August 20, 2019

How Christ Reveals Himself in Pain

We’re going to look at some remarkable things in John 11:1–6, but let me go back to the beginning and set the stage.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

That’s our Lord and our Savior. The mystery of the Trinity is already standing forth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

So this is our Lord Jesus — with God, as God, forever from all eternity. He is very, very great. And because he was from the beginning and because he is God, therefore, he was — in his power, in his wisdom, in his goodness — totally on the throne, totally wise, and totally good.

On 9/11, in 2001, when 2,996 people in America died during those terrorist attacks, he was fully capable of controlling things, fully capable of explaining things, fully capable of putting all things right. Not only there, but also 30,000 people in Bam, Iran, just a few years later, perished in one night in an earthquake. My son Benjamin quit college to go over there and live in a tent for six months and serve those folks.

And not only 30,000 or 3,000, but a few years later, in 2005, 230,000 people perished in one night in the South Seas off the coast of India in that tsunami. Every day in the world, 150,000 people die. And Jesus reigns from eternity to eternity — in all his sovereignty, in all his wisdom, in all his goodness. He is able to control and to explain and to set right your losses. Numbers might not move us much. A mom, a son, or a daughter lost moves us.

God Cares for You

It’s a thrilling thing to me to come to you in this confidence:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)

So, from the tiniest little insignificant sparrow to the hairs on your head, you have magisterial, universal rule and close attentive hair care. We adopted an African-American baby 23 years ago. She’s going to get married in September. I watched my wife lean over her at 3, 4, and 5, braiding her hair. You have to get the hair right. If you adopt an African-American baby, you have to get it right. How attentive God is. She can’t count them; he counts them. He knows the number as she braids. So, I come to you in a world like that with a God like that.

Illness for Good

Let me set the stage. I’m going to read John 11:1–6 and draw out something you may or may not have ever seen in these verses. They have been life-inverting for me. Mary and Martha and Lazarus are very good friends of Jesus. You’ll see that as we read it again. And Lazarus is very sick. And Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, “Come. The one whom you love is sick. Please come.” As I read these verses, look for death, look for love, look for glory. Ask yourself how they relate to each other.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:1–6)

Close Ties

Focus on verses 1–2 just for a moment. The striking thing about verse 2 is that it hasn’t happened yet in the Gospel of John. Well, that’s odd. Mary’s going to anoint the Lord with her hair in John 12:3. And John says to the reader that this Mary who’s asking him to come, that’s the Mary who anointed Jesus. He hasn’t told us she did it yet, but that’s the one he’s talking about. What’s the point of that?