April 2, 2017

The Raising of Lazarus

One of the most powerful examples of the Savior's love is that of the raising of Lazarus from the grave after four days. The event took place just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem for the last time when a messenger was sent to them with word that Lazarus was sick. Jesus, however, tarried for several days, instead of rushing to heal Lazarus. When Jesus and the disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days (see John 11:1-45).

Often the first question that is asked is why Jesus waited to come heal Lazarus. Why would he prolong his coming when he knew that the hearts of Mary and Martha would both be broken. First, by raising Lazarus from the dead after four days, Jesus demonstrated his true power over even the worse enemy, death. Up to this point Jesus had raised several from the dead, however, in each case, they had only been dead for a few hours. Dissenters could easily claim that those who had been raised, had only been sleeping. Yet in the case of Lazarus, there was no question as to the magnitude of Jesus' power.

Second, it taught of Jesus' pure love for others, despite his omniscience. The shortest verse in scripture simply states "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Volumes could be written about these simple, yet powerful two words. Jesus knew that he could raise Lazarus, he also knew that in only moments the two sisters, Mary and Martha would again be embracing their brother. Yet Jesus was in the moment, and felt their pain, even though he knew the power of the future.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus performed this miracle to help prepare his followers for his own death (an even more tragic death than Lazarus). One of the reasons Jesus may have wept is because he knew of the sorrow that they soon would feel when they saw their Lord and Savior nailed to the cross. Just as Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again, Jesus also knew that he himself would be resurrected. Yet for a short time, his followers would weep and not fully understand why their Savior had died. It seems to me that the most powerful message of his love was that he allowed this event to happen (the death and raising of Lazarus) so it could give them hope. Hope for the impossible. Hope, when all was lost. He raised Lazarus to instill faith. He raised Lazarus because he loved them.

He could have just as easily come and healed Lazarus. After all, in only about a week they would see the most powerful sign of his divinity, when Jesus would be resurrected from the dead. There would be no question of his power then, yet Jesus decided to instill in his disciples a belief beforehand that truly nothing is impossible for the Lord. He gave them hope, even though he knew what the future held.

I have seen this time and time again in my life. Despite the fact that the Lord knows how things will turn out in the end, he still provides tender mercies to buoy me up. To instill in me faith. To give me hope when all is dark. Just yesterday I was struggling with some personal issues. I had many questions, and I felt that I had not received answers to my prayers. I did not know why things were going the way they were and I felt little or no direction. Then as I was washing dishes (of all things) I felt a calming reassurance for the future.  Peace filled my soul, and though my problems did not disappear, the Lord provided for me a moment, like when he raised Lazarus, a moment that would help me continue the fight. A moment that helped me know that he loves me, and to know that he wants me to have hope. Hope in Him!