Words . . . and . . . works. How does one relate to the other? Jesus is given a great opportunity to rescue His friend Lazarus from death. And He chooses not to.
Instead He speaks words. The One who came to heal the sick and raise the dead is, apparently, deciding to do the latter rather than the former.
Let’s look at our section of John 11 once more and then make several observations …
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
Jesus is being summoned to action and instead He stays and makes a speech. He delivers an astounding prediction: “This sickness will not end in death.” (v. 4). There are at least two ways that a sickness, a serious sickness, won’t “end in death,” it seems to me: (1) The sickness is cured; (2) the person dies but doesn’t stay dead. Death is not the final result; it isn’t the conclusion of the matter. Jesus didn’t say that Lazarus wouldn’t die. He said “This sickness will not end in death.”
Let’s think for a moment about the amazing declaration Jesus makes. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Only God can authoritatively declare why something is occurring. We know so little. Our insight is so narrow, so time-bound, so polluted by circumstances and feelings. But God can say why something, something terrible, is taking place. He may not always tell us why, but He knows. And the fact that we don’t know doesn’t make the moment or experience we’re going through meaningless.
Words . . . or . . . works? Which seems more suited to this event? Our perspective is so limited. All we can really do is . . . trust. (to be continued)