When was the last time your faith was tested?
Have you ever felt like God was not listening when you prayed?
Did you ever come to a point where you started to blame God because of tragedy and suffering? Incurable illness. Terrorist acts. Natural disasters. Death of a loved one. As a result, it is normal to seek and search answer from God like what Job did, the Bible character in the Old Testament, when beset by horrendous disaster.
Needless to say, our Christian journey gives no assurance of a smooth sailing as we are confronted with difficulties in life which ultimately tests our faith. The story of raising Lazarus from the dead is a perfect illustration to shed light on this particular issue.
It depicts how God works when tragedy strikes and why you must still trust His providence despite of unexplained circumstances.
Background of the story
Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha is from a small village called Bethany when he had stricken with sudden illness (John 11:1-45). Can you imagine how a quiet and peaceful home where Jesus rested is now filled with sorrow and grief after this incident? Nevertheless, the sisters only hope is anchored through the healing power of their beloved friend, Jesus.
After all, they had witnessed how He made the lame to walk again and help the blind to see. With glimpse of faith and hope Mary and Martha sent a message to Him hoping He would sympathize with their distress and perform expected miracle for their brother, Lazarus.
Arguments Why Jesus Must Heal Lazarus
Mary and Martha are distressed. Given this urgent scenario my rational mind had formulated 4 solid arguments why Jesus must heal Lazarus through the eyes of the two sisters. To heal Lazarus that very moment is the right thing to do–at least in my human point of view.
Jesus must heal Lazarus because of friendship
Lazarus and his sister Mary and Martha are not strange to Jesus–they are close friends indeed. Interestingly, the book of John mentioned the word “love” three times in chapter 11 (verses 3, 5, and 36) while he used the word “friend” (verse 11) once.
The clear implication of these two word suggest that the sisters and Lazarus has an intimate relationship with Jesus and they enjoy the blessing of friendships.
In addition, Ellen G. White explained, “At the home of Lazarus, Jesus had often found rest. The Savior had no home of His own; He was dependent on hospitality of His friends and disciples, and often, when weary, thirsting for human fellowship, He had been glad to escape to this peaceful household, away from the suspicion and jealousy of the angry Pharisees.
Here He found a sincere welcome, and pure, holy friendship. Here He could speak with simplicity and perfect freedom, knowing that His words would be understood and treasured.”
This special relationship would indeed gain favor from Jesus. Surely, their only hope is anchored upon the healing power of their close Friend and I find no reason not heal Lazarus.
Jesus must heal Lazarus because he has the power to heal
Jesus healed many people. People who believed in him, and who had faith and the courage to ask. He raised a dead girl back to life, he helped a woman who had a blood disease get well, he helped a man and a boy who had demon possessed, made a blind man see, and he also helped a man who had been crippled and sick all his life walk at the pool of Bethesda.
No wonder people murmured and challenged Jesus, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying? (v.37). In fact some of the spectators believed that he could heal him as expected. Because Jesus is able and has the power to heal, I find no reason not to heal Lazarus.
Jesus must heal Lazarus because the sisters’ request is urgent
The sisters request is an urgent. For instance, when we are sick we need medical attention right away. There is no room for delay. I remember when the doctor had informed us that our one year-old son Justin is suffering from gastrointestinal problem. The doctor instructed us he will need intravenous antibiotic injection.
So the doctor gave him a shot! Justin was crying as he feels the excruciating pain due to its side effects. A few hours later, a second injection was given. We know he will cry but we couldn’t say no to the doctor. Why? Because the doctor knew that he extremely needs it. Its an urgent solution!
Lazarus is dying and the sisters request for Jesus to visit him is a legitimate request. The sisters didn’t send a message to Jesus inviting him to a feast or a birthday party. Sickness brings sorrows, anxieties, and discomforts not just on the sick person but in the whole family. If I were Jesus, I wouldn’t wait for four days to visit my friends.
Jesus must heal Lazarus because the distance is not an excuse to see His dying friend
Apparently, Jesus was not at the village when Lazarus got sick so the sisters sent that message to him (verse 3). Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
They might have known that Jesus could heal at a distance. Therefore, the distance is not even an excuse to ignore the sisters. In addition, the distance from Bethany to Judea is only 15 stadia (about 3 kilometers). Is it a far place to visit a friend who is sick and dying? I don’t think so.
4 Important Lessons of Raising Lazarus from the Dead
When we failed to comprehend God’s character, we begin to sow the seeds of doubt in our hearts when the desired outcome is quite contradicting to what we expected . The passage explicitly illustrates this concern when Marta said, “Lord if you had been here, then my brother would not have died” (verse 32). The speaking manner implies not only sadness but it is diluted with blame. However, no matter how strong or rational arguments we have, God is still in control.
As I reflected the passage down through the last verse, I find 4 important lessons about tragedy and suffering and how futile my arguments were. Indeed, God is worthy to be praised!
1. To demonstrate not just His healing power but the ability to raise from the dead
The background helps us to appreciate the passage.
Many people were waiting what will be Jesus’ next move. Many of these people were skeptics and had doubt about the healing ministry of Jesus. Therefore, it is necessary to confirm that Lazarus was dead so these people who would witness the resurrection would believe that there is no foul play.
And the evidences indicate some important facts; Lazarus was four days dead, he was in a tomb, mourners were also comforting the sisters, and there is a bad smell when they took away the stone.
The question is: Which is the greatest act of miracle: to heal the sick or to raise someone who is already four days in the tomb? The implication of the passage indicates that Jesus has power over death and to overcome death is indeed the greatest act of miracle!
2. To exercise believers’ patience and faith
When Jesus visited Lazarus, the sisters thought he was very late. But He’s not! He’s always on perfect time. However, human emotions can sometimes easily obscure God’s purpose from our minds.
The strong emotions of sorrow for their brother Lazarus is being diluted with blame and accusation. How many times we often blame God for our good motives that failed? How many times we blame Him because we thought we just wanted to help people?
It is not a sound and logical arguments that really matters, but his ultimate plans in the middle of difficult situations. God’s timing is never early, and it’s never been late. Patience and trust are the two important key elements about God’s perfect timing.
3. To demonstrate witnessing as one of our top priorities in life
Interestingly, Jesus was not focused merely on his close friends and Lazarus but also the people who were observing his ministry. The passage illustrates that Jesus used this wonderful opportunity to witness. The passage illustrates a happy ending because many people believe on Jesus and they glorify God. Lazarus raised by Jesus from the dead.
After raising Lazarus from the dead many people who come to visit Mary, and seen what Jesus did, believed in him (verse 45). The sisters and relatives including mourners and beholders are stunned at first but eventually filled with joy and thanksgiving upon seeing one of the greatest miracles.
4. To give hope about resurrection and thus glorify God
Jesus went to see his friend Lazarus after four days. However, the untimely visit of Jesus to the grieving sisters may seem immature and hasty decision yet God’s plan will always surpassed with our perfect plans. Four days in the tomb will erase doubt that there is no foul play and Lazarus is really dead. Ellen White said, “The stone is rolled away. Everything is done openly and deliberately.
All are given a chance to see that no deception is practiced. There lies the body of Lazarus in its rocky grave, cold and silent in death.
In delaying to come to Lazarus, Christ had a purpose of mercy toward those who had not received Him.
He tarried, that by raising Lazarus from the dead He might give to His stubborn, unbelieving people another evidence that He was indeed “the resurrection, and the life.” Therefore, raising Lazarus from the dead gives hope for humanity and resurrection for faithful believers.”
May God bless you!
Note and references:
1. All Scripture passages are from the New International Version.
2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), pp. 526-529.
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