When crisis or tragedies come, we often ask God why. When Lazarus, a close personal friend of Jesus was sick and died, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
Most people know this verse as the shortest verse in the Bible but Jesus doesn’t want it remembered for that. He wants you to know he too understands loss, pain, and grief. I often wondered why Jesus cried when He knew He was going to raise His friend from the dead. The short answer is Jesus isn’t some mechanical deity void of compassion and feeling who merely dispenses healing like a gumball machine. He is relational and loves like no other.
Jesus learned his friend was sick (John 11:3) but waited and eventually got to Lazarus after he was dead and buried. Sometimes it seems God is far away in the midst of tragedy. Jesus was never absent in this situation. After being told Lazarus was sick, Jesus risked being killed by going back to Judea, a place where the Jews tried to stone Him (John 11:8). Jesus didn’t care about His safety, He cared about His friends. You see, Jesus wanted to do something greater than heal Lazarus.
Mary and Martha wanted a healing but Jesus wanted a resurrection. It foreshadowed Jesus’ ability to be raised from the dead, our ultimate path of victory over sin and death. He is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him will live forever (John 11:25-26).
Sometimes God’s plan is not exactly ours, but it is best. He will reveal it to us if we wait on Him. By staying where He was, Jesus was able to teach His disciples greater faith in Him (John 11:14). Sometimes we want God to move when we are unwilling to move ourselves. Could Jesus have healed Lazarus from a distance? Absolutely.
He asked those present to roll away Lazarus’ tombstone. He asked Lazarus to rise up. He asked people to take Lazarus’ grave clothes off. Why didn’t He just do everything Himself?
Romans 5:3-5 tells us that we can rejoice in trials and problems because they develop our endurance, character, and confidence in our salvation. We will not be disappointed as God fills us with His Holy Spirit and love.
Bigger than Lazarus’ healing was God’s glory. Everyone’s happiness, while important, was secondary to their growth and His glory. What stones do you need to roll away? Will you follow Jesus beyond the tragedy, waiting on Him to bring peace and a resurrection to your situation? When He calls your name, will you rise up? Will you continue to grow in Him by stripping off the dead things that have held you back (grave clothes) after the resurrection comes? Are you willing to wait on His timing despite your uncertain, stinking situation (dead Lazarus stunk and the people questioned Jesus’ plan but still obeyed). Don’t give up in the middle of adversity. Jesus is weeping beside you as He walks you toward resurrection.
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Stephen Harrison is associate pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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