Mary knew Jesus was capable. Martha did, too. Water turned to wine at his bidding. Blind eyes opened to light and life at the touch of his fingertips. While in ministering Cana, Jesus restored a boy near death in Capernaum. Now, Lazarus lay on his deathbed. Mary and Martha knew Jesus could restore their brother, even while out of town. So the sisters “sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’” (John 11:3)
Then the sisters sat at Lazarus’ bedside and waited for signs of healing. They looked for Jesus’ silhouette in the doorway. One day passed and then another with no evidence of a miracle and no news of Jesus’ whereabouts. A two-mile journey should not take so long. Jesus loved Lazarus, this the sisters knew. If the trip was an inconvenience, they knew Jesus could heal Lazarus from wherever he stood. But where was Jesus? Perhaps tomorrow, they thought. Perhaps tomorrow Jesus will arrive. Then Lazarus will rise from his deathbed.
But Lazarus died and his sisters carried his body to a tomb. Neighbors drew near to comfort them. On the fourth day of mourning, Jesus arrived in Bethany. Mary and Martha both said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32).
A bystander said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying” (John 11:37)?
It was his love for this bystander – and his love for Mary and Martha – that Jesus tarried on the road to Bethany. A quick, long-distance miracle would have spared the small community their grief. Yet, tragedy had allowed for an even greater miracle. Jesus knew this, but the sisters knew only sorrow. Their grief saddened him, but he loved them too much to rob them of the greater miracle he had come to perform.
You know how the story ends. The “greater miracle” produces greater faith and sorrow turns to joy. You know that sometimes we must endure the crucibles of life if we are to grow in our faith. You’ve read that, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). But are you still “waiting for Lazarus to rise,” so to speak? Are you still waiting for the “greater miracle” to come about? Does Jesus feel two miles, or even two hundred miles, away? Or do you sense his comfort, but wonder why he won’t just say the word and deliver you now? Why does he seem to tarry when your situation is urgent and your heart is full of pain?
“Lord, if you had been here, _____________________________________.”
He despises that you feel pain, especially when he knows the outcome. He wept for Mary and Martha, though he knew Lazarus would rise that very afternoon. He knows that a quick miracle will spare you sorrow today, but he loves too much to provide a shortcut. He seeks instead to develop in you a faith and love immeasurably stronger and more real than your heartache. And that kind of faith and love will always outlive grief.
Prayer: Lord, I know that your ways are not my ways, but I still feel let down. Please give me the faith to trust in you and the “greater miracle” you have in mind for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.