October 6th

Faith Trials

1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
4When 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." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
8"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
16Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Jesus Comforts the Sisters
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
28And 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." 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
35Jesus wept.
36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I 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."
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
  John 11:1-44 NIV 

As I read this story during a recent Quiet Time, I noticed how Jesus was deeply moved when he saw Mary weeping.  Mary was the one who anointed Jesusí feet with costly perfume and wiped them with her hair (John 12).  She was also the one who made it top priority to sit and listen to Jesusí teaching when he visited their home (Luke 10).  Though Jesus loved both Martha and Mary, we can see a marked difference in how he responded to each sister when he came to town after Lazarusí death.  Jesus questioned Martha about her faith, but when Mary came to him, he was ďdeeply moved in spirit and troubledĒ (33).  The bystanders thought Jesus was crying because he loved Lazarus, but I suspect he was crying for a different reason.  

Jesus had been following his Fatherís instructions and knew that Lazarus would die and then be raised from the dead so that God would be glorified (4).  He knew that the event would also inspire many people to place their faith in him, including the disciples.  And so, with that knowledge, he tarried and Lazarus died.   

Arriving in Lazarusí village, Jesus was confronted with the human side of his decision to follow the Fatherís will.  The contrast between his exchange with Martha and Mary suggests to me that he was connecting with Mary because of her depth of faith and the pain that she was no doubt experiencing.  Mary had the kind of faith that God wants all of us to have. It was a simple, childlike faith that took priority in her life over things like money and household chores.  Having this kind of deep faith can be powerfully rewarding, however it also carries higher risk with it.  The risk is that we will be more deeply affected when things donít work out the way we expect.   

Those of us who have taken some leaps of faith for God in life may be able to best identify with Mary.  She had believed in Jesus and asked him to come to heal her brother.  As the sickness took its toll on Lazarus, we can surmise that Jesusí delayed arrival was taking its toll on Maryís emotions.  She believed Jesus could heal Lazarus, but what was taking him so long to get there?  She was no doubt tempted to get bitter and angry with Jesus for delaying his arrival, but she apparently didnít.  I believe Jesus sensed Maryís anguish, bewilderment and confusion as she weeped at his feet.  He wept, having compassion on this precious one of his Fatherís flock, who had faithfully believed.   Though he knew that in a moment things would change for her when he raised Lazarus, Jesus empathized with her.   

I believe that this story reveals Godís heart toward his precious ones who take leaps of faith in life that donít quite turn out as they hoped and believed.  While we can take comfort in knowing that God is ultimately going to work things out for the best, we perhaps can take greater comfort in knowing that God deeply empathizes with us in the midst of our temporary confusion and bewilderment.  Though he sees things from the eternal perspective, he feels the pain we may feel and understands our confusion over why things didnít work out the way we expected.  In such situations, the temptations to become angry and bitter at God may be strong, but following that path will only yield sorrow.  If we can hang in there with God alittle longer, even though we may not understand why things happened, I believe weíll eventually receive understanding about the greater glory that was at work.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

ďHeavenly Father, I praise your name.  Thank you for your great love and mercy on me.  If Iíve harbored bitterness or anger in my heart toward you, I confess that right now.  I forgive you, Lord and now please forgive me for holding those things against you.  I trust that you are in control and will not get anxious when things happen that I donít understand.  Please heal my heart from the wounds of the past and especially when things didnít work out the way I believed they would.  Please help me see the greater glory that is at work.  I believe in you, Lord, and please help me overcome any unbelief in my heart.  Thank you, Father.  I receive your love and comfort.  I follow you anew today.  In Jesusí name I pray, Amen.Ē