What I love most about that story comes before Jesus even gets to Bethany, before He talks to Mary or Martha, and before He calls the stinky Lazarus out from the tomb where he'd been for the last four days. What I love most is found in what may be called the "introduction" of the account. Lazarus' sisters send word to Jesus that their beloved brother is sick:
"But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was." - John 11:4-6Did you catch that? Does that not seem somewhat ridiculous to you? Maybe a little bit contradictory? Jesus loved this family, but when He heard about Lazarus' illness, He stayed put. Not just for an hour or two while preparations to depart could be made, but for two whole days. I'll be honest, if I was in Mary or Martha's shoes; if I knew how great Jesus' love for my family was and the close personal connection we shared; I would expect Him to drop everything and come. Now. Pronto. Immediately.
But Jesus didn't.
The result? Lazarus dies. Mary and Martha mourn. They question why Jesus wasn't there earlier to prevent Lazarus' death. And I bet we could assume they might have been a little upset at Jesus for not being there. But the story doesn't end there, does it? Remember what Jesus told His disciples after He first heard about Lazarus' illness? "'This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God. . .'" (John 11:4) To be honest, I think the fact that Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after lying dead in a tomb for FOUR days is pretty awesome. What an incredible miracle to experience, to see, to hear about! Because of this miracle, many people came to believe in Jesus. Maybe more than would have believed had Jesus simply healed Lazarus' sickness.
I believe this story is the perfect example of the LORD's promise towards us in Isaiah:
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts that your thoughts.'" - Isaiah 55:8-9Whatever circumstance you find yourself in - if you feel that the LORD is ignoring your cries for help, if you feel like you've been waiting too long, if you feel as if everything's a mess - remember Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Remember that although Jesus loved them deeply, greater glory would come to Him if He let them experience the pain of the valley. Remember that Jesus didn't forget them, and what He ended up doing - although later than they would have anticipated - brought joy, glory, and believers to Himself.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Always.