Death of Lazarus
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21)
How many times have I looked to Jesus or to other Christians and essentially said the same thing, “If only you had done your part, this or that would not have happened to me in my life!”?
Martha’s heart-wrenching statement was not likely an indictment against Jesus for not being there, but a painful lament for the consequences she felt at that time for his absence at such a critical time. She knew Jesus was a busy man, and even though they had a close, personal relationship with him, she could not expect him to drop everything just for them. He was, after all, the Messiah, and had other important matters to attend to. Sometimes I feel that way too, especially when I was the one who caused the mess I’m in at that time.
A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” (John 11:1-14)
Where was Jesus when Lazarus was struggling and dying? Surely, this was a most important time for him to be there with his close friend.
Jesus was with his friend at that time, just not physically. Though still on earth, he was aware of Lazarus’ situation and thinking about him. He knew his condition. He knew he was going to die. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. Man’s timing and God’s timing were just not the same.
Certainly, that is true in our lives today as well – we want God to move in our timetable, and oh yes, also do things the way we want while he’s at it. But God accomplishes his will in his timing, and we need to trust him and his goodness and allow him to be God.
Martha, however, did not know all we do as she watched her brother die with Jesus close enough to save him, but who did not get there in the time frame she had hoped. It’s easier for us to look back and see God’s plan and feel confidence, knowing the outcome. It’s quite another thing to be where Martha was, waiting on the Lord to answer her prayers, yet not seeing the results she desired.
Where Was My Help?
Right now, in my struggle against my sexual addiction and its impact on my spiritual life and our marriage, I not only beg for God’s forgiveness and his grace to change me in the present, but I look for reasons why and how I ever got that way. I also ask, “Where were you, Jesus?”, and “Where were you, my Christian brothers, when I needed someone to slap me across the face and bring me to my senses?”
Regardless of the answers to those two questions, the facts are that my sinful choices and pride and selfishness put me there and I have no one to blame but myself.
Where Were My Brothers?
As far as where my brothers were, perhaps many of them were struggling like I was with sin and pride and idolatry, and so, like me, were no-shows when someone was needed:
if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. (Galatians 6:1)
Or perhaps they didn’t know where I was spiritually. Or they didn’t know what to do, so they did nothing – a lame excuse I heard from the leadership team last year at my last church.
Many successful recovery programs rely on other brothers to be there for you when you need help. Many of these guys are or were in the same boat as you, so they’re not necessarily first team picks, yet they are often more willing to stand by you and help you through a recovery process than those who have clean finger nails and no record, especially within the church walls. They will do it because someone did it for them, and they know the nightmare of recovery and the need not only for God at a deeper level than just Sunday mornings, but also the need for brothers to walk beside you and help you.
A huge help I had was my wife, but I didn’t listen to her and blamed her and played mind games with her. Perhaps I would have done that with others as well.
I Knew Better
I was not lacking in spiritual knowledge, nor was I unaware of the sinfulness of my lifestyle. I just wanted to do what I wanted, and I was able to hide it from most folks and play mind games to keep my wife quiet. I even lied to myself over and over, minimizing my own sins to the point I felt I was doing well spiritually.
No, I cannot blame my brothers for not being there, nor anyone else for my choices, especially not my wife, who paid the most for my sins, other than Jesus. But I do wish another man would have helped me stop over the course of three decades, five states, a dozen cities, and countless churches, denominations, and men’s groups. You just didn’t talk about it. The past decade a few have stepped up, but we still find almost nobody wants to talk about this or get too involved. We are a dirty little secret in the church, but one way larger than most suspect.
Where Was Jesus?
The greater question, however, is, “Where was Jesus?” We might expect him to be more willing to save a godly friend like Lazarus from death, or even to raise him from the dead, but what about those of us who, like the prodigal, put ourselves where we are and deserve the consequences? Would he even give us another thought? Most of us would not.
Another thought? Jesus died for those sins I committed – every one of them he saw and he paid for and chose to die for me – the selfish, prideful, ungrateful slob who was warned not to go that direction by Jesus many times. He died for my sins, made a way for me to be right with God by his own suffering, gave me freedom to choose, warned me not to choose sin, sent his word, and his messengers, and my wife, and his Holy Spirit, and circumstances, and a thousand other ways he was there, even thinking about me while he was on the throne beside is father in heaven.
Where was Jesus? He was everywhere! Open your eyes, Rick! Open your eyes, brothers! We can’t comprehend the love he has for us.
Not only that, but the one who literally raised Lazarus from the dead can do in my life and yours beyond our comprehension to restore us to life and peace with God, including recovery from addictions. As Martha said in verse 22:
But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:22)
Jesus is Always There
Jesus can do in our lives what we cannot do, cannot even want to do apart from his Spirit. He will do it his way, in God’s timetable, and for our good. He is not surprised by anything, nor limited by any person nor circumstance. He can remove a king in an instant, and he can change a heart by faith that has been in the gutter for decades.
He never gives up. He never stops loving us. And, even if we do not see him or feel him at this moment, he is with us and for us and working his salvation in the lives of his children who put their faith in him, repent of their sins, and are figuratively raised from their old, dead life to a new life in him. That’s where he is.
Where are you? Where am I? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear? If not, let’s ask him for them today!