by Heather Bock
Jesus was friends with a family in Bethany, two sisters and a brother: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. At one time, Mary had sat at Jesus’ feet to hear Him speak while her sister worked hard to prepare something good for Him to eat. Now Lazarus was seriously ill. The sisters knew Jesus loved Lazarus and knew He could help, so they sent a message–probably a pretty desperate message–informing Him of the sickness.
John 11:5-6 states, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”
Wait a second. Say that again? Jesus individually loved each of these family members, SO when He heard that one was sick, He stayed two days longer before going to them?
I had to look it up. Maybe the word “so” in this verse had some other possibility of meaning. Nope–it’s just what I normally think it means: “a conjunction indicating that something follows from another necessarily” (Strong’s). This was hard for me to understand. You see, when I love someone, and I learn that person is deathly ill, I do all I can to reach the friend as soon as I can.
I don’t wait on purpose.
However, my plans to comfort my friends are good, but Jesus has bigger plans than I do.
In truth, I don’t know all Jesus’ reasons for making Mary and Martha wait while they watched their beloved brother fail, suffer, and die. They waited while they mourned at his graveside. They waited while they stumbled back home, the way blurred by their tears. They still waited until four days after their brother’s death–when most superstitious Jews would give up any hope of a resurrection, as apparently some believed the soul of a dead person would linger for three days.
Then Jesus came–through Judea, a place where people in power looked to kill Him and possibly His disciples, too. He came with those disciples following behind, ready to die with Him. It wasn’t danger that held Him back.
Neither Mary nor Martha understood why He had taken so long. They both brought up the subject, both lamenting, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Despite the fact that He was about to deliver Lazarus from death, Jesus looked at those mourning, and He wept. He was troubled and deeply moved, John writes. It wasn’t a lack of love or compassion that held Him back.
I believe Jesus held Himself back from immediately alleviating the grief in order to bring about real, lasting belief–real, lasting heart change.
He said it to His disciples before they left on the trip: “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him” (Jn. 11:15). The chapter also makes a point that Bethany was only two miles away from Jerusalem, so many Jews had come to console Mary and Martha. Many Jews would be there to witness this resurrection, some of whom were doubting Him, asking, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” (Jn. 11:37). After this miracle, many Jews dropped their doubts for belief in Him.
Before this, Martha had the start of some major faith in Jesus. After saying that her brother would still be alive if Jesus had been there, she followed with, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (Jn. 11:22). She wasn’t quite ready, though. When Jesus affirmed that Lazarus would rise again, she didn’t quite dare to hope. She said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (Jn. 11:24). Jesus affirmed that He is the resurrection and the life, and He had one question for her: “Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:26). He wanted her to believe.
Even as He prayed to God for the miracle of resurrection, He made it clear He even prayed aloud for the sake of more to believe: “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 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” (Jn. 11:42).
Jesus loved Mary, Martha, Lazarus, His disciples, the Jews who would be there, and those of us who would read this account, SO He waited.
He waited so we might believe the truth.
He waited so we might see evidence of His love and power.
He waited so we might put our trust in the only One worthy of trust.
Are you in the place Mary and Martha were in before Jesus came? Are you waiting? Please trust that He sees you weep, and He weeps with you, even though He knows the glorious ending–He knows the higher purpose for which He waits.
Drawing for NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible
Today I get to announce the winner of my drawing for the NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible! I hope this Bible will help bring about for at least one young girl the faith and trust Jesus wants for all of us. Thank you for all who entered the drawing. The winner is: Laura Bon. Congratulations! Please email me at heather.bock[at]glimpsesofjesus.com with your address so I can send the Bible to you. If I don’t hear from you within a week, I will draw another name. Thank you!
By the way, stay tuned for another drawing–I will have one every week through November for several Bibles and books that will make great Christmas gifts!