Peace be with you!
Where is God when you get sick with the flu? Where is God when you break your arm during football practice? Where is God when your aunt dies from cancer? You beg him to come and heal you. You beg God to take away your aunt’s cancer, but God lets her die. How could he let her die? Where is he? How could God leave you alone?
Mary and Martha are asking the same questions when they send word to Jesus (John 11:3) that Lazarus is close to death and he does not come. And when Jesus finally comes, Lazarus has already been dead for four days (John 11:17, 39). Why does Jesus not come right away? Both Mary and Martha say at different times, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32 NRSV). Mary and Martha play the “if” game with Jesus, because Lazarus was his dear friend who he loved (John 11:3) and they know Jesus could have healed him. Mary is the one anoints Jesus with the expensive perfume, and Martha serves Jesus and his disciples. Mary and Martha follow Jesus at all cost, so why couldn’t he have come sooner?
I’m sure you have been in the state of confusion and questioning God that Mary and Martha are in. How could Jesus let Lazarus die when he could have healed him? In the midst of questions and doubts, it can be dangerously easy to turn away from God and be drawn into the darkness.
Jesus knows there is more after death. There is something more. Jesus wants two days before going to see Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. He knows Lazarus will be dead before he and his disciples will get there, but Jesus still waits a few days before going. Jesus tells his disciples he is going to wake up Lazarus. The disciples believe Lazarus is merely sleeping, but he is dead (John 11:11-14).
When Jesus sees Mary, he asks, “Do you believe I am the resurrection and life and anyone who believes will have eternal life?” (John 11:25-26). Mary answers, “Yes, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (John 11:27). Mary believes in Jesus, but she still does not understand what resurrection has to do with her or her brother. In her mind, death still gets the final say.
Martha comes later and Jesus asks, “Where is Lazarus laid?” (John 11:34). The Jews and Martha invite Jesus to come and see his tomb. Jesus weeps for his friend, Lazarus, as he goes to the tomb where the Jews laid him. Lazarus and Jesus have a personal relationship with each other that knows no bounds. Jesus weeps for his friend— the one who he could call upon at a moment noticed.
Jesus goes to the tomb and says to take away the stone (John 11:39). Martha turns to Jesus and says, “Are you sure? It is going to smell, because he has been dead four days already” (John 11:39bc). Jesus says, “Martha, I told you that you would see God’s glory” (John 11:40). God’s glory is shown to the world through Jesus Christ and his miracles, which have no limits. But death still means “the end” to Martha who believes Jesus is God’s son, the Messiah.
For the crowd’s benefit, Jesus turns to God the Father to thank him for always hearing him so the people would believe (John 11:41-42). Jesus turns the crowd’s attention toward God the Father who is always with him. With the Holy Spirit, God the Father and Jesus are united and inseparable—three in one. God works through Jesus to perform the miracles. Without all three intertwined members of the Trinity, the Trinity could not do its work.”
Jesus cries out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43 NRSV). As though Lazarus is just sleeping, Jesus yells to wake him up. And Lazarus comes out to greet Jesus. The dead rise to new life.
This causes many people to come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. A community forms from Lazarus’ resurrection to new life. The people are able to connect with God through Jesus, a live human being. However, Jesus remains focused on Lazarus’ needs to be unbound and fed. Jesus cares for the individual—his friend, Lazarus, even as people come to him through faith.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for raising Lazarus up to new life. Help us to understand death is not the final say, even as we look toward Holy Week. Remind us of the power behind your resurrection. Thank you for gathering us as your community. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Where and how do you experience resurrection and new life?
- When do you talk with God?