Jesus told a story about a Rich Man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. The Rich Man had every comfort, and yet he ignored the plight of the poor sick man who lay suffering at the gate to his home. Eventually both men died. The Rich Man went to hell. Lazarus, whose name means “God has helped”, went to heaven because of his faith and trust in the God of Abraham.
As the Rich Man suffered in the torment of hell, he looked up to heaven and begged Father Abraham for some relief. But Abraham told him nothing could be done; there was a great divide between them which no one could cross. So then the Rich Man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers about this awful fate. But Abraham replied that sending someone back from the dead would do no good. Those brothers already had the testimony of the prophets, and if that didn’t do any good then nothing would.
This story reveals something interesting about the TESTIMONY of those who believe. The prophets were people who feared God and were obedient to Him, even though it cost them a lot in the way of personal security, health and wealth. They laid aside their own comforts and did what God told them to do. And what God told them, in most cases, was to warn of impending doom and judgment.
Furthermore, those warnings and prophecies did come true. All of this was fully documented, so the Hebrew people clearly knew the story of their own prophets and wise men.
And now Abraham is telling the Rich Man in hell that the TESTIMONY from those long-dead prophets still held weight and authority hundreds of years later.
It is comforting to know that the testimony of God’s own is that significant. The testimony of those who walked with Jesus also holds great weight and authority. The testimony of the early Christian martyrs holds great weight and authority. Their testimony held weight when they were alive, and it still holds weight now that they are dead and gone.
Your Story is Valuable
So, dearly Beloved of God: your personal testimony holds weight and authority! As you do the hard work of faith, holding fast to obedience, you bring joy to your Heavenly Father. God infuses YOUR STORY with His glory and power, because each work of salvation is truly a beautiful story that brings delight to Him. And, it brings delight to other believers.
Years ago I was one of the leaders in a Bible study group for single people. Every once in a while, we would have “testimony night” when people in the group shared how they got saved. At first, I thought that testimony night would possibly be boring, but it never was! I always marveled at their stories. Each story of salvation held a spark of divine intervention and divine glory: you could see how God had worked in the lives of these people to truly make a difference.
Salvation for believers is far more than joining a club or paying dues! Salvation is a life-changing experience, full of the evidence and power of God.
Testimony is Sacred
Therefore, do not be intimidated by those who would scoff at your testimony of faith. The story of the Rich Man reveals the horrifying fate of the scoffers. As Abraham said, if the testimony of believers is not enough for them, then there is nothing whatsoever that can be done to help the unbelievers.
And do not forget that the Bible is also a collection of testimonies. Yes, we believe scripture is inspired by God but it is also a collection of testimonies from people who loved God.
It is important to understand that all those who testify of Jesus Christ are precious in the sight of God. Their testimony is sacred. Those who scoff, and those who ignore, do not realize what an incredible gift they have been offered.
Hold fast to the word of your testimony, and treasure it. Not only is your testimony a good thing, it is also a powerful, sacred treasure that should not be scorned. Never be ashamed of sharing what Jesus means to you.
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.” Revelation 12:11 ASV
Loss is Gain
In this world there are creatures that shed their skin on a regular basis as they grow. And sometimes this is true of Christians as well. Sometimes our lives are cut to the quick and we may even think that we have been destroyed as we see God remove things from us, split our lives open and apart. Everything seems to be a miserable shambles as the pieces fall around us.
But it may be that God intends to bring us out the other side of this dreadful Valley with a whole new life and perspective, of renewed spiritual youth, beauty and vitality; and greater purpose than we’ve ever known. Sometimes severe loss is the only way to acquire such greatness.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and her brother Lazarus. John 11:5
This family in the town of Bethany was very special to the Lord Jesus. So, when Lazarus became deathly ill, the two sisters sent word to Jesus that they needed him. The disciples thought that Jesus would go to his friends in Bethany immediately, but instead he dawdled where they were and made no effort to leave. The disciples were baffled.
A few days later, Jesus said to them, “We’re going to Bethany now. Lazarus is sleeping.” The disciples thought that this was good news; perhaps Lazarus was getting better. But Jesus told them plainly, “No, Lazarus has died. And this was deliberate, because I want you to learn something.”
When Martha was told that Jesus was on the road, coming to her house, she wasted no time. Martha immediately went out to meet Jesus. She knew how bad their circumstances were. Not only had her brother died, but the entire household, goods and property were likely to be given to male relatives. The changes to her life and the lives of those she cared about were too troublesome, too horrifying, to even consider. Martha knew that Jesus was her only hope. She knew that Jesus had raised two people from the dead, and now she needed to see Him face to face. Martha needed to talk to Jesus in the worst way!
The disciples saw her coming and I imagine that they divided and made a pathway, allowing her direct access to the Lord Jesus. Martha went straight to the point. “Lord, my brother has died but even now I know that God will do as you ask.”
There, she had said it. Martha had been holding onto this desperate hope ever since Lazarus died. And now, she ran to meet Jesus and blurted out the overwhelming burden of her heart as soon as she saw Him. This was all Martha could do. Now everything depended on Jesus and His response.
