Monday, January 5, 2009

Shall we never fall ill?

Malcolm's 5/1/09 post - A Matter of Life and Death - drew some comments/questions from a sister, Tris. I wanted to answer Tris at Mal's blog but I felt that my answer (which is rather lengthy) should also appear here as his questions reflect the defeatist gospel that is being preached in many churches today.

Tris asked: So what are we to make of health? Are we to believe that we shall never fall ill? Or is it, as Jesus said when Lazarus became ill (John 11:4) that the Glory of God be shown through it? Are we to believe that we will never ever suffer and are somehow removed from the First Sin, or that through our inevitable troubles that we look to God and see our truth and hope? God rebuked the Israelites whom He so loved - what is so deserving of our generation that we are above this reprimand?

The story of Lazarus is in John 11 and let's look at v1-v54 to see the full context. I shall highlight the key verses that illustrate my point.

John 11

The Raising of Lazarus
1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.[a] Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people[b] in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”

9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”

12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.

14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”

16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d] down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 28 Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” 29 So Mary immediately went to him.

30 Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31 When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[f] and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council[g] together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple[h] and our nation.”

49 Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time,[i] said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

51 He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. 52And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.

53 So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death. 54 As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples.


John 11 is actually setting the stage for Jesus to accomplish his ultimate mission on earth i.e. Jesus, the Son of God dies on the cross in atonement for man's sin.

In John 11:4, Jesus said “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” This whole Lazarus episode, when it is fully played out, will announce to the Jews that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Jesus specifically said that Lazarus's sickness will not end in death but in v14 we see Jesus plainly telling his disciples that Lazarus is dead. Jesus' objective is not to heal Lazarus of his sickness but to raise him from the dead. That is why v6 says that Jesus stayed where he was for two days even after being told that Lazarus was very sick. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that he could perform the greatest miracle of raising the dead. Why?

Jesus has been healing the sick, even making the blind see (v37) but the Jews still see him as merely a prophet, a rabbi and a miracle healer.

Jesus told Martha in v25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Martha relied “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

This is what Jesus wanted to proclaim to the Jews: he is the Messiah, the Son of God and those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. (v45). So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.(v53) This marks the beginning of Jesus' road to Calvary, the cross.

Caiaphas, the high priest himself prophesied about this (v49-50): “You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world. (v51-52)

Lazarus' sickness and death was meant to bring glory to Jesus as the Son of God before his passion and death on the cross. Now that Jesus has already died and rose again, we cannot accept being sick as bringing glory to God because Jesus has borne all our diseases and by his wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

God does NOT rebuke us through sickness. God desires that we prosper and be in health (3 John 1:2). Does this mean that we shall never fall sick? No but Jesus himself said in John 16:33b: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." So if you feel sick, take heart because Jesus has overcome that sickness.

How does God rebuke us now? Through His Word. By showing us the correct path in His Word, maybe through anointed preaching, a fellow brother correcting our error or even our own bible reading.

By the way, Tris is right in that we don't deserve any of this goodness from God. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)


2 comments:

Malcolm Loh said...

Hi Stan

Thanks for shedding light on that passage.

Oh by the way, I think Tris is actually a sister :-D

Stanley Wong said...

oops ... will amend my post :"-)