If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 32, John 11, Proverbs 8, Ephesians 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read John 11.
It was difficult to decide which passage to write about because so many verses and ideas impacted me today. But the story of Lazarus’ death & resurrection is a difficult one to ignore. Of all the verses in this beautiful story, the disconnect between verses 5-6 always surprises me: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” Do you see the strange logic? Jesus loved Lazarus so much that when he heard he was sick… he stayed where it was for 2 more days! What kind of love is that? Wouldn’t real love and compassion compel Christ to drop what he was doing and hustle back to Bethany as quickly as possible?
That’s what Martha (v. 21) and Mary (v. 32) thought. No one ever died in the presence of Jesus because he IS life. Martha and Mary knew that Lazarus would have lived if Jesus had come immediately. So they were puzzled by his failure to show up when needed. And, given how verse 5 says that Jesus loved them all so much, why would he refuse to come and heal Lazarus?
The answer has a few parts to it. The first part is in verse 4 where Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” As much as Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, he loved God’s glory more. If God would receive more glory through Lazarus’ death and later resurrection, Jesus was more than willing to let nature take its course in Lazarus’ life.
But there is another aspect to the answer. Christ allowed Lazarus to die in order to deepen the faith of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Yes, they knew that Christ could heal the sick but they did not realize that he could also raise the dead. They may have hoped that Jesus would raise him (v. 22), but when Christ started to tell them the he would raise Lazarus (v. 23), they deferred that promise to the end of the age (v. 24). Seeing Christ raise Lazarus from the dead opened a new dimension in their understanding of who he was. Yes, Jesus could have saved Lazarus’ life, but allowing him to die and then raising him from the dead gave this family a deeper appreciation of who Christ is. It also demonstrated his unique identity as God to others (v. 37).
Notice that Christ challenged Martha’s faith and led her to declare her faith in Christ before he raised him from the dead. He required her to step out in faith and trust Him first, then he met her faith with what she desired from him.
So often this is how God works in our life. While our experience in this life is not of the miraculous, the pattern Christ demonstrated here shows up in our lives in a smaller, but still clear, way. God allows painful events, unexpected setbacks, and difficult sorrows to come into our lives. They often cause us to question—not God’s existence, necessarily, but his wisdom, his love, his plan. Why would God allow this if he loves me so much? The answer is that God loves you too much to leave you where you are in your Christian life. He wants to take you deeper, to strengthen your faith and challenge your assumptions about who he is and what he can do. While the end of our trials are usually not as happy as the ending to this story, this story does remind us that God has a purpose and plan for the pain that he allows into our lives. That purpose and plan is growth in faith & in our knowledge and dependence on him. Whatever difficulty you’re facing today, trust God. It might not get better, but that might be because God wants you to experience the pain so that you will trust him more and become more like him.
God also wants your life to glorify him. As painful as that may be, at times, it is part of living the Christian life. After this was all over, do you think Martha or Mary or Lazarus resented Christ's allowing Lazarus to die that he could give him new life? As much as they loved Jesus, I'm sure that they were thrilled, when all was said and done, to see God glorified in their lives in such a dramatic way. Maybe this is what God has for you, too. Maybe your faith in the pain and problems you're facing will cause someone to see what an awesome, powerful, faithful God we serve. If someone comes to know Christ through your sufferings, isn't that worth it?
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.