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The Hard Choices of Jesus Christ
by Cris Cramer
04/05/11
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The Hard Choices of Jesus Christ
Meditation on John 11:4-6
by Cris Cramer

John 11:4-6 (NIV):
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." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.


Occasionally I am totally gobsmacked by the hardness of what Jesus does -- not the healing the sick and calming the seas stuff, not the "impossible" things. I mean the difficulties of living with people, dealing with people, experiencing antagonism and rejection, loving people who hated him ... and choosing to do things that he knew would cause hurt, for the sake of the greater plan.

That's where this story begins, with Jesus hearing about a dear friend's illness, and deliberately choosing to stay away. He knew the cost; he knew that Lazarus was suffering, his sisters Mary and Martha were suffering, that they were paying a terrible price for his obedience to his Father's will. Lazarus sank into death, and his sisters experienced his loss. Those were real things, real pain, real suffering, real shock. We know how the story ends, but they did not. They had to walk through it the long way, the hard way. And Jesus had to let them do it, even though he could have prevented it all. He never had to go to Lazarus to heal him; there are numerous examples of him healing people at a distance. But he withheld his power and stayed put, until the right time. He let Lazarus die.

I don't believe for a second that Jesus was indifferent to the pain that his intentional delay caused. When he tells the disciples that Lazarus had died, he very specifically says "for your sake I am glad I was not there," tacitly acknowledging the complexities of the situation. He knows that great good will come from his action for many people, including Lazarus and his family, but he's not universally pleased. He doesn't say "Boy, I'm glad I wasn't there! Now you're really gonna see something!" He's not happy that, in order for the miracle to happen, good people have to experience terrible things. He's not pleased that he has to let them. But he does. And to me, that looks like a desperately hard thing to do. He let the hurt happen for the sake of the glory that would be revealed, but that doesn't mean the hurt didn't matter, or that he didn't care. On the contrary, if the hurt was insignificant, then the miracle would be insignificant too. And if he let them experience really awful suffering, then the reason for doing it had to be enormously important, in order to justify his choice.

Thinking about this story reminds me how deeply God cares, how deeply Jesus cares about what we experience in life. I'm reminded that God can prevent anything, absolutely anything from happening; so if he chooses to let something difficult in, something tragic or painful or unfair, it means he has an enormously important reason for doing so, a reason big enough to justify the hurt. God doesn't want to see his family suffer, but he also keeps their ultimate good firmly in mind, and he will always choose to do what is best -- and he will willingly absorb his share of the pain, in order to get us through it. I'm reminded to trust in him for that.

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