When someone we care about has an illness or health crisis, it’s very difficult to watch them suffer. We hurt, because they hurt. We are concerned over whether they will get well or not. We pray for healing, but sometimes it isn’t God’s will to heal.
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were friends of Jesus. In fact, the Bible records that it was this Mary that anointed Jesus with oil and wiped His feet with her hair. When Lazarus became sick, his sisters did the only thing they knew to do – they sent for Jesus. They had complete faith that Jesus could heal him. We don’t find Jesus dropping everything and heading on over to Bethany as quickly as he can. He already knew what He was going to do and why, and in order to fulfill His will, it meant that Lazarus must die first. So Jesus hangs out where He was for another two days. Then He says to His disciples, “Let’s go to Judea.”
For the disciples, there was great concern for Jesus heading back to Judea. The last time Jesus was there, the Jews sought to stone him. They try to remind Jesus of that and they say, “And you want to go back there?! Really?”
So Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep and that He must go wake Him up. Still worried for Jesus’ safety, the disciples reply, “That’s a good thing. Let’s let him sleep. If he is sleeping he will get well.” So Jesus bluntly informs them that Lazarus is dead. He then tells them that it was a good thing that He did not go to Lazarus and that he had died so that the disciples would believe.
The miracle of raising Lazarus from dead anticipated Jesus’ own resurrection. In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” By raising Lazarus from the dead, rather than just healing him, Jesus gave proof to His words. So as puzzling as it may seem for Jesus to linger where He was for two days before coming to Bethany, it served to reveal God’s glory and to show the people an even harder miracle. One that would prepare them for the day when Jesus would be resurrected from the dead after the cross.
I am sure Mary and Martha were confused and maybe even hurt that Jesus didn’t come when they asked Him to. In fact in verse 21, Martha says to Jesus, “If you had come, he would not have died.” But then in faith, she followed the accusation with, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” The simple fact is that with Jesus, hopelessness turns into hope and the moment that Jesus arrived, Martha had hope again.
We may not understand why God chooses to heal some people and others are not healed. But we can trust that God is always in control and if He chooses not to heal, then He has a reason and a purpose – one that will bring Him glory. Sometimes, that means our loved ones step out of this world and enter eternity – but what a glorious eternity when spent in the presence of God. Can you imagine Lazarus’ disappointment to leave the glory of heaven and the presence of God to return to this broken world and to have to face death all over again? The Bible doesn’t really tell us Lazarus’ reaction to finding himself back in his mortal body and living again. In fact, because Jesus raised him from the dead, the chief priests began plotting how to kill him – again. But just as His death served a purpose, so did his being raised from the dead.
Put Martha’s words to Jesus in your mouth. If Jesus came to you today and you said, “Jesus, if you had just been here two days ago….” how would that sentence be finished for you? Do you have the same faith that Martha did to then say, “But now that you’re here, I know whatever you ask of God, He will give it to you?” Would your hope return the moment Jesus arrived? Are you able to trust God that even if you don’t understand why that prayer wasn’t answered that God is working all things out for your good and His glory?
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