“If ONLY I could…..I’d make this world a better place” are the first lines of a song sung by Wendy Matthews a few years ago. They are the words of someone who cares about the suffering of others and wants to fix things. They are also the words of someone who is very aware of their own limitations. She has a picture in her mind of what she wants to achieve because she wants to make a difference, but her own powerlessness frustrates her. We can all identify with that.
BUT, what if you really did have the power to make the world a better place? What would you do? And assuming you knew what was best for everyone, how would you make it happen? And, if you had opposition how would you overcome them? And, how far would you be prepared to go to achieve what you wanted to do. The reality is that we neither have the power, nor the know-how, nor the cooperation to pull it off. As caring people, our powerlessness frustrates us. But, too much power might turn us into monsters.
Jesus had to answer the questions of grieving people when he arrived at the house of His friend Lazarus, four days after his death. He knew what He was going to do but Lazarus’s sisters and the others could not understand why He allowed it to happen.
The two sisters asked a question which tends to be asked when a crisis gets too much for us and the suffering becomes unbearable. They said, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” In other words, “Where were you?” Some of the mourners were even more explicit saying, ”Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept His friend Lazarus, whom he loved, from dying?” In other words, “Do you really care?” Today, we might ask, “Lord, why don’t you do something? You have the power to stop the suffering. Don’t you care?”
Jesus showed us that God does care, and that He has done something about our plight.
FIRSTY, Jesus showed His compassion by weeping with those who suffered.
When He arrived at Bethany He found two sisters weighed down with sadness and many of their friends trying to comfort them. He was deeply moved and at one point He wept. This may seem strange given that we know what he was about to do. He could have cheered them up and told them to stop fretting because everything will be all right. Rather, He shared the burden of their suffering as one who understood what they were going through. Jesus had seen much death and suffering in His time on earth, including the death of His step father Joseph. He cared….., so it hurt. You can’t stop the hurt without stopping the caring. He also knew that while the raising of Lazarus would be a moment of joy it cannot erase or make unimportant the reality of suffering that people have already experienced.
SECONDLY, Jesus showed His capabilities by raising Lazarus from the dead, and later Himself.
Lazarus was well and truly dead when Jesus arrived. Martha even warned Jesus about the smell since it had been four days. And Jesus was truly dead when they took Him off the cross. You can’t survive the brutality of whipping and crucifixion, which He was to endure only a few days later. Jesus was confronted by a question about his absence. He had deliberately delayed His coming so that no one would doubt the reality of what He was to do. He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” He told them that He had power even over death and had come to bring life to all who would believe in him. Easy words to say. So, He gave a demonstration. Many believed. If He can raise the dead, He is more than capable of meeting my needs. His own resurrection would demonstrate this power beyond doubt.
THIRDLY, Jesus showed His commitment by going all the way to the cross for us.
Jesus raised Lazarus to life again but he would die again sometime in the future. That is the situation we all have to face one day. His commitment to save us from our situation went far beyond temporary reprieves. A few days later, He would be crucified by his enemies, buried in a tomb and then rise again after three days. Jesus did that for you and me because He is committed to saving us, no matter what it takes. The scripture say Christ died on the cross for our sins. The consequences for our sins were laid on him. He became Gods answer to the world’s biggest problems – sin and death. When we believe in Him we are released from our sins and given a new life. Scripture says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God offers us a new life as a gift because we could never be good enough to earn it. When Jesus rose from the grave Himself, He showed us that he had the power to change the world and do what He said. We don’t have that power, no matter how good our intentions, but we do have the power to let go of our sins, put our trust in the Lord and invite Him to be the center of our lives. God’s plan to change the world is a plan to change you and me, but he will not force us. We must choose. Jesus went through a lot to give us that opportunity. Have you given your life to Him? He is the only one qualified to do a better job with it than you can. Johns Gospel, Chapter 3, verse 16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
A personal note. A number of years ago, our daughter was seriously hurt in a car accident. She should have died, but she didn’t. In the same week, the 4-year-old son of another Christian couple died in their back yard. We thank the Lord every day for preserving our daughter but realize that life doesn’t always deliver happy endings. We know that it would have been better for our daughter to be with the Lord but He chose not to take her. We have a happy ending but the hurt caused by the suffering is still very real. We have struggled to find a point to it all. We know that there is one because we know God’s heart. God’s purposes are much bigger than our little individual lives and yet the cross can comfort us because it tells us we are all important to God and that He does understand. The resurrection gives us confidence that God knows what He is doing and is quite capable of doing it. There is a point to everything, even if the only place where it is known is in the mind of the Lord. The Lord loves to tell His friends some of what’s on His mind but usually He says, “TRUST ME!”