This morning in my Bible study (still on the death of Lazarus), several points jumped off the page at me. First, when Martha cried out to the Lord about the death of her brother (John 11:21-26), Jesus gave her a promise: “Your brother will rise again”. And then He directed her attention from her situation to Himself: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (vv 25-26).
Remember, Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus (cried out to Him) prior to Lazarus’s death. There are times that we call out to the Lord, and He doesn’t answer right away. A question posed in the study asked, “Do you think Martha would have become this focused if she had not been desperate? How does this help answer why Jesus doesn’t always gives us what we want, when we want it?” Sometimes our faith is tested, and He always calls us to come closer to Him: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Not only did Jesus direct her to Himself, but He also showed His empathy. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” (vv 33-35) Our Lord is distressed when we are distressed (Is. 63:9), and He empathizes with our weakness (Heb. 4:15). When have you invited Jesus to “come and see” your pain, your helplessness, your hopelessness and your despair? He cares about our pain: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance” (v 38).
And just after He arrived to see what brought Martha and Mary their pain, He gave a command to Martha who had professed her faith in Him as Lord: “‘Take away the stone,’ He said” (v 39a). While the Lord meets us wherever we are, He never intends for us to wallow in our pain, He wants us to step out in faith: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).
Instead of saying, “yes, Lord” when He commanded her to take away the stone, Martha gave an excuse to the Lord as to why it shouldn’t be done: “’But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days’” (v 39b). How often do we find excuses or justifications on why we won’t move our steps to do what the Lord has clearly told us to do?
What stone is God commanding you to remove that is keeping your “Lazarus” buried? An unforgiving spirit? Anger? Pride? Or any other excuses? Martha’s resistance to taking the steps the Lord told her to take delayed what He wanted to give her. Are you delaying what the Lord wants to give you by standing exactly where you are instead of moving in faith? His next words to her reminded her WHO Jesus is and what He has already accomplished (vv 25-26). “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’” (v 40). If Martha truly believed, did she have any option but obedience? Do you?
We are to trust Him when we don’t understand and nothing makes sense. We are to keep our focus on Him and the ultimate goal: to live by faith in Jesus alone, so that you and I might display His glory to an increasingly skeptical, cynical world! But we are to remember that faith isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. “Through [Jesus] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for His name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:5-6) Will you roll away the stone He is calling you to move?