Saturday, April 01, 2017

When love doesn't make sense

Mary anoints Jesus' feet - Alexandre Bida
Mary anoints Jesus' feet - Alexandre Bida

'It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil 
and wiped His feet with her hair 
whose brother Lazarus was sick" - John 11:2

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 11:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “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. Then after this He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” John 11:5-7

“Tough love” is a common English expression. The Urban Dictionary defines it as “Another version of ‘being cruel to be kind.’ To show somebody some tough love today will save them heartache in the future but may cause a small amount of upset for the receiver immediately after ‘tough love’ has been dispensed.”

Tough love is what I would call Jesus staying “… beyond the Jordan” (John 10:40) for a full two days after hearing from Martha and Mary that their brother and His close friend Lazarus was sick in Bethany. His love and His delay are connected in our reading with the word “So.” However, His delay and his love don’t seem to fit together, do they?

Even before the incident played out, Jesus named for His disciples two reasons for His hanging back:
1] 'that the Son of God may be glorified through it'” - John 11:4.

2] 'that you may believe'” - John 11:15.

God’s glory and a reason to believe weren’t apparent in those first hours. Our today’s reading leaves us in the middle of the story with Martha, Mary, and crowd of friends and neighbors mourning Lazarus, who had actually died (John 11:19).

I take three thoughts about God’s tough love from this part of the story:

1. God’s tough love impacts more than just those involved in the incident.
Though Jesus stayed away because He loved these particular people, what was about to happen would impact a far larger group of people. God would be glorified for all (Martha and Mary, the disciples, all the bystanders and those who heard their report) to see.

2. God’s tough love invites a personal reaction.
Jesus told the disciples this incident would help them believe in Him (John 11:15). But belief wasn’t always the result of observing His miracles. A few days ago we read the story of Jesus healing the blind man and watched as the Pharisees looked under every stone for a reason not to believe in Him (John 9). We too have a choice. Will we view His actions toward us through a lens of belief or unbelief?

3. In the middle of the story, God’s tough love may be confusing.
If we read a few verses beyond today’s passage, we can hear the disappointment, almost blame in Martha’s words: “‘Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died’” - John 11:21. In fact, I would go so far as to say that for us, we may never, in this life, understand all the times and ways that the seemingly unfortunate incidents in our lives have been God hugging us with some tough love.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to trust your love and ultimate good purposes for me even when life seems to be going all wrong. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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