My Bible is open to John 11 and I read about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I usually jump to the exciting part about new life for Lazarus in this account and just skim over the first part of the story. Today I read it a little differently. I see the experiences of Mary and Martha as encouragement for anyone who is waiting for “something” to happen. My Reader, are you aching for a special friend or family member to have a personal encounter with Jesus? Are you praying for someone to be physically, emotionally or spiritually healed? Study the words of John 11 with me.
Verse 1: Now a man named Lazarus was sick… he was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Lazarus was the individual who was sick. He had two sisters who loved him and wanted to see him healed. Can you name a person you care about who is like a Lazarus?
Verse 3: So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Mary and Martha knew Jesus well and were confident He could heal their brother. They contacted Jesus. This is what we do when we pray for another person.
Verse 4: When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Jesus heard Mary and Martha’s request but He planned to do more for Lazarus than put a band-aid upon his illness. We have the confidence that Jesus will hear our prayers of intercession but we must remember that He may have bigger plans for how He will work in a specific situation than what we may perceive. It might take more time.
Verse 5-6: Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was two more days.”
One would think that Jesus would want to return to be with His friends when tragedy struck . But that is not what Jesus did! Scripture says that Jesus stayed away because He loved them. Just because Jesus may not answer our prayers as we want when we want, it does not mean that He does not love us. It may even be because of His love that He waits.
Verses 14-15: So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.
Things had gone from bad to worse for this family of Bethany! Jesus knew what was happening and even said He was glad He was not there. That doesn’t sound very loving to us from the natural perspective. However, Jesus sees into the supernatural realm. Now Jesus is ready to go back to His friends. He did not forget them and He does not forget us even when it seems to us as if He is not going to intervene.
Verses 20, 28-29: When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home….After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
When Jesus returned to Bethany, He connected with Mary and Martha before He went to the grave of Lazarus. Before acting on behalf of Lazarus, Jesus had compassion on Mary and Martha and met them in their time of sorrow. We can be assured that He will comfort us while we are waiting for “sleeping” family and friends to return to Him. We are a priority to Jesus. I like John’s choice of words in verse 28 saying, “The Teacher is here.” The Holy Spirit lives inside us teaching us about who Jesus is. Just like Martha’s faith being broadened with understanding in verses 21-27, so can we grow in our faith. The Lord sees all situations as opportunities for us to gain a deeper understanding of who He is.
Verse 34: Where have you laid him (Lazarus)?” he (Jesus) asked.
With Mary and Martha at His side, Jesus now turned His attention to Lazarus. He wanted to know where Lazarus was. Where have we left the family and friends for whom we are praying? Have we left them alone feeling that they are dead and hopeless or have we left them at the feet of Jesus?
Verse 35: Jesus wept.
Jesus could have wept because of the sorrow of Mary and Martha. He also weeps with us in our pain. Jesus could have wept because of the death of Lazarus. He mourns with us when we mourn the loss of someone special. Jesus could have wept because of the lack of faith and understanding of those around Him. He cries within His heart as He sees how little faith we have compared to what is available to us.
Verse 39: “Take away the stone,” he (Jesus) said.
This was the beginning of the miracle Jesus was about to perform. Is there a stone blocking Jesus’ entry into our hearts that is preventing Him from working in our lives? If so, He wants it removed.
Verses 41-42: Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jesus sets the example for us to begin our prayers with thanksgiving. Jesus was confident His Heavenly Father heard Him. We, too, can have the assurance that He hears and answers our prayers.
Verses 43-44: Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”…. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Not only did Lazarus receive life back into his body but he also was freed from bondage exemplified by the grave cloths that were taken off. Are there bonds that can be broken in our lives that will allow us to live a freer better life? We have this promise for eternity but we also have the promise for today if we are willing to come out of our old dead ways of thinking and acting.
In conclusion, I believe Mary and Martha were glad Jesus waited two days. Their prayers were answered in an exceedingly, abundantly way far beyond what they had asked! I think what happened in the lives of Mary and Martha was just as important as the gift of resurrected life Lazarus received. The Lord works within our lives while working in the lives of those we bring to Him in prayer. My Reader, take heart; you may be in a holding pattern waiting for the fulfillment of your fervent prayers, but Jesus cares about YOU!