And then my sister called who is wiser than I am and said, "remember Lazarus, go back and recall what was happening with Jesus right before He raised Lazarus from the dead". And so I did. And now I wonder if you have ever noticed the same treasure. To fully appreciate the gift, you have to start back several chapters before Lazarus is raised from the dead in Chapter 11. Jesus is in Judea where He heals a blind man in Chapter 9. The religious leaders were getting fired up by all the controversy that Jesus was creating, and before the culmination of their hatred takes place on the cross, they sought to stone Him in the temple for His profession that "I and the Father are one" John 10:30. That is where they were with Jesus, ready to kill Him. And the last we hear in Chapter 10 is that Jesus "escaped their grasp" in verse 39, and left Judea crossing over the Jordan River.
Chapter 11 picks up with us learning that Mary and Martha have sent word to Jesus that "the one you love is sick" (speaking of their brother Lazarus). I love that description, "the one you love". It is such a clear reflection of Jesus' heart for us. The truth was, Jesus loved that whole family, and He was about to allow them to be a part of what I think is possibly the most significant event in His ministry, preceding the cross.
Naturally, the disciples were not excited about going back to Judea. They were there when the Pharisees surrounded Jesus with stones in their hands. But buried between Jesus telling His disciples He wanted to return to Judea to see Lazarus, and Jesus actually raising Lazarus from the dead, is the part I had not noticed until my sister pointed it out. Thomas says one simple statement, that actually says a lot about the state of all the disciples at that moment, and can possibly speak a lot to you and I today, if we would allow it. Thomas tells the rest of the disciples (that were afraid to return to Judea because they might be killed) "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" John 11:16. Did Thomas understand at all why Jesus was going back to Judea? No. Did the plan make any sense whatsoever to him? Nope. And yet he was faithful and obedient and trusted the One that said, "Let us go back to Judea".
How about you? Do you have a "Judea" that the Lord is calling you to? Does your Judea look anything like Thomas'? Are you asking God things like "Seriously? This cannot be what you want. This doesn't make any sense. This cannot be Your plan!". Don't you think the disciples were downtrodden as they made their way back to Judea, anticipating death. Obedient yes, but confused nonetheless. And don't you think the Lord had a smile on His face as He crossed back over that Jordan River knowing what His men were about to witness. And oh what they saw that day. They got to hear Jesus say "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whosoever lives and believes in me will never die". They got to see their God walk up to a cave and say "Take away the stone". And they got to witness the power of God when He said "Lazarus, come out!"...and they got to see the dead man obey.
Can you imagine how the disciples would have felt if they had missed that? What if they had not gone to Judea because they were afraid? Would Jesus not have performed the miracle? Of course He would have, but His men would have missed the blessing of witnessing it. I don't want to miss the blessing. I don't want to not go to Judea just because I am afraid. God has a stone that He wants to roll away in your presence my friend, but you have to follow Him to "Judea" in order to see it. Rolling away stones is His specialty...you don't want to miss it.