When Dead isn't Dead-But Testing
There are times in all of our lives when situation arises and seems hopeless. There are times in our lives when despite everything that we do, our situations seem hopeless. There are times in our lives when we may even question our faith because despite prayers, fasting and diligence- our situations remains stagnant. You may feel frustrated when people say, hang in there and you have been hanging on a thread so much until if someone touched the string you would fall.
We are constantly seeking ways to resolve our situation. We want solutions in our lives especially when we are facing issues after issues. Sometime we don’t know what to do. Often we go to friends and family to see resolution; only to find that they are just as messed up from the floor up as we are. Some for whom we talk to, gives us the same old statement that really doesn’t give much hope.
If we admit it, we need solutions and sometimes we don’t understand why we are going through tough situations and look around and see those who don’t attempt to know Jesus seemingly are doing well and seemingly everything is falling there way.
Again, we want solutions. It’s like this, I remember when my youngest was about 4 years old. He was having a stuffy nose and couldn’t clear. He said to me, “ My nose is stoppy up” and I replied, “ I understand baby, you don’t feel good.” He turned and looked at me and said, “ Well what are you going to do about it.” We burst out and laughed because his response wasn’t what we expected. He didn’t see anything humorous because he was feeling bad and wanted a solution.
I think for most of us we would feel the same. I think many of us here today don’t want hear a bunch of stuff without real solution. We want thing fixed, and not later but sooner. We don’t go and get our malfunctioning car to a mechanic to make it worse, we don’t go to the beauty shot in order for our hair to be taken out- the point of this, we go to a specialist in order to get our problem resolved.
But what happens when we go to Jesus who we know is our comforter, our healer, our Savior; but, yet nothing seems to change? It is no use to pretending that sometimes our situation, regardless of how we pray or whatever, it just doesn’t make sense to us.
I want to read this Scripture today from
(NRSV) 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
When Dead Isn’t Dead: But Testing
Have you ever gone to someone in dire straits and needed help. The person that you sought help from was a very dear friend who said that she or he would be by your side regardless of what may come; but, you went to this person and no help was given. This friend has been with you for a life time and suddenly when you were in need, no help was given. The only help said to you was, hang in there, it will be OK. But still, you know that the person had the capability of helping you out but didn’t. How would you feel?
Now I want to set something up for you. We know that Jesus has power to do whatever He wants to do. The Scripture that I read, shows a family, two sisters who were experiencing a family crisis. This family or sisters knew Jesus very well; but, he didn’t come to there rescue when they sought him.
But sisters and brothers, the Scripture says and we have heard people say:
James Chapter 4: 2 b “ You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Well, do people not say that, but when you pray and ask Jesus for help and nothing happens, then what? Do we lose faith?
Here’s the critical situation:
(NRSV) 1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill."
This family wasn’t a stranger to Jesus. Jesus knew, Lazarus, He knew Martha and He knew Mary. During that visit Martha was very busy, but it was Mary who sat and attentively listen to the Words of Jesus. Martha was so busy serving she even asked Jesus whether or not he cared that her sister wasn’t helping her and wanted Him to tell Mary to help her instead of just sitting and listening to her. Jesus told Martha which I am paraphrasing that he was essentially worrying about too much stuff and Mary was doing the right thing sitting listening which her hearing would not be taken away. Mary was the one that the disciples and other got angry when she used a flask of fragrant oil and poured it on his head, another said his feet and wiped his feet with her hair. During the encounter Jesus told those around that Mary was preparing him for his burial. Lazarus also sat with Jesus. The point is this, this family was well familiar to Jesus. So when Lazarus was sick, it was a request from a stranger, this was family for whom Jesus loved. As the Scripture say the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “ Lord, he whom you love is ill.
