© 2018 Annie Perkins Ministries, Inc.

TRUST: Contradiction or Conduit? The Story of Lazarus

October 21, 2018

To view the video version of this post, click here.

 

Last week we began our series on TRUST, and we were introduced to the concept that sometimes situations we view as direct contradictions to God’s promises are actually conduits to His purposes. We looked briefly at a handful of Bible stories which display that truth, and today’s lesson is going to further expound upon this idea.

 

I recently read the story of Lazarus in my Bible reading, and so many new things jumped out at me. So let’s get right into it because we’re going to read the whole story before we start. Don’t get overwhelmed with the length of the story because what God has for us in this lesson is incredible!

 

John 11:1-6, 17-44

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.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,

 

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

 

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

 

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

 

Jesus wept.

 

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

 

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

 

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

 

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

 

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

 

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

 

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

 

Okay, here we go! We’re going to start at the beginning. We know Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. His relationship with this family was personal and deep. We know Lazarus was sick to the point of death and that his sisters knew he would likely die if Jesus didn’t intervene. 

 

“Contradiction” #1

When the sisters sent word to Jesus, His response was this:

 

John 11:4 

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 

 

Wait, what? 

 

Put yourself in the shoes of Mary and Martha for a second. Jesus says Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death, yet...Lazarus dies. 

 

Now, we know Jesus ends up raising Lazarus from death, but Mary and Martha didn’t know that was going to happen. Just as we discussed in the last lesson, sometimes our circumstances appear to be direct contradictions of God’s promises because our vision is limited to what we know and can imagine. But the Bible says “he [God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). 

 

If God always answered our prayers according to our expectations, He would never be able to show us that He can do MORE than our expectations!

 

Jesus did not say Lazarus would not die, He said the sickness would not END in death. Mary and Martha knew Jesus to be a Healer, so when they sent for Jesus I’m sure they imagined He would heal. But what they didn’t yet know of Jesus was that He was also a Resurrector! 

 

God often uses the adversities in our lives to reveal another side of Who He is.

 

Once again, what seemed like a direct contradiction to God’s promise, was actually a conduit to God’s greater purpose.

 

“Contradiction” #2

Following Jesus’ declaration that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death, Scripture says this:

 

John 11:5-6

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,

 

Okay, hold on a minute. Is it just me, or does that “so” seem a bit confusing? 

 

The word “so” would indicate that the former statement affected the reasoning of the latter statement. Why would the fact that Jesus loved this family result in Him staying where he was two more days? We would expect this “so” to be followed with something more along the lines of, “So he left immediately to go to their aid.”

 

This is what we expect God to do all the time, right? He loves us, SO we expect Him to come to our aid immediately. We expect Him to do what we think He should do based off what we know He has done before in the timing in which we think it should be done. 

 

I researched this little “so,” and it does, indeed, portray the text accurately. It was said on purpose!

 

This blew me away. Our team at APM has been talking for months about the fact that no matter how frustrating it is, there is always purpose in delay. In the case of Lazarus, not only was Jesus’ delay frustrating, it was downright painful. Lazarus died! 

 

When God delays action, although it can cause us to feel like He doesn’t love us or has forgotten about us, the exact opposite is true. When God delays, it is BECAUSE He loves us!

 

Delays are hard for us. Delays require waiting (stay tuned for next week:), and we don’t like to wait! We don’t understand delays, and we have a difficult time accepting them. That’s why God says,

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5)

 

There it is - trust vs. understanding. We can’t have both. Trust is faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

 

If we can understand and control the situation ourselves, then TRUST isn’t required.

 

Mary and Martha didn’t understand either. Both sisters said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The Jews who were mourning with them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

 

What they didn’t know was that preventing death wasn’t the plan. Jesus’ plan was to reveal another side of Who He was and another level of His power. His plan was to reveal that not only did He have power to PREVENT death, He also had power OVER death.

 

God’s delays ALWAYS reveal His power in a greater way than we’ve known before.

 

There’s something else I absolutely love about this story. Jesus knew the plan. He knew death would not be the end, and He knew God would be glorified. Yet, He wept.

 

John 11:33-36

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

 

Jesus wept.

 

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

 

God does not simply tolerate our pain when we walk through circumstances we don’t understand. He is deeply moved and troubled by our pain! 

 

We have a God of compassion Who, because of His deep love for us, feels our pain with us, much like a parent feels their child’s pain when their child is hurt.

 

We should never feel like God doesn’t tolerate our emotion. He created us with emotion, so there’s no need to feel like we have to hide it from Him. Mary and Martha didn’t hide their pain from Jesus, they wept right in front of Him.  

 

And what did Jesus do? 

 

He wept with them!

 

“Contradiction” #3

“Contradiction” #3 actually comes after the story of Lazarus ends. Jesus raised him from the dead in John 11:44. Then two things happened:

 

John 11:45-46, 53

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

 

...So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

 

Some who witnessed the miracle chose to believe in Jesus, while others who witnessed the same miracle went and told the Pharisees. 

 

The effects of the miracles in our lives are dependent upon whether or not we see AND believe. 

 

These people witnessed the same miracle, yet we see two completely separate reactions.

 

This is where the final “contradiction” of this story comes into play. Remember, in the beginning of the story when Jesus says Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death, He also says, 

 

“No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 

 

When Jesus raised Lazarus from death, it resulted in many coming to believe. However, it also resulted in the plot that would eventually lead to His death. 

 

Contradiction or conduit? 

 

This brings us back to last week - the grave. Jesus’ followers didn’t know the grave was the means to which He would be glorified. Jesus’ death was the conduit to His resurrection. The resurrection defeated death, hell, and the grave - and resulted in His glory!

 

The death of Lazarus wasn’t a contradiction to Jesus’ promise, it was the conduit to a greater miracle. Jesus’ death wasn’t a contradiction to His promise, it was the conduit to THE GREATEST MIRACLE.

 

I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I don’t know if you’re in a situation which feels like a direct contradiction to a promise God has given you. I don’t know if you feel like God is delaying and is never going to come through for you. But what I do know is that Scripture is given to us for the purpose of “teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

 

When God reveals truths through His Word, we can grab hold of them and cling to them in our own lives. From this story alone we can be sure that if God has us in a season of confusion, delay, or “contradictions,” we can trust Him. We can believe that He will reveal another side of Who He is and another element of His power in our lives. We can rest in His love and in His compassion for our emotions. And we can believe that our season is actually a conduit to His purposes!

 

PRAYER

Oh God, please help us to trust your sovereignty. Help us to be patient to wait on Your purposes to unfold in our lives, to trust that we will experience another side of Who You are, another level of Your power, and that you will use it as a conduit to the purposes for which we were created! Thank You, and praise You, that you love us and are compassionate to our emotion. Allow us to give ourselves the same grace You give to us. Amen!

 

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