A death, a resurrection and many other events in between

August 20, 2007 at 1:30 pm 2 comments

The story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is a familiar one. However, there are a number of truths (other than the obvious!) that we can learn from this very captivating event that is recorded in John 11. As noted in John 11:1, Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary was ill. Jesus was a family friend loved them all deeply (11:5). So the sisters, knowing that Jesus can heal their brother, sent word for him. And this is where the story takes the first of it’s unusual turns. Jesus, when he hears about this confidently states: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4) Not only that, he stayed where he was two more days, deliberately delaying coming to the “rescue”, and by this time, Lazarus died. The result? A dead brother and his two weeping sisters, who I am sure felt let down by their friend who could have prevented this heartache….

More times than we can count, we have been in dire situations, and have prayed this way. Confidently, based on Heb 4:16 (“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”), we go to His Throne and say: “Lord – I am in trouble. Help me now!” It seems, however, that at times, God may have other plans. And the problem is this: We do know that rescue is on it’s way, but many a time, it does not work out the way we imagined it should, and neither does the rescue occur when we want it to occur.

So how did this story pan out? Jesus finally arrives on the scene when “Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” (11:17). Martha went out to meet him first and displays her faith in Him: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I like this kind of faith – faith that says “God: I don’t understand what happened, but I know that You have a way of working it out…” When Jesus says “Your brother will rise again”, she takes a major leap in faith and says she knows that Lazarus would rise again at the Final Resurrection, and that Jesus is the Son of God….

And what is the significance of Jesus arriving “four days” after Lazarus’ death? Apparently, many Jews believed that after a person’s death, the soul hovered around the tomb for three days and that only on the fourth day did it leave for good to the kingdom of the dead. Therefore, from a human point of view, since Lazarus had been dead four days, there was no more hope for him. It was just too late! Martha knew this, and this added to the hopelessness of the situation. While she believed that she will see her brother again in the Final Resurrection, Jesus, however, was asking her to believe now! Sometimes, we are like Martha: We believe in the “generic” nature of God and that He will “generally” help us. How often we forget that God is going to help us in everything, even now in the least of our needs! Like Martha, we look at the situation from a worldly standpoint and say “No way can this situation be retrieved!” But God sees it differently. In the words of Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” Sometimes he might ask us to “Take away the stone” (John 11:39), even it if the situation seems hopeless. He needs us to act even when we may have doubts. We are an essential part of the recipe for the Life he has in store for us and we need to act on His command, even when it doesn’t make sense! (See post in link)

Getting back to the story: Mary arrives on the scene next, having been informed by Martha. And amazingly, Mary makes the same statement as her sister: “”Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus was moved by this and was greatly disturbed. In fact, John records that Jesus wept along with them all – the only time when this strong Man has been recorded as weeping…

What is interesting though is the fact that some Jews had come to comfort the sisters, and they follow Mary out assuming that she is going to the tomb to mourn. Now, notice that the text says “Jews”, and not the “townspeople” or “family friends” or even “relatives”. John uses this word to indicate people who were generally opposed to Jesus (see John 10) or did not side with him. These Jews were probably devout and caring (they did come to comfort the sisters), but followed Jewish Law and had no place for Jesus or his teaching. However, they are now witnesses to the ensuing resurrection of Lazarus. And John 11:45 says “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” I emphasized the “therefore” to get to this point: The four days of sorrow, the feeling of apparent abandonment, and every thing else that the sisters faced, all of it was in God’s plan to save these Jews who had come to visit!

Jesus knew that the trial and sorrow that the sisters faced would result not only in the increased faith of Lazarus, the sisters, as well as his followers, he used this painful event to bring some of the Jews, the opponents, into belief in Him. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8), it follows that the trails and tribulations that we face and overcome with His help will result in a witness that will either encourage a fellow believer or help others to come to Christ! What a wonderful privilege it is to be used by God in this manner! Painful though it may be, we may be called to allow the events in our life to be used when God wants to and how He wants to. This may not for everyone, but God knows what you can bear, and He will not allow you to be pushed beyond your limit (I Cor 10:13). Further, in Romans 8:28, Paul states this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose“. I.e. God works through and in us not only for the good things, but in everything!

This story, however, did not stop at Lazarus’ resurrection and ensuing celebration. While some of the Jews started believing in Him after witnessing this event, “some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin“. (11:46-47) At this meeting, Caiaphas, the High Priest suggested that Jesus be put to death in order because “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” Essentially, what was just plain jealousy and apprehension on the part of the then Jewish leadership turned to real danger for the Son of Man after this miraculous event. While Death on the Cross was what Jesus came to this world for, I believe that this resurrection was the event that was the “final straw that broke the leadership’s back” and pushed them to commit to Jesus’ death, unwillingly playing into God’s grand scheme to save Mankind.

If Lazarus hadn’t died, or Jesus had stepped in earlier to “save the day”, I doubt that this attention-drawing miracle would have happened at the time that it did. And it was important that this “trigger” occur at that time, because Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb of God had to be slaughtered at the upcoming Passover. I hope you now see how Martha, Mary and Lazarus fit in this Grand Scheme…

And yet, the story did not stop there. The believing Jews continued to spread the word! (John 12:17-18 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him). Like ripples on a pond, this event spread way beyond those immediately involved!

The point is this, and I make it again. We who are His children are part of His Grand scheme – that of saving everyone! Part of the responsibility of being His children is to allow Him to work in our lives and use us however he chooses to. In the popular song “Bring the Rain”, MercyMe sings thus:

“Bring me joy, bring me peace / Bring the chance to be free / Bring me anything that brings You glory / And I know there’ll be days / When this life brings me pain / But if that’s what it takes to praise You / Jesus Bring the Rain”.. Will you join us in singing this song in order to take part in the Grand Scheme? I hope you will!

In His Service always,

John Kanagaraj


Entry filed under: Life, Nature of God, Nature of Man.

Recipe for Life: 3 parts “God”, 1 part “You” The Gap between intention and action

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