1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
4When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
8"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
16Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. (NIV)
This is a familiar story to those in the church. There is much in this story we can learn from. One of the fascinating things is how the promise looks sometimes. In verse 4, Jesus tells the disciples that this sickness will not end in death. But it sure looks like it. For Martha and Mary, they have buried their brother. For the disciples, Jesus tells them two days later – Lazarus is dead (vs 14.) This is something we must remember about God’s promises, to us they don’t always look like they are going to happen. It can get very dark before it gets light.
And we don’t know why Jesus delayed. It appears he is using the suffering of others to demonstrate the glory of God. But this is the way of our world, it is in suffering that we best see God’s glory sometimes.
But one of the beautiful things that we see in this passage is that Jesus does not chastise or fuss at Martha and Mary for the feelings they are having. Both tell Jesus the same thing, “If you had been here, my brother would have not died.” We can feel the frustration in these words, almost a bit of resentment. One of the great things about God is that he does not hold our frustration, even our anger at him against us. God is so understanding, that he understands what we don’t and cannot understand. So, it does not affect his love for us.
I find the discussion between Martha and Mary very interesting. When we look at the two differences in the interactions, we see that Martha’s is more theological than Mary’s. What a contrast to the story later about Martha fussing in the kitchen and Mary at Jesus’ feet. It is Martha who understand that Jesus is Lord and that there will be a day of resurrection. This is a similar contrast in Thomas from the one we all remember about Thomas doubting. It is interesting what we remember about people from the few things we have heard. Martha was listening and Thomas was strong in his faith.
But sometimes Jesus waits because he wants us to know this thing that is happening is of God. We see that when Jesus says roll back the stone and Martha says; can’t you smell that horrible smell already that the stone does not keep from coming out.
Jesus loves us as he loved Mary and Martha. The word used in agape, the word for a self-sacrificing love. That is the love Jesus displayed on the cross for us.
The question we need to ponder is do we wait on God’s promises, even when they don’t seem forth coming. Often times it is only looking back on our lives that we see where God did come through. This is one of the great things we get from journaling. We can look back and see prayers answered that we forgot about. Have you ever wondered if God was going to do something when it looked like he wasn’t, only to later have it done? I have seen this many times in my life and Marilyn’s life. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayer right away because something better is to come and if we got relief today, we would not get the greater blessings later. This is what Marilyn as seen more than once in looking for a new job when they moved me to a new church. I could see the frustration of not getting job after job. But when she finally got a job offer, it was better than any of the others she applied for. She got no’s because a greater yes was to come.
Blessings and Peace