Sunday, May 07, 2006

Do you believe?

“So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” (John 11:3)

"Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."

Put yourself in their shoes. “You and your brothers and sisters know Jesus really well – He comes over to stay at your house whenever He is in town. And now one of your brothers is sick. What would you be thinking?”

“Jesus should know, He should be here. We shouldn’t have to tell Him about this! Where is He?”

If something bad was happening to your brothers or sisters, to your children, how far would you go in order to make that problem go away? Would you put yourself in harm’s way? Would you die in order to save them?

You would do anything it took, wouldn’t you? Why? Because you love them!

When Mary and Martha sent the message to Jesus, they didn’t say, “Our brother Lazarus is sick”. Why did they phrase their message as they did? - it’s almost like that when they sent someone to tell Jesus they wanted to know what Jesus was thinking, as if to ask,

“You do love him right? And yet, he is sick – you could make him better with a touch, with one little command, and yet the one you love is still sick, almost to the point of death!”

We see this thought expressed by both Martha and Mary in verse 21 and 32 – after Lazarus had died when Jesus goes to meet them in Bethany.

Saying, “"Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

These words are so full of emotion – so full of grief ! Jesus, if only You were there – it would not have happened like this! Where were You?? You said that it would not end in death – but my brother is dead!!

When something bad happens to you – what is your first reaction? What is my first reaction? Are we not like Mary and Martha – “Lord, You love me – why is this happening? Are you aware of what is going on here? Can’t you see that I am in pain!?”

But we see that the reaction of Jesus to the news that Lazarus was sick is quite different than the way we would react.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

(John 11:5-6)

That doesn’t make sense – “Jesus loved them, and so He waited two days before going to them.”

Why did Jesus wait? – why did He wait two full days before going to see Mary and Martha? Why did He wait, when He could have prevented all of this?

Did He do it without purpose – did He put them through this pain and suffering for no apparent reason? No!

He did not go to them because He loved them.

To us it does not make sense.

We hate suffering, and will do anything to prevent it and protect those we love from it.

And yet to Jesus, it makes perfect sense.

He says to His disciples, right before they start the journey to see, the now dead Lazarus:

“I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe;”
(John 11:15)

As I was thinking and meditating over this passage – how far I am from the perspective that Jesus has! Have I ever been glad that something painful occurred, in the midst of that painful experience? Here Jesus is, one of His closest friends has died, and the sisters, who are very close to Him are broken with grief over the death of their brother – and yet He says, “I am glad, for your sakes”

When the winds of trials and the storms of suffering are upon me,

am I glad? Can I truthfully say, “I am glad”?

“When I’m carrying Tia into SOS, blood all over, and scared that he might not make it to see tomorrow – do I say, “I am glad”?”

“When I’m in the bathroom barfing my guts out, wishing I would pass out so I could have some peace, do I say, “I’m glad”?”

I don’t want us to miss this – Right after Jesus arrived in Bethany, and He speaks to Martha, He said something to her – let’s read it starting in verse 21:

“Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world."

(John 11:21-27)

This I believe shows us something beautiful – this shows us why Jesus was glad that He was not there to heal Lazarus. It was not because He wished his friends to be sad – or because He wanted them to suffer. Rather it was for this – it was for the answer to this question:

“Do you believe?”

In life or death – there is only ONE that has any worth. If I live or if I die, I do not care – only do not take this ONE from me. As the psalmist says:

“Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is our sovereign protector.
The LORD bestows favor and honor; he withholds no good thing from those who have integrity. O LORD who rules over all, how blessed are those who trust in you!”

(Psalms 84:10-12)

“Do you believe?”

This is the love of Christ. Not that everything will be perfect in our lives.

Being loved by Christ doesn’t mean you get some certificate of exemption from ever being sick ever again or some guarantee that you will never have another problem in this life!

Rather – if Christ loves you – it means that He will do all things so that you will believe. He will cause the sun to stand still, He will part the sea, He will cause a shadow to go backwards ten steps – He will do everything it takes – He will allow you to get sick – He will allow someone close to you to fall – He will allow someone you love to die – He will make you wander in the wilderness for 40 years, He will allow you to deny Him – He will do it – He will do it for His own name-sake – that you would believe.

