Summary: There are lessons we can learn from the story of the raising of Lazarus that we may not have realized before.
During these Sundays in Lent we have spent time looking at some of the most memorable events and characters of the Bible. We have looked at Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, and the man born blind. This week we look at one of the most familiar stories of the entire Bible, the story of the raising of Lazarus. Almost anyone who is only faintly acquainted with the Bible has heard of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. The scripture from the Book of John, chapter 11 is a long one. But rather than going through the story in the chapter from top to bottom, I have chosen to isolate some outstanding lessons from it which can be of benefit to all of us no matter what our situations may be. We are looking at lessons from Lazarus.
The first lesson is this: the delay of deliverance is not the denial of deliverance. We notice something unusual in the first part of this chapter. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. Evidently his illness was serious. No doubt the sisters believed that when Jesus heard the news of their brother’s illness he would immediately come to their aid and possibly heal Lazarus. They were issuing a cry for deliverance.
When a loved one is sick we send out the news in the hope that someone will come to attend to us in our need. The natural reaction when we hear that relatives or dear friends are sick is to rush to their side to see what we can do for them. We would expect Jesus to come immediately to assist his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. But Jesus does just the opposite.
One of the most amazing verses in the Bible is verse 6 which says that when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick he spent 2 days longer in the same place where he was. Imagine that! He deliberately waited for 2 more days before he came to them. But when he got there we know the results of his coming. His delay in answering their call did not mean a denial of their call. Jesus came late but he was still on time. God always has our best interests at heart, but he acts according to his own agenda and timetable, not ours. Jesus has a purpose in waiting to come to Bethany where Mary and Martha were.
In fact we are told in verse 4 why he delayed coming. It was so that God would be honored and glorified through it. Mary and Martha sort of scolded Jesus when they saw him by saying, “Lord, if you had been here our brother would not have died.” There is something within us that wants to tell God what to do. Mary and Martha looked for a healing of their brother, but Jesus had in mind a resurrection of their brother. God would receive greater glory from a rising from the dead than by a healing of the sick. God acts from his sovereign perspective. In most cases we don’t know the purpose of God.
In this setting we saw why Jesus delayed his coming. But most of the time in our lives when Jesus seems to delay his coming to our rescue, we don’t know the reason for the delay. We get impatient and wonder why God doesn’t do something about our situation. But a delay does not mean a denial. God uses his divine prerogative as to when to make his move on our behalf. He always shows up at the right time.