The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11 is one of the most fascinating and exciting stories in all of the gospels.
But, buried within it are some of the most difficult glimpses of truth and Jesus’ purpose and interaction with His chosen that I think many people, especially in certain camps, tend to overlook.
We all know the story, right? Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary & Martha sent messengers to Jesus telling him that Lazarus is sick. Immediately after Jesus proclaims a purpose statement that we should probably pause and ponder. he says, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (vs.4 NKJV).
Well, first of all, we know it WAS unto death. At least temporarily. But, the end result would not be death. This entire story reveals that the people wanted things to go a certain way. They even sent messengers to Jesus, which can be equated with prayer. But Jesus had completely different plans.
Listen folks – sometimes things have to DIE. Sometimes, things we LOVE have to die. Not because it is fun, or pleasant, or even for our (natural) benefit. Rather, so that the Glory of God can be revealed.
Here is a tough verse that relates to a post I made last week: “So when He [Jesus] heard he [Lazarus] was sick – He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (vs 6).
Wait – WHAT??!! – Let me make sure I understand: Jesus heard their “prayers” and …. waited? Yep – He waited. I’m convinced that sometimes He hears our cries and He … waits. Why would He do that? Well, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. He is up to something BIGGER.
Here’s another one: “I am glad for your sakes that I was NOT there” Why Jesus! Why would you be glad you WEREN’T there!? He goes on to say, “so that you may believe.”
Okay, here we go again. They already believed. That’s why they sent for Him in the first place. They knew he could heal. They were His close friends. They had seen it and probably even participated in it. So, what could He possibly have meant by, “so that you may believe?’
Here’s what I think. I think we need to move from believing God merely for the miraculous to TRUSTING Him as sovereign when we don’t see the miraculous. We have to learn to embrace the idea that He is God and He has a plan we may or may not be aware of. That plan may include our miracle, it may not. His plan is ALWAYS bigger than us and it will always work for our good. We CANNOT allow the reality of circumstances in the present to dictate our trust and faith for the future.
So, after a season of virtually tormenting His friends, of intentionally NOT showing up in the scene when they wanted Him to, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the grave. Then He says, “did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
None of them, not one of them, could have dreamed of the bigger, the better plan. The only thing they had at this moment was disappointment. Often when we believe for the miraculous our viewpoint, our perspective is still focused on …. us. But, Jesus had a different perspective. His perspective was a heavenly one and it involved something completely beyond their comprehension.
Here’s the deal: Jesus did NOT do one miracle because He had a better one in mind. He did NOT show up when they wanted Him to, or even when they felt like He needed to, because He had a plan that far surpassed anything … an-y-thing … they could conceive of.
God’s plan always and continually points to Jesus as God, as sovereign over circumstances, over your life, over eternity. His proof is … RESURRECTION. His is the ultimate victory. Everything else is …. temporary.
I’m going to pause right here and say – I believe God wants to resurrect some things in your life. But, YOU have to let them die first. Death ALWAYS precedes resurrection. Death is always painful. Death brings …sorrow. But not sorrow as if we have no hope. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). Sometimes you have to get to the place where there seems to be no hope so that God can do what ONLY HE can do. Resurrection is always by God’s hand alone. When He resurrects something then only He can receive the glory. Until you embrace this concept and settle it in your mind you will continually struggle in your faith and with trust, you will frequently find yourself questioning the goodness of God.
For all my friends living in the valley of disappointment, in the land of doubt and fear: I believe bigger things are headed your way, better things, things you could not have conceived of. Hang on to hope, my friends.
His ultimate goal in your life and mine is that the glory of God would be revealed. And, He will use whatever means to accomplish that.