Summary: This is part 5 in a series I did on the 7 "I Am" statements of Jesus in John.
June 15, 2003
“The Resurrection and the Life”
Our text for the morning is John 11; we have a lengthy section of text, and so I’ve asked the Praise Team to help me with the reading of the Scripture this morning. If you’d like to turn in your Bibles and follow along, that’d be good! We are continuing in our study this morning on the theme, “Who does Jesus say He is?” Again, in our contemporary world, there is no lack of interpretations and ideas about just who Jesus is. Some find in Jesus merely a great moral example, or a great teacher, or a person with deep ethical insight. Others find in Him the ultimate expression of compassion, or a great miracle-worker. But while we would agree with all of these suggestions and more, are they sufficient? Jesus makes, in the book of John, seven statements which reveal His person and His mission; this morning, we focus on the fifth of those statements. Listen and follow along as we read together!
One of the weaknesses of contemporary Christianity, I believe, is an inability to acknowledge that there are some things about God and His workings and His dealings which we simply do not understand. I’m not sure if that predilection is something which we derive from a culture that is bent on always figuring things out, or if it stems from an insecurity on our parts. Perhaps it comes from a fear that, if we cannot explain and defend God’s actions on every point, then either He or we or both come off as looking badly. We are often afraid to say, “I just don’t know!” And then we come to this passage, which in my judgment contains several questions which for us are difficult to answer with certainty. Note with me
4 Things I Do Not Know:
1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Now, I speak in the contemporary, generic sense of the term “good people” this morning, not in the Biblical sense as relates to sin. We all know that this happens every day: innocent people who suffer in ways which seem random, for lack of a better term. Just this week, we hear of a bus bombing in Jerusalem which results in the deaths of 16 people. Sitting on a bus, minding their own business one minute, and then, in a split second, their lives end. This week, I heard of a 16-year-old young lady charged with manslaughter. She had been driving her car and lost control of it, crashing into a car driven by a young mother. The young mother perished in the accident. Here one moment, gone the next! I heard another story of a stolen car taken on a high speed chase by a young hoodlum, who crashed the car broadside into another. The young punk survived the accident, but the man driving the other car did not. And for each of these, there are hundreds more examples of people who, seemingly randomly, find themselves the recipients of some form of what we would call “bad luck”. Why?
Lazarus was sick, contracting a disease of some type which eventually proved fatal. Likely, Lazarus hadn’t lived what we would call a “full life”; he was about to die “before his time”. He, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, had been supporters of Jesus, believers in Him. In common parlance, Lazarus was a “good guy”. Why did this bad thing happen to him? We learn from the fact of it that Christians are certainly not immune to suffering and pain. This popular pseudo-theology that is making the rounds today that would suggest otherwise fails to square either with the witness of the Bible or the witness of contemporary observation. Bad things happen to good people, and I don’t know why!
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book on the topic, and his conclusion was something like this: God can’t do anything to stop those bad things happening! I reject that notion; the God of the Bible is anything but a 98-pound weakling! And yet, I cannot explain in concrete terms why some people go through life and are practically untouched by tragedy and difficulty, while others encounter much more than their fair share.
2. Why does God often seem to do nothing?
Jesus got the word that Lazarus was sick…and did nothing about it, at least initially. He allowed Lazarus to die. Without question, Mary and Martha believed in Jesus’ ability to stop that illness in its tracks; it is evident in their words, “Lord, if you’d been here, Lazarus wouldn’t have died!” These were people of deep faith, and yet, despite their deep faith, which we’ll talk about again in a few moments, God did not answer. Nothing, initially. They were left to wait and wonder, as their brother got progressively worse and died. Still, nothing from God. He allowed it to happen. Now, we know the end of the story, of course…but we also know that this is a miracle, because it usually doesn’t turn out this way! We don’t see it a matter of common practice for people to be raised from the dead by Jesus, do we? People who die physically stay dead, physically. And often, they die in the first place despite the fervent prayers of people of faith who cry out to God—and God does, seemingly, nothing. Sometimes, to be sure, God seems to answer in ways that border on the miraculous, but other times, it is as though the heavens are made of brass. Why?