that the trumpets and harps will greet the dawn of the new day.

God is in the resurrection business. He takes cold hearts and makes them warm. He takes hopeless situations and brings healing. He takes wretched sinners and makes them saints. He takes things in our lives that “stinketh” and makes them sweet.

Yet, the point is not only metaphorical. God takes people who are dead and brings them to life. He did it for Lazarus and he will do it for you.

[1] “The Lord of the Rings,” Book 6, Chapter 4.
Eric Priest
Lay Associate Pastor
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