Think for a moment, for many of us , those who have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are know by Jesus. You have a relationship with Jesus. You are not a stranger. But, there are times when we send a prayer to Jesus and say, Lord, I need you....Lord, I am sick, please come and heal me, Lord, I need you someone that I love has died, Lord, my family is falling apart, I need you or Lord, my heart is broken I need you to heal me or Lord, have mercy on me…I could go on and on. We may feel because of what we do as a Christian, working for the Lord, then our request should be answered with an affirmative yes.
But there is something my brothers and sisters that Jesus did in response to Mary ‘s and Martha’s request that will puzzle all of us. Let me ask, what would you have expected Jesus to say in response to their request. Would you expect Jesus to say yes because, they meaning, Lazarus, Martha and Mary were very close to Jesus.
This is what the Scripture says:
4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Wait a minutes, this equation sound right.
You mean Jesus who sat at Lazarus, Martha and Mary table didn’t immediately go to their home; but, instead, he stayed 2 more days where he was.
Now brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but I think I would been upset knowing that Jesus didn’t immediately come to see my very ill brother but stayed where he was for 2 days.
Then I would have had to back track and think about with a bit of confusion that upon Jesus receiving the message in the presence of the disciples, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
The Scripture doesn’t say that the message was sent back to Mary and Martha, this particular encounter Jesus is having with his disciples. Sisters and brothers, sometimes are struggles in life regardless of how difficult it is, God is still in the midst. In many cases, God is testing our faith through many means. Sometimes
God allows Satan to test faith. Recall Job as the Scripture reads : (NRSV) 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
(NRSV) 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Sometimes God will allow difficult circumstances to test our faith. (NRSV) 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. (This is what happened to Paul.)
Sometimes God allows persecution to test our faith. (NRSV) 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Sometimes even discouraging people test faith. (NRSV) 39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.
UNDERSTANDING THE MANY MEANS OF HOW OUR FAITH IS TESTED, REQUIRES US TO PRAY TO GOD AND ASK HIM TO REVEAL WHAT METHOD AND REASON FOR HIS TESTING. EVEN WITH THIS SITUATION WITH LAZARUS, IT IS A TEST THAT MARY, MARTHA AND LAZARUS KNEW NOTHING ABOUT- AT THIS JUNCTURE.
OMIT THIS 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." 8 The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them."
JESUS now says something for which will perplex you. The Scripture says:
11 After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." 12 The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
Isn’t it perplexing that Jesus said that he was glad that he wasn’t there when his beloved friend Lazarus died. What would say to someone who when a love one died, say to you I am glad I wasn’t there? Some would be upset, some may be ok. There was a reason that Jesus said he was glad that he was not there which was THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE.
I want you to realize that sometimes God may not answer when you want. You may feel as Jesus isn’t listening while you suffer through your situations. I want you to know that God gives us promises during our testing. Our faith in Jesus wasn’t never built on life without problems or issues.
Remember theses Scriptures as you struggle: (NRSV) 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
(NRSV) 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (NRSV) 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
(NRSV) 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment __________________________________
Many came to console Martha and Mary
Martha heard Jesus was coming while Mary stayed at home.
16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." 28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Mary and Martha went through some stuff. They went through sorrow of their brother’s death. Jesus came and they said only if you had been there, my brother wouldn’t have died. Jesus even wept with them. Jesus went to the cave at that ‘s when it all happened. Go to verse 40
Sisters, Jesus can bring you out of your situations which may look dead to you. Indeed, we haven’t seen such as above. But life can be filled with may dead situations. Dead hear is indeed unbelief, not having faith; but Jesus is the answer, if someone is here today, and doesn’t believe and accepted Jesus, today can be the day. Even if you feel there’s no hope, remember Martha and Mary felt no hope as well. But when they was what Jesus could do, there sadness became joy. You may be in a difficult situation. You may not know what to do. But I do believe this , I may not understand all that comes my way, nor do you always understand what comes your way. BUt I want you to remember the Word of God:
(NRSV) 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. (NRSV) 14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (NRSV) 19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.
(NRSV) 12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.