We’ve all been there. At some point in our lives, the situation is so bad that we feel like we have no where else to turn. Maybe it is a diagnosis, a car accident, or even a prolonged illness…but we’ve tried everything we know to do to cope, and the only thing left is to hope that God does a miracle.
That’s where we find the people in this story from Jesus’ life. Two sisters and their brother, all loved by Jesus. They have an established relationship with each other. By all indications, Jesus has even stayed at their house, possibly several times. But something bad has happened to their brother, and the sisters can’t do anything else about it:
Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to Him: “Lord the one you love is sick.”
Let’s stop here and think about logistics for a moment. How did they get in touch with Jesus? According to the text at the end of chapter 10, Jesus wasn’t in Bethany. Instead, he was a couple days’ journey away. Martha and Mary couldn’t text or call to ask Him to come to Bethany or to even find out exactly where He was at the moment. Someone had to physically make the long journey to go to the last place Jesus was known to be, and then go searching for Him from there.
How time-consuming and risky! They would have no guarantee of Jesus still being where He was before or that the messenger would end up asking the right person who knew where Jesus and His disciples had gone to next. Going to this effort only underscores how sick Lazarus really was. Mary and Martha must have believed that their brother would not live without some sort of divine intervention.
But also keep in mind that Jesus had performed long-distance healing miracles before. Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion without even entering the house. Jesus then publicly praised the centurion for his faith in Jesus’ authority. You can read about it in Luke 7:1-10. Surely, the sisters thought, if Jesus was willing to heal a complete stranger, who was the servant of a leader in a foreign army that was occupying Israel…then without a doubt Jesus would heal a fellow countryman that He knew and loved, right?
We don’t know how long it took, but the messenger did eventually find Jesus:
When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.
The messenger and the disciples likely thought Jesus’ statement meant that Lazarus wouldn’t die. I’m sure they all took some measure of comfort from thinking this. However, as the story continues, we will see that Lazarus did die from his illness. Jesus was still right, though – Lazarus’ sickness did not end in death, but death was part of God’s plan this time.
We need to stop here and wrestle with a few observations, even if they are uncomfortable:
· Sometimes, God allows really bad things to happen to people, even ones He loves.
· Just because God healed someone else doesn’t mean healing is coming in the same way for us.
· God performing healing miracles is more about the glory of God than it is about our preference for comfort.
We trust that God hears us when we pray. We trust that He loves us. However, just because those two things are true does not mean that He will swoop in and respond in the way that we think He should fix everything.