PART 2 THE FACETS OF DEATH
PART 2 THE FACETS OF DEATH
WHEN JESUS HEARD THAT LAZARUS WAS SICK UNTO DEATH, WHY DIDN’T HE GO TO HIM RIGHT AWAY?
At this time, Jesus was going about from town to town, evidencing miracles, debating with the religious establishment of the day, and proclaiming Himself to be equal in nature with God the Father. He was accompanied by 12 men, to whom He conveyed why He came to the earth, Who He actually is, and provided confirmation of His teachings and identity by miraculous events. The story that we will look at next will give credence to His divinity and give us insight as to why He makes certain decisions that are contrary to the way we think He should act.
In the story that follows, one of His closest friends is deathly sick. Jesus is made aware of his condition by his sisters. If He doesn’t get to his location on time, their brother might not make it. I’m confident, and I bet you are to that the Jesus we know would make sure that His friend didn’t die, right? Please turn to the book of John and see if this was the case.
Suggested Reading: John 11:1-45
John 11:3-4 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
Jesus was informed that a good friend of His was very sick, whose name was Lazarus. His two sisters Mary and Martha, sent unto Him a messenger bringing awareness of his health. Jesus’ response was quite surprising. He said that this sickness is not unto death (not permanent death). In other words, He didn’t say that he wouldn’t die but that his death wouldn’t be permanent. I don’t think that the messenger would interpret what Jesus said in this manner. When he returned to Lazarus’ sisters, he probably told them something like, “don’t worry, Jesus said, your brother won’t die.”
Another thing that Jesus said concerned the purpose of this sickness: to glorify (bring honor) to God the Father by His obedience to His will and secondly that He will be honored as to what would soon take place. Whatever this was, it would serve as proof of the truth of his mission, of his power and glory as the [Messiah,] of the great doctrine that the dead will rise3, and the revelation about His true nature. I would assume that when the messenger heard these words that he had no idea what Jesus was talking about.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
While Jesus was on His way to the town of Bethany, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, finding out that He was nearby, went forth to meet Him. When she met up with Him, she immediately said something like; my brother had not died if you had been here. In other words, I know that if You had been here before he died, You would have cured his sickness. I think there was another message, a hidden one, that she also desired to convey to Him. I’m sure that this might be similar to the same one that you or I would think if a friend of ours could have prevented someone in our family from dying had they not showed up too late.
17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
She knew that the messenger who had been sent earlier to tell Jesus of her brother’s sickness had returned and not only reported to her what He said but also how long it would have taken for Jesus to get to where Lazarus was residing while he was yet still alive. It became apparent to her that Jesus didn’t leave right away because, by the time He got to where Lazarus lived, he had already been dead for four days. I don’t believe that this set well with her at all. Here was Jesus, someone who was a personal friend of the family that seemingly didn’t consider Lazarus sickness to be important enough to leave where he was residing, a.s.a.p.
12 …his disciples…
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Unbeknownst to Martha, Jesus had already revealed to His disciples why He didn’t leave right away for the town of Bethany after He heard the news of Lazarus’ severe sickness. He told them that it was to the intent that they might believe. The words to the intent mean to furnish evidence. What we might deduce as to what He was saying was that if He had gone right away with the result that Lazarus was healed of the sickness this would not have as much impact as to the greater miracle that was about to take place that would help to confirm or establish His disciples in the belief that He indeed is the Messiah.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
There is something else that Martha said to Jesus, which after thinking about it, has a different meaning in my mind than when I first reflected on it. Many think that when Martha said I know that if you ask of God, He will raise him from the dead that what she was doing was confirming that because He has a special relationship with God, God would grant His requests. However, I don’t think that this was what she meant. I guess what she was saying to Jesus was something like, why didn’t you ask God to heal my brother when you heard that he was deathly sick from the messenger whom I had sent to you earlier?
23-24 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus’ response to her was, he will rise again. Her immediate reply indicated she understood that someday the dead would rise again and her brother would be one of such. But she had no idea that Jesus was talking about bringing him back from the dead to life on the earth at that moment in time.
25-26 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
An incredible statement would then come forth out of Jesus’ mouth, telling her how her brother would be brought back from the dead. He said that He is the resurrection and the life and that whosoever believes in Him though He were dead, yet shall He live. He asked her if she believed what He had just said. She said she did, but did she really?
Jesus was going to show her visibly that what He was saying will not only apply to her brother in time but to those in the future who have passed on that have made the same decision to believe in Him. Jesus followed Martha and her younger sister to the grave (the tomb), a cave where his body was placed. It appears that when Jesus got there, He audibly prayed to God the Father, thanking Him for confirming as to what He proclaimed was going to take place.
John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
So, Jesus cried, Lazarus, come forth. Incredibly, he walked out of the tomb bound hand and foot with graveclothes and his face covered with a napkin. What a sight this must have been. Something that none of them had ever seen before. As a result of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, many believed in Jesus. In all likelihood, this family’s initial sense that He was negligent (lacked concern) about them and their brother were dispelled.
On so many occasions, we are unaware of God’s plans and purposes. We think one thing and then are surprised about what had taken place was contrary to what we initially thought should have happened. If it was God the Father’s plan not to raise Lazarus from the dead, I’m sure when Jesus arrived late; He would have been thought of by his two sisters and His disciples as not only being inconsiderate but maybe not the one whom He proclaimed to be. It’s even possible; they wouldn’t have wanted to have anything more to do with Him. When God doesn’t answer our prayers for financial help, for physical healing, for deliverance from physical harm, to save a loved one from impending death, etc., do we decide that He doesn’t care for us in a personal way? Might we even question whether He actually exists?
Do you believe that God has let you down for one reason or another?
