“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Steve Smith lists Dallas Willard as a mentor, and he spoke once at our church. His book, “The Lazarus Life” was promoted. Our former pastor mentioned that he wrote letters to others recommending this book. When speaking many months ago in our former church, Smith spoke of the story of Lazarus in John and claimed we could learn from this event. Lazarus came from the grave with smelly, awful, binding grave clothes. Our grave clothes are the events and burdens in our lives. To be free, we have to take off these grave clothes. When I heard the description by Smith, how he was using this text, I said, “what?” I began to search the internet for information on Steve Smith. I discovered a podcast and listened, and he listed Dallas Willard as his mentor. Then I searched further. Eventually, someone posted information on their blog that lead to a link on a sight that had information about writers among them, Dallas Willard. So, when speaking to our former pastor, I had to mention Steve Smith and his book, and the presentation from the pulpit. I questioned the use of the account of Lazarus in this way. (The pastor, when I first asked about Smith before I shared the problem with the Lazarus account and it’s handling jumped in with…”Oh, his mentioning Lectio Divina…you know that was used in the reformation, don’t you). Once the pastor realized I didn’t like the use of the text in this way, he said that the miracles in John were meant to be used as lessons for life. I said, “like parables” and he said, “yes, but differently as they were true events.” I am glad he acknowledged the true event occured or we would have a different problem altogether. He then began saying that each miracle had important things we could apply like for example, why did Jesus use pots with water for ceremonial cleaning and then turn it to wine? Doesn’t that have some sort of meaning? Why all the detail? He said that in the old testament there were stories used by Jesus that are archetypes with meaning such as the Exodus. I agree, there are some things that appear to have more meaning, or that clearly do. However, this is not what Steve Smith was doing, using the Lazarus story to say we need transformation and spiritual formation to take off our grave clothes. I told the pastor I got out of the Lazarus account that Jesus has the power over death, we can be brought to life by Him.
The verse I quoted above was given to me by two people today. One, a friend who is a pastor living several states away immediately quoted that when I asked him about the purpose of the miracles in John. He said, “that one is an easy one, we had to list the purpose of each book of the Bible in seminary, and in John, it was the easiest as it’s stated clearly.” Another friend, used to attend our former church, and I asked him, he quoted that very same verse. In fact, he began to quote it and I could also sing it as it is an Awana verse my children have memorized. The point of the miracles is not so we can add a psychological analysis to our lives through poetic interpretation of the text. The point is that we are to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we can have eternal life. It’s that simple.