The story of Lazarus is very moving. We find this story in John 11. Notice the introduction of this event in verses 5 and 6,
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
The first thing that stands out here is that Jesus waited two days before he went to the aid of Lazarus and to be with those he loved, Martha and Mary. This truth is one of the teachings of scripture that makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it? If one of my loved ones needed me and I could help, I would have gone right away.
The fact that Jesus did not do this implies we do not fully understand the details or God’s plan. One potential hint that could explain the delay of Jesus is found in verses 38-39 which says,
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’”
What stands out in this section is that Lazarus had been dead four days! Why is that mentioned? If Jesus had not delayed two days and left to see Lazarus as soon as he heard of his illness, Lazarus would have still been dead for two days. Why did he wait until he was in the tomb for four days?
The ESV Study Bible gives great insight that is very helpful, “Though burial usually followed soon after death (see Acts 5:6, 10), some later Jewish sources indicate a belief that the soul hovered over the body for three days, hoping to reenter it, but then gave up and departed.”
One possible explanation then for Jesus waiting two days was to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had the power, authority and ability to raise a dead person to life. Lazarus had passed the 3-day waiting period that some believed was the time for the spirit to re-enter the body. He was dead, no matter how you looked at it.
Jesus intentionally delayed his arrival to perform one of his greatest miracles, the raising of Lazarus! Even his love for others fell under the leadership of God and his timing. His mission was to show to the world that he was the Messiah. This required the death and resurrection of Lazarus. It was all part of God’s plan.
Father, it is hard to understand how, why and when you do certain things. In the case of Lazarus, it was part of your plan to allow him to die. That did not mean you did not love him. The mission of the Gospel took precedence. Lazarus was blessed to experience a supernatural intervention in his life by Jesus raising him from the dead. In this case, it all seems to have worked out well. And yet, there will be times in my life when I do not understand and things may not work out like they did for Lazarus. Help me to respond in faith like Mary, who even though she did not understand and was crushed by the death of her brother, it did not stop her from believing in Jesus. This is clearly seen in verse 27 which takes place before the resurrection of Lazarus when she said,
“She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”
Help me to live a life of faithfulness in spite of my circumstances like Mary.
Following Jesus with you,