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“What the heck is going on?!” Isn’t that what we want to know? On the way to and from Lynchburg two weeks ago, my son Jack and I listened to Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam, an audio book about a soldier and his army dog in Vietnam. In the chaos, destruction, suffering and fear of war, the soldier named Rick shouted out many times “What the heck is going on?!!” Thank God we are not in the war situation like Vietnam or other wars; however, we are in a season of chaos, destruction, suffering, fear and anxiety. If we have been involved with life at all, we have likely asked out loud “What the heck is going on?!” And likely nobody has answered that question satisfactorily. Nobody seems to know the right answer.

The resurrection of Lazarus from the grave also ought to make us stop in our tracks and wonder “What the heck is going on here?!” And that response, being like what we ask in the face of the present crisis, might make us wonder if the story of Lazarus has anything to contribute to that question about our lives today.

In a crisis like the world is experiencing, our faith is tested. Either our faith in God sustains our hope, our joy, our love for others and our commitments or it fails and proves of little value against the crises of our times. The Proverb asserts that “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (24:10) and Isaiah prophesies, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’” (7:9)

For Mary and Martha along with Jesus’ disciples, they must have wondered how their faith in Jesus’ person and power may have missed its aim. For Mary and Martha, they wondered where Jesus was and why Lazarus continued to be sick and then died with Jesus nowhere to be found. The disciples wondered at Jesus’ response to the news Lazarus was sick. He didn’t seem bothered and then he led them back into the hostile midst of those who had already tried to kill him. The statements by Thomas who says “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” (16) and then Martha and Mary at his arrival who say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (21, 32) seem to resoundingly ask “What the heck is going on here Jesus?!”

In this story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, there are at least four indications of what is going on with Jesus that I think also apply to today and can give us insight into what the heck is going on:

1. This event is for the glory of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may forget sometimes that we are not the most important thing to God. No doubt we are important…he loves us so much that he gave his one and only Son to die for us. The glory and praise of God is at the center of the universe, not humanity. All things exist for the glory of God. The work of Jesus glorifies God. In heaven, all creatures encircle the throne of God and bow down in worship before HIM.

Jesus says flat out of Lazarus’ illness and death, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (4) This is God’s priority. What is going on in this story is that God is being glorified in Jesus. It so happens that when the Father and the Son are glorified people receive the blessing.

Can we have faith to believe today that in the midst of this crisis that God is being glorified and Jesus is being glorified through it? Can we make that our prayer? “God be glorified in this crisis…May the Name of Jesus be glorified.” Even in the face of the impossible, Jesus confronts everyone like he did Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (40) Don’t doubt that God’s glory will be revealed and prevail. The more we believe the more we will see.

I know we want to be safe, secure, comfortable, well off in all ways. A greater purpose than those things is that God would be glorified.

2. The glory of God reveals his goodness and salvation so that people will believe and be saved to eternal life. Jesus does this work of raising Lazarus from the dead after four days, “so that you may believe.” (15) When Martha confronts him and laments her brother’s death that Jesus could have prevented, Jesus emphasizes to her that this death is not the end. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25-26)

This is extraordinary. Jesus is life over death. By believing in him, even though we die in this flesh, we shall live. And in fact if we believe in him our true self will not die but live forever. This would be unbelievable except that Jesus is about to prove his power that confirms its truth. He calls forth Lazarus from the dead after four days and proves he is life over death and that he has power to give life.

Jesus confronts Martha, “Do you believe this?” (26) Are you willing to base your life on this? Will you devote yourself to this truth?

