O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. II Chronicles 20:6 (KJV)
This week we have celebrated All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. In light of that our Scripture reading for Sunday was about Jesus and Lazarus from John 11. The CliffsNotes version of the story goes like this.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are dear friends, beloved of Jesus. He stops at their house from time to time for a visit and a meal. The narrative opens with Lazarus’ illness and his sisters’ message to Jesus to come quick. By the time the messenger reaches Jesus, Lazarus is probably already dead, and Jesus waits another two long days to go to his friends. He even tells his disciples that Lazarus is dead, and he is glad because this will be an opportunity for their faith to increase.
When Jesus arrives at the village of Bethany, Martha comes out to greet him with the admonition, “If you’d been here, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.” Then she adds a profound statement of faith. “But I know that God will do whatever you ask.” Jesus proclaims one of his I AM statements, saying, “I AM the resurrection and the life. If you believe in me, you will see the glory of God.” Martha reaffirms her faith.
Then Mary joins Jesus and Martha, and the entourage of grieving Jews follows her. Mary also tells Jesus that if he’d been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus doesn’t respond but asks instead where Lazarus is laid. At the grave site, Jesus cries because of the unbelief around him, because of his anger at death, because of the sadness of his friends who are responding as pagans rather than believers, and, perhaps, because he has to bring Lazarus back.
Practical Martha warns Jesus that Lazarus already stinks because he’s been dead four days. (Jews didn’t consider anyone officially dead until three days had passed.) Instead of silently joining the mourners, Jesus prays and then shouts, “Lazarus, come out.” (He had to say Lazarus’ name so that only he would be raised from the dead.) Lazarus came out of the tomb, and Jesus commanded that he be loosed from his grave clothes. What a sight that must have been.
John tells us at the end of the chapter that from that day, the priests and temple rulers sought to put Jesus to death…
Now look at these gems from this story:
• Jesus’ timing was perfect. Mary and Martha expected him to appear immediately, but his delay caused a greater manifestation of God’s glory.
• Mary and Martha and Lazarus wanted a healing—they got a resurrection.
• The delay was proof that Lazarus was really dead, and only divine intervention would save him. Indeed, the Son of God, the incarnated Jesus, the I AM, brought Lazarus to life.
• Jesus was angry at death, our last enemy, but knew that his divine commission would soon be accomplished, and that he would conquer death, hell, and the grave.
• The priests and Jewish rulers began planning from the day of Lazarus’ resurrection to put Jesus to death. Instead of taking him down, they played right into Jesus’ hands to fulfill God’s promise of salvation from the beginning of creation (Genesis 3).
• GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL, and all things serve his purpose. He can always be fully trusted even when we don’t understand.
Dearest Father, we thank you that your Son Jesus is Lord of all and that nothing is outside your control. Remind us that you always answer our prayers according to your will, your way, and in your time. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.