‘Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.’ John 11:14–15
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1–4
Jesus is talking of the death of his friend; let us listen to his words; perhaps we may find the key to his actions in the words of his lips. How surprising! He does not say, ‘I regret that I have tarried so long.’ He does not say, ‘I ought to have hastened, but even now it is not too late.’ Hear and marvel! Wonder of wonders, he says, ‘I am glad that I was not there.’ Glad? The word is out of place. Lazarus, by this time, is stinking in his tomb, and here is the Saviour glad! Martha and Mary are weeping their eyes out for sorrow, and yet their friend Jesus is glad. It is strange, it is passing strange. However, we may rest assured that Jesus knows better than we do, and our faith may therefore sit still and try to spell out his meaning, where our reason cannot find it at the first glance. ‘I am glad,’ says he, ‘for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe.’ We see it now: Christ is not glad because of sorrow, but only on account of the result of it. He knew that this temporary trial would help his disciples to a greater faith, and he so prizes their growth in faith that he is even glad of the sorrow which occasions it. He does as good as say, ‘I am glad for your sakes that I was not there to prevent the trouble, for now that it is come, it will teach you to believe in me, and this shall be much better for you than to have been spared the affliction.’ We have thus plainly before us the principle, that our Lord in his infinite wisdom and superabundant love, sets so high a value upon his people’s faith, that he will not screen them from those trials by which faith is strengthened.
For meditation: While we may find the individual ingredients which test our faith distasteful, we also should learn to rejoice in the hope of tasting the finished product (Romans 5:2–5; Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:5–7).
Sermon no. 585
7 August (1864)