Moving the Lord
In John 11 we have the story of Lazarus. It has brought me encouragement on many occasions and as I read it this morning I am particularly struck at how Jesus was moved. The situation that He saw his friends in moved Him to action, I find it encouraging that my situation can move the Lords heart. Yet there is balance between my distress moving the Lords heart and the Lord’s timing in the matter. Jesus could have gone immediately to Lazarus and healed him, but He knew there was a greater purpose.
As soon as Jesus hears news of Lazarus He makes a statement that can only come from a daily abiding and fellowship with the Lord.
“But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.””
John 11:4 NASB
He was in tune with the Spirit such that as soon as he heard the news a promise was quickened to Him. We don’t know exactly how, as it doesn’t say, however it came, Jesus spoke out the words of faith.
It is at this point, the declaration of faith, that the enemy will try and dig up the sown seeds of faith through unbelief, worries and cares or the words of our mouth. (See the parable of the sower and the Israelites journey through the wilderness)
Jesus didn’t have any of that, but He did have the disciples questioning Him about going back to Judea and the sleep Jesus was talking about. They even thought that this was still something to do with the Jewish understanding of the Kingdom coming with military might. So, though we may have faith through a word we have heard from the Lord, we then have the secondary battle with the people around us sowing seeds of unbelief that in effect can dig up that which has been sown in faith. We may be able to stand in faith, but will the fear and unbelief of others sway us off course?
I fear that I have too often been swayed by others unbelief and the proverbial putting out of my fireworks. But I take courage from Jesus’ example and the examples of Nehemiah and Job who stood up against the cynical critical voices around them, they believed God and held on to what He said and who He is despite the popular opinion.
A popular opinion doesn’t mean it is God’s opinion. Jesus knew that and was working to the plan of His father.
He then waits two more days and arrives in Bethany with Mary and Martha, four days after Lazarus has died. Both Mary and Martha were in deep sorrow about the loss of their brother, they knew Jesus could have healed him. They sent word in plenty of time. But He didn’t come when they wanted Him too. He didn’t come when they needed Him to. Lazarus was four days in the tomb, as the KJV says ‘he stinketh’. The Jewish understanding of death was that the spirit of the deceased hung around three days and then departed. According to the Talmud only the Messiah would raise someone from the dead after four days as a sign of being the chosen one.
But deep in mourning, all Mary and Martha can think about is their loss. Jesus tells them:
“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?””
John 11:25-26 NASB
Martha answered according to her framework of understanding:
“Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
John 11:27 NASB
She knew truth, but she couldn’t see the possibility of the heavenly reality coming into the reality of that moment.
For Martha, the answer was simple. ‘Jesus, if you had turned up earlier, this wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t be in the pain I am in, you could have solved it….why didn’t you?’. Maybe you have never asked those questions. I have. I have struggled with the timing of God in situations. I have struggled when I know God could do something but hasn’t done what I wanted. Even knowing there could be a timing attached to it doesn’t help, when you’re in distress all you want is God to move now, knowing that He is able but not seemingly willing in that moment is a struggle. The temptation is to be offended at God, to close my heart, to numb my emotions and feelings.
Back to the story, Martha gets her sister who comes quickly to meet Jesus. As Mary and Martha and the mourners come near Jesus we see the heart of man moving the heart of God.
Jesus was deeply moved, He was moved by their distress. He was moved by their emotion, but it wasn’t emotionalism. He was moved in His heart such that He took action.
In the darkest moment when there is no hope, the life machine has been tuned off, we have thrown away the prayers, the door has been shut, we have let go and given up…Jesus is moved and moves.
I find great strength in knowing that my situation moves the heart of God, that in my distress He is moved.
We know what comes next, Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb and he comes forth. Lazarus didn’t have to try very hard to come back to life. He didn’t do anything, but Jesus in His sovereignty calls him into life. This is like the first light of day to the never ending night, a song above the noise. Hope is born as I hear the words.