Let’s talk about Lazarus.
I know, I know. We’ve heard this story a million times. Man dies. Jesus resurrects him. Hurray! The end.
But haven’t you ever wondered, why did Lazarus even have to die in the first place? Let’s take a closer look at the story- The TBE version (Told By Eudora lol):
The Bible account of Lazarus’ death didn’t begin with Lazarus actually being dead. Lazarus was sick. And gravely so. So Mary and Martha, his sisters, sent word to Jesus saying “Jesus, the one you love (Lazarus) is very sick”.
Now a little background here: Lazarus was Jesus’ homeboy. I’m not sure of the details, maybe they’d built some chairs together, I don’t know lol. I’m no theologian. But we do know that Jesus loved this man, and his sisters (this was the same Mary who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair… you can’t NOT love someone after that), and so had no reason NOT to answer their cry for help.
Jesus’ response to hearing the news of Lazarus’ sickness was
“This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”. (John 11:4)
*The crowd goes wild*
We give air fist pumps like, “Go Jesus! Always saving the day!” and we do our little victory dances.
But hold up. As we read on we notice something is very wrong here:
“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days.“ John 11:5,6”
Did we just read that right? Oddly is an understatement. Jesus heard his dude was sick, and he said he’d be fine, and yet he’s not even going to see him? We’re confused. For any of us, logically, if we had a close friend- someone we loved- who was sick, and we had the ability to heal them, do you think we’d wait a couple days? I mean, we know things come up, and schedules are busy, but come on. Two whole days? Not counting that the trip from where he was to where Lazarus was in Judea was ANOTHER two days long.
We can’t wrap our heads around it. We don’t understand why a God who has the ability to save/change/heal/deliver stays silent while we suffer. He stays put knowing very well we are in agony and close to giving up on life.
But let’s keep reading:
So Jesus get’s there four days after he received the message. And (big shocker) Lazarus is dead. Of course Jesus already knew He would die. He told his disciples even before they set off from Judea that Lazarus was dead (it took them a while to wrap their heads around that btw smh).
Now, here we are, just arriving in Judea, and Martha runs out to Jesus like “J, if you’d been here, I know my brother would have been healed- but whatever the case, I still trust you”.
Martha represents the un-Believer. Not unbeliever. Un-believer. I just coined this, so let me elaborate-
I’ve been an un-Believer a lot of times. I face a storm in my life, and things seem to have hit a dead end, so I’m like, “you know what God, maybe you didn’t have my back on this one. Whatever. I’ll take one for the team. I still know you can do awesome things, maybe just not for me. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough, or maybe I wasn’t proactive enough or quick enough. But hey, you can’t win em all right? We’ll get em next time!” We believe that God is God, and that God sees our circumstances, we just don’t quite believe He’s going to do anything about them. We say “Oh yea, I know I’m going to heaven so whatever, I’ll deal with this crap now” or “I know You exist, I know what You’re capable of, I just don’t see it here and now”. And we resign ourselves to what we believe is fate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the ‘trusting that God is still God in the face of our storms’ that makes this line of thinking un-belief. That’s actually necessary for a walk with God. It is the fact that we don’t believe He’s actually WORKING in our storms that does. Just to clarify.
Jesus response to Martha’s un-belief was “I’m going to raise your brother up from the dead”. And once again Martha shows her quasi-faith by saying “Yea, like duh… I know you’ll raise him up at the end of days”
So Jesus sighs and goes on to elaborate what he means- that he’s really about to stunt on her and raise her brother up from the dead. I still don’t really think Martha believed him even after this. I think that might have been why she went back home to whisper in Mary’s ear that Jesus was asking for her, when He really wasn’t. Maybe she thought Mary would better be able to get some answers from Jesus as to why things hadn’t worked out like they’d expected them to, I don’t know.
But Mary goes running out to Jesus. He, btw, still hadn’t even entered the town at this point- but what really was the rush right? Lazarus was already dead. The sisters were already in the eye of the storm. And once again Mary wept at his feet, professing her un-belief:
“If you’d been here, I know my brother wouldn’t have died.”
And the Bible said Jesus was filled with anger.
But why though?
Well, for one, Mary had been followed by a crowd of Jews- the very Jews who’d been looking to persecute/kill him. Imagine being Jesus and having one of your closest friends expressing such a lack of faith in you in front of the people who despised you. That would piss anyone off.
Secondly, these women knew him. They were probably two of the few- maybe even the only- women he ever loved. And for them to think he was absent in the situation because they couldn’t see him there physically was an affront to him and all he’d shown them. It must have been ridiculously frustrating to have the people he loved think he didn’t care enough to be present or to do something.
And so, angry, Jesus marches over to the tomb and tells them to remove the stone from in front of it.
Off goes Martha again with her un-belief: “Whoa, I told you he’s dead. It’s been four days and his body is going to be rotten and foul-smelling by now”
Jesus rolls his eyes. “Didn’t I tell you if you believe you’ll see the glory of God?”
At this point, if I was Jesus, I would have given up and walked away. There’s nothing more annoying than telling someone you’re going to do something and have them nag you and tell you you can’t or you won’t. But thank God Jesus isn’t like me because instead, he looked up to heaven and said:
“Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” (John 11:42)
Then he called Lazarus to come out of the tomb.
And he did.
So here’s the point:
We’re taught to look at this story as a reminder of how God can perform miracles- and it is. But more than that it is a lesson- a lesson that there’s a message in the storm- not just for you, but for people around you.
God sees your angst. He sees your tears. He knows you’re dying. He knows you’re weak- and yet He waits.
He waits for a time in which He can go above and beyond your expectations. Healing Lazarus would have been a simple feat to us and his followers- He’d done it before. But never before had Jesus raised someone from the dead. No one there had seen anything of the like- and so they were brought to a new level of belief. It’s easy to think God will answer the little prayers and do the little things, but understand that EVERYTHING is little to God. NOTHING is beyond Him. He waits till the point where your problems get so big and so far beyond you because when He walks in at that moment, you are never ever going to be the same. He will give you new grounds for believing. Mary and Martha called to Jesus because they knew he could heal the sick- but now they knew he could raise the dead too.
He waits so you and your situation can be a testimony to others. Jesus could have healed Lazarus from where he was when he received message of his illness. He’d done remote healings before. But he waited because at the right time, not only would his disciples and his loved ones find new grounds for faith, but the Jews who didn’t believe in him standing on the sidelines would too. They had heard he’d done awesome things for people, but never before had they seen it with their own eyes, or anything of the like. They had been at the funeral. They had seen Lazarus dead and laid in the tomb. And now they got to see him raised back to life.
And the same goes with us and the people around us. They see our pains. They see our troubles. They write us off for dead. And then God breathes life into our situation and they see our testimony.
*Takes deep breath*
I know God may seem absent. I know it may seem like He doesn’t care, or He can’t do what you’re asking Him to. It may seem like the situation is dead and buried. But don’t be like Mary and Martha and the disciples. You need to understand that the bigger the storm is, the greater your victory will be over it- and believe that God is right there in it with you even if you don’t see/feel it. He knows you’re dying. He knows you’re crying and in pain. And He loves you. He’s just waiting for the opportune moment to walk in and show you- and those around you- who He really is.