Letters to the Prison - Week 122

Hello!  We’re so glad that we’re able to come and worship God with some of you in person.  We’re considering John 11.  In verses 11-13 the disciples are clearly confused about the severity of Lazarus’ condition, but Jesus sets them straight:
•Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”          -John 11:14-15
Let’s consider for a moment what’s just happened.  A messenger from Mary and Martha has arrived to inform Jesus that Lazarus is ill… not dead.  That messenger traveled at least a day’s journey to get to where Jesus and his disciples were.  Then Jesus waited two more days before even deciding to travel that day’s journey back to Bethany in Judea.  Meanwhile, Jesus informs his disciples that Lazarus has died.  How did he know?  He’s nowhere near Bethany where Lazarus is…  This is one of those near-casual moments where Jesus’ deity is apparent.  
Even more shocking:  Jesus knows Lazarus is dead…  and he’s glad he wasn’t there.  What?!
These are some very unexpected responses.  From a human perspective, it is very difficult to make sense of what Jesus is doing and saying at this moment… even with the benefit of being able to read ahead to see what becomes of it all.  For his disciples, in that moment, it must have been mind-boggling.  Interestingly, Thomas (called by many “doubting Thomas” --we’ll see why when we study John 20) takes a sort of “fatalistic” leap of faith when he says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).  Whether Thomas meant dying like Lazarus did or that they would all be killed along with Jesus when they return to Judea is uncertain.  Either way, Thomas didn’t expect things to go well.  Yet he chose to follow Jesus anyway.  Is that like us?  Or not?
Even more shocking:  We’ve also caught another glimpse of Jesus’ purpose for Lazarus’ suffering and death:  Belief.
We know already that Lazarus’ illness is for God’s glory (John 11:4).  But we also learn that Lazarus has died “so that you may believe” (John 11:15).  These are not what most people would typically consider to be “good reasons” for a person to suffer and die.  When we sit with people in their suffering and distress, do we comfort them by saying “It’s ok.  Jesus loves you and this terrible event has occurred for his glory.  Do you believe in him now?”  Somehow, that approach just doesn’t seem to make sense.  And yet here we see Jesus’ purpose and plan for Lazarus’ suffering and death clearly explained… in writing.  
Is God’s purpose for the pain and suffering people endure always the same?  Not likely.  Are his purposes for people’s pain and suffering always so clearly communicated?  Definitely not.  Is it a good idea for us to try and guess what God’s purpose might be for someone else’s suffering?  Nope.  Do people sometimes benefit from the suffering God allows in their lives?  
Ask yourself that question…  prayerfully… and see how God answers.  
We love you.  Until next week!

Dean A.

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