Lesson 11 -- first quarter 2007
February 11, 2007
© Copyright 2007
How bad does it have to get before you give up hope?
Imagine the situation in that home in Bethany when it became clear that Lazarus was terminally ill. The sisters knew Jesus had healed many, many people; they knew He could also restore their brother to full health. So they sent for Jesus; hope abounded. The messengers returned, reporting their mission accomplished; hope grew. Lazarus' condition deteriorated, yet he clung to life by a thread; hope hung on. Then Lazarus died; but not hope. Hadn't Jesus also raised two people from the dead? Didn't Jesus have a special relationship with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha? Of course hope lingered on! Jesus would surely come and raise Lazarus. But eventually Lazarus' body had to be buried. By the time Jesus arrived, hope was gone for seeing Lazarus again in this life. After all, his body was already decaying. How can you possibly hope anymore at that stage?
In these imaginings, we can see a bad situation getting progressively worse. We definitely can see the tenacity of hope. And we can also see the realism of hope: Once things get bad enough, to continue to hope is pointless. But into this decomposing, hopeless situation Jesus inserts a new dimension: Himself! No matter how beyond-hope a matter may seem, Jesus can bring life. So hang on to your faith in Jesus and never give up hope, no matter how realistically hopeless everything may seem.
The hidden glory of silence
Christ deliberately delayed arriving where His help was so critically needed. Why?
"That the Son of God might be glorified" (John 11:4). The contrary seemed so true. Jesus waited and ran the risk of being credited with callousness, insensitivity, and powerlessness. But He knew what would bring the most significant glory to Himself, so He waited patiently.
"To the intent ye may believe" (John 11:15). Here again, the silent wait could have provoked unbelief, or at least a significant weakening of faith, not just in Mary and Martha, but also in His immediate band of disciples. But He knew when it was all over, their faith would be way stronger than it would have been had He gone right away and "merely" healed Lazarus. So He waited.
"That...thou shouldest see the glory of God" (John 11:40). Perhaps the people were becoming somewhat jaded to the power of Jesus and the glory of God. The human mind shows a remarkable ability to adapt in the presence of repeated manifestations of supernatural power. Knowing this, Jesus may have decided to reveal a new degree of God's power and glory. So He waited.
"That they may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 11:42). People abounded who questioned who Jesus was and who had sent Him. And they were probably outnumbered by the skeptics. The time had come to help them believe. The time had come for Him to tie a more-than-extraordinary miracle to His claims to deity. So He waited till Lazarus was absolutely, positively, unarguably dead.
Is it possible His silence to your request springs from similar reasons? He hasn't changed, you know; He continues the same as always.
To rejoice and live in the reality of the resurrection
For most of us, rejoicing in the resurrection's reality isn't all that difficult if we can focus our minds long enough. Living in that reality? Well, that can be such a markedly different story, eh? Perhaps we can help ourselves a little by reviewing the significance Christ's resurrection should have for us.
Confidence. How many words have I preached and written in the defense and proclamation of the Gospel of Christ? I'm only one among millions! And how many millions have lived their lives and suffered their deaths with full confidence in the faith? Christians can do this with such zeal, commitment and confidence only because of the resurrection. "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Hope. I suppose most folks know how it works to survive a week (or month or year) on the basis and in anticipation of something. Hope keeps us going...until that event or whatever is at last realized. Then that hope does us no more good. (If that hoped-for thing is not realized, then we have a different batch of problems!) The hope of the Christian is of vastly greater reach because of the resurrection of Jesus. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
Expectation. The phone rang. Upon picking up the receiver, I heard the teacher's desperate voice. The computer had locked up and she feared losing all her hard work. When she remembered I had recovered from a similar mishap, her expectations soared for her own predicament. In a minuscule way this helps us understand why Jesus' resurrection gives us expectations for our own. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:21). We can look forward to eternal incorruption, glory and power in a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Justification. I suppose few people know the frequent battlings of my heart against such evils as lust and bitterness, suspicion and materialism. How tired I get of the offenses! But thanks be to God, I am doing better. He has forgiven me every time, I know. But the Lord's resurrection offers me more: "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). Do you get this one?! Because of His resurrection, our sinning life gradually gives way to a victorious life. Praise Him!
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