The Death of Lazarus.

John 11.

1866 46 "Sorrow is a sacred thing," it has been justly and beautifully said. But it is a fruitful thing also. If a sorrowing house be a sanctuary, so that no rude foot should trespass, it is also a spot for divine husbandry, and ready to yield its good and profitable fruit.

The sickness and death of Lazarus procured for the loved family at Bethany a visit from the Lord; a circumstance in itself full of blessing and of promise, and in that visit we see several things which may well engage our heart and attention.

He sympathizes with the sorrow, and then removes the cause of it. He "wept" first, and afterwards said, "Lazarus, come forth."

The purpose which He carried with Him of removing the occasion of the misery, left His heart still the seat of present compassion with it. It was so in the case of sending out the apostles. He was about to give them pastors according to His own heart; but looking on them as sheep that had no shepherd, He had compassion on the multitudes. It was so again in His feeding the people. He was about to give them bread enough and to spare, but, on seeing them, He had compassion. (Matt. ix., Matt. xv.)

No prospect of the future, be it as bright and certain as it may, can rightly close the heart to the claims of the present. The follower of Christ will "weep" as he enters the house of mourning or the chamber of death, though he knows that the power of resurrection, in season, will close the scene in all its own magnificence and joy.

With this sympathy and this power over the cause of the sorrow, we see, moreover, the instructions of wisdom and the lessons of God enjoyed through His sorrow.

Martha speaks of her grief to the Lord, and much ignorance is expressed through the natural and in some sense pardonable exercises of her wounded heart. But Jesus teaches her the way of God more perfectly. He lets the light of some wondrous truths break in upon her soul, truths deeper and more precious than what the hours of her undisturbed ease and happiness had been able to discover. The light of the day of prosperity had not shown her what Jesus now brought with Him in this night of weeping. She is made to see some bright shinings of the glory of God through the tears of that sorrow, through that gloom of death which had entered her dwelling. "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The place was indeed a sanctuary, and Jesus Himself treads softly. He wept. He owned the claim of such a moment. But it was a spot for Him to cultivate also. It was a garden of the Lord's; and He enriches it with fresh fruit and growth of knowledge. Again, let me say of this affecting scene, that it is made productive to others also. Many believe, when they witness how the grace and power of the Lord had dealt with this sorrow. "Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him."

I ask, is not all this as much the history of this our day, as it was of the day of Martha and Mary? Who need live long and travel far to know that the sorrows of the saints still draw the willing visits of Christ? and that, during such visits, He sympathizes and teaches? Who, I ask, need live long and travel far to know this? Gracious it is in the Spirit, and gracious to us, to have the record of such things in the book "written for our learning." But is it less gracious in Him, or less gracious to us, that these things are not merely the things of history, but the common things of experience and observation?

And further. This sorrow is the occasion of fresh acts of supplication and of worship. "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me," said the Lord. And is this at all more strange or less a matter of experience than the others? What say our own souls?
"Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low and keep me there."
This is not history, but experience. It is not the light of other days which, as we hear, was wont to cheer the night of weeping or the house of mourning, but the light which, as we know, is still wont to hold its court and display its power in the dark valley and in the shadow of death.

I am bold also to add another thought — a thought, too, lately made very precious to my own heart — that the blessed Lord, in unjealous love, allows both our sorrows and our mercies to be fresh links between Himself and our poor fond hearts. The widow of Sarepta was afresh bound to the prophet, when she received her son from the dead. Her joy, in one she so loved being restored to her, acted as another link of tenderest and yet strongest texture between her heart and the man of God, the witness of Christ; and the Spirit allowed it, I am sure. (1 Kings xvii. 24.) So in much later days, the Lord allowed His servant to be thankful and take courage on seeing brethren again, after a long separation, though during that separation he had enjoyed His presence and encouragements in a sweet and large measure. (Acts xxviii.) And so here. Receiving their brother from the dead, the dear family at Bethany are more than ever the Lord's. In the power and joy of resurrection they sit with Him. (Chap. xii. 1.) They delight in Him afresh through the mercy which their common natural human feelings had received.