I can’t tell you why God chooses not to answer some of our prayers; however, I do believe that the following verse and article will provide us with insight as to reasons why His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.
Psalms 145:17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
The Lord is just in all his character and in his arrangements for the redemption and salvation of man.4
IT’S CANCER: GOD, WHY DIDN’T YOU HEAL THEM?
As a minister and a man who prides himself on loving others, praying for others, believing in miracles, I find myself heartbroken over the death of my mother, Donna Hendrix. From the well of my despair, troubling questions have surfaced. Was I living a foolish lie to believe I could help her beat pancreatic cancer? Did I think my prayer would reach heaven where others had failed? Did they fail? Or does God act according to his purpose, which we often cannot see or understand? We always think of “Yes,” when the answer may well be “Wait” or “No.”
A pastor friend told me to examine my life and attitude in light of God’s works. If my mom was still sick, there was a reason, and God would reveal it to me as I sought him diligently. And seek him I did. And yet, I often wondered — did I have hope, not faith? Hope that she would be healed ... faith in God doing the right thing? I became aware that I felt a pain in my chest when I would say, “Your will be done.” I was afraid I couldn’t convince God to heal my mother. I now realize I could not persuade God to heal my mother against his own will.
In the midst of my mother’s illness, I watched as a family begged God to heal their baby — a baby who could not have done any wrong, a baby who was blameless. The father told me he didn’t understand why God showed respect for others’ lives over his baby’s. Was it respect or his will again?
I disagree with [the] doctrine that suggests that if you are not healed, something is amiss in your life. As the apostle Paul might have described it, a thorn was in my mother’s flesh. In my mother’s case, many thorns were in her flesh. My sweet, godly mother was ravaged by pancreatic cancer, not sin or punishment.
I thought of the baby who died of cancer, my mother who died of cancer, and I realized: although God is interested in every detail of our lives, his ultimate plan is for us to spend eternity with him. We are at the table of our lives on [earth,] so we cannot see the big puzzle or pieces in God’s will or eternity.
I watched as my mother begged God for a healing. My sisters, my friends, we all begged for a healing. Why does God heal some and not others? Our spirits were just as [strong;] our hope and faith [were] unbreakable. We were tried, and we felt victorious. And yet, in the end, we lost. Did we [lose,] or did we truly [think] we could outsmart God and his ultimate plan so that we could have our loved one here and absent from eternity? Did we somehow feel we were different and we could find the cure?
As I attempt to make and find my way, absent my mother in this world, I am starting to feel an array of emotions, including a feeling of total loss of myself and my purpose. I’ve prayed thousands of times for people in my situation. I now realize I couldn’t have prayed enough, given enough, and I certainly could not have understood the true meaning of their pain until now. I never realized the true feeling of the splitting, gut-wrenching pain that has taken [home] within my chest. The sun seems [dim;] the stars seem to [fade;] [and] the wind seems to cut through to the bone.
I would sit and wonder, sometimes, what was going on inside my mother’s head after she was diagnosed with cancer. Did she reach out and touch a flower, and did it feel the same? Did she wiggle her toes in the carpet or slide them across the floor to remember what it felt like before cancer stole the sensation and joy from her body? Did she take a deep breath in and exhale to remember how quickly it can be gone? I [wonder,] because now that she is gone, I do all these things.
I live in a daze. I keep thinking she will walk [in,] and the bad dream will be over. I cannot grasp that her reality was to become a fatality. I find myself second-guessing God’s intentions. Were they to open up a cure for others? Were they to allow Mom’s spirit to now guide [my family and me]? Or was it just his will, motivated by the utmost love for her?
I realize buying more time with my mother was selfish. It was buying more suffering for her. I now realize God took my mother when it was best for [her] and not when it was best for me. God answered our prayers, and her suffering has ended. As humans, we are arrogant sometimes to feel that our prayers will always be answered and our lives directed by what would be best for us. Sometimes a sad outcome for us is just our cross to bear.
The suffering I am experiencing from the death of my mother has made me remember the story of Paul praying for God to remove the thorn in his side and let him be healed. God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. That’s what God tells Paul. This storm was mine to walk through; this was my mountain to climb. God healed my mother many times before. He did not ever promise me her life indefinitely.
The Bible says God gives good things to those who ask. God cannot give me a bad gift. He loves me too much. [So,] what was the gift [of] losing my best friend and mother to cancer? I can honestly say I am a better brother, [father,] and follower of God. I am a better friend, and I have a deeper understanding of loss, a deeper capacity for compassion. I appreciate the relationship and respect I have with God, which have grown from my dependency on the divine and my habitual praying for the healing of my mother.
I will no longer presume to comprehend more than God does. I will always know the difference now between having hope and having faith. I realize that if God is not God of all, he is not God at all. As a result, I will remember to never negotiate with God or try to convince him. He is God, he gave me life, and the payment for this life is death. God is no less real because my prayers were not answered. Out of trauma, I now search for triumph.5
Thank you, God, for this insightful story about impending sickness unto death and at times our unequivocal expected outcomes we expect from You in answering personal prayer instead of saying Lord, if it is your will in this matter.
Many unbelievers use the next story we will look at as an example they say proves that God is an evil murderer who could care less about causing the death of an entire race, let alone causing the death of one person.
3Barnes’ Notes. Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 01 March 2018 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
4Barnes’ Notes. Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, Access Date ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
5“It’s Cancer: God, Why Didn’t You Heal Them?” HUFFPOST <https://www.huffpost.com/entry/its-cancer-god-why-didnt-you-heal-them>.
New Covenant Ministries - Ministerios NuevoPacto
Harbor Baptist Church - Sunday & Thursday Worship