Love beyond human understanding

Today, we come to the miracle found in John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

As I read this story again, I found myself drawn to discuss a few points with you.

In verses 5 and 6, Jesus is noted for loving Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. In this text, there is use of both agapao and phileo, which suggests that His love for them related to their roles as friends and followers. Yet, there is something jarring as a reader to see that He loved them and then proceeded to stay where He was two days longer. Of course, once we know the end of the story, we can put everything in its good context. But let us not miss hanging in this moment to rush forward to the glory and the resurrection.

Aren’t there times in your life or in the lives of those around you that you are facing the tension of the truth that Jesus loves you and so when He heard…fill in the blank, He waited? Know anyone who has lost a job or a baby? What about a beloved single friend who’s still wondering if he or she will ever be married? Someone who has been stricken with painful illness or deep despair? Unexpected divorce or rebelling children?

I don’t know about you, but something in me as I read that He loved and so He waited is troubled by this. My heart and mind sputter, ‘What?‘ My first instinct is that love would lead to action…and quickly! But this is a story of expectation and delay. The Lord knows that this is an opportunity to grow His people in faith and to bring Jews to salvation.

When Jesus does show up, He mourns before He acts. It is in this that the Jews witness that He did love Lazarus. Even now that Jesus has arrived on the scene, He does not rush to the rescue. He pauses and grieves with those dear ones who are grieving. Some of the Jews said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (v. 37)

Don’t we ask this at times? Couldn’t God have intervened? The unsettling thing is that most of us do know that yes, He could have either prevented what happened or fixed it right away. Sometimes He does protect His people or fix things promptly, but then there are those…other times.

C. K. Barrett’s commentary describes the people as having an ‘inchoate’ faith. Their faith was imperfectly formed. Another passage I read interpreted that the people were sorrowing as those who had no hope. Jesus knew this and allowed the pause, the grieving, and the questions to come before He demonstrated the active aspects of love.  The resurrection of Lazarus is described as Jesus’ life-giving work put on display!

As a result, v. 45 tells us that many who were there believed.

Yesterday we talked about how God can use our circumstances to bring about His glory. Think about someone you know who might be wrestling with this theology that God loves them, but He also has permitted some hardship to come into their lives and He hasn’t hurried in to deliver them out of it. In what ways can these stories remind us of God’s bigger picture and His faithfulness and love that extends beyond our understanding?

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