There are a few things that I can relate to about John chapter 11. The first is about a Jesus only a few people knew about, and the second is about the grave of Lazarus. Truthfully, both are similar, if not the same.
About the latter, nobody was afraid to stand in front of the grave. I’m sure some might have even admired it. People take time designing and carving up the grave, maybe even painting it. But in the end, it’s what’s inside that does show you what it truly is. When Jesus ordered that the stone be rolled away, how many people were willing to still stand in front? It was not as beautiful inside as it was outside.
Sometimes we may feel just like Lazarus’ grave – beautiful outside, terribly ugly inside. Good makeup, matching outfits, nice, friendly, and a beautiful smile to match, but alone, all you know are your tears, fears and frustrations. More often than not, that’s me.
What exactly did people see when they saw Jesus? I wonder about that a lot. But I’m sure nobody (or very few people) ever saw a broken Lord. But if we ever looked carefully at the shreds of evidence that scripture provides, then we’d see the real wonders of our Christ; the isolations for me were the greatest hints for us to see our broken Lord. He always went away to be alone, it must have been burdensome for everyone to look up at him so differently, because he healed their sick, fed their hungered and poor, gave hope to the despaired, they thought he had it all. Not once, however, had he ever claimed that he did have it all. If anything, he tried to show everyone how much he relied on God. After all, his isolations were to seek God’s company as the only person who could truly understand him. And if your question is “wasn’t that what he wanted? For everyone to see him as God” the answer is no. The goal was never about him, it was always about the Father who had sent him. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” (Philippians 2:6, NLT).
So standing at the grave weeping, they realised “…see how much he loved him.” But some could not help but wonder, “…but could he not have saved him?” More than why Jesus didn’t get there in time to save Lazarus, I have wondered why he wept. The answer is simple; He was human, it’s what we fail to always see about him. And if your thoughts are “but he could raise him back from the dead so why cry?” then you should take note of two important lessons here, the first, a human cannot bring the dead back to life. Secondly, Jesus’ reply…
“Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd around that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42, ISV)
He was not confident in himself about bringing Lazarus back from the dead, he was rather confident about God hearing him. If you’ve noticed, he was already done praying – “…I thank you for hearing me.” The reason he had called out to God again in their presence was for them to realise and understand that it was not in his power but in God’s hence he said – “…that they may believe that you sent me.” This simply means that if he could exercise a power that was within Gods ability then it was simply because he had Gods backing.
A dear friend (and mentor) of mine prefers the name Believers to Christians, and I agree with him. The reason (for me) is that we seem to like the name so much that we forget what it means. That a person is like Christ has little to do with how they are perceived by the world. We are and should be called Christians because we are Believers in a God that Christ believed and depended upon. “So if it was never about Christ then how come we pray in his name? How come it all seems to be about him?” Well, it’s because he is God – the Son. I think you’d understand this better by reading Jesus’ own words about this.
“…Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 17:1-5, NLT).
The word ‘Glorify’ means to magnify; to make known the worth of a person, to make illustrious and acknowledged. So with this meaning, if you read the scripture again, then you should understand. Just the same way John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” Christ wished for nothing more than for God to be known. The Father, in turn, had his role to make the Son known by bringing salvation through him, resulting in a greater magnification of himself according to the prayer of Jesus, for us being eternally saved – “…And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”
“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11, NLT).
Why is all this so indispensable? Because I believe like Ray Ortlund (desiringgod.org) said that “Only men with scars can preach a Saviour with scars to sinners with scars.” Oh, I’m sure he wasn’t talking about the physical bruises of Christ, he knew and understood how broken our saviour was.
I do not know what people see when they look at me, I have never had that ability. I, however, like Lazarus’ grave, am aware of the ugliness inside of me. I am aware of my insecurities, susceptibility and weaknesses. I have forgotten how to be confident in myself, I do not think I am or have anything great. Unlike my siblings, I do not have a great memory. Unlike my friends, I have no special talent. Unlike my colleagues, I have no sufficient zeal as a minister of God. I am, in fact, like Moses, with a thousand reasons and nothing but a stick, in my case a pen. Yet, here I am. If you do not see these things I have mentioned in me, it is not because I have lied but because like my broken Lord, I have been enabled by depending on the Father. Yes! I have been glorified into something much more admirable, I have received my sense of worth from Him.
I have always seen that somehow fear and faith seemed to be two sides of a coin. Reinhard Bonnke of blessed memory agrees with me. He said (in his book ‘Evangelism by Fire’) that “The opposite of fear is not courage but faith.” I realised that the way to turn your fear into faith was not to ‘summon up courage’ like we like to say but to turn to God. We often mistake depending on God for this so-called summoning of courage, that is why we have far fewer results than Christ. Would you dare to imagine a Jesus who did not depend on God? He would look just like a failed and frustrated me and you, no offence intended, but I know how frustrated I am outside God. Life begins to turn around and look so beautiful and much more beautiful when I don’t have to worry about myself, simply believing and walking with my head up, like a weeping Jesus moving towards Lazarus’ grave ready to shout at the top of his voice, “Lazarus come forth!” knowing that it was God’s responsibility now (because he had prayed) and not his to bring Lazarus back from the dead.
Something so wonderful said by my fellowship President in my first year in the university, I can’t ever forget it. He said, “Faith isn’t risk! If it is Faith, it will work.” That stuck!
I simply ignore the alarms going off in my head and the beating drums in my heart, after all, I have no courage to summon. I am no magician but I have a God in whom I believe and like my saviour, will always hear me. The result of trusting in God is the person I have become. I am not saying that I am no longer afraid, I am saying that I am being glorified by God. So yes, I do not expect you to look at me and see a failure or a frustrated person, I do not even expect you to see a fearful person. That is what it means to be glorified by God.
Do you understand now what I mean when I say you are God’s greatest miracle? It’s not something to just make you feel good, it is because he puts an anointing on you – His Spirit – which makes you able to do and know all things. When fear ceases your heart and you seem paralysed, it’s the perfect opportunity to turn to him, a perfect opportunity for him to be glorified and for him to glorify you (make you perfect). So yes, you are God’s miracle waiting to be manifested.
Never let fear get the best of you. To everyone who receives Christ, he is a shining light to them, driving out fear and removing inadequacies. To my dear believers, I say to you that you have all your riches and abilities in God. This was Abraham’s blessing, “Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.” And to my friends who are yet to know God, I assure you that there is no easier way to flip your fear into faith than turning to God, he won’t abandon you, the only proof I can offer you for now is that he hasn’t abandoned me.
I know a song by Brendan Graham that you likely know, I hope that it always remind you to turn to God when fear stands at the door.
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until You come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be.