Hidden Heroes of Easter – Lazarus
Part One of our Hidden Heroes of Easter Series
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. John 11:5-6 (NIV, 1984)
I was mad. No, mad is too mild. Furious is a better word. Ray and I had been married less than a year, and my college graduation was quickly approaching. I had proudly attended his graduation from West Point the year before—and even had the great privilege of pinning his 2nd Lieutenant bars. Now, Ray would not even be attending my graduation. What!
You see, the army decided to send Ray on a mission for three months. And the army did not care one little bit that Sharon Gamble was graduating. Nope. No amount of whining, crying, or shouting on my immature part would change Ray’s orders. Ray had to go. I made life miserable for the poor guy because of my inability to receive with grace this change of plans that was truly beyond his control. I cringe now when I think how foolishly I behaved.
This, of course, was a mild beginning to what would become a lifetime of happenings that would not go as I had planned. Are you with me here? I don’t know about you, but my life has seldom followed the careful script I had marked out for it.
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was caught up in circumstances that were, I am quite sure, not part of his plan for life. It began when he fell deathly ill. His sisters called for one of his closest friends, who just happened to be the Son of God … and He did not come. In fact, Jesus said clearly that His purpose in staying away and not healing a likely very uncomfortable and miserable Lazarus was “for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4b). And Lazarus died. After four days lying buried in a cave his body wrapped in graveclothes, Lazarus was raised from the dead and walked back out again. Yeah. I’m thinking he did not see any of that coming.
An uncomfortable and difficult thing to comprehend, but one we all have to come to terms with eventually: We are not in charge of the universe. We are not even in charge of our little corner of it. We can make the most careful and perfect arrangements possible, and the unexpected can still happen. What’s a person to do with this unpredictability?
We have two choices really. We can rage and shake our fist like I did when Ray missed my graduation—or we can trust that the One in charge actually knows what He is doing no matter what it looks like from our perspective. The story of Lazarus contains a very important key to helping us trust God with the crazy “unexpecteds” of life: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet … ”
John starts his story with the important truth that Jesus loved his friend. Jesus did not set out to hurt Lazarus because He felt like being cruel that day. No. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus had a larger goal in mind. The Bible does not tell us if the hardest part for Lazarus was the suffering (if there was any) before he died … the being dead … or the coming back from Heaven, if that is where God placed him those four days. Perhaps the hardest thing was returning to earth and a body that would only decay once again. God and Lazarus know the answer. We can only guess.
What we do know is this. God loved Lazarus. God allowed this hard thing for His own greater plan and glory. In fact, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we remember now on Palm Sunday was largely precipitated by the wonder of those who saw a dead man walk out of a grave alive again. Wow. How many souls turned to Christ because of this event? However many, God chose this plan for this man’s life for the greater good. I don’t think, at this point, Lazarus minds one little bit that God’ plans for him were different from his own.
Father, it’s so hard to receive changes of plans from Your good hands. Lord, help me to trust that even the hardest things have been filtered first through Your love, and allowed for good, even if the hard thing itself is not good. I choose to trust You, trust that You love me. Give me a faith that receives all that happens in my life with the peace that comes from knowing You are in charge, and You are good. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.
You are loved,
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