Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Darker the Night, the Greater the Glory

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Tuesday, May 20:  John 11:1-54

Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  John 11:32 (NKJV)

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  John 11:38-40 (NKJV)

Like Stars that Shine

In Genesis 15, God led Abraham out under the night sky and told him to look up.  "Look now and count the stars ... So shall you descendants be." (Gen. 15:5)  God made a comparison between the stars of heaven and the seed of Abraham.  The first point of comparison is in multitude.  God told him "count the stars."  But the similarities go beyond an innumerable host.

There is something about night stars that matches the nature of God's people.  "So shall your descendants be."  The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine.  No one star-gazes at noontime.  Stars shine best when the sky is darkest.  That's where God's people have their finest hour.  The world at its worst needs the church at its best.

This is why John 11 tells such a grand story.  The tragic death of a dear friend, Lazarus, was but the set-up for one of Jesus' greatest miracles.  Jesus said it, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" 

Three Lessons

Three ways this story speaks to me.

1. The Response to Rejection.

The three years of Jesus' earthly ministry divides into three segments: 1) obscurity (He came out of nowhere), 2) popularity (He rose to immense fame), and 3) rejection (He descended toward the Cross).  The raising of Lazarus comes hot on the heels of the onset of rejection -- the Jews had just attempted to stone Jesus (John 10:31, 39).

It is as if Jesus is saying to the world, "OK, so you don't want Me, you hate Me, you reject Me.  Let Me show you more clearly Who you are rejecting!"  There is a kind of defiance about the raising of Lazarus.  The harsher the rejection, the greater the glory of God.

2.  The Trials of Timing.

Jesus delayed His arrival at the tomb of Lazarus.  While He waited, everyone else worried -- particularly Mary and Martha.  While He lingered in Jordan, they languished in Bethany.

By the time Jesus arrived, Mary and Martha had given up.  "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died," they both said.  These two sisters were actually scolding Jesus about how He had cared for them.

Jesus' greatest miracles are always on HIS TIMING, not ours.

3.  The Connection to the Cross.

There is always a bigger picture.  We focus on our small circumstance and think the world revolves around us.  When Jesus raised Lazarus, He was not simply blessing three friends.  He was not just answering a young woman's prayer.  He was pointing to HIS OWN RESURRECTION.

As dire as Mary and Martha thought things were, there was a bigger picture.  It was a world lost in sin.  As Jesus raised Lazarus, He was standing in the shadow of His own Cross which lay only a few days ahead.

The glory of God is revealed as we see the bigger picture of what God has done for us in Christ.  It is only a temporary blessing to pay a bill or heal a sickness or even raise a dead man from the grave.  It is the ETERNAL GLORY OF GOD to see Jesus risen and reigning!  Too often in the fog of our present crisis we forget the stark drama of human history -- the light and the darkness of the human condition.

 Not Unto Death

Jesus Himself interpreted the difficult circumstances surrounding Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God" (John 11:4).  Wow!  This bad development is serving a blessed destiny.  This sickness is a set-up for glory.  We need to remember that!  It is in the darkest night that the stars shine brightest.

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