April 03, 2017

Lazarus Is Dead

John 11:1-16, 32-37

He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”

—  John 11:14-15

Jesus knew his friend Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus also knew what no one else did: God would raise Lazarus from his grave. Still, Lazarus’s sisters were pleading with Jesus to come and heal their brother. Instead, he waited till Lazarus died. Why? To show God’s power over death.

Lazarus probably didn’t appreciate Jesus’ delayed arrival. With his life slipping away, Lazarus may have wondered, “Where is Jesus? Why doesn’t he come?” But Jesus’ mission was not about his friends’ timeline. It was about God’s. The Lord’s timing is always right. And here, to demonstrate his dominance over death, Jesus waited till everyone could be absolutely sure that Lazarus was dead.

Now, Jesus’ intentional delay does not mean he was insensitive to grief. He too “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” and he wept. While people then and now may reason that he wept because of Lazarus, it was surely even deeper than that. Jesus wept because death is still our enemy. Far from being insensitive about death, Jesus came to take on the curse of death for us. And his purpose in all of this was God’s glory, so that we might believe in God and in his power, through Jesus, to cancel our sin and give us new life forever in his presence.

Do you believe in this Savior?

Lord Jesus, we know you care because you came to die for our sake. Thank you for the promise of new life forever. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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