That is what is going on…Jesus is showing his power to save and asking people to believe. Jesus even says his prayer aloud to the Father that people might believe in him. (41-42) Today, what is going on? Perhaps Jesus is allowing this crisis to occur and continue so that we would turn to him and believe. Because clearly we have no power to save ourselves, and none of us can avoid death eventually. God is getting our attention so that we would believe in him as the only one who can save for eternal life. This is a greater goal than anything in this earth. Pray that people would believe in Jesus. Make sure that you are believing in Jesus. The time any of us have left on this earth does not compare at all to the time we have after death. Believe for your eternal life and pray for others to be saved.

lazarus

3. What else is going on? The gospel story shows us that Jesus is involved with people. He is in the midst of the distress, the crisis, the chaos and the suffering. Jesus certainly could have healed Lazarus from a distance. He did it for others–healing with a word, but he doesn’t exclude himself from the midst of suffering and mourning. He goes right into it allowing Martha and Mary to seize him with their grief. Jesus is in no way unemotional or detached relationally. He is fully God and fully human; both are exquisitely displayed in this story. Jesus came into humanity’s suffering, and he continues to do so today.

In verses 33 & 38, John’s gospel twice describes Jesus as being “deeply moved.” This could be literally translated as “snorting with anger,” “groaning,” “being indignant,” “scolding against the situation,” “intensely emotional,” etc. The bottom line is that Jesus was emotionally charged in a deep part of himself and demonstrated it. In the midst of the mourning and indignation, “Jesus wept.” (35) Jesus was moved by the suffering of people. He was moved in his heart and in his gut.

What is going on is that Jesus experiences intense empathy and compassion for people in their suffering. Today, what the heck is going on? Jesus is present with everyone who is suffering and is grieving and is being frightened. Jesus has compassion and great love toward all people and is present. He is not distant from us but near us that we might reach out to him and cry out to him. Now is a time when we need to be equally moved to cry out to him and reach out for his presence. Perhaps he is waiting for us all to do just that. If you have not bared your soul to Jesus and been praying earnestly to him, I have to ask “Why not”? If not now, when? Turn to him and pour out your heart to him. He is present with you.

4. One more thing that is going on…Jesus is destroying the power of sin, death and Satan. Jesus is overcoming all of the curses of sin that bind people to Satan, sin and death. Jesus absolutely hates sin and death. He hates the curse of suffering. He is not passive against these enemies of God. He actively overcomes them. Lazarus is bound in death. He is bound to the curse of sin as he was bound to darkness and Satan in life. Jesus yanks him out of death’s grasp and frees him from the trappings of sin and Satan. Jesus is Son of God and also Son of man. Do you think he likes to win, to experience victory like any of us do? Like any man, he likes to win. His battles are life and death for eternity. This story of Lazarus is an example of Jesus winning a victory over his enemies and stomping on them. “Move the stone, Lazarus get out here, Unbind him, Come on!” Yes, victory. Shout Hallelujah!!

What is going on today? Jesus is winning. He is saving people everyday from the bondage of sin and death. He is setting people free from the devil’s grasp. Suffering and death are not the end. They are grotesque enemies that Jesus continues to conquer today for eternity. The resurrection of Lazarus and especially the glorified resurrection of Jesus demonstrate the eternal victory Jesus has over death and the grave. It is manifesting today, even though we might not see it on the news. Have faith that Jesus is conquering death all around us. And Pray for Jesus to completely conquer this sickness in the world and remove it from the face of the earth and demonstrate the victory for all to see. He can do it! Maybe he is encouraging us to believe for it. Maybe he is waiting for his perfect timing. Maybe he is accomplishing his purposes throughout the world in the midst of it. He has the power to do what he wills.

Today we are looking for wins that matter. I love sports and to win and for my team to win. And I honestly haven’t missed watching sports that much, because the focus has been on a greater battle…a battle for life, for health, for civility, for businesses, for healthcare workers, for food, for freedom, for lawfulness, for sanctity of life and for people repenting and turning to Jesus. We are cheering for rescue and salvation. Jesus is winning and is going to win ultimately.

What the heck is going on?! Jesus is Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s and his kingdom is coming soon. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed and it is real and spectacular. Rejoice in the Lord, Pray continually and Give thanks in all circumstances. Yes, Jesus is the Victor and cannot be defeated.