Godly Lessons from the Story of Lazarus

James Philip Koshy

23 February, 2023

Transcript of this message is also available in English and Malayalam

Revivals occur when there is a hunger for God’s presence. When you constantly hunger for the presence of God, revivals can even commence at our homes, not just on Sunday mornings in a church. Instead of seeking the hands of God, we should seek His heart. We must have a desire to know what He wants from us, and live accordingly. Only if we seek the heart of God and hunger for His presence, will we be able to experience a revival.

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There was a question raised among all of God’s creations as to who or what was the strongest among them. One of them said it was iron, since nothing can destroy iron, to which iron said it was fire, since fire can melt iron. To this, fire said that it was water because water can quench any fire. Then water said it was the sun because the sun can evaporate water. Then the sun said it was not the strongest but the clouds are because clouds can stop the sun’s rays to which the cloud replied that it was the wind because the wind can scatter the clouds. The wind said it was not the strongest, but the mountain was because the mountain can weaken the power of the wind. So, everyone said the mountain is the strongest to which the mountain replied that, man is the strongest because he can use his machinery and cut the mountain apart. Then man said he was not the strongest but death was the strongest and powerful because “when death embraces me, I cease to exist”. So ‘death is the strongest’, everyone said. Then death said that it had always thought it was the strongest because it has embraced millions of people. But one day I embraced a man, but on the third day he rose again from his death and His name is Jesus Christ. 

Jesus Christ conquered death by His resurrection. He raised several people from death and Lazarus is one of them. 

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’.

John 11:3

Pondering on Lazarus’s story, it all started with a fever. Despite his sisters taking really good care of him, he was not getting any better. Instead he was getting worse. Martha and Mary thought that once Jesus reached their home, their brother would be alright. 

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”.

John 11:4

Despite Jesus saying that the sickness will not end in death, Lazarus passed away. When life takes unexpected twists and turns, remember that God has a better, richer, more exciting and more mysterious story to tell. Lazarus’s story was supposed to end up as a short story, with him falling sick and Jesus healing him. Instead, it turned out the way it did, so that His name would be glorified. Mary and Martha learned a few lessons from their painful experience. Lessons we too have to learn.

Lesson 1 – God’s plan does not always proceed in a straight line

Our minds work in a very basic and straightforward manner. When we fall sick, we think our recovery is supposed to follow a straight path – we fall sick, we consult the doctor, and we take medicines and recover. However, when God writes a story, this path may take several detours – it is difficult for the human brain to comprehend this, but trust that His plan is the best. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

God wraps up our good and your good and intertwines it for the good of others for His Purposes. Raising Lazarus from death was not solely for the betterment of his family. Instead, it happened so that the society and people who heard his story will have multiple folds of faith and be strengthened in Him. Don’t be surprised if your story takes a couple of twists and turns. For instance, Joseph saw a dream (Point A)). In his mind, point B would have naturally been him reigning over his parents and his brothers. He would not have ever imagined his story taking a detour to Egypt where he had to undergo a lot of trials. 

Lesson 2 – God’s love sometimes tarries for our good and His glory.

Why did Jesus wait around for Lazarus to die? Couldn’t He have gone to his house when he received the message that Lazarus was sick? Or could He have not sent a message to the messenger, asking him to go back and Lazarus would be healed? Although, He has done this in multiple instances, He chose not to do it. Only when you see Jesus face to face one day, will you understand the reason behind the things that happened to you.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:35-39

The promise of His love anchors your shaky world to His unshakeable Kingdom. Since He has held you tight to His unshakeable love, you will stand straight and strong and will not be shaken.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

John 11:5

We might not always understand His plans or His ways. But we must always trust that His love never fails. We can be sure of His love even when it tarries.

Lesson 3 – God’s ways are always not our ways but His character is always dependable.

The best thing about God’s personality is that He can be counted on, no matter what. He is trustworthy. We don’t need to fret even when it looks like hope is dead. We might not be able to see the end of the story. But we can trust the story writer.  Only when you really know someone, will you be able to trust them. If you find it difficult to trust Him, it means that you don’t really know Him. You get to know God in the darkness of the night when you feel overwhelmed and burdened and full of fear and uncertainty. You eventually discover that when you feel most alone, God is nearest to you. Only when you go through sufferings, will you know how trustworthy He is. He wants you to trust that no matter what you go through, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Know God, and that is the key to everything else. 

Lesson 4 – The ‘end’ is not the end; it is only the beginning

 Jesus tarried for a definite reason. He knew that when He is dead and buried, they would struggle with the concept of Resurrection. They would have doubts when his tomb turned empty. People might have been extremely suspicious and would have debated the possibility Jesus’s resurrection, simply because they had seen nothing of that sort. Jesus delayed going to Lazarus’s house until he died, simply to show the world that death is not the end. It can be the beginning of something beautiful and marvelous. When Jesus raised Lazarus from death, He put an end to Satan’s lie that death is the end. Your circumstances, even death, is fodder for His great plan. The major takeaway from Jesus’ resurrection is this – tragedy on Friday, darkness on Saturday, and triumph on Sunday. Once we imprint this in our minds, it’ll be easier for us to trust in Him and navigate through life. 

Lesson 5 – Do not put a full stop where God puts a comma

An old story goes like this. One day, a judge realized that an accused was not guilty and uttered the verdict; “Hang him not, leave him”. However, a clerk who heard it jotted down as “hang him, not leave him”. A punctuation mark can change the very meaning of a sentence. God asks you NOT to put a full stop where He has put a comma. It is hard to hope when hope is dead. God’s delays are not His denials. Delays are signs of His love, they are not signs of Him giving up on you. This is when faith comes into play. Faith is about how you live your life, how you make decisions when you don’t know for sure what is next. 

Waiting 4 days may have made Jesus late for a healing, but it made Him right on time for a resurrection. God is asking us to wait. He is asking us to be strong and to trust in His plan. Never put a full-stop when God puts a comma. When you think the sentence is over, the most important part may be yet to come. 

Lesson 6 – Do not put a comma where God puts a full-stop

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Mathew 16:21

Jesus informs His disciples about his death and eventual resurrection. He intends to puts a full stop and it is inevitable. However, when Peter found it hard to process and tried to put a comma to it, Jesus rebuked him. If you try to put a comma where God intends a full stop or when you attempt to breathe life into something God intends to die, you become a stumbling block to Christ and He will rebuke you. If God asks you to let go of something or someone you absolutely love, will you? If God asks you to bid farewell to a job that you are passionate about, will you? From a habit, to a city you have lived your whole life in, it can be anything. Endings are inevitable.

All these lessons bring us to the fundamental truth. The Father Knows the Best. God is the one telling the story. And we can trust Him to take the story in the right direction.

(Translated by Archa)