The God of the Here and Now
A daily devotion for January 28th
The Death of Lazarus
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 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.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 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.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
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. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?(John 11:21-26)
Martha greets Jesus with a phrase that must have been frequently on all of their lips when Lazarus was sick:
Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. I do not believe this is a word of reproach. Martha is not saying,
Lord, why didn't you come sooner? We sent for you. If you had responded we wouldn't be in this pickle. It is clear that she realizes the message did not reach him until Lazarus was dead. There was no way he could have responded and gotten there before Lazarus died. Martha's word is not one of reproach, but rather one of regret:
Lord, I wish you could have been here, because if you had, my brother would not have died.
Then she goes on to say,
But even now, whatever you ask of God, he will give it to you. Many ask at this point,
What does she expect? What is it that she wants from him? Some say that she really did expect Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. But they seem to miss the point because the very next word of Jesus is,
Your brother will rise again. If Martha had any idea that that would happen then, she would have said,
How wonderful, Lord! That is exactly what I expected you to do now that you have come. But she does not say that. What she says is,
Yes, I know. He will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. No, Martha is not looking for the immediate resurrection of her brother.
What, then, is she looking for from Jesus? What does she mean by the words,
Even now, whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you? We have to conclude that she is looking for his comfort, for the release that God can give to a heart that is burdened and saddened, torn with grief, anticipating the loneliness and emptiness of the days ahead. God can give marvelous inward peace. Many have testified to that.
As we listen to this we can see that Martha's faith is placed right where ours often is, in what she thought would happen, not in who Jesus is and whom she is dealing with. How many times have you said to yourself,
I know God has worked in the past, and I know that he will work again in the future, but today, well, this is not the day of miracles? In the daily grind of life our world seems to be so barren of miracles that we think,
Those days have gone. God can't work now. He will work again, though... This is Martha's faith—in the future, at the resurrection of the last day. Her theology is accurate, but she has forgotten that God is right there in the here and now.
That is what Jesus brings to her attention. Notice how he shifts the focus back from the program to his Person, in the words,
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? Even in the grammar of this passage the focus is on the first word,
I, I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus is saying that wherever he is, then anything God ever did or can do can happen! That is where faith ought to be fastened. That is what we ought to remember.
Thank you, Father, for this encouraging word, this reminder of the mighty power of our Lord, he who is Master of life and of death.
Life Application: Do our theological boxes serve to limit our expectations and/or experience of God's wisdom and sovereign power? Do we live each day with joyful trust in His agenda?
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