Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
A Tragic Disappointment—A Glorious Ending
I was sitting on a rock overlooking the Jordan River at the place where John began baptizing a short time ago. Today, in this very same place, many people were trusting in Jesus—amazing!
“Peter, come over here with the rest of us.” That’s Jesus. I’d better go see what He wants. “Mary and Martha, our friends in Bethany, just sent me a message that Lazarus, their brother, is sick.“
Knowing how much Jesus loved this family, I fully expected Him to do something, immediately. But, no! He seemed to ignore the message. A strange way to show your love, I thought! All He said was that Lazarus would get over whatever was ailing him, and it would be for God’s glory. Seems to me getting well is always for God’s glory, but I could be wrong.
Then, after two days, without a word about Lazarus, Jesus said, “Okay men, it’s time to go to Judea to wake-up Lazarus from his sleep.” “Wait a minute, Lord.” I reminded Him, “We were just in Judea and the leaders there had stones in their hands ready to kill you. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”
Jesus, with His eyes penetrating deeply inside me, said, “Peter, you need to understand something. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do while you still have time to do it. If you wait for the right set of circumstances, it will be too late. Now, let’s go!”
At first, we didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Then, Jesus told us plainly, “Lazarus is dead, but I am going to wake Him up!” Wow! This is going to be some strange kind of funeral!
Oh yes, then there was Thomas, who always seemed to the rest of us to be a bit over the top, “Let’s all go with the Rabbi to Judea so that we can all die with Him.” Strangely, no one seemed to object to this idea of a mass execution! It took us two days to walk to Bethany.
“Jesus, you’re too late!” both Martha and Mary said in tearful anguish and disappointment. “Lazarus is already dead and buried!” “If only you had come sooner, our brother would still be alive! Oh! why didn’t you come sooner?”
From my vantage point, and I think the others saw it the same way, Jesus waited too long before traveling to Bethany. It seemed to be a major derailment in His otherwise very successful ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and feeding 5,000 with only a couple of loaves of bread . . . So sad!
I overheard a strange conversation He was having with Martha about how He was the resurrection and the life—people dying and yet living. He said that Martha only needed to believe this and trust Him. Having this theological discussion when Martha was dealing with the sorrow of a dead brother seemed to me a bit weird.
We all gathered around Jesus as he faced the place where Lazarus was entombed. He had been crying, perhaps in sharing His sorrow with others for the one He loved, but maybe there was more . . . (As we later understood, this was a spiritual battlefield that looked toward His cross. Sorrow compounded by sorrow as families throughout history experience the agony of separation and death of a loved one.) As He groaned, we could see the anger in His face—anger at Death which would one day soon be defeated with the words, “It is finished.”
Death is swallowed up in Victory.
Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“Roll the stone away!” This appeared to me to be a failed attempt to honor His friend . . . after all Lazarus has been dead four days and now his body stinks! This is becoming the worse funeral I have ever attended!
Jesus stepped to the front and spoke, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed and trust Me, you will see the glory of God.” With His eyes looking upward, He gave thanks to the Father in Heaven. Then, He cried with a loud voice—loud enough to wake the dead (excuse the pun), “Lazarus, come out!” It was truly a sight to be behold—bound head and foot with grave clothes, Lazarus hobbled out of the rock tomb. It was left to the rest of us to unravel him and let him go. No doubt the poor man was hungry—he hadn’t eaten in four days. Looks like we’re going to have some great dinner-time conversation.
After dinner together, Jesus motioned to me, “Peter, come over here. We need to talk. I know you and the others struggled with what I was doing and why it appeared I was too slow in doing it. You may remember that I said I was glad that I didn’t respond immediately to Martha and Mary to go to Bethany. I waited so you might believe, again, in who I Am and for you to see the glory of God displayed. You see, when it appears that I don’t care or that I am too slow in responding to peoples’ immediate needs, even those I love the most, remember my timing is perfect—right on time—to give the greatest joy, to allow God’s glory to be fully displayed and to cause peoples’ faith to go deep in Me. What appears to be a tragic disappointment for the moment, will always have a glorious ending when I am orchestrating the event!”
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Look for the next parable on October 9.
As an active member of the family at Trinity, Don is a regular contributor to Trinity’s weekly eNews letter. He enjoys writing and has authored several books, including “This Ugly Disease—A Caregiver’s Journey into Pain, Anguish and Hope.” With biblical insights, his writings provide spiritual encouragement for many. His son and daughter-in-law, Graham and Susan, are also members at Trinity.