Before I share my thoughts, I just want to take a minute to encourage you to go and read John 11 before going any further. There is so much to be learned from this passage, so don’t miss out by just reading this!
The story starts with two women, Mary & Martha, sending a message to Jesus. Their message is a plea for His help, as we learn that their brother Lazarus has become very sick.
The first and main thing that caught my attention when reading the passage, wasn’t that they were bold enough to send Jesus a message, but rather Jesus’ response to their plea for His help in John 11: 5-6…
It doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance…it’s essentially saying that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus…so when he heard Lazarus was sick, he didn’t go to help them. If you think about it literally, or don’t stop to really ponder it, you can miss such a powerful message in just 2 short verses and think like I did at first…”Okay, well that makes no sense! If he loved them, why wouldn’t he go and save Lazarus?”
If you continue reading, (SPOILER ALERT!), Jesus does go to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus eventually. We find out in verse 39 that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus finally got there…so, as it seems, Jesus is a little too late as not only is Lazarus now dead, but he has BEEN dead for 4 days.
The passage then details Martha and Mary’s interactions with Jesus in which they share their disappointment, confusion, and sadness at his seemingly late arrival. What I love about Mary’s interaction with Jesus is that as she falls at his feet and says “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Jesus sees her at his feet, weeping and the Bible says that He is deeply moved and troubled. He asks her where they’ve laid Lazarus, and when Mary invites him to “Come and see”, Jesus weeps. In the shortest verse of the bible, “Jesus wept”, we see such compassion and empathy towards Mary, even though Jesus knew what the outcome would be for Lazarus when He raised him back to life in just a few short moments. This is the most beautiful evidence to me of Jesus’ humanity. He sits with us in our pain, even when He already knows how the story ends or what the outcome will be. He knows the pain you are feeling, and can wipe away your tears, because He knows the weight of what you are carrying around.
Jesus then arrives at the tomb of Lazarus and the Bible says again, that He is “deeply moved”, as He simply tells them to “move the stone” from Lazarus’ tomb. Martha responds to his directions with doubt, saying “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there for 4 days.” I think it’s important to note that the Bible includes this, and we can better understand the significance behind Lazarus being in the tomb for 4 days and Jesus waiting to arrive when we are familiar with these Jewish customs:
- Typically when deaths occurred, the mourning process could take up to 90 days. During this time, many people would come to comfort the family who lost a loved one
- When someone died, they believed that the person’s spirit stayed with them for 3 days and could possibly come back
When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. So while the time of Jesus’ arrival didn’t make sense to Martha & Mary, I believe that Jesus had a greater purpose ultimately in waiting…I mean, just think of how many people were able to witness this miracle, with more and more people probably arriving each day to mourn with Mary & Martha. Also, since Jesus waited until Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days, any doubt that this wasn’t a miracle but was just Lazarus’ spirit returning to His body would have now been implausible. It had to be a miracle!
And this is where the lesson comes in as Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb and he walks out…A L I V E ! !
So often we want Jesus to answer our prayers and solve our problems right away. We don’t want to feel any pain, any sadness, any hint of loneliness. But what if God has a purpose for your pain? What if there’s a reason He’s having you wait? Think of the impact those extra days had on Martha, Mary, and all the other Jews mourning with them who also got to experience the miracle in God’s timing. JUST when they thought there was no more hope for Lazarus because he was dead, THAT is when Jesus showed up. His delay and lack of intervention on their timing was not a lack of love. Don’t forget that in your life too.
There is PURPOSE in the delay. God is faithful. God is good. God is all-powerful…and He is all of those things, whether or not He does the things that you want Him to do, and whether or not He answers your prayers in your timing. God’s delays are NOT denials, but He works on His timeline, not yours.
I think this verse sums it up beautifully…
Just read those words again and let them sink in. He has made EVERYTHING beautiful, in its time. Not some things, EVERY thing…and not in our time, but in HIS timing. And sometimes, a hard truth to learn, is that we cannot fathom what He is doing, but what we can do is TRUST.
So the next time you are tired of waiting and think there is no hope left, remember that in between the time of Mary & Martha’s cries and God’s answer, there was a lot of pain and sadness, but there was also many special moments in which they drew close to God and saw His genuine and authentic love for them. They showed Him their pain and He felt it with them. Let God sit with you today in your waiting. Be honest with Him, but trust and wait on His timing. It will be beautiful in time ❤