O God, who has given us the great and saving truths of your gospel: grant us, we ask you, to live amid these things, to meditate on them and to seek them; for one who goes on seeking, finds. Help us, therefore, to learn those things on earth, the knowledge of which shall abide with us in heaven. Grant this for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. Jerome1
John 9:1-5, 11:1-4, 32-36 The Perfect Savior
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
In the first passage, a well-known passage, Jesus corrects his disciples’ misunderstanding of our sinful condition. They ask our Lord, “who sinned?” Jesus replies that the man’s blindness didn’t come because of anyone’s sin. Well, this man was born blind because of Adam’s sin, but Jesus wasn’t trying to assign blame to Adam so he didn’t say that. Jesus was telling his disciples that the Savior of the World, God’s Passover Lamb, fixes everything that sin has screwed up.
It’s the same thing in chapter 11 with his dear friend Lazarus. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God.” Remember back in chapter 9, Jesus said pretty much the same thing, “the works of God might be displayed in him”. Lazarus died because people die, not because he was being judged for his sin. Of course, Lazarus did sin as we all do, but like all believers Lazarus was also loved by Jesus. In fact, it would seem that Lazarus enjoyed a special friendship with our Lord—look at v. 3 “he whom you love is ill”. What a wonderful thought, to be called “the one whom Jesus loved” in the gospel written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved”
What we see here in these two stories is a reminder that not all suffering is a result of personal sin. It’s the result of sin, for sure, but not our personal guilt producing sin. The curse has its hold and sway over the world and our lives. Jesus understood that, and being human he even suffered because of it. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus cried for many reasons. To name three: Jesus cried at the effect of sin on the world (do we cry because sin has disturbed the peace of creation?) and he genuinely cried at the death of a friend along with the sorrow he saw in Mary and Martha’s faces.
What we learn is that Christian faith isn’t stoicism—the Greek philosophy that we should go through life in a totally objective manner, unaffected by emotion. God made us body and soul with all the physical and spiritual, and physico-spiritual feelings associated with life. God made us to feel, to experience life, to know Him subjectively as well as objectively!
Jesus suffered many things. In these two passages we see some of his suffering. He suffered because his disciples were like me, dim-witted and slow on the uptake. They were quick to judge and wanted cut and dry answers for a complex problem. Jesus suffered loss; his friend died. Even though Jesus knew Lazarus was going to come back, there was still loss, even for the moment. Jesus suffered because he saw his friends, Mary and Martha, suffering. He felt just like we feel.
Our savior came to take away the guilt of sin and pay its debt for us, that is the most important aspect of Jesus’ work for us, in an objective sense. But sometimes we need more than that truth—as wonderful as that truth is, it sometimes doesn’t give me much comfort. We need comfort in the face of great sickness (COVID-19, cancer, chronic illness, weakness) and in the effects of the curse (loss of job/income because of the quarantine, loneliness). Where do we find it? Is our Savior here to fix that to?
We can find comfort in the great Comforter, who we have because Jesus earned Him for us. The great Comforter is the Holy Spirit who indwells believers because Jesus lived, suffered, and died not just to defeat Satan, satisfy our debt, but also to deliver us from all suffering. Jesus conquered the curse as well as guilt!
Jesus’ work was done to conquer evil and the Evil One as well as to give us divine support through our trials as well as conquer them! I cannot recommend the Puritans enough for your devotional reading, here is the Puritan pastor Thomas Goodwin on the Holy Spirit’s work.
“Do none of you feel your hearts moved in the preaching of these things, at this and other times? Who is it that moves you? It is the Spirit, who speaks in Christ’s name from heaven, even as He Himself is said to ‘speak from heaven’. When you pray, it is the Spirit who incites your prayers and makes intercession for you in your own hearts—intercession that is the evidence and echo of Christ’s intercession in heaven. The Spirit prays in you because Christ prays for you. He is an intercessor on earth because Christ is an intercessor in heaven.”2
God’s transcendent comfort is available to us because the transcendent Son became flesh for us. Through Jesus’ flesh we are saved! Through Jesus’ flesh the greatest gift of salvation is given to his people: the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just come to free his people from sin’s dominion spiritually, but also to give his divine support physically and spiritually and emotionally to the weak and weary, to rejuvenate the smoldering wick and not to put it out.
Rest in Jesus’ perfect love today, He is your Perfect Savior.
1 Oden, T. C., & Crosby, C. (Eds.). (2007). Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A (p. 91). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books. (Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate used in the Roman Catholic Church.)
2 Goodwin, Thomas. A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin. Ed. By Joel Beeke & Mark Jones. (Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids) P.54.