The other morning I was praying about the long wait I have experienced for a husband and I was asking the Lord why do I, and so many other people, have to keep waiting for answers to prayers for years, while others do not? As I thought about it I was reminded, or perhaps I should say, the Holy Spirit reminded me, of the story of Lazarus. So I turned to John 11 to read it again and see what it says. It turns out that this is indeed a powerful story of Jesus deliberately making people wait, long past their comfort zone, so that God would be glorified. They were waiting for a healing, but Jesus was planning a resurrection!
John 11 starts with Jesus receiving a message from Mary and Martha that ‘the one who you love is sick’, they were referring to their brother Lazarus. Then something strange happens, John tells us that Jesus greatly loved Lazarus and his sisters and SO he stayed where he was another 4 days! I was really puzzled by the use of the word so, sometimes translated therefore or as a result, but either way I read it it makes no sense. Why if He loved Lazarus would Jesus not immediately go see him?
In my definition of love if you love someone and you find out they are sick you get straight over there to help them. You don’t ignore the call and deliberately delay your arrival, like Jesus did. I was trying to grapple with how Jesus’ love for them somehow necessitated a delay in his coming to see Lazarus, but I struggled!
I thought about how Mary and Martha must have talked among themselves and saidok we need to send for Jesus, he will come, of course he will come, after all He loves us. Mary was probably thinking how much Jesus appreciated her sitting and listening to him, Martha about how much he liked her cooking. They probably told their brother Lazarus, don’t worry Lazarus, we have sent word to Jesus and we are sure he will be here soon and then he will heal you like he healed all those other people. Lazarus probably told himself, hang in there, Jesus is coming, you can relax now, this sickness isn’t for much longer.
I can imagine the first day, great anticipation, the second day, a slight wondering, maybe he got delayed on the road, the third day thinking what is going on now, the fourth day…is Jesus coming at all?? Why isn’t he coming, doesn’t he care about us, doesn’t he realize when we wrote sick we meant dying, did we mean anything at all to Him?Finally, Lazarus cannot hold on any longer, he slips into unconsciousness and dies. Mary and Martha can’t believe what has happened, Jesus did not come! They must have been wondering did we really know Jesus, maybe it was just a mirage, maybe He only comes through for more important people.
They probably also worried what they would do now, two unmarried and now unprotected women living alone without a male relative. Would they be able to keep the house, who would take care of them, help out around the home, be their protector? And why oh why didn’t Jesus come, has He forgotten all about them?
The funeral happens and still no Jesus, they must have been inconsolable and perhaps bitterly disappointed with Him. They know He knew and that He choose to stay away, maybe they felt betrayed. Their friends also find it shocking, weren’t they friends of Jesus, didn’t he heal other people of more serious illnesses, why didn’t he come through for these guys? Did something happen between them? What is going on? Their brother lies dead in the ground. It is all so incomprehensible, what kind of friend would abandon them in their greatest hour of need?
Have you ever felt like that with God, I know I have. Wondering, Lord where are you, what are you doing, why have you left me all alone…don’t you care Lord??? Turns out we are in good company, even the people who knew Jesus personally thought the same things.
Even Jesus’ disciples were confused, they thought they would be going straight to Lazarus. But then Jesus said wait, then after some days have passed He tells them ‘let’s go Lazarus has fallen asleep’. They are confused, they think Lazarus is resting and say to Jesus shouldn’t we just let him rest. Finally, Jesus has to tell them ‘Lazarus is dead’ and then He adds ‘and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe’. WOW!
Jesus’ behavior and words seem so foreign to us, so incomprehensible. He hears his friend is sick and needs Him, so He doesn’t go, rather He waits for His friend to die and then tells His disciples that He is glad about this! It just makes no earthly sense.
When Jesus finally does arrive, Martha runs out to him, it seems that she is angry and upset, if only you were here Lord, then my brother would be alive. But Mary, the Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus, who anoints Him with oil, she doesn’t even come out of the house, maybe she is too upset, too disappointed, she doesn’t even want to greet Jesus. When she finally comes to Jesus her tears and the tears of others move Jesus and we read one of the shortest sentences in the Bible, Jesus wept. I wonder what they thought then…I would have thought why are you weeping…you could have saved him…what are your tears for…?
Then Jesus says take me to him, not to the grave, but to him…Jesus has a plan… and then despite the protestations of Martha they open the grave and Jesus says ‘Lazarus come out!’ and Lazarus lives again and walks out of the grave. It is the most famous resurrection in the Bible other than that of Jesus himself. Even today the name Lazarus is synonymous with a resurrection and with the happiest of happy endings, he lives! Only the resurrection of Jesus himself will rival this event.
As I thought about this story I realized that Mary and Martha wanted a healing, they wanted to Jesus to come and do what he had always done before. But precisely because Jesus loved them so much and because they were so close to Him, He decided to do something different, something that would not only increase their faith but that of the disciples and everyone else around. Because He loved them, because He cherished them, Jesus did not give them a healing instead He gave them a resurrection!
So often we are looking for a healing, for provision, for things to happen in predictable ways and times. But I believe that for those of us who have waited long, we should be encouraged that this wait is not because Jesus doesn’t love us, but because he loves us even more! I believe that it is because He wants to give us something special, something that maybe others cannot handle, He wants to do something in our lives that will, in His words, testify to the glory of God. Something that everyone who sees it will know that this is the work of God. Not of our efforts, of our appearances, or hard work, or doctors, or consultants but truly the work of God, so that many may believe.
Beloved, if you have been waiting so long for your miracle, if you feel that all hope is dead and buried, if you are angry like Martha or depressed like Mary don’t give up! Jesus has not forgotten about you, He is not too busy for you, He hasn’t gotten delayed and He certainly isn’t punishing you! No, he trusts you so much that in your life He is going to give you a resurrection, he is going to silence the critics, who said where is your God, the ones who said why hasn’t He come, the ones who said does your God even exist?
The Lord is waiting because He knows that not only is this timing the best possible timing for you, but also because He wants to show that He is God and that those who hope in Him will not be put to shame. But it is only when all hope is gone, when the grave is all we see, that His miracle can truly shine forth as brightly as the sun. It is when we keep believing in Him, like Martha, even when we think he has failed us, and trust that His plans are for our good, that He comes and says wait…there is more.
Today, take heart, your waiting comes from a place of love, from our Heavenly Father who longs to show Himself generous and loving to you and to all those in your life. He has not abandoned you, quite the contrary, it is because he loves you that He is going to do so much more than you can ask or think or even imagine. And when he does this, your miracle will be evident to everyone who knows you. Be prepared for our names, just like that of Lazarus, to become a byword for the abundant blessings and miraculous provision of God.
God bless you today, keep your eyes open for your coming resurrection and please let me know when it does!!