Sabbath, August 3, 2013
“It is by suffering that our virtues are tested, and our faith tried. It is in the day of trouble that we feel the preciousness of Jesus. You will be given opportunity to say, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’ (Job 13:15). Oh, it is so precious to think that opportunities are afforded us to confess our faith in the face of danger, and amid sorrow, sickness, pain, and death….” –Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 117, 118.
A test in a beloved family
1. What message did Mary and Martha of Bethany send to Jesus one day? What was their reason for doing this?
John 11:1-3 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
“Sorrow entered the peaceful home where Jesus had rested. Lazarus was stricken with sudden illness, and his sisters sent to the Saviour, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.’ They saw the violence of the disease that had seized their brother, but they knew that Christ had shown Himself able to heal all manner of diseases. They believed that He would sympathize with them in their distress; therefore they made no urgent demand for His immediate presence, but sent only the confiding message, ‘He whom Thou lovest is sick.’ They thought that He would immediately respond to their message, and be with them as soon as He could reach Bethany.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 525, 526.
Delaying the visit
2. Can sicknesses always be considered the consequence of a person’s improper actions? Humanly speaking, what would one think of the Master’s delay in responding after He received this message?
John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
John 11:4-6 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
“Disease never comes without a cause. The way is prepared, and disease invited, by disregard of the laws of health. Many suffer in consequence of the transgression of their parents. While they are not responsible for what their parents have done, it is nevertheless their duty to ascertain what are and what are not violations of the laws of health. They should avoid the wrong habits of their parents and, by correct living, place themselves in better conditions.
“The greater number, however, suffer because of their own wrong course of action.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 234.
“Anxiously they waited for a word from Jesus. As long as the spark of life was yet alive in their brother, they prayed and watched for Jesus to come. But the messenger returned without Him. Yet he brought the message, ‘This sickness is not unto death,’ and they clung to the hope that Lazarus would live. Tenderly they tried to speak words of hope and encouragement to the almost unconscious sufferer. When Lazarus died, they were bitterly disappointed; but they felt the sustaining grace of Christ, and this kept them from reflecting any blame on the Saviour.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 526.
Death takes its victim
3. What did Jesus decide to do after some days, even though the region of Judea was not a welcoming place for Him? What did the disciples recall?
John 11:7-10 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
“This delay was a mystery to the disciples. What a comfort His presence would be to the afflicted household! they thought. His strong affection for the family at Bethany was well known to the disciples, and they were surprised that He did not respond to the sad message, ‘He whom Thou lovest is sick.’
“During the two days Christ seemed to have dismissed the message from His mind; for He did not speak of Lazarus. The disciples thought of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. They had wondered why Jesus, with the power to perform wonderful miracles, had permitted John to languish in prison, and to die a violent death…. The Saviour had warned His disciples of trials, losses, and persecution. Would He forsake them in trial? Some questioned if they had mistaken His mission. All were deeply troubled….
“He who walks in a path of his own choosing, where God has not called him, will stumble. For him day is turned into night, and wherever he may be, he is not secure.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 526, 527.
4. In the meantime, what had happened to Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus? Did the disciples understand what had happened?
John 11:11-14 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
“The disciples felt rebuked. They had been disappointed because Christ did not respond more promptly to the message. They had been tempted to think that He had not the tender love for Lazarus and his sisters that they had thought He had, or He would have hastened back with the messenger. But the words, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,’ awakened right feelings in their minds. They were convinced that Christ had not forgotten His suffering friends.
“Christ represents death as a sleep to His believing children. Their life is hid with Christ in God, and until the last trump shall sound those who die will sleep in Him.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 527.
Trust in Jesus, even under sorrowful circumstances
5. Having the power to heal with only a few words, why did Jesus not go immediately to help his friend and comfort his sisters? What opportunity was Lazarus’ death for the disciples?
John 11:15, 16 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
“Therefore Christ remained away…. He permitted Lazarus to pass under the dominion of death; and the suffering sisters saw their brother laid in the grave. Christ knew that as they looked on the dead face of their brother their faith in their Redeemer would be severely tried. But He knew that because of the struggle through which they were now passing their faith would shine forth with far greater power….
“To all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is nearest….
“In delaying to come to Lazarus, Christ had a purpose of mercy toward those who had not received Him. He tarried, that by raising Lazarus from the dead He might give to His stubborn, unbelieving people another evidence that He was indeed ‘the resurrection, and the life.’… This crowning miracle, the raising of Lazarus, was to set the seal of God on His work and on His claim to divinity.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 528, 529.
6. When Jesus and His disciples reached Bethany, what were a number of Jews trying to do? What conviction did Martha express to the Saviour?
John 11:17-21 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
“The great outward display observed by the Jews at the death of friends or relatives was not in harmony with the spirit of Christ. He heard the sound of wailing from the hired mourners, and He did not wish to meet the sisters in the scene of confusion. Among the mourning friends were relatives of the family, some of whom held high positions of responsibility in Jerusalem. Among these were some of Christ’s bitterest enemies. Christ knew their purposes, and therefore He did not at once make Himself known.
“Martha hastened to meet Jesus, her heart agitated by conflicting emotions…. With grief surging in her heart because Christ had not come before, yet with hope that even now He would do something to comfort them, she said, ‘Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.’ Over and over again, amid the tumult made by the mourners, the sisters had repeated these words…. But looking into that face of love, she added, ‘I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 529.
7. Was His visit really too late to experience a great Revelation of God’s power? What powerful statement did Jesus make?
John 11:22, 23 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
“Jesus encouraged her faith, saying, ‘Thy brother shall rise again.’ His answer was not intended to inspire hope of an immediate change. He carried Martha’s thoughts beyond the present restoration of her brother, and fixed them upon the resurrection of the just. This He did that she might see in the resurrection of Lazarus a pledge of the resurrection of all the righteous dead, and an assurance that it would be accomplished by the Saviour’s power.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 530.
“We are to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. The answer to our prayers may not come as quickly as we desire, and it may not be just what we have asked; but He who knows what is for the highest good of His children will bestow a much greater good than we have asked, if we do not become faithless and discouraged….
“To all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is nearest…. From every temptation and every trial He will bring them forth with firmer faith and a richer experience.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 92.
“Many have expected that God would keep them from sickness merely because they have asked Him to do so. But God did not regard their prayers, because their faith was not made perfect by works. God will not work a miracle to keep those from sickness who have no care for themselves….” –Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 26.