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The Lazarus context
- Jacob Ninan
Lazarus was one Jesus loved, and he was sick. His sisters Martha and Mary sent for Jesus, expecting Him to heal him. But when Jesus heard this, He stayed two days longer in the same place, and it was only four days after Lazarus had died that He reached their home. Martha said to Jesus that if He had been there her brother would not have died (John 11).
Here was Jesus who was able to heal sicknesses, who loved the family, and who was near enough to come to their rescue. Isn't this situation typical of our own experiences many times? God says He loves us (didn't He give His only Son for us), He is almighty, and He has specially promised us that He would be always with us (Mt.28:20). What we can't understand is why He does not come and heal our situation then. This was the same thing that perplexed Martha and Mary.
It was certainly not that Jesus was without feelings and didn't bother about what these people were going through. He wept (giving us such a beautiful expression of being God and Man), not because Lazarus had died (He knew he was going to come back alive), but because He could empathise with the sisters and the others who were weeping at that time (He.4:15). That itself is such an encouraging element that dispels any doubt about whether God is bothered about our struggles down here. It tells us that God really cares for us, He knows exactly what we are going through, He is always in full control of situations, and He knows what the best thing is that He needs to do for us.
As we live our earthly lives it is only natural that we experience the reality of pain and sorrow, and confusion and perplexity, because we can only see things dimly (1Co.13:12). It is only natural that questions will arise in our mind about God, His promises and our situation. Shall we not answer them by recollecting the facts that He loves us, cares for us, feels for us and that He is working out something great for us (Ro.8:28,29)?
Another great difficulty we face in such circumstances is to figure out what 'good' can come out of such situations. We have to acknowledge that we don't know the exact answer, and all the glib ideas that well meaning friends toss our way seem to only worsen the pain. The answer Jesus gave to the sisters was to look forward to the resurrection--when there will be no more pain and perhaps we shall also get our answers. (Perhaps we will forget all such questions when we see Him face to face.)
For Lazarus there was a coming back to life. God may or may not grant us such a resolution of our difficulty. Lazarus' coming back to life not only became an occasion for God to be glorified, but the whole incident has also become an example through which millions of others have been encouraged. Our miraculous answer to prayer or the equally miraculous grace that carries us through the situation will glorify God, apart from the eternal transformation of our lives. Can't we receive that answer and believe?