Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
According to the Bible, Enoch and Elijah never died, and nine others were raised from death. Elijah raised a widow=s son (1 Kings 17). Elisha raised the Shunamite woman=s son (2 Kings). A dead man revived when he was thrown into Elisha=s grave and touched the prophet=s bones (2 Kings 13:21). Jesus raised the widow=s son at Nain (Luke 7:15), Jairus= daughter (Luke 8:55), and Lazarus (John 11). Jesus rose. Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) (Acts 9:40). Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:10).
Of these nine who were resurrected, only Jesus never tasted death again. John 11 deals with the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
John 11:1-2 (Holman) Now a man was sick, Lazarus, from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick.
This household was special to Jesus. It was for Him a retreat from the world. A place where we can find peace, love, and understanding is precious. Jesus had no place of His own to lay His head (Luke 9:58), but did have a retreat in Bethany. This family loved Him, and provided Him a refuge from tension.
Jesus loved everyone, but His relationships rarely developed into friendships this strong. These three were elect of the elect, but affliction struck even them. Though virtue guard the door, grief cannot be kept out of the house.
John 11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Him: ALord, the one You love is sick.@
The prayer was brief, only seven words long. Some of the Bible=s most powerful prayers are its shortest. ASpeak, Lord, for Your servant is listening@ (1 Samuel 3:9). AGod, turn Your wrath from me B a sinner@ (Luke 18:13). AJesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!@ (Luke 23:42).
In emergencies, long prayers cannot be offered. Prayers are made powerful not by their length, but by the faith and earnestness with which they are offered.
This prayer was humble. The sisters did not emphasize their love for Jesus, but His love for them. Their appeal was based on grace, not merit.
A church member prayed for his ailing Pastor, ALord, you know how much he loves you.@ The sick Pastor said, ADo not pray this. It is not my imperfect love for Him which comforts me, but His perfect love for me.@
It is interesting to note this prayer contained no request. Knowing Jesus= life would be in danger if He returned to Judea, the sisters did not ask Him to risk His life. But their message was obviously a plea for help. A request was insinuated. They believed Jesus, even if He didn=t come, would find some way to help them. A detailed request was unnecessary. To a loving friend it would be enough to state the need. When a mother=s child is injured, it is enough to tell her the simple fact in the shortest manner possible.
Mary and Martha believed their message would evoke Jesus= aid. They knew Jesus could not love Lazarus and at the same time desert him.
Two friends served together in World War I. One was wounded and left lying helpless in no-man=s-land between the trenches. The other risked his life that night by crawling out to help his friend. When he reached him, the wounded man said, AI knew you would come.@
This prayer was offered directly to Jesus. Even if He did not come, the sisters knew Jesus was still the only logical choice to send word to. Telling Jesus seemed to be the natural response to make.
Mary and Martha knew where to turn in their day of trouble. Do we? What is our resource in times of trouble?
W.M. Taylor told of a little girl who was so friendly with everyone in the railroad car that it was difficult to determine who her mother was. When the train entered a dark tunnel, she ran and jumped in a lady=s lap. Everyone then knew who her mother was.
In time of trouble, head to Jesus. Let the world know where our strength lies. When John the Baptist was killed, his followers went to tell Jesus. When our hearts break, let=s do the same.
John 11:4-6 When Jesus heard it, He said, AThis sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.@ (Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.) So when he heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.
Surprisingly, Jesus delayed while Mary and Martha mourned, He lingered two days. It has happened many times since. He often tarries when we cry for Him. We trust Him, yet can=t help but wonder at the delay. Our hearts moan, AWhere is He?@
We know He loves us, however long the wait. Verse five was written to keep us from casting a negative shadow on Jesus= motives in verse six. We wonder why He lingers, but we do not doubt His love. We can point to at least three possible reasons why Jesus delayed in coming to Mary and Martha.
One reason Jesus delayed is seen in His comment that the sickness was to bring glory to the Father and Himself. The delay enabled Jesus to demonstrate His omniscience (He knew Lazarus= condition at all times) and His omnipotence (He raised him from the dead).
Jesus was no farther than a day=s journey away. This meant Lazarus was dead by the time this message reached Jesus. He timed His arrival for the fourth day after death. Many Jews superstitiously believed the soul lingered near the dead body for three days. Jesus may have delayed so that Lazarus would have been considered indisputably dead before He arrived.
Another reason Jesus delayed was to show no one could pressure Him into action. He was not moved by any external force, but solely by the Father=s will. He worked in His own time, in His own way. Jesus would arrive at the beloved family=s house when it would be most productive, not just when He was invited.
Heaven=s clock is different from ours. Our days have 24 hours. God=s days have a thousand years. What seems long to us is brief to Him.