Purpose of suffering? - To glorify the Father
Text: John 11: 1-16
Text verse: John 11: 4
In this section we are taught an important lesson about hearing prayers. The bond of love that existed between Jesus and Lazarus is revealed to us in verse 3. It is also emphasised in verse 5 when it says that Jesus loved them.
This is important background for what happens then, because Jesus wilfully stays two more days before He begins the journey to Judea. This woman asks Jesus to come urgently, but He takes His time. Humanly speaking, we would like to deduce from this that Jesus does not love them as much as they thought or that Jesus may reject their request.
We also often feel this way about Jesus hearing our prayers. We plead and ask but nothing happens or things go very differently from what we asked for. Then it is difficult for us to understand why this happens and why the Lord allows it.
One reason why we do not always understand this is because of our own selfish desires. We want God to listen to us. Another reason why it is difficult for us to accept is our own pride. We think that we know better or that we know everything, while we are taught here that the Lord’s will is much deeper than our minds can ever comprehend.
Jesus does not come immediately because He must raise Lazarus from the dead.
We do not know what will happen in the future. How then can we ever think we know what is best?
Jesus’ conversation with the disciples is instructive. We find here at least two reasons why we should not expect God to always give us what we ask of Him in prayer.
1. God’s glory must be made known (vs. 4).
Because Jesus did not go to the women when they asked, the Son of Man could be glorified. If we want to satisfy our own selfish desires, our goal is actually to glorify ourselves.
However, when we understand the grace and love of God in Jesus’ salvation, we will realise that our lives should not be about ourselves. We owe our lives to God, therefore we must glorify Him in everything.
2. Be purposeful, time is short (vs. 9-10)
The image Jesus uses here indicates that there are only a certain number of hours in the day in which you can perform your task. Similarly, the hour of Jesus’ death was near and therefore He must use the time to complete His task as Mediator. This despite all the obstacles and danger that threatens his life.
Likewise, we should not focus on everything that does not happen the way we want it to. We should rather focus on the task that the Lord gives us to complete.
We can complete this task because we have the spiritual light that Jesus came to give us. Through this light, which gives us our faith in Jesus, we see that the path that God has set for us is open. The way is open because Jesus went through death on our behalf.
Therefore, do not focus on what you are asking for and not receiving. Rather, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. In his salvation we see that God’s name is glorified even by something like death. He gives the outcome in a bigger and more glorious way than we can ever imagine. Therefore, work purposefully to glorify His name in your life.