When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  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. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
John 11:32-44 NIV
Jesus was sent by God to be the chief persuader. He was on a mission to convince, and in John 11:32-44 he is faced with grief, one of the most traumatic afflictions of faith any human being can experience. The sisters of Lazarus had watched their brother die when Jesus failed to arrive, and were plunged into deep grief accompanied by doubt. This grieving doubt had an emotional effect on Jesus as Scripture says he was “deeply moved” (John 11:33,38).
These sisters, Mary and Martha, had sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When Jesus received this message, he said, “This sickness will not end in death,” but then “stayed where he was two more days.” His delay and the death of Lazarus would create enormous grief, but he allowed it, because in his words “it is for God’s glory,” meaning the pain is necessary to convince and create the conviction of faith in those who would be touched by the approaching miracle.
The word convince means “to cause someone to believe something or to do something,” and in this moment of traumatic grief born from delay, Jesus had to convince those who had counted on him but been disappointed in his timing.
In truth, the delay only mattered because they were limiting the power of Jesus to healing the sick, because it was unimaginable that he could raise the dead. In fact, when Jesus arrived and asked them to move the stone so he could raise Lazarus from the dead, Martha’s unbelief was so profound that she said, “But, Lord…by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Even though Martha was a disciple of Jesus, she was not fully convinced of who he was, nor was her sister Mary.
All he needed was three words, because when Jesus said, “Lazarus, come out!” the Bible continues by saying, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” The Lord finished off with panache as he said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
When we are confused, and facing emotional trauma like grief, it is important to trust God and realize his delay is never callous disregard. He is always working to convince and save as many as possible, something we see as this wonderful story of Lazarus concludes with not only his sisters being convinced, but “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did” believed in him as well.
Read John 11-13.
Read Romans 8:37-39 to list and believe all the reasons to be convinced of God’s love
Read II Corinthians 5:14-15 and examine your faith that Jesus died and rose from the dead.
Read II Timothy 3:14-17 and examine your conviction that Scripture is God’s Word.
Jesus was convincing. Thousands of years after he walked the earth no name holds the same significance as the name of Jesus. What we must ask ourselves today is whether his people and church are as convincing as him, and the answer will be found in two questions. How deep is our conviction that God loves us, sent his son to die on the cross, then raised him from the dead? How deep is our conviction that the Holy Scriptures are God’s Word, passed on to us so we could continue to convince the world in future generations? Without deep conviction on these two questions it will be difficult for us to be as convincing as Jesus, so let us begin the journey of becoming more deeply convinced ourselves, so we can convince others.
*Definitions in “The 12 Days of Jesus” studies are based on the Cambridge Dictionary
- Feature: The 12 Days of Jesus
- Day 1: Conqueror of Darkness
- Day 2: Courage in the Temple
- Day 3: Compassion for the Disabled
- Day 4: Confidence Turns the Tide
- Day 5: Captivating the Crowds
- Day 6: Cagey and Colorful in Conflict
- Day 7: Controversial to the Conventional
- Day 8: Convincing the Confused
- Day 9: Comforting the Cautious
- Day 10: Clarity for the Complicated
- Day 11: Calm for the Chronically Contentious
- Day 12: Concerned about the Cynical
Written by Russ Ewell
who serves as Director of BACC Next,
where he is tasked with thinking about the future.