In Part 1 under this heading I left the story at the point where Mary seemed to accuse Jesus that had he not delayed getting there, Lazarus might not have died.
Ensuring that purpose is done is key; especially when it doesn’t seem to make sense
Notice that in verse 4 of John Chapter 11 Jesus had said that Lazarus’ sickness wouldn’t “end in death.” That doesn’t mean death wouldn’t come but just that death wasn’t the end. Death isn’t final. Eternal life is always the end of our story. The Bible tells us that Jesus came that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John Chapter 10 verse 10). Jesus talked to Martha about the believer’s assurance of eternal life: though we die, we live (John Chapter 11, verses 25 to 26).
Jesus said he was in a way glad that Lazarus was dead and things unfolded as they did so the disciples would see what happened next (verses 14-15).
Let’s look at it from the disciples’ perspective. All of this would have been baffling to them too. It wasn’t just Mary who was struggling to reconcile what was happening. Jesus delayed for two days before going to see Lazarus (verse 6) then said Lazarus was dead and there was some purpose behind it that would glorify God. And then Jesus wanted them to risk their lives by going to a place where people wanted to kill Jesus. It was a purpose that they couldn’t see. The disciples were confused. It didn’t make sense to them, until the miracle came.
Your problem doesn’t intimidate God. Nothing does.
When Jesus was in Judea there was a prior stoning incident (verse 8). Jews there were trying to kill him. Thomas even seemed resigned that going back would mean they would die with Jesus (verse 16).
The irony is Jesus had a death ahead of him - His on the cross in order to reconcile every person to God. His death wasn’t permanent either.
Jesus went back to Judea without any fear. And he faced the cross too. Because it was God’s will. Because of His love for you and me. We have to understand that Jesus is unafraid. He is willing to brave anything for our breakthrough.
We don’t know what life holds for us in terms of physical death, but we do know we have eternity with God ahead.
Your breakthrough is on its way
We know how the story went. Jesus raised Lazarus from death (verses 43 to 44). The Jews who saw this miracle believed in Jesus (verse 45). Some Jews told the Pharisees, which accelerated the Pharisees’ plot to kill Jesus (verses 46-47 and 53; see also John Chapter 12: verses 9 to 11 and verses 17 to 19). Jews were believing in Jesus and telling others about him. News about Jesus was spreading fast.
God always had a plan for Jesus to be crucified, so he could pay the price for our sin, but this miracle had a part to play in causing that to fall into place in God’s timing.
After Lazarus was brought back to life, Mary took an extremely expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. It was a sign of adoration, devotion and also prepared him for burial- it was a recognition of what lay ahead for him on the cross (John chapter 12 verses 1 to 7). Her worship was a sign of her belief in Jesus’ mission.
I noticed that there’s the mention of feet again. Unlike the other two times discussed in Part 1 of this article (where Mary studied at Jesus’ feet as a disciple in Luke Chapter 10 and fell at His feet in grief after her brother died in John Chapter 11), here the focus is on giving back to Jesus by lavishing loving attention on Him. Her sacrificial act was a foreshadowing of Jesus cleaning His disciples’ feet in John Chapter 13. True, loving service towards others is underpinned by true gratitude to Jesus for His love (John Chapter 13 verses 12 to 17).
When your miracle comes, follow Mary’s example and glorify Him, remembering that God’s bigger plan is always at work, even if you can’t see all the pieces. Allow Him to use you to serve others.
No matter what, adopt Jesus’ posture: 3 calls to action in John Chapter 12
In the very next chapter of John, after Lazarus’ resurrection, Jesus says something that I believe can be used as a model for how we are to respond to rough times. In John Chapter 12, verses 24 to 26, Jesus said:
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Embedded in the above are 3 challenges to believers, and responses God expects from believers:
1. Die to your desires: give up how you think the situation should play out;
2. Hate your temporal life on earth now, when you compare your feeling about it to your overwhelming love and eagerness for the eternity that is to come; and
3. Serve Jesus by being obedient to Him.
Then, Jesus didn’t just give the teaching and stop there. He applied it to himself in the next two verses (verses 27 to 28):
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Jesus was facing a brutal crucifixion; he was troubled but he reminded himself of His purpose. He knew when he was lifted up on the cross, people would be drawn to God (verse 32). Jesus was mission-focused. May God give us the ability to do the same everyday with every challenge we face.
Let us walk in the light of God, meaning, let us live our life with a sense of urgency to accomplish God’s mission for our life, being guided by the truth of who Jesus is (for further reading, see: John Chapter 9 verse 4; John Chapter 11 verses 9 to 10 and John Chapter 12 verses 35-36 and 46, where ‘daytime’ refers to the time left for Jesus physical life on earth and ‘night’ speaks to his death and return to heaven).
Jesus’ words are a model for us that we can pattern our lives on. We may currently be in an isolating or difficult time, whether due to covid-19 or otherwise. We’re in the middle of a situation we wouldn’t have chosen, but we know that God allowed. It’s okay to ask God for deliverance, but the key is to say: ‘God, glorify Your Name in this!”
Some questions to ask that can help us to glorify God in rough times
I’d like to end this article with some questions I suggest we consider asking ourselves in every challenge or obstacle we face:
Lord, today and in this season of my life:
(a) what do you want me to do?
(b) what do you want me to learn about myself?
(c) what do you want me to learn about others?
(d) what do you want me to learn about you?
(e) who would you have me be?
Affirmation: I am so happy and grateful today that Jesus is always up to something that’s good: for my good and the good of others, and that His timing is perfect. My eternal hope is in Him.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She won the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers prize in the Press Service International young writer program, the 2019 Tronson Award (International) and the 2021 Basil Sellers award for International Senior Writers. Every day, she loves experiencing the beautiful surprises that God has stored up for her and longs to keep cultivating a servant-heart.