Let’s look at the very humanness of this Lazarus event. Jesus was a close friend of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. He often visited them with his disciples. We remember the time when Jesus and his friends crashed at Lazarus’ home and caused a bit of a family squabble, Martha complaining about having to do all the work of preparing a meal while her lazy sister Mary sat and listened to what Jesus had to say.
Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill. They expected him to come right away. They knew Jesus had cured sick men and women before; surely he would be there for his friend Lazarus. But things didn’t work out that way. Jesus and his companions showed up four days after Lazarus’ burial. His body had already begun to smell.
When Martha, who always spoke her mind, went out to meet Jesus she rightly complained to him, ‘if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ In other words, ‘after all the hospitality we’ve shown you and your friends, where were you when we need you? Martha and Mary must have had conversations about how disappointed they were with Jesus’ absence in their time of grief because Mary made the same complaint when she met Jesus,’ if you had been here our brother would not have died.’
Martha and Mary shared the same conviction, ‘I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ In other words, all is not lost.
And we are told that Jesus wept, he shared in their grief and in the sadness of the whole scene. As Jesus told his disciples when word reached about Lazarus’ health, ‘this illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of Man may be glorified through it,’ In other words, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Jesus goes to the tomb and in loud voice he calls Lazarus to come out. To everyone’s astonishment Lazarus comes out wrapped in his burial shroud. We can only imagine the shock and the astonishment of all who were there that day and how swiftly the news spread about what Jesus did.
One thing in this wonderful event that sticks with me is the justifiable complaint of Martha and Mary, ‘if you had been here our brother would not have died.’ That complaint might make us wonder whether or not we have been there for family members and friends when they most needed us. There can be times in a person’s life when he or she can be so overwhelmed that they feel their very life has gone out of them. Emotionally they are as good as dead. They’ve just been told they have cancer or some debilitating disease that will change their life completely. They may be tortured by anxiety or swamped by depression. They may have been let go from their job. They may be faced with the shock of separation or divorce. They may have discovered a son or daughter in trapped in an addiction. The list could go on and on, but their lives will never be the same.
Jesus was there for Martha and Mary and his presence, his words made a difference. Are we there for those who need us? We can’t make the pain go away but our concern, our presence our words can make a difference. We can ask the question; ’is there anything I can do’. We can let them know we are praying for them. Do we appreciate the fact that a visit, a phone call, an email might make a difference and let them know they are not alone? These gestures may not be appreciated but at least we tried.
There is a song titled ‘where were you when I needed you’? Jesus was there for Martha and Mary. Can he inspire us to be there for those who might appreciate our presence, our prayers or our words of encouragement? As Jesus called Lazarus to life, our little gestures might call our friends to new life, new hope. It’s something to think about.