Summary: Is there a "design" in suffering? Ask the sisters of Lazarus.
God’s Unique Design in Suffering: A Portrait in the
Lives of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Part 1)
This morning we come to examine the last of seven miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. Each miracle reminds us that Jesus is God, sovereign in power, and that he is sent by his Father on a rescue mission to save those who are imprisoned by sin and death. In many ways, these seven miracles depict various aspects of salvation.
In turning the water into wine, Jesus demonstrates that He can radically alter the nature of things by transforming water from a common, tasteless drink into a refreshing and extraordinary beverage. He does this in the miracle of salvation: changing us from slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness, making us new creatures by His power, granting complete and radical transformation, transferring our allegiance from Satan and the powers of darkness to sons of God who live in the light.
When Jesus healed the nobleman’s son, he did so from a distance to show that his power to heal is not limited by physical proximity. At this moment, the Bible says that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, interceding for those he came to save. He can save you right where you sit, by the exercise of his powerful will from heaven’s throne. The Spirit of God can bring life and healing to your sin-sick soul by the hearing or reading of the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures are “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15b).
The third miracle, healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation. The Lord Jesus chose to demonstrate his power to heal in the life of one man out of a multitude who waited for the stirring of the waters. No one appealed to Jesus to have mercy on this poor, lonely man, yet for thirty-eight years he had struggled alone against the hope that he might one day be healed. No one brought him to Jesus, no one prayed for his healing, no one cared that he waited without anyone to help him into the water, no one felt the sorrow and hopelessness and pain and despair—except the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Believe me, dear friend: when Jesus chooses to show his mercy to you, it does not matter who you are or what you have done.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, he demonstrated that he is able to satisfy our deepest hunger for the “food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (6:27). He later spoke to the multitudes, some of whom had eaten the multiplied loaves and fishes, and he said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (6:35). Are you hungry for something more? Is there a deep longing in your soul for something that you can’t quite define or put your finger on? May you learn this morning that Christ alone can fill the void in your life. Will you believe in him and trust that he is able to save you from your sins and grant you life in abundance? What’s the catch, you may be thinking; there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And you are right. He wants everything you have, everything you are; he demands your full allegiance, and he will not share the rightful place he deserves in your heart with all of the other pitiful substitutes you have tried and found unfulfilling and shallow.
The fifth miracle displayed the power of Jesus over the laws of nature, as he walked on the water in the midst of the storm. Again, the Lord of glory makes it abundantly clear that he can come alongside you in the time of deepest distress and amidst the pressures of life. No storm is too fierce, no situation too impossible, no hardship so great that the Lord Jesus cannot intervene and bring to a glorious conclusion. The power of sin and darkness are little more than a platform to display his glory and power! In salvation, he is able to deliver you from those things that will ultimately demand your very life.
Miracle number six showed our Lord’s power over the seemingly irreversible effects of congenital blindness. A man was born blind, but Jesus created sight within him. As we talked about the nature of this miracle, it became obvious that Jesus did more than heal this man of an illness; he literally created a visual recognition system in a man that had never seen anything and he worked miracles in the man’s brain so that he could process the images that he saw with his newly created sight. You may remember my comment last time that John seems to relish the communication of this miracle, since he gives great detail (41 verses in John 9) and even captures the reaction of the Jews and their interrogation of the man and his parents. It’s as if the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is building to a crescendo through the pen of John.