I preached the sermon twice last week. It has been God’s sermon to me my entire life. Lazarus is dying. And Jesus, the God who heals, did not heal him. The Lord got there on the dot. It was the nth eulogy.
A child running towards home with a bruised knee. A mother screaming her throats out and gravely wiping her tears as she grieves for her son on the other side of the prison bars. A lover watching her beloved riding a plane towards a faraway land, looking at the flight path until he becomes a dot on the sky and a depressing sentence on her heart. A sister catching her breath and struggling with her words as tears are gripping her windpipes tightly, crying frantically beside the body of her dead brother. We know pain. Been there; done that. Pain never goes away from us. We’ll never forget, although – yes! – we barely understand. And when Jesus came too late to save Lazarus from dying, we understand the heart of both Mary and Martha why they said these poignant words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Lord, if you had been here…
These words are my own. Been there, done that. I was saying my most powerful prayer that time, using the deepest and the most dramatic words I could ever utilize. I was holding his hand, while he was holding his emotions altogether. He asked for us, his students, to go there in the hospital and pray for him. He’s our high-school Geometry professor. He has a pipe needled through his throat and connected to an oxygen tank, so speaking ranked lower in importance compared to breathing. This time around, I somehow felt that all the right angles were not right anymore. He told his wife that we were to be summoned because we were “praying” most of the time. It was the first time for me back then to be called and asked to pray over someone else. That time around, it was as if prayer was the only thing that barely connected life and death; healing and deterioration. He heard we were “Christians”. I felt like one of the Ghostbusters. I was a baby Christian back then, and I barely knew prayer. I’ve only been listening a lot. I used words like “sovereign grace”, “glory”, and “Jehovah-Rapha”, as I heard it from some powerful Charismatic preachers on television. I almost spoke in tongues and quoted the Greek words that I’ve recently learned from cool authors. I gave a hell-shaking exclamation: “In the name of Jesus and His sovereign grace, I reject and rebuke the presence of the disease that is taking away the glory from this man, and I cast out Satan and the legions of unhealthy demons from his body!” I guess I’ve said the right words because I saw tears from his eyes and a smile on his forehead. I only memorized most of these words from a famous televangelist. I firmly believed that this will happen, and by faith, Jesus will heal him. Days later, my professor died. And I was asking myself if I had weak faith, or a weaker “amen”, or if I used wrong Greek words, and God did not care to answer me that time because of these things. But then, the story of Lazarus came.
Lord, if you had been here…
This story awakened me to the reality that Jesus cannot be boxed or manipulated even by our own hearty requests. We do so. We offer requests, simply because He’s the God whom we trust, not in our words. Our hearts do not trust His blessings, or His answers, but Him and Him alone. Were Mary and Martha, who gave Jesus the message of Lazarus’ sickness, lacking faith that Jesus failed to hear them? Jesus heard and Jesus knew. But his point was simple: “this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” The bottom line is not death. Not even “healing”, or the “resurrection.” Lazarus was resurrected back to life. I can imagine him being one of those weirdos who goes to a funeral and smiles at the grieving: “Well… Been there, done that…” Lazarus died and was raised back to life. However, this was not the point to everything here. Lazarus died again, maybe several years after he was resurrected. His gravestone is in Cyprus right now, bearing these very words on the epitaph: “Lazarus the friend of Christ.” The bottom line is not death. It’s glory. The focus is not His miracles. It’s glory. The most important thing is not Lazarus. It’s Jesus. He’s God’s glory, in the flesh! And everything in life points to this very truth. My problem however is that I don’t see Him, I see the difficult situation. Lord, If only you had been here. As if God was absent. As if God was blind. As if God was not in control.
I bear this message with me. I wait. And i wave the flag of His glory. My painful past, and my scars, reveal the truth that God’s business is His glory. He’s here, and He’s always in control. I am a Lazarus. Jesus is life. And in Him is glory. I should be fully aware that whatever glorifies God is good for me. I may not know what will happen next, or the situations i will be, or the places He will lead me – but I know His heart. And it’s beating for His glory. What I see now may be pain, and sorrow, and death. But this is not the end. Not even close to it. We glory in His glory. Like a grave being opened from the outside, we hear the mighty voice of glory coming right through the cracks: “Lazarus, come out.” And yes, we know what happened next.
I preached this sermon twice last week. It has been God’s sermon to me my entire life.