John 11: 40-44
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
I feel like we’re in a process of excavating ancient ruins. We’ve uncovered the top of something special. We’ve seen just a hint of what is beneath and we have no idea the depth and breadth of what we will find. It’s one of the most beautiful things about Scripture. No matter how much you dig, there is always something to uncover. And the more you read and study, the better you can grasp the larger picture and how everything fits. These verses today uncovered several pieces that we will see fit together in a way that shows us the progression of a faith walk.
In the middle paragraph of our verses, Jesus is talking to His Father. He’s essentially praying. He starts off by thanking the Father for hearing His prayers, and then mentions that He always knew that the Father hears His prayers. But He prayed this “for the benefit of people standing here.” This is not the only time that Jesus does something partially to set an example for the people around Him. But if you notice, while He was setting an example, it was not His reason for praying this. He clearly states that His reason is so that “they may believe that you sent me.”
The point is the Gospel. The point is always the Gospel. Jesus wasn’t raising Lazarus from the dead to show off that He could perform miracles. And He wasn’t just proving that He was special. The point is not Jesus Himself, but that people believe that Jesus is sent from the Father. Jesus prayed so that they could hear Him, and then when Lazarus is raised the people around know that it didn’t just happen by chance. The point of the miracle was for people to believe.
But do you remember that we’ve already seen in this passage an emphasis on belief? Just before this, Jesus spoke to Martha and told her that if she believed, she would “see the glory of God.” Both are working together here. Martha needs to believe in order to see, but Jesus also does this so that people will believe. The Bible makes it very clear that there is a strong correlation between the presence of belief and faith, and miracles happening. It reminds me of the passage that talks about how the smallest amount of faith can move mountains. We’ve seen that already in this passage. Martha had to take the step of faith and be a willing participant in what God was doing.
Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is the beginning and the end. Like Martha, if we believe, we will see the glory of God. And when we see and experience the glory of God, two things happen: we believe even more deeply and more people believe. Again, the point is the Gospel. The Gospel is not a philosophy of life to be acted out, but is a saving relationship, through Jesus, with the Creator of all. Our true belief and faith in Jesus can not be separated from the kind of belief and faith that He asked for from Martha. A belief and faith in Jesus, omitting the ability and presence of miracles is not a belief in Jesus as the Son of God. It is a belief in Jesus simply as a role model and nothing else.
This passage uncovers for us that faith is not just required to “see the glory of God”, but it is also why God reveals His glory. This is the cycle for faith and evangelism that the Bible lays out. Faith and belief in Jesus, especially in desperate situations, gives us the opportunity to see how a divine and all powerful God can tangibly intervene and impact things. And when this happens, it of course challenges others to believe because no other religion or philosophy can offer that!
This then begs to ask the question… if our faith and belief is void of this kind of “glory of God”, then is the ‘religion’ we are offering people any different than the others? Or are we just living life with Jesus as our biggest role model?