Summary: Why did Jesus stay at the Jordan while His sick friend, Lazarus, lay dying in Bethany? Maybe a story like this one was the reason.
The Compassion of Your Savior
31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
We’ve heard the story so many times before. Jesus preferred to stay in the area where He was, which was in the area where John the Baptist had been, rather than returning to the area of Bethany where His friend Lazarus lay sick and dying. Why did He wait? What was so important?
Many commentators, scholars, and pastors have offered their learned opinions and conjectures and, many times, when I read them, they cause me more confusion rather than clarification. So what do I do think about what might have taken place.
What was going on, what was so important, to make Him stay there, near the Jordan? What were the reasons?
Well, the disciples, for the most part, are country people. I’m a country person, maybe I can think along their level if God will let me ascend to that level.
I’m going to read you a story that God laid on my heart. A story that is, for the most part, fiction. You’ll recognize those parts that are fiction and those parts that are non-fiction. It’s a story about a family. A father, and his three sons. The mother had died 10 years ago when she gave birth to the last son Azariah. They lived about three miles from the Jordan River.
A man running breakneck through our small village had told us of His coming, or rather being at the Jordan River. My father, a common laborer, was carrying wood to the metalsmith’s shop when he heard the man. It didn’t take much to convince my father that God was at work in his family. And, something in him, he later told me, convinced him strongly to send his two youngest sons to an unknown man, a healing man, over by the Jordan River.
You see, I’m the second of three sons. My oldest brother Jotham works in the metalsmith’s shop to help support the family. I also have a younger brother, named Azariah; He had been crippled since his birth. The birth from which my mother never recovered.
So, since my father and Jotham were expected to continue in their work to support the family, the biggest responsibility our family had ever known or ever would know was literally laid on the back of a young 14 year old boy.
I remember the conversation to this day. My father found Azariah and myself sitting in the shade of the sycamore tree. I was reciting to Azariah the story of how our people had wandered in the desert, and how they didn’t go hungry because God provided manna every morning for the people to gather and cook.
In your language, manna literally means, “what is it?”
Azariah, always the prankster, kept saying, “What? What is it?”
And, I would say, of course in Hebrew, manna or “What is it?”
That went on for a few minutes until I finally figured out that he was joking with me.
I always loved his jokes. In a world that was limited to just a few cubits, or the length that he could crawl, he was always happy. Azariah was the strength of our family. God always finds strength in the weakest, to support the many failings of the strongest.
My father had watched this banter of words between Azariah and myself, and we knew he was there because of his loud laughter.Azariah and I looked up to see him there, the sweat dropping silently off his smiling face.
Azariah was the first to speak, “Father! Lazar was teaching me about the manna. Isn’t God our great provider? Isn’t He our great help?”
Father didn’t stop smiling. He shook his head, “Yes, little Azariah.” Then, suddenly his smile disappeared and he became very solemn.
He looked at me, motioned with his hand, and said, “Lazar, I need to speak with you.”
I jumped up quickly and ran the short distance between us wondering what the matter was. Our father had always been so open with us, yet now it seemed as if he wanted to hide something from Azariah.
I stopped abruptly in front of him, and before I could speak, my father held his finger against his lips to silence any questions I might have.
In a low voice, he asked, “Did you hear the messenger that ran through the streets a few minutes ago?”