Do we have enduring faith in God when our prayers don’t seem to be answered? How does the glory of God line up with what you are asking Him to do for you?
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.7 Then after this He *said to the disciples, “ Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples *said to Him, “ Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “ Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He *said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
Jesus gives us another hard pill to swallow. Reading the story does not necessarily put us in the place of Mary and Martha, certainly not Lazarus himself. Those who are familiar with the story may know that in the end, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Let’s start with Martha and Mary sending word to Jesus. Mary’s brother is deathly ill. This is the same Mary that anointed Jesus, so we know she believes in Him. So, she reaches out to the One she knows who can heal him. Unbeknownst to Mary and her household, Jesus delayed Himself two whole days! To us, this is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? Especially in today’s society of rushing around and “getting things done.” But let us not forget what He said in verse 4, it is for the glory of God. We don’t like this sometimes. Usually, I thought this message was given directly to Mary to console her, but we see here that she wasn’t the one bringing the message, so she certainly didn’t know what was going on, she just had faith that Jesus would help them.
In the meantime, the disciples are questioning Jesus’ boldness as He is daring to return to the city that just tried to stone Him. Let’s think about this: the disciples recognize Him as the Son of God, Jesus said that the situation with Lazarus was to glorify God, yet they were still worried about what would happen to Him. Sounds a lot like us as we work so hard to defend our faith and belief and God. I love Jesus’ response to them because He doesn’t just say, “It’s all good, I’m the Son of God,” but rather He yet again gives them a little nugget to hold onto whenever they are faced with re-entering a dangerous situation. Walking by the Light.
Next we find what I consider a “key” into things Jesus says throughout the bible, equating sleep with death. I have always found it peculiar that He uses sleep to represent death but today I realize that it is because in Jesus’ view, in God’s view, death is but a temporary thing that you can be woken up from, and this very story proves it.
Ok, so now we learn that Lazarus is dead. Imagine the ire in this story. Mary, a believer and follower of Christ reaches out to Him in a time of need. He is fully capable of healing the sick, but He says, “hey guys, this one is for the glory of God, let’s take a two day break.” He waits until Lazarus is dead to decide to show up. I can imagine the looks on the faces of the disciples when Jesus told them he was dead. Not only does He want to go back into the town that just wanted to kill Him, but He took His sweet time waiting and now the man is dead!
Need I also point out the little observation that Jesus knew Lazarus was dead without being in his presence? This is a subtle reminder of Mathew 10:29-31, “29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
I can imagine the sheer disappointment in Mary and her family when Lazarus died. Did her faith die a little? Did her insecurities attack her mind thinking maybe she didn’t deserve Jesus to save her brother? Maybe she thought Lazarus didn’t deserve it. Maybe she was thinking, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will for Lazarus to live.” There are many more thoughts that I’m sure we can add to this situation.
It is difficult for us to imagine God being glorified through this. It is hard for any of us to accept God’s goodness in death, especially one we don’t think is deserved. Stephen Furtick talks about the purpose of those big prayers, like the one Mary sent to Jesus while her brother was still alive, and what it means when they don’t seem to be answered. Some people get angry at God for these things, allowing the suffering of others, especially innocent or faithful people.
How do you respond? Do you believe it is all for His glory? Do you get angry at God for not answering your prayers? It is hard for us to have faith in something or someone that doesn’t seem to pull through the way we want them to. This is where we see real faith. True trust in God is not during the good times, but in times of suffering and sorrow. I will close out today with a verse I learned this past week. It is from Job, who if you remember had an abundant life and it was taken from him. Do we have enduring faith like this?
Job 13: 15-16, 15 “ Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. 16 “This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence.”