The story of Lazarus is really striking a cord with me this morning. The story is written below.
“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus *said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.””
I think there is so much here to uncover. One, this really happened, and that alone is beautiful, but most of all I see the tenderness of Jesus so much in this story. I’m going to try to unpack all that I feel the Lord saying in this.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick and was going to die, he stayed where he was for two days. He didn’t immediately move to interfere with the sickness. He didn’t come to the rescue like they thought he would. He stayed where he was for two more days.
When I read that my mind takes me to Martha and Mary’s house. Martha is worried and Mary is probably assuring her that Jesus will be here at any moment. He loves them after all. He would never let Lazarus die. “I trust him” I can hear Mary say and she does, she trusts Jesus because she’s seen him heal before.
When Jesus finally enters their town, Bethany, Lazarus has been buried in his tomb for four days. Four.
Martha and Mary hear that Jesus is in town, Martha goes to him, Mary does not. “But Mary remained seated in the house”
This is when I start to get emotional. From previous stories we know Mary loves Jesus. We know her passion for him. The fact that Mary doesn’t run to Jesus immediately signals something wrong.
I can feel the disappointment that Mary is simmering in. I’ve felt that same disappointment. She was confident that Jesus would come and Lazarus would not die. When he didn’t come I think she began questioning if he really loved them. If he loved her he would have came, right? If he loved them Lazarus would be alive and this pain and disappointment wouldn’t be in the pit of her stomach. Surely Jesus didn’t want her to bury her only brother. Why didn’t he come? Where was he when she cried out for him?
Martha tells Jesus what Mary emphasizes later. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus talks to her about resurrection and life and believing in Him. Martha responds almost robotically. Yeah, Lord, I KNOW BUT……
Martha tells Mary that Jesus is asking for her, I can hear him ask it; Where is my Mary? Please, have her come to me. I think Jesus knows she’s hurt, I think he knows she’s disappointed.
When Mary hears that Jesus asks for her she runs to him. I love that. Sometimes in pain and disappointment and fear we just want Him to call us near. We want to trust that he sees us even if we are mad at him.
When Mary sees Jesus, she falls at his feet and cries “if you would have been here Lazarus would still be alive.”
How many times have we cried this out to God? WHERE WERE YOU? if you were here this wouldn’t have happened.
Jesus saw Mary and all the people caring for them crying and he was moved with compassion. Let’s remember that Jesus didn’t wait because he didn’t care. He waited because it was going to bring glory to God. Lazarus’s death was going to be a time where people saw God for who he was.
In the midst of Jesus knowing what was going to happen he cries. They take him to the tomb and he weeps.
Even when we don’t see his plan, even when we distrust him he comes close and is compassionate towards us. He enters into our pain even with his knowledge of what is to come for us.
While he’s crying the people that were with Mary and Martha say “couldn’t he have saved him? Why is he crying, if he opened the eyes of a blind man he could have saved Lazarus”
In times of despair there are voices around us ready to agree with our fear. If God was good why did he let this happen to you? If he was really God he would have stopped it.
All the while He’s choosing to feel your pain and weep next to you.
All this goes down and he tells Martha to open the tomb. Open it to your dead brother. Open the wound that feels too painful to see. He wants us to trust him with our pain because he’s about to do something incredible.
They open the tomb, and Jesus prays thanking God that he has heard him. He says
“I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”
He cried out with a loud voice “ LAZARUS COME OUT” and he did. He came out with linen strips bound around his feet and his face wrapped in cloth. He came out. He was ALIVE.
I believe sometimes God waits to respond to our crisis because he has something beautiful waiting afterwards. I believe that this life is not about us and what God can do for us, it’s about what we can do for Him. When he allows hard things to happen to us, it’s never because he doesn’t love us, it’s because he knows that he will be glorified, that people will hear your story and they will believe in him. He’s using you so that others may have hope.
When I read this story I see his grace all around. I see how gentle he is even when we accuse him of being absent. He looks at us with compassion and asks to see the tomb.
What has died in your life that you blame God for? What have you lost that he’s waiting to make beautiful, that he’s waiting to show you the miracle, and the purpose of the pain. Let’s invite him into the tomb friends, let’s let him unbind us and set us free.