Letters to the Prison - Week 119

Hello, everyone!  We’re grateful for this opportunity to consider God’s word with you.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!  And be sure to thank the people who make them available.  We’re continuing our study of John and starting chapter 11.
In the first three verses, we’re introduced to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who live in a town called Bethany (not to be confused with the “Bethany across the Jordan” mentioned in John 1:28).  This family is significant in Jesus’ ministry.  The sisters are mentioned in Luke 10:38-42 and Mary is introduced as the “one who anointed Jesus” (John 11:2).  We’ll see that event later when we study John 12.  Meanwhile, we see also that Lazarus is “one whom Jesus loves” (John 11:3).  Doesn’t Jesus love everyone?  Of course, he does!  But clearly this family had a very special place in Jesus’ earthly ministry, as we’re about to see.
One thing is made plain in this introduction:  Lazarus is seriously, gravely ill.  That fact gets mentioned three times in three verses.  Jesus makes it four for four when he says:
•“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.”-John 11:4
Jesus says a lot in this verse.  Let’s consider a few points:
1.Lazarus’ illness is indeed terminal and does indeed lead to death (as we will see in John 11:14 and 17).  Yet we will see Lazarus coming back from the grave (John 11:43-44).  Indeed, Lazarus spends more time dead than Jesus himself does…  Yet, we will also see a plot to kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11).  And where is Lazarus now?  Not biologically alive.  So, what does Jesus mean?  The “death” Jesus is speaking of here is not a literal physical death.  Believers like Lazarus do not escape a natural death of their bodies.  But they do escape the “second death” (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; and 21:8) of their spirits.
2.Lazarus’ terminal illness…  which will lead to his death… and then to his resurrection… and then, eventually to another biological death…  is for the glory of God.  Pause to consider that for a moment.  How should that reality impact our views on our own suffering?  How are we therefore to pray about such suffering?  Should we ever pretend to know God’s specific purpose for anyone’s suffering?  What about the suffering that we inflict on ourselves through our own sinful actions… the consequences of our choices?  These are massive questions that we aren’t necessarily authorized or qualified to answer.  We must consider such things carefully and prayerfully.  Especially as we interact with others who are grappling with their own suffering.
3.Jesus once again equates himself to the God who shares his glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8) yet nevertheless glorifies the Son (John 8:54 and 17:5).  How is that possible?  How does that even make sense?  It does only when we begin to recognize the dynamic relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  It is a mind-blowing relationship –the Godhead… the Trinity.  God in three persons yet nevertheless one and the same God… entire in authority and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise!  Amen!
That’s profound enough and we’re only four verses in.  We hope that you will read and re-read this chapter and just soak in all it has to offer.  Until next week!  We love you!

Dean A.

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