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ST. JOHN xi. 3, 4.
56 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."
It will be in your recollection, that previously to entering into the details of this interesting narrative, I offered some introductory remarks upon the particular place, in the Gospel of St. John, which this history occupies ; upon the variety of characters of which the church of Christ is composed;
and upon that part of the Divine economy which teaches us, that it is by trials that the Lord frequently manifests the character of his people, as well as instructs and edifies his church.
We are now to set before you THE COURSE
the sisters of Lazarus took in their afflictive trial, and THE GRACIOUS ANSWER given to them by our Lord.
We are told, in the beginning of this chapter, “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Here we need not doubt that they would use all the means in their power for his restoration, call in the best advice, diligently administer the remedies prescribed, do every thing that watchful care and tender affection could suggest : but they stopped not here. They looked to the great Physician, even to Him“ who bore our sicknesses and carried our sorrows;" and who, when he visited the earth, healed all manner of diseases. Their trust was in him, that his tender compassion and beneficent power would be exerted on their behalf. They “ sent to Jesus.” This is one of the marks of
a believer whose faith is in exercise; that, whilst he uses means, he does not depend upon means; but rises to him “Who maketh sore, and bindeth up; who woundeth, and whose hands make whole.” It is recorded in the Book of Chronicles, to the reproach of King Asa, that in his sickness he sought not to the Lord but to the physicians : whilst it is noticed, to the praise of the good Hezekiah, that when he was sick unto death, and the prophet Isaiah came to him with this message, “ Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live," that he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and wept
In answer to his petition he received this gracious message, “I have heard thy prayer,
I have seen thy tears; behold, I will heal thee ; on the third day thou shalt go up
to the house of the Lord.”
It is a great encouragement to observe these gracious dealings of God, under the Old Testament dispensation : still more to notice the direction given by the inspired Apostle St. James, “ Is any sick among
you? let him call for the elders of the church ; and let them pray over him : and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him.""* For, although this passage of Scripture has been overstrained by some, it should assuredly lead us, like these sisters of Lazarus, to send to Jesus, and call in his Almighty aid. This they did, though He was then at a great distance from them. For as it is mentioned in the preceding chapter, to avoid the malice of the chief rulers, He had gone * beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptised," namely, to Bethabara, a village above seventy miles distant from Bethany. Sloth might have suggested it was too far off; Unbelief might have added, it will be of no use, the message cannot reach in time
; but Faith overcomes all difficulties. Their confidence in their Lord, and their love to their brother, will not admit of their neglecting to make known his case.
* James v. 14.
Oh, my beloved friends, when you are under trials, let not the distance at which your Lord seems to be deter you from sending to him. Nothing, except Mercy's answer, flies so quick as prayer. These are the gracious words of the Lord, “Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear;"* and, as we afterwards find in this case, even when relief is not immediately afforded, still an answer of peace shall be returned.
But what was the message which they sent? “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”
Here we may, in the first place, notice how short the message was. It consisted only of a single sentence. This we should mark, to encourage our applications to our Lord, particularly in sudden emergencies, and when long prayer could not be offered. I need not say this is frequently the case, not only with the sick themselves, but with those who are attendant up
them. The unre
* Isaiah lxv. 24.