Our pastors have come under fire for casting out demons in a public format, in front of congregations of thousands, broadcast on TV stations and social media. The motive has always been to show that God is alive, powerful and ready to transform anyone no matter how dark and broken their lives are. Miracles of healing and deliverance are real, but no matter how undeniable the proof is, there are always critics. If being accused of sensationalism is the result, it’s worth it. The thousands of lives who have been touched by these public displays of faith (I can include myself as well) far outweighs any criticism or persecution. And it’s par for the course, because our Lord Jesus was criticized and persecuted even more.
Jesus’ good friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived in Bethany. Lazarus had been deathly sick, and just like with Jairus’ daughter, it seemed as if Jesus had gotten there too late. So late that Lazarus’ dead body had already been in the tomb for four days. It was an emotionally charged time with distraught sisters, somber Jews and influential members of the community attending the funeral of the head of this respected family. Jesus chose this time of all times to make a spectacle of Himself. With an audience of friends and enemies watching every move, Jesus commanded the stone over the tomb to be rolled away and shouted for Lazarus to come out. The tense moments of waiting, of confusion, of unbelief… and then a walking mummy stumbles into the daylight. It was a miracle of staggering proportions. The intense joy of Mary and Martha and their loved ones was only matched by the violent hatred in the hearts of the Pharisees. It was so spectacular that many of the doubting Jews were won over right then, and believed that Jesus truly was the Messiah.
And just as it happens to many with the faith to perform miracles of healing and deliverance today, Jesus’ beautiful expression of His love and power was trashed by His critics. They wanted to kill Him and kill Lazarus because He was getting too popular. His miracles were too flashy, too sensationalistic, and they would all lose their positions and jobs because of Him. Jesus knew He would have to go to the cross and knew that His enemies would use this as an excuse to plot His death, but it was worth it to instill new faith in those who believed. It was worth it to give back a lost brother to his family.
Flashy, sensationalistic pastors get spoofed on TV or movies which is no surprise, as plenty of pastors’ lives and ministries are tragically, just for show. No one likes pretentious religiosity, but real demonstrations of God’s power and real messages of faith are often trashed by critics as if they were false, as if they were done just to show off. Jesus and His spectacular miracles were no show, but done to reveal God’s glory. Real pastors today can and should be following in His footsteps for His glory and not their own, showing God’s power to the world as a city on a hill, as Jesus commands. Christians shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and make a spectacle of themselves for the sake of the gospel if it means winning more souls for His Kingdom. If Jesus opened eyes through miracles despite the backlash, why should we be any different?
Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. “Remove the stone,” Jesus said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.” Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:38-40 HCSB)