Fifth Sunday in Lent

Ezekiel 37:1-14;
Romans 8:6-11;
John 11:1-46

“This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been here!”

Martha said it. Mary said it. Some of the mourners were likely to have said it. Lazarus had taken ill. Surely if Jesus were there, He would have healed him. After all, He had healed all sorts of strangers — many of them were the strangest of strangers. Now, the brother of two of his most devoted followers gets deathly ill, and what does Jesus do?

He waits.

And waits..

And waits

… until Lazarus dies. Jesus lets him die!

It would seem unseemly to talk about a purpose behind the act of not acting to heal Lazarus. But Jesus Himself raises the issue. He says, “It’s good that I wasn’t there.” Huh?? How could that be?? Jesus had something bigger in mind than just another run-of-the-mill, everyday, amazing sensational miracle healing. It was time to show that His power extended beyond the grave.

But even knowing that, even with so strong a purpose behind it, it still was not a matter of Jesus’ just going there and popping Lazarus out of a tomb. He still had to face a large number of mourners. Lazarus was far from being a loner. His death brought much grief to many, and especially to two of Jesus’ closest followers, Martha and Mary. Jesus had to come face-to-face with their anguish and their blame, one-on-one. And they were right — it was anguish which wouldn’t have happened if He came when He was told about the illness. Jesus could’ve healed Lazarus. There was no arguing about that stone cold fact. The delay had such a mighty price in sorrow that He was moved and troubled, so much that He wept, even though He already knew what He was about to do. There was only one act even He could do to make it worth that price. He had to call Lazarus out of the tomb.

Death is no small thing, even to Jesus. (Think of Him at Gethsemane.) But that just makes victory over death even more essential. Jesus’ victory over Lazarus’ death. Jesus’ victory over His own death. Jesus’ victory over your death.

Lord, I do fear death. I will fear death. Help me to trust you through the fear, so that I might confidently live according to Your will. Amen.

Bob Longman

Hear the above, as an mp3.

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