But for me, the clearest illustration of what total faith should look like is the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:1-45 I think I love this story so much because I see Jesus' frustration and growing anger at their lack of faith and understanding. If those who were closest to Him couldn't understand and believe, how could anyone?! Mary, Martha and Lazarus were Jesus' dear friends. They believed He was the Messiah, believed He could heal people and loved Him. But even with that knowledge and close personal relationship, they didn't have complete faith and total trust in what Jesus could do.
A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” John 11:1-3 Mary and Martha knew if their friend Jesus came, He would heal their brother. But Jesus had a Kingdom lesson to teach! Our greatest lessons are often learned in the face of trials and this was one of those trials. 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.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He stayed where He was for the next two days. Finally, He said to His disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” John 11:4-7
Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus but He waited two days to go. He waited two days for Lazarus to die and be placed in a tomb so that God and His Son Jesus would get the glory for raising Lazarus from the dead. He had healed many people, so it wasn't hard to believe He could heal; but they had never before seen Him--or anyone else--raise someone from the dead! Their faith needed to be stretched and grow to an unprecedented level. The great Teacher was testing their faith and teaching them what limitless faith in the Kingdom was.
This must have also been a very frustrating time for the "human side" of Jesus because they were surely testing His patience with them. First, His disciples didn't want go because they were afraid the people of Judea would stone Him. But His disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone You. Are you going there again?” John 11:8 Next, when He told them that Lazarus was sleeping, they didn't understand what He meant. He had to tell them point blank for them to understand: Then He said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.
So He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” John 11:11-14
Next, Thomas reluctantly agreed to do as Jesus said, and to die there. He was faithful to obey Jesus, but believing they would all die! Thomas, nicknamed Didymus, the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” John 11:16
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Martha went to meet Him to express her disappointment that He was late! When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever you ask.”
Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” John 11:20-24 (We remember Martha and Mary from Luke 10:38-42 where Martha was upset that Mary was worshiping as Jesus' feet and not helping her with her preparations, so this isn't her only time of complaining to her friend Jesus) Martha had faith to believe for Lazarus' healing, but not that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead. And Mary, the worshiper, was so upset she didn't even go to meet Him! I think we've all known "Marys and Marthas" in our lives! Jesus had to send word to Mary to come to Him. 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.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within Him, and He was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” He asked them. They told Him, “Lord, come and see.” John 11:32-34
Can you feel what Jesus was feeling? The very people who should have had complete faith in what He said and what He was able to do, doubted Him. Now He had Mary saying that if He just hadn't been late her brother would still be alive! Then we come to one of the most well known and most misunderstood verses in the Bible: Jesus wept.
Then the Jews who were standing nearby said, “See how much He loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t He have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Jesus was still angry as He arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. John 11:36-39 What a day! I feel His anger and frustration at their lack of faith. They love Him, believe in Him but they are unable to fully see the power that works in Him. Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” John 11:40 Even in all this unbelief, He brought Lazarus back to life so that God would get the glory and their faith would be increased.
So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing Me. 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.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 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!” John 11:41-44
What an amazing, faith-building lesson! What is your level of faith? I encourage you to increase your faith to the level of miraculous! If you've already seen it done before, or you can do it in your own strength, it doesn't make a demand on your faith. Also, trust the Lord that if He doesn't do exactly what you are asking for it is because He has something better for you than you could even imagine or think. Have faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him always! Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do abundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP
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