3 June 2021
John 11 is a familiar chapter to all believers; it is the account of the death of Lazarus and the raising of Lazarus by Jesus. There is so much we can learn from this chapter and certainly much has been written on this.
I take the liberty to share some personal reflections impressed upon me, and I trust that these lessons learnt may be learned and re-learned again and again.
The limitations of human reasoning and logic in understanding God and His ways:-
We note first of all that there is no doubt that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters deeply. Mary herself was the one who anointed the Lord Jesus with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair; all indications pointed to the fact that Lazarus and his sisters also had deep affections for the Lord and they believed in Him as the Messiah.
One would expect the Lord to rush to Lazarus on hearing that he was seriously ill. Instead, Jesus stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Subsequently, Jesus revealed to the disciples that Lazarus had died; but notice what He said, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” (verses 14-15). When Jesus and His disciples finally went to Lazarus, he had been dead for four days. Let us consider the statement made by the Lord: the Lord probably knew that for the disciples to believe that He has the power to raise the dead, the circumstances must be beyond all doubt that He actually raised someone who has been dead for several days. Otherwise, human reasoning may conclude that Lazarus was not really dead and that Jesus revived him before he died after rushing to his side; also by ensuring that Lazarus was in the tomb for several days, there can be no doubt that he was actually raised from the dead – hence Jesus was glad he was not there at the point that Lazarus died and this explains why He stayed on two more days before going to Lazarus despite the news from the sisters that Lazarus was seriously ill.
Note also the statements made by the sisters and some of the Jews. The statements made by Martha and Mary were identical: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. The Jews: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” All were of the opinion that Jesus’ presence would have prevented Lazarus from dying; even Martha and Mary who knew Jesus to a great extent had the same opinion; in one sense, they were limiting God and Jesus by thinking that Lazarus can be prevented from dying if Jesus were there but they failed to realise that their reasoning limited God’s power and sovereignty to do what is impossible from man’s point of view and man’s reasoning and logic. Perhaps, in the statements of the sisters, there could have been the question as to why the Lord delayed to come even though He had been informed much earlier; there could be the possible subtle ‘accusation’ that the Lord should have come earlier – why the delay and perhaps the lack of concern? And after all, Lazarus was no ordinary individual but one who loved the Master dearly and his sisters also loved the Lord deeply – the sisters were probably puzzled at the outcome and probably wondering why Jesus did not respond to their point of need.
Is it not true that for many of us, these understanding, reasoning and expectations prevail in our own hearts and lives when circumstances seem puzzling and perplexing, coupled with the queries as to why God did not respond to our needs and cries for help?
A further point in the passage that reveals the limitations of human reasoning and logic when it comes to our understanding of God and His ways. Jesus told them to take away the stone laid against the cave where Lazarus’ body was. Martha’s response: “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for has been dead four days.” Martha’s statement was not illogical or unreasonable; from all human’s point of view, in fact, it is true. But note here that we are dealing with God in the person of Jesus as well as with the Father – God’s ways are beyond us and we are finitely limited whilst He is infinite, unlimited and transcendent.
The crucial statement: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” This is the real and significant purpose: the “glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. It is not so much whether God answers our prayers or not; it is not whether we are healed of our illness or not; it is not whether God works according to our understanding and reasoning; it is not even the outcome we desire or the questions troubling us in God’s dealings with us in our perplexing circumstances — It is for the GLORY OF GOD! Man’s chief aim is to enjoy God and to glorify Him; God’s bringing many sons and daughters to glory is for HIs glory: the angels and the heavenly realm praise and glorify the One sitting on the throne, the Lamb before the throne and the Spirit in the presence of the throne, (Revelation 4; 19) when evil is finally eradicated and God’s kingdom is fully and ultimately established.
It is not about us ultimately although it benefits and blesses us; it is all about God and HIs glory! But thanks be to God – His glory includes us and He intends us to behold His glory and to share His glory in the new heaven and new earth. That should bring us to our knees and to join the heavenly host in praising, worshiping and adoring Him!