Summary: Jesus was four days late in reaching Lazarus’ tomb in order to prevent death but he was on time to bring his resurrection power and answer the prayer of Mary and Martha.
FOUR DAYS LATE AND STILL ON TIME
John 11:39-40, "Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"
What a terrible stink must have come from the grave of Lazarus who had been dead for four days before the days of modern embalming procedures! How many of you have ever passed near a dead animal on the highway? Can you remember that smell? It’s a smell that is unforgettable.
Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus, was dead. Jesus had been notified to come quickly by Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, but he didn’t seem to get in a hurry. The news of his sickness was no surprise to Jesus; neither was it troublesome to Jesus that Lazarus would eventually die and be buried. Jesus continued to do his teaching and working for two more days before he started for the home of Lazarus in Bethany.
Lazarus’ name meant “assistance of God”, pointing to the fact that, no matter where we live, we live only by the help of God. We have no power to do anything without God’s help.
He lived in the town of Bethany which means, “the house of song; the house of affliction”. I don’t know about you but I can certainly identify with needing God’s assistance and singing the blues, crying out to God and living in a place where there is affliction on every hand. Everywhere you turn in this life there is sickness, pain, death, depression, discouragement and constant trouble.
Job certainly knew what he was talking about when he spoke those words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Job 14:1, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble."
How many of you are living in the place of affliction right now? Have you lived a day in your life without trouble on every hand? Do you find yourself “singing out to God because of those afflictions”? Has Satan caused a stink to arise in your life and made things seem so hopeless that there doesn’t seem to be any possibility of getting your prayer answered?
WE ALL HAVE OUR BETHANY! No one is immune to the attacks of Satan or the troubles and trials of life.
Have you noticed the attitude of Jesus as he heard the news of Lazarus’ sickness? He knew that Lazarus was dying but it didn’t seem to affect Jesus at all. He just kept doing what he needed to do. Jesus wasn’t upset in the least for he already knew what was going to happen when he reached Bethany. He already knew that there were no impossible situations and that his power to speak resurrection was not limited by any circumstances.
I think it would help us greatly to realize that our seemingly hard or impossible circumstances are nothing to God. His power transcends our trouble. His power is not limited by our faithlessness or our hopelessness. Jesus has resurrection power and he cannot only bring victory when we haven’t given up hope, but he is just as able to bring us the victory after we have long given up hope.
When it seems that our finances have already died and the stink is beginning to arise; when it seems that our health is completely gone and the doctors have given up on us; when it seems that God has waited too long and the stink of our unbelief, distrust, and hopelessness rises; that’s when Jesus is ready to show forth his power and glory in us.
Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, the family of Lazarus was long past having hope. Lazarus was already dead, buried and his grave was sealed.
Satan’s greatest lie that he always whispers in the spiritual ear of everyone in distress is that “it’s over and there is nothing that God can or will do about it now.” If he can get you to give up on God, then the he has accomplished his goal.
That should be our first indication that God isn’t finished with us yet because the devil can’t speak the truth, therefore we should realize that God’s answer is still coming in his own time and in His own way. Just keep on trusting and having faith in God.
Perhaps your prayer seems that it will never be answered. We find ourselves in distress over finances, relationships within the family, and any number of things and it seems that God has turned a deaf ear to your cry. Things have gone from very bad to much worse and now there is no visible way to make things right.