The Calling of Andrew and Simon by William Hole
The Love Of Christ
“Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” John 11:3-6
I was struck by the fact that Jesus loved Lazarus, therefore He abode where He was for two days after hearing about Lazarus being sick. Therefore? So, it was because He loved Lazarus that He stayed where He was for two extra days? That didn’t seem like love to me.
I got the fact that Jesus is God, and that to glorify God was of the uttermost importance in Jesus’s own life. I also understand that in my own life the most important thing I can do is bring glory to God. But, I know that we are given the chance to accept Christ only until death and that, after that, all cards are on the table and we are either saved or we’re not. There is no more choice after death, therefore, my focus is to glorify God before others so that before they die, they might come to an understanding of Who He is and be saved. That is how I exhibit God’s love to others. So, I had a hard time, at first, with the concept of Jesus not running to Lazarus’ side immediately to save him.
So, then I continued to read, and lo and behold, I found out that Lazarus was already dead even by the time the messenger arrived where Jesus was. (John 11:17) He groaned, He wept, He mourned the loss of his beloved friend; but, He knew that this was going to be good. It would be a good thing and would glorify God.
I understood that Jesus waited because He was directed by the Spirit to do so. His love for His friend was the love of God toward His creation. He would not let death swallow up His friend, yet He waited because the Will of the Father trumped any desire to keep Lazarus alive. So, how could I, with an understanding that salvation of souls is of the uttermost importance to God, explain this part of scripture? Though I knew Lazarus would be raised from this death, I still was stuck on that one word, therefore. Well, it turns out that the key is found right in the scripture itself, if we search for it.
In the English language we have only one word for love. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, there are several different words for love, two of which are used in this passage.
Phileō is the Greek word for the love between brothers. It is stronger than merely liking them. It indicates a bond that we all experience between family members. I phileō my mom and dad, my brothers, and my sister. They are my family, and I cannot imagine my life without them. The same is true with my brothers and sister at church. They are my siblings in Christ and I would go out of my way to help them, support them, strengthen them, and ensure their spiritual health, as they would mine. This is brotherly love, and it is the type of love we see written about the sisters speaking of.
“Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest (like a brother) is sick.”
But, they did not know, nor could they truly, the real love that Jesus had for both them and Lazarus.
Agapaō is the type of love that is completely unconditional and perfect. It is true love which only God could ever have. As humans, we like to think we understand this type of love, but we don’t. Not really. You see, we are creatures who allow our emotions far greater reign than ever we should. When those whom we claim we love unconditionally (husbands, wives, children) slight us in even the smallest way, we get upset. We want it fixed by them, and until they make amends, we hold it against them. Perhaps we don’t outwardly do so, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that the unconditional love we claim to have is lessened a little as we retract ever so slightly from that person. We become hesitant to love them like we once thought we did. And over time, if they slight us again and again, it builds up within us and we cease to love them like we did before. That is how our unconditional love shows itself to actually be conditional. Perhaps our love or our children approximates this, but it is still imperfect.
God doesn’t love us like that. God loves us no matter what we do, no matter what we say, no matter what decisions we make. There are always consequences for our bad decisions, but God stopping loving us is not one of those consequences. His love is truly unconditional and even if we die having never accepted Jesus as Savior, though He must exercise righteous judgement and withhold mercy due to the choice we made, He will still love us as He sends us away from His Presence. That is the love written about regarding the truth about how Jesus loved them.
“Now Jesus (unconditionally and perfectly) loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.”
So, if He loved them as God loved them, and as God loves us, and knowing that we only have this one life in which to accept Christ and to serve God, perhaps we can now see the scope of God’s love. God loved them in that He wanted them to be saved. God loved them in that He wanted to be with them for all eternity, but that required them, and us, to believe on Jesus as God. They needed to accept Him as God, as Savior, as Lord, and that is God’s love in action in their lives.
He loved them unconditionally and perfectly therefore, He would wait, so that, through glorifying God in resurrecting Lazarus from unarguable death, they would truly believe. God so loves all of us that this passage is written in the way that it is so that we, who do not truly know just how much God loves us, who do not truly love one another fully and completely and unconditionally, might begin to have an understanding of Who He is and all that He does to open our eyes to His greater goodness. This is why He said that He was glad for the sakes of the disciples that He was not there when Lazarus died, “to the intent that (they) might believe,” (John 11:15) and He again said outside of the grave that He spoke what God was doing “that they may believe that (God, the Father) hast sent (Him, Jesus).” (John 11:42)
God’s love is eternal and He calls to us always and everything that He does is to direct us to Jesus, that we might believe and be saved, so we can be with Him through all of eternity. So, when we wonder why we are going through the things which we do, may we remember the Truth. It might not look like love in our eyes, but Jesus does love us therefore, He does what He must to redirect us toward Himself and to also reach others through us and through our testimonies as we walk through this life.
We cannot know the complete extent of His love for any of us. Mary and Martha knew He loved them. Martha even understood and believed much of what Jesus had taught, but phileō versus Agapaō shows us that her and Mary’s understanding was limited by their own capacity for love. They did not understand, but they would know to a greater extent by the time each of them would die. They were there when He showed how personal His love truly was. He loves us so much that He went to the Cross, after all. That is the demonstration of the love of Christ.
Therefore, serve Him as He asks and love Him back. Therefore, let Him do with you whatever He wants since you don’t know how He will use you to save others. Therefore, give Him everything. Complete surrender.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, present your bodies, yourselves, as a living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service to God, and let God, therefore, be God.