John 11: 1-43
As I sat down this morning to read, I was raptured by this story of Lazarus. But not just with Lazarus; specifically with Mary.
Mary, whom we would later know as the woman who busted in to a party with Jesus and his friends, only to break the most expensive of perfume (probably her life savings) at Jesus' feet and then proceed to wipe his feet with her hair. An extravagant act to match a deep Love that she had for her Savior.
An obedience and passion that would also lead to her being known as the woman who sat at Jesus' feet, listening to all He had to say. All while her sister Martha, would be busy preparing for the party complaining of Mary not helping. What I find interesting about this, is Jesus' response : "Martha, martha," The Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42) Martha did not seem urgent for Jesus, which will counter her response to John's account of her brother, Lazarus. We'll get back to that in a moment.
In John 11, we find out that Mary and Martha's brother is on his death bed.
"So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
And His response? "This sickness will not end in death. No it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it." John, the writer, goes on to clarify how much Jesus loves mary and martha as well.
So here we are. We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We even know He loves Martha and Mary.
His response must then be to cure their brother. Right? At least that is our belief in our most honest and vulnerable state. We associate God's love for us, with what good is happening in our lives at the moment. Things are going so bad- God must not be there. Things are good- God must love me.
We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We know He loves Martha and Mary.
Yet, Jesus let Lazarus die.
He died. I wonder what Mary thought the moment her brother gasped for his last breathe. Or as she wrapped him in grave clothes. Or when 4 days had passed and people were starting to move on. Where is Jesus? How could He let this happen? I wonder if she started to question every claim he had given. I wonder if her trust for her Savior faltered when He was not there to save her brother.
I wonder if this is where bitter roots start to form? When bad things happen and we allow the seeds of distrust to enter in. After all, distrust causes us to retreat. Which is the opposite of barging in on Jesus and his friends to pour your life's savings at His feet.
But as it goes on, it confirms all things I know to be true. We are not God and we are not in control. Jesus' response was to go four days AFTER he died. "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but i am going there to wake him up." His response was the opposite of human logic.
These words have to be some of my favorite. Here Jesus absolutely flips it on his disciples and soon to be Mary and Martha. It's hard to relate to Lazarus being rose from the actual dead. It's hard to imagine the possibility of life after 4 days dead, in a tomb, covered from head to toe in grave clothes.
But what is not necessarily hard to imagine, but hard to believe, is feeling so far gone spiritually, that there is just no redemption. No redemption for our friend who could not be further from believing the truth of Jesus. No redemption for our lost family member who would believe in Big Foot before believing in a Savior who died to save you from your sins. No redemption for our own sinful lives; dead to feeling and hope.
But Jesus. (don't you love that sentence?)
Jesus goes to WAKE HIM UP. I don't know about you, but I know this feeling of being woken up. And listen, I was ASLEEP (so to speak). The lost cause. The adulteress woman. I was Hosea who sought after lovers. And My Jesus said "NO. MY FRIEND ANGIE HAS FALLEN ASLEEP, BUT I AM GOING TO WAKE HER UP." I get emotional every time I see this verse. You are never too far gone. He will never stop his fight to WAKE YOU UP.
But it's here that I notice how good our God is at multitasking. He is on his way to raise Lazarus, literally, from the dead. But on his way, He wakes up Mary and Martha as well.
"On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. " John 11:17-19
When He arrived in Bethany at the home of Mary and Martha, Martha came out to greet him immediately. The same woman who was too concerned with "doing" rather than "being" with Jesus. The same woman who seemed to have lost her need for Jesus, was running out to greet Him with anxious expectation.
But the line I noticed the most was this: "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home." John 11: 20
Mary stayed home. She retreated. It's like you can see her hardening up to the Jesus she once loved as her world comes crashing down. As I read these words this morning, an overwhelming feeling of "me too" came over me. I understood it, after all. I understood the retreat. I understood the "stand still" as maybe she debated whether or not Jesus could be trusted. How often do I let my fear or distrust sit me back down- cutting me off from my run to my Savior.
"Lord , Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? "
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
And 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.
And she didn't just go to him. She ran to Him and fell at his feet. You see, when Jesus calls you; you run. There is so much comfort in that. My own sin, my own junk. My own trust issues. There is nothing that will stop Jesus from calling your name and calling you back.
Even in our disbelief and distrust, Jesus still pursues and calls us by name.
He can take it. After all, this all proceeded what would be the most ultimate act of love in the face of our ugliest of sin. But in the midst of all this, he goes directly to the tomb of Lazarus and calls him out.
"So they took away the stone. 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.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The 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."
I think sometimes our distrust in the Lord can send our hearts straight to the grave of numbing bitterness. Maybe things in your life have led you to believe that God is not good or that he cannot be trusted. After all, your story may not have ended up exactly like Lazarus and Mary's. However what is true and what I will shout at the top of my lungs, is that Jesus is after us. All of us. All of Mary. All of Lazarus. All of us.
He wants to unstrip the layers for us to raise our hands again.
To raise our hands to our God that loves us and is holding us tightly in our hands. The God who held my friend Jenna as she went to be with him this past October. The God who healed my best friend's son in nothing short of a miracle. He is good. And He can be trusted. And he's big enough to take your fears, doubts, anxiety and everything in between. I once heard Louie Giglio say, "Jesus is not offended by your stink." He calls you out to wake you up. Whether your stench smells like mary's distrust, or the threat of spiritual death and decay.
He will never stop calling you by name. Reminding you of His unfailing Love and his promise to never leave us or forsake us. Through the Good, the bad and the decay. .