“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this, 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.’ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days. . .”John 11:1-6
This morning Pastor Joey Oh (LLUC.org) shared a devotional message in a prayer phone call for the Pandemic. I am sharing his thoughts and words here because they were so encouraging.
If you have heard this story before and know its ending, it may be hard to feel the tension in it. One of your best friends is dying. His sisters, also good friends (in fact one was rescued from a degrading life by Jesus), send word to Him to come quickly.
They had seen him heal the sick; they had felt His power in their own hearts. 9-1-1! Call Jesus!
Yet, when he heard the news, “He stayed where He was two more days.” Nothing urgent was happening there; He just delayed leaving.
How would you feel? You are deathly sick in the hospital and call for the pastor. He doesn’t show up for two days. Would you be frustrated, angry, Infuriated? Would you doubt He cared about you?
In the hour of His friends’ greatest need, Jesus fails to show up. When His best friend is sick, Jesus lets him die. When Jesus finally arrives, it is understandable that Martha says in deep disappointment and tears, “Lord! If you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Can you feel her hurt, her confusion, her questions?
Why did Jesus do this? Why does He sometimes seem absent in our troubles? In our losses? Have you experienced this? I have. Prayer seem to go unanswered. Silence.
In this story, Jesus withholds something good to give something great. Sometimes he withholds what we want in order to give us something better. “This sickness. . .is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be gloried through it.” (v. 4)
Jesus gives Mary, Martha, and Lazarus an experience that transforms their lives. He gives them a resurrection. He deepens their faith and gives them hope.
In fact, He gives them absolute evidence of who He is that will sustain them through His own crucifixion and death on Good Friday–and energize their faith on Resurrection morning.
They didn’t know when Lazarus fell sick and died that their own pain and suffering and struggle with faith would give hope to millions who would read their story in ages to come.
They couldn’t see the countless gravesides where their story would be read to give hope amid tears, in a coming Savior and the Resurrection.
Today, in this Pandemic, we live in the time between our heartfelt, sometimes agonizing, prayers to God. God, save my loved one! Save my job! Save my business! Save my family! Save my faith!
The lesson of this story is that for those who trust Him, for His redeemed friends, Jesus always has something better in store for us. We hardly ever know what the future holds. We may get released from this pandemic. It may go on. We can’t see through the fog. . .
But we can trust Jesus. He knows what He is doing. He sees you; He sees me, and he has a plan for each of us. He is strong enough and loving enough to watch over each of His family and do the eternal best for us.