Resurrection and Life
And Jesus did not make fun of Martha. He didn’t mock her or scold Martha for foolishness. Instead, Jesus applauded her faith with one of the most important and significant passages of scripture that was ever given to mankind:
“Your brother shall rise again,” replied Jesus.
“I know,” said Martha, “that he will rise again at the resurrection, on the last day.”
“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” said Jesus; “he who believes in me, even if he has died, he shall live; and every one who is living and is a believer in me shall never, never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Master,” she replied; “I thoroughly believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John 11:23 – Weymouth
Then Martha went home and told her sister Mary that Jesus was waiting for them on the road. Mary went out to meet him, and like her sister she also said, “Master, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But she said nothing more than that. There was no statement of faith from Mary! She and her friends stood around weeping, caught up in their grief.
It seems this lack of faith on Mary’s part is what caused Jesus to be so disturbed and troubled. Mary had heard all the same things about Jesus that her sister did, and possibly more: because Mary often sat at his feet listening to Jesus teach while Martha toiled in the kitchen.
Jesus was deeply disappointed that Mary, one of his dearest friends, was unable to see him for who he was, and what he could do. Lack of faith disappoints God more than anything else. And now, Jesus was so grieved and disappointed in His spirit that He wept.
Jesus didn’t say much, if anything, to Mary. Apparently he didn’t think it would do much good. But there was still hope for Martha, because she had a seed of faith! So Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?” And the entire party went out to the tomb of Lazarus.
Facing that tomb, all of Martha’s fear and dread welled up in her and the reality of the situation overwhelmed her. “Lord, by this time he stinks.” she said. Which was very true, it was an awful situation in every way. Lazarus had been dead four days: no one had ever been resurrected in that condition!
But Jesus stepped to Martha’s side and encouraged her faith. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?“ So, holding her elbow and steering her towards the open mouth of that dreadful tomb, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth. And Lazarus did! Lazarus stumbled out of the tomb, cumbered with the wrappings of the dead, and very much alive!
Was Martha’s faith an active part of this miracle? It seems to be! Jesus often required faith when he performed miracles. He challenged people to declare their faith. He applauded faith when he found it in surprising places. Jesus often asked his disciples, “Where is your faith?” and he scolded them for their unbelief. Faith is an important and critical part of Christianity.
Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him.”- Douay-Rheims Bible
When Martha met Jesus on the road, he didn’t tell her it was time to give up. He didn’t tell Martha that she was being foolish, hoping that Lazarus could be raised from the dead. Instead, Jesus Christ gave to all of us some of the most dramatic words in the New Testament: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
Martha had a powerful testimony to offer, after this experience! And who could possibly mock her for it, when her testimony was won through raw tragedy and a struggle for faith against all odds?
Faith is Hard Work
Our God knows that faith is not a cop-out; it is a spiritual discipline that is hard work. The journey of faith is difficult and requires commitment and determination, prayer and hope. Be encouraged, Believer: because your God fully understands the priceless value of your testimony.
This is why Abraham told the man in hell: if the testimony of Believers does not persuade the living, then there is no hope for them. Through the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus Himself has given notice: the testimony of Believers is all that the mockers will get. There is no other “proof.”
The Sign of Jonah
In 1898 a photographer took photos of the Shroud of Turin, and while he was developing the negatives he was shocked to see the imprint of a man on the cloth! Until modern photography, no one realized the image was there. The Shroud of Turin shows an image of a man who was scourged, killed by crucifixion, his side was pierced, his brow was wounded: the image matches the description of Jesus’s crucifixion in every respect.
The Shroud of Turin is intriguing to Christians, but that’s about the extent of it. We like the idea that it could be the actual Shroud which covered the body of the crucified Christ. If it’s real, then that’s truly awesome! But the Shroud of Turin doesn’t affect our faith one way or other.
However, for atheists the Shroud of Turin is a nagging headache! They try to throw all their doubts, theories and skepticism at the Shroud, but it is a tangible item so it cannot be dismissed as easily as an invisible God.
And, no one has figured out how the image got onto the Shroud. If it could be explained, that would make atheists very happy. But so far the Shroud of Turin is an enduring and tantalizing mystery.
The Shroud is a symbol of Christ’s death and miraculous resurrection, so the very core of the Gospel message is imprinted on that cloth. God knew that this generation would deny even the very existence of God, so He’s thrown the Shroud of Turin in their faces and they cannot explain it.
It seems as if the amazing qualities of the Shroud were hidden and saved for this cynical, skeptical generation. Do you think God would do that, just for us?
Dr. Peppler in South Africa once made an interesting observation on the Shroud of Turin blog; that the Shroud could be “the Sign of Jonah” which Jesus promised:
“But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40 NASV
How many times have I seen atheists make demands for proof? Not that they really want proof of God; from most of them it is only an insolent challenge. But the fact that the Shroud cannot be explained gnaws at them! The Shroud does not give up its mysteries, and this bothers the atheists like a persistent itch.
The Shroud’s mute resistance could very well be God’s way of mocking the mockers. While at the same time, God in His mercy is also trying to convince them.
(You can read much more about the Shroud online. There is a Shroud of Turin blog that provides links to informative sites.)