In the book of John, chapter 11 we read the dramatic story of a man dying, a man dead and a man raised to life again. The story isn’t just about a man either. There are more characters involved in the drama…his sister Mary, who anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil, another sister Martha, famously rebuked for being too distracted by the mundane and of course, Jesus and His disciples all feature in the tale of woe and ultimately, victory.
The story, in a nutshell, goes like this…Lazarus got sick, very sick and it was obvious he was dying, so Jesus was sent for. Jesus declares that the sickness wouldn’t end in death, but will bring glory and praise to God (v 4) and goes about His business, in fact waiting two more days before setting off to visit Lazarus. The disciples aren’t too trilled with the plan, given the fact that not long before the people of Judea wanted to stone Jesus and adding fuel to their fire was Jesus’ own words that “Lazarus, our friend, has fallen asleep. It’s time that I go and awaken him” (V 11). It seemed foolish to travel into danger to wake a guy up from his nap. Only then does Jesus plainly state that Lazarus was in fact dead and says something that I find a little baffling, to be honest. He says, in verse 15 “And for your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there, because now you have another opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust in me. Come, let’s go and see him.” I will wrap the story up, and come back to this verse in a minute.
Jesus arriving at the village, finds that Lazarus has been in the grave four days, many of Mary and Martha’s friends are there, mourning and weeping with the sisters and Jesus, full of compassion, weeps with them…right before He marches over to Lazarus’ tomb, lifts His eyes to heaven, prays a prayer for the benefit of those assembled there and shouts with authority “Lazarus! Come out of the tomb!” (V 43). Famously, Lazarus comes out, wrapped up like a mummy and Jesus instructs the disciples to unwrap Lazarus.
Which brings me back to verse 15. If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is glad Lazarus gets to die so that disciples have another opportunity to see Who He is and so that they get another learning opportunity! For the disciples’ benefit of learning to trust Jesus more, Lazarus dies? Nowhere do I read of anyone consulting Lazarus on this. The Lord didn’t ask Lazarus to volunteer for the role of dead guy, or for his sisters to play the part of the grieving family. God just acted sovereignly and Lazarus dies, not knowing that he would be resurrected a few days later…all for the benefit of the disciples who needed yet another lesson in unconditional trust in Jesus.
This got me thinking of all the times I felt like I was dying or where I had to go through grief and suffering, not understanding why it was happening and sometimes even slightly confused as to whether this was God or the enemy. Could it be that God allowed suffering and trauma in my life for the benefit of someone else? Can it be that somewhere, someone is watching me go through tough situations, trials and deep grief, learning, through what they are witnessing, to trust Jesus more?
It seems a little unfair, until I am reminded of the testimonies of other people’s grief and shame, their trauma and pain that encouraged me to keep going when I was faced with hardship and uncertainty. ‘If they could do it, so can I’ was what I thought when faced with my own stuff.
Sometimes the lesson we learn and teach is about how to stay strong, unwavering in our faith and trust in Him. Sometimes it’s how to grieve well and not give in to the temptation to throw in the towel altogether. Sometimes our stories speak of redemption…of God turning what the enemy planned for evil into good and it brings hope to the spectator because deep down we know that our turn will come in some way, so we learn and we hide the lessons deep in our heart until the times come when we need to draw on the hope that is hiding in there. Sometimes, watching another going through the hard things, we sigh a sigh of relief, knowing we are not alone, not singled out for hardship and we remind each other of Jesus’ words “And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33 TPT)
So, even when we aren’t consulted or given the opportunity to volunteer to be the object lesson, let’s trust in the Lord with all our hearts, lean not on our own understanding, trust Him implicitly, for He Who has promised will never let us down. There will be a day, when Jesus stands in front of whatever needs resurrecting and He will cry out with a loud, authoritative voice and command what is dead to live again. Until then, we are held in the Father’s everlasting arms…no safer place to be!