This is His love – that He will do all – whatever it takes - with the final result – that you say with Martha, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world."

But what kind of love is this? It seems so harsh. But is it really? What is true love – a thing that allows you to do whatever you want – or a person who guides you, knowing what is best for you, and making sure that whatever is best comes about – even though in the process pain and suffering come – this love looks to the outcome and wills the suffering and the pain, so that the one it loves can be perfect and pure.

Is it harsh – it is love? Is love “glad” when we suffer?

“Well,” you might say, “Jesus knew what was going to happen, that’s why He was glad – He wasn’t sad – because He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.”

After Jesus arrives in Bethany – something amazing happens.

Let’s look back at the text:

· Jesus waits two days until He goes to Bethany, knowing that Lazarus has died

· His disciples question Him – reminding Him that the Jews had just tried to stone Him in Jerusalem, and now He was going back again?

· Then Jesus arrives in Bethany when Lazarus has been in the grave for four days.

What happens next is something that I cannot comprehend.

Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was [129] troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. (John 11:32-35)

Jesus – who knows all things, who knew the outcome of this event – who knew that Lazarus would rise from the dead – wept.

He wept.

He did not call them foolish. He did not call them faithless. He did not say, “Cheer up, it’s going to be alright! Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m going to raise Lazarus from the dead!”

Jesus did not rebuke them.

Jesus cried softly. He wept.

He was intensely moved – groaning in spirit. Seeing the trouble of His friends. Mary, Martha – feeling their loss – seeing how sin had corrupted the world, filling the world with unbelief. For Jesus loved them – and it pained Him to see them in this state and yet, He was glad that it was this way – for it would result in the salvation of those He loved, it would result in belief.

His tears and His groaning expressed how much He loved the ones who were suffering because of Lazarus’s death.

What love is this – that The Savior of the world would cry, because the ones He loves are hurting.

“Your love oh Lord reaches to the heavens

Your faithfulness stretches to the sky

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountain

And Your justice flows like the oceans tides”

Our redeemer is not far away – He is here with us, and He knows our pain.

If you have ever wondered if Christ loves you – look around – where are you? What has occurred in your life – how is it that you came to be sitting in your chair listening to His Word this morning? How is that possible? There are millions who have never heard – and yet you, you this morning you are here. Do you still wonder if He loves you?

When the people watching saw Jesus cry they said, “See how He loved him!”
(John 11:36)

Just with that one small act, Jesus caught the attention of everyone around Him – He cried a few tears and they said, “Wow, Jesus must have really loved Lazarus.”

But I tell you, Jesus does not only weep for those He loves. There is no greater love than this – that a man lay down his life for his friends. He did not just shed a tear for those He loves, but He shed His blood – the ultimate price, He paid, for those He loved.




When things are going right, do you believe? Sure, that is easy.

But what about when everything is going wrong, do you believe?

When you enter into the fiery trial – do not be afraid – for the One who loves you could put out the flames in an instant – He could send more than twelve legions of angels to rescue you. But what is this – are you still burning in the flames? Are you not protected from the heat?

Have you cried out to Him, “Lord! The one whom you love is suffering!”

And yet the only reply is a soft, “This suffering will not lead to death, but to God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

And so then, in your pain and suffering – you quietly pray, “Lord, I believe”

And a peace that passes all understanding will be with you – for though you still suffer, yet, you know He is there, and He loves you.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Violent Faith

I'm reading Under the Banner of Heaven, finally. I really wish that I could have been involved in the discussion for this one. It is making me think a lot about faith and knowledge and etc. Jon Krakauer, and probably 90% of non-evangelical intellectuals, would probably lump us in the same category, in the end, as the FLDS ... in fact he basically says so at several points; he's using this story to talk about fundamentalism in general.

What is his definition, really? It seems like: relying on a combination of "spiritual intuition" and literal intepretation of "holy texts" over and above common sense (or rather, the prevailing attitude of the society at large) and the laws and norms of the government.

How do we know what we know? What separates us from the FLDS's and Islams of the world?

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