How He Loves
Following my last post on the power of the Bible, I thought I would introduce you to some of my favourite parts and individuals in this great book. Today we're exploring John 11:1-45.
In the middle of John we are re-introduced to the sisters of Martha and Mary who we met in the gospel of Luke 10:38-42. This time, we find the sisters at a time of great distress, as their brother, Lazarus, is extremely ill (John 11:1-2). As the passage continues, we come to realise that Lazarus is, in fact, dying.
These sisters send word to Him, trusting in His intervention: “Lord, the one you love is sick” (Luke 11:3). Note the language the sisters use: 'the one you love'. This is no stranger on the street, but a dear, intimate friend to Jesus. Surely, the Messiah who has healed so many unknown to Him will extend these powers to a personal friend?
At first it seems that the sisters are right; Jesus will not let this end in tragedy: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v4). But then Jesus does the unthinkable, He waits where He is and does not leave for Judea for another two days (John 11: 6-7).
Two days is a long time when someone is on death’s bed.
Was Jesus unaware of the severity of Lazarus’ illness? No, in fact Jesus seems to be the most in the know, telling the disciples plainly that Lazarus is dead before word has even been sent (John 11:14-15).
So what happened? Did Jesus just stop caring? I don’t know about you, but at this moment my stomach starts to churn with frustration. How many times have I felt this frustration at God? My cries for help turn into a “Why aren’t you doing anything?” “Have you forgotten about me?” “Why don’t you care…?”
One of my favourite things about the Bible is that it doesn’t shy away from these doubts or difficult questions, but rather places them squarely in the centre of scripture.
In this particular incident, it is the wailing of Martha and Mary that voices the disappointment. Before Jesus has even reached the village, Martha runs out to meet Him. Upon seeing Him, she utters words that so often have been whispered in my heart, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died…” (v21).
Those words: If you had been here… the car crash would not have happened, I would have performed better, my life wouldn’t be such a mess, my mother would have been healed… The what-ifs of life, wrapped up in a belief in Jesus’ absence. Doesn’t reading this passage make your heart ache, recognising the disappointment splayed on the pages?
The humanity of Jesus
After hearing of Jesus’ arrival, Mary also runs out to meet her Lord and collapses at His feet (John 11:32). It is here that John writes my favourite verse in the whole Bible. Seeing the sting of death, the curse of this fallen world, and the weight of sin hurt those close to Him:
Jesus wept. (John 11: 35)
Let that sink in for a second. The son of the God of the universe, who holds the solar system in His hands, created the colour crimson, the E-minor chord, and the smell of lilies, sees the sisters’ pain and weeps.
When I first read this, it radically changed my understanding of God. Up until then, my view of God has been one solely of sovereignty and power. I knew He was in control and that He had a greater purpose, but I did not expect this God to care for me or weep alongside me.
Reading this I finally understood, that in every silent night I had spent crying out for help, picturing God seated on a faraway throne with a look of indifference, I was wrong. Jesus had been weeping right alongside me. Jesus understands the pain of this world, the destruction that death unleashes.
Precious girls, you need to know; He sees your pain and He cares. The death and darkness of this world is not of Him (see more at Job 1:6-12), and it pains Him to see the people He loves suffer. I urge you to cling onto this truth: He weeps alongside you, and until He returns and destroys the darkness for good, He has made a way for us to enjoy the life that He has promised now.
A greater purpose: life not death
Let’s back up a few verses and look back at the conversation between Martha and Jesus. After Martha weeps at Jesus’ absence, Jesus attempts to reassure her by saying, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11: 23). Thinking that Jesus is speaking about the end of days, Martha responds, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11: 24)
But it seems Martha has missed the point since the resurrection is no longer a time in the future, but rather a person found in Jesus:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26)
So let me ask you, do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus came to offer you, not only eternal life after death, but a life on this earth today? If you believe this then even when you are struggling with the fall of this world, you can have a hope that Jesus is doing a good work.
He is using the worst of this world for His glory and the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Have faith; it is Him that we find our peace and satisfaction. Our joy is no longer found in our circumstances, but in the never-changing character of our Lord Jesus.
I pray that wherever your circumstances have found you today, you know that you are not alone. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is weeping alongside you and walking with you in this dark and difficult time. I also pray that you would find your hope in His promises of restoration and redemption. Oh, how He loves you.