Reading: John 11, 12
I love the story of the raising of Lazarus. It’s just full of little side stories, trails that lead us off to lessons and insights. The relationship between Jesus and these three siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, is unique in the Gospels. John remarks that: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (11:5) so it blew everyone’s mind that He didn’t hurry to Bethany the moment He got the news that Lazarus was sick.
Martha, the strong one, was likely looking after all the arrangements and entertainment of the people who came to commiserate with the sisters after Lazarus was buried (11:19). When Jesus did arrive she rushed out to meet Him before He even got to the house. They had a significant theological discussion before she took Jesus to the tomb where her brother has been laid to rest.
“Jesus wept” (11:35), writes John.
I wonder why. Jesus knew what He was about to do. Perhaps He was feeling the pain of His dear friends who had suffered this tragedy. It’s more than likely His tears were an acknowledge of the consequences of the sin that had made death a reality in the first place. The passing of Lazarus probably reminded Him of what was coming in His own life that would provide a remedy to the problem of sin and death. I suspect the Lord was sorry He had to call Lazarus back from heaven. Great for his sisters, a wonderful testimony to the witnesses present, a powerful illustration of an eternal truth–but Lazarus would have to come away from the joy of being whole, perfect, in the presence of God and His angels just to come back, get sick (or murdered), and die all over again.That alone is enough to make anyone cry!
To be a fly on the wall of that kitchen in Bethany once the visitors were all gone and Jesus was alone with his friends and disciples, would have been something special. Did Jesus and Lazarus talk about heaven, their eyes meeting , exchanging knowing glances that the others would not understand? The two men now shared something that none of the others had yet experienced.
“Sorry, my friend, but I needed to bring you back here for a while in order that my Father’s Name would be glorified.”
“No problem, Lord. Having been there once only makes the anticipation of returning that much sweeter.”
“You know that you are going to get into trouble when you talk about this with others?”
“Yes, I know, but it’s okay.”
Sure enough, the authorities tried to kill Lazarus (12:9-11) but I suspect he would be the first one to understand and appreciate the words that Jesus would speak after that grand entrance into Jerusalem when he said: “…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be…what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:24, 28, NIV).
Heavenly purposes tend to dim earthly attractions.