HopeCC Blog

The Mind-Bending Love of Christ

If someone you love is dying and you have the power to completely restore them, is it loving to withhold that healing power?

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

That is a question most of us will wrestle with at some point in regards to the God of the Bible and ourselves or our family/friends. I think answering this question and letting it settle in our hearts and minds is one of most important things that we can do— not only for ourselves, but for our testimony before this world. Therefore, it is all the more important that our answer be wholly informed by the Word of God with full assurance of faith. It is the only bedrock that can be a sure foundation underneath an answer to such an apparently loaded question, in what necessarily is an emotionally heightened context. So, may the Lord give us heart's eyes to see as we go there together.

Jesus Himself answered this question for us while He was living on the earth most clearly (at least to me) in John 11. There is a lot of love happening in this chapter and John, the Apostle and author, goes out of his way to make sure we don't miss it.

John 11:1-3, 5 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick"… Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

In the first five verses of the story, John includes two explicit and one implicit reference to the love that exists between Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus— "he whom You love", "Jesus loved", and "Mary who anointed the Lord" (I consider this implied love because no one would anoint the feet of someone they do not love with oil worth at least a year's wage, mixed with their tears, and apply it with their hair). That just can't be a mistake. I think John is writing this way so that when we come to verse 6, we would know that those words were not a mistake either.

John 11:5-6 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.

The first time I read that— I mean REALLY read that, I sat, mouth agape for a few minutes, absolutely stunned by these words. Follow the logic of these two sentences: Jesus loved these people, so, or therefore, he withheld his healing power from them. His love was a motive for the withholding. Do we have a category for that in our thinking about God? Not only did Jesus have the ability to heal, according to John 4:43-54 He had the ability to heal someone in a town many miles away from where He was. So, ability was not an issue. There was apparently nothing stopping Jesus from performing even a long-distance miracle— or was there?

There are two things I see that led Jesus to abstain from healing His friend. The first we've already encountered, namely His supernatural, mind-bending love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The second I left out and is revealed in verse 4.

John 11:4 When Jesus heard [that Lazarus was sick], He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

Jesus' unabashed love for His friends AND His unabashed love for the glory of God played a tandem role in how this story played out. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that a strong case could be made Biblically for the idea that God ALWAYS gives and withholds from His people (as opposed to those who are NOT His people— that's an important distinction to make) both for their good and for His glory. (see Rom. 8:28-37)

What would the world think if God's people had the same mind in them that was in Christ, especially in this regard? I'll tell you what they'll think— they'll think we are either absolutely insane OR they'll think that there must be some sort of ballast in our boat that causes us to weather the storms of life differently from most of the people they know. And, if they're thinking either of those, we had better heed the words of the Apostle Peter.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Given the context of 1 Peter (hope in suffering), I conclude that one of our greatest inroads into obedience to the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20) is living like Christ in this world— having a supernatural love for His glory and for other people. It's easy to say (or type), but it's much more difficult to live out. So, Heavenly Father, give us the mind of Your Son as you sanctify Your people unto obedience to Him. Give us Your wisdom from above, give us a deeper love for Jesus, and give us a deeper love for people. I ask it in the name of Your Son and Our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen!

To the praise of His glorious grace,

Andy Tucker