I just finished reading a Charles Spurgeon sermon on John 11: 14-15, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” I am studying John 11 in preparation for the “Jesus Track” at our winter conference in a few weeks. The track probably will include seekers, so I’m wondering how that verse will go over with them!
Really, Jesus? You were glad someone died? A nice Jewish boy who took care of his sisters and You when you were in town? I just have a hard time with that, but it’s right there, on the page. Uck.
I am not sure how I think yet about God’s will – did He will Lazarus to do? Did He allow it? Is it the result of a fallen world? John 11 doesn’t answer that, but it does say Jesus was “glad” – it means to rejoice. The same word is used to describe the celebration in Luke 15 and the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents (Mt. 18:13).
I don’t know what to do with that. Just like I don’t know what to do with the suffering in the world sometimes. When I read about the 19th man who kills his children, then his wife, then himself or when I study the widespread effect of child sex trafficking, I don’t know how to handle it all. I believe that God is Sovereign, that He could end it if He so chose. I know that in many places around the world, a difference is being made, but suffering still seems to run so rampant. Does God rejoice over that?
It is interesting to note that Jesus weeps in the midst of His rejoicing. It says 3-4 times that Jesus loved this family. He weeps when He sees Mary and the others mourning Lazarus. He isn’t visibly glad as He walks among these friends. Is there a way He mourns with them while at the same time rejoices over the fact that Lazarus died? That cooks my noodle (see translation below).
John 11 tells a story that ends with: Lazarus being raised from the dead (not just “mostly dead” – really dead. Four days dead. Pee-u.). And many believed in Jesus. Does that make the 4 days of mourning worth it? Were Mary and Martha at peace with how it all went down? I’d love to have been there later that night, after the crowds had gone home, and heard that conversation.
Perhaps our understanding will come when we are at the end of the Big Story – when Christ returns and all is restored in Him. Maybe we’ll never really understand. But as I spent time in John 11 this week, I was reminded that Jesus has compassion in our sufferings and He conquers all.
* Cooked my noodle: I don’t know who said this in my hearing recently, but I instantly took this and made it one of my favorite phrases. It means the same as “that blew my mind!” or “You could have knocked me over with a feather!”