It’s been twelve years ago, but it feels like it was last week.
It was a normal calendaring meeting when a call came into the office. A family in the ministry I led had their twins early and one wasn’t breathing. Information was sketchy, but one thing was certain: it was gonna be a day (and a season) I wouldn’t forget but wish I could.
When I got to the hospital, the news was grim: one of the twins was stillborn. The other baby had severe brain damage and wasn’t expected to live very long. It was literally hour-to-hour as the parents struggled with the lost dreams, hopes, and lives.
There are no words in those moments.
In our passage today, we find ourselves around the subject of death. Nothing reminds us of how much perfection we lost in Genesis 3 as much as death.
As we start this journey in John 11, we begin with John 11:1-10.
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”John 11:1-10
New International Version
We are introduced to Lazarus from Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha. The Apostle John (the human author), knowing this wouldn’t be the only time we would read this Gospel, introduces Mary to us as the one who anoints Jesus in chapter 12 of this Gospel.
These sisters sent word to Jesus in verse 3 with a simple message “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Verse 5 also highlights this noting that Jesus “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” The underlying assumption here is Jesus would go quickly and heal Lazarus because of this love.
Jesus’ response is optimistic even though, as we will see, misunderstood. Verse 4 “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” This is very similar to the language Jesus used when He was discussing the blindness a man was suffering with and Jesus healed Him by putting mud in his eyes and sending Him to the pool of Siloam in John 9.
But did you notice what happened in verse 6? “…when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
To those Apostles and certainly the waiting sisters, this must have seemed very self-centered and calloused. Have you ever been in a situation and found yourself praying, “Lord…NOW would be a really good time to show up”? For Martha and Mary—and certainly Lazarus—NOW would have been a good time to move, but Jesus waited two more days.
Finally, Jesus tells the Apostles to “saddle up;” they’re heading back to Judea. The Apostles pointed out the Jews there tried to stone Jesus the last time He was there. A hint exists here that they might have thought Jesus wasn’t going to see Lazarus because He might have been killed in the process.
But Jesus corrects their misunderstanding (again) in verses 9 and 10, reminding them the Light of the World was with them and the mission of the Father illuminated their path.
It was time to move out because fear was not a motivation for Jesus. Obedience was. The light of truth shone brightly through Jesus and it wasn’t His time to die. Since the Light was still with them, they would not stumble in their mission.
In the quiet moaning of a hurting mother and father over twelve years ago, hope was still alive. It bubbled up to the top of the gloom filling that room as they simply whispered, “This is what grace is for.” This is why we have the light of Jesus: to illuminate the dark paths before us.
Are you dealing with the darkness of life right now? If you’re a disciple of Jesus, never forget it is His light showing you the way through. And if the pain is so great that each step is almost too much to bear, remember: “This is what grace is for.”