Like most children, I was afraid of the dark.
In my young imagination, I was always afraid of some hobgoblin jumping out and getting me. One night, I thought it had. I’d gotten up to get a drink of water and was going through the house in the dark to the kitchen. I was trying to be as brave as a boy of seven could be.
I got to the kitchen and just before I turned on the light, I was knocked over to the ground! I knew I’d hit a person and I screamed. “This was it,” I thought. The hobgoblin was here to get me. I was being brave and nobody would walk with me to the kitchen and now I was done for.
The hobgoblin I’d run into in the middle of the night was my dad who was also getting a glass of water. He’d not seen me in the dark and ran into me, knocking me over. After I realized it was him, I was so mad at my older brother. “If he’d just gone with me,” I said, “I wouldn’t have been scared at all.”
Maybe it’s a similar feeling to how the people in our story felt today but in a much more dire situation.
Jesus had received the news that Lazarus was sick. After hearing this news, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days (John 11:6). When Jesus suggested going back to Judea to see Lazarus (and Martha and Mary), the disciples were concerned for His safety since the Jews there had tried to stone him (John 11:8).
After His correction of the disciples’ thinking, Jesus continues in John 11:11-21:
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.John 11:11-21
New International Version
Euphemistically, Jesus tells them in verse 11 “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” The disciples thought, understandably at the time, that Jesus was referring to resting after an illness. The rest, they concluded, would do Lazarus well. This is now especially confusing to them: if he’s getting better and Judea is a dangerous place, why go at all?
So, Jesus clears it up for them in verses 14 and 15: Lazarus is, in fact, dead. But they are about to see something amazing.
Why was Jesus glad he wasn’t there when Lazarus died? Didn’t He love Lazarus, Martha, and Mary?
Yes, of course. But there was a greater mission from a higher perspective than simply healing the sick and hugging Martha and Mary: this was the stage for one of the greatest demonstrations of the power of God through Jesus the Son.
When Jesus arrives, Lazarus had been dead for four days (verse 17). Nothing is by accident in Scripture and neither is Jesus arriving four days after the death of His friend Lazarus. Rabbinic belief from this time in history was that the soul hovers over the body for three days and when decomposition starts to become visible (around the fourth day), the soul departs. The Holy Spirit through John’s ink and quill is making sure we realize: Lazarus was, in every sense and belief, dead.
These are the dark days of grace. The incredible faith of Martha is on display: the Lord Jesus could have healed Lazarus and prevented death from claiming him. If He only had arrived sooner…but He didn’t. And from their perspective Jesus was late and Martha and Mary were mourning the loss of their brother.
What they asked Jesus is what we still ask today: Where is Jesus in our pain?
In the dark days, where is He?
Why doesn’t He heal us?
Why doesn’t He show up and fix the situation?
Why doesn’t He make the pain go away?
Why do we have to experience the pain?
“Lord…if you had been here…”
In your pain, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. It does mean you haven’t seen the end of the story. If you’re in pain now, hold on. The Master is never late and He’s up to something.
Do you trust Him?