JESUS, WHY DIDN"T YOU COME WHEN I NEEDED YOU?
Recently, the story of Lazarus has come to mean a great deal to me. I was journaling one day about disappointments. Prayer disappointments. I had needed help. I had prayed for help, and nothing happened. Nothing was still happening...and I wrote this:
I am an exasperated Martha—Lord if you had been HERE Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Lord if you had been HERE, Ron would be walking better, feeling better, and driving better.
If you had been HERE, Kelsey would have straight legs and a straight back with no seizures. Yes, I believe in the EVENTUAL resurrection of their bodies—and mine...someday...but I really need help now.
Those thoughts of Martha and the story of Lazarus spurred me to get out my Bible and read the story of Lazarus from The Message. I walked through that story with those frustrations going on in me.
Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” Yep. That’s me. Jesus, if you had been here, Kelsey would not have broken her legs. Ron would be healthy.
Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Lord, sometimes you tell me things that are hard to believe. This seems like a theological comment.
Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” Oh Martha, I know you so well. Aren’t you the good Sunday school student? You know all of the answers don’t you? You know all the should’s and ought to’s. Yet your knowing all the rules didn’t save Lazarus. You probably prayed to God for help. “Jesus is not here—so I will have to do everything I can.” Yep, that’s me. Giving the right answers, but working my tail off to force or nudge God’s hand for life.
“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am , right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. OK. Don’t get this one. Help me here Lord. I don’t have to wait for the End. You are right now, Resurrection and Life. Help me Lord to be the one who believes in you, even though I am blind, even though my ways are ways of death. Even if Ron dies. Even if Kelsey dies. Even though I am dead in my false god ways. Help me Lord in my unbelief.
And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Lord I confess that like Martha, when no one including you seems to be helping—then I’m going to do it. I’m going to try to be God. I abandon you because your ways are not fitting into what I think you should be doing. Lord that is incredibly arrogant and sinful of me. It is the way of death. Show me how to believe in you. Do you believe this? Show me how. Help me Lord to make the shift to belief. I am like Martha—still standing here exasperated that you didn’t do something!
“Yes Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.” Ah, the good Sunday School Student stays stubborn to the end. And yet, she must have had some hint of hope—because in the next line she told her sister that Jesus was asking for her.
After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” Martha doesn’t understand what Jesus is trying to tell her—but maybe Mary would—and she knows Mary would come to him, especially if he was asking for her. Did he ask for Mary? Did she make that up? Maybe she was thinking—“Oh, I’m just not getting it. Mary understands things better than me. She gets things that Jesus teaches. I’m stupid here. I’ll have Mary go and listen and she will get it. She will know what he is talking about.”
The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb…..Mary came to where Jesus was waiting—[Jesus was waiting…Jesus was waiting] and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus, what were you waiting for? Were you waiting for Mary? Why didn’t you keep walking? Why did you want Mary to come all the way to you? How long did it take? She ran crying all the way. Wailing all the way. Wailing to Jesus. He didn’t shorten her trip—he waited until she got to him.
When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, A DEEP ANGER WELLED UP WITHIN HIM. He said, “WHERE DID YOU PUT HIM?”
“Master, come and see,” they said. Mary did not answer. Was she hysterical? Was she too overcome by grief to talk? Was her heart so broken that even Jesus’ presence did not help? Now Jesus wept. Crying with Mary? Crying because of Mary’s broken heart? “Oh Mary, it pains me to see you in such terrible grief. I hurt with you over this heart-wrenching loss. I love you Mary. I love Lazarus. I am crying with you over this overwhelming loss.”
The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him”
Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.” Was Martha thinking this too? Good ole practical Martha. She knew the formula. Bring Jesus and everything will be OK. But she tried to tell Jesus—she sent a messenger and he didn’t come! “If you love Mary so much, if you love Lazarus so much—why didn’t you come? I tried to get you here!”
Then Jesus, THE ANGER AGAIN WELLING UP WITHIN HIM, arrived at the tomb. Lord, are you angry with me? I have advertised my unbelief and my disappointment in you. I have advertised that I think I know your plan and I am accusing you of not following it. Forgive me Lord; I don’t even realize what I am saying. This way within me does not even come close to your ways. I am leaning on my own understanding of who you are and how you work. My heart and mind don’t even get it still. Cover me Lord with your grace—because I stand ignorant, unworthy, and full of arrogance and self-righteousness.” It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “REMOVE THE STONE.”
The sister of the dead man, Martha said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. HE’S BEEN DEAD FOUR DAYS!” You go Martha! You tell him. He has messed everything up so far—let him know he doesn’t know what he is doing. He doesn’t realize it’s stinky in there. Boy does he need your help! "Master, there is a stench. He is dead. You don’t want to do this." Lord, do you hear Martha? I am that woman.
Jesus looked her in the eye, [mad I think] “DIDN’T I TELL YOU THAT IF YOU BELIEVED YOU WOULD SEE THE GLORY OF GOD?” Uh…oopsie....never mind. There it is Lord, that’s what I need to hear. I want to see the glory of God. Help me. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Help me to be quiet AND LISTEN. What are you telling me? Help me believe you words Holy Jesus.
Then to the others, “Go ahead, TAKE AWAY THE STONE.” Were you disappointed in me? Were you exasperated? Had you gotten tired of me not believing that you are from God? That you are the way, the truth and the life? That YOU are the resurrection? Teach me Oh God, I am an ignorant self-righteous disciple that just doesn’t get it.
They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I am grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” Paraphrasing, maybe Jesus is saying something like this, "Father, we know what we are doing—and you always listen to me, but I’m praying out loud here so that Martha and Mary and this crowd might believe that I am here because you sent me. They don’t get it that I am following your instructions and that you are listening to me. They don’t get it how much we are united. They still think I am a very religious man. So Father, we know that raising Lazarus is no big deal and that a single word dictated by you brings immediate life. But Father, you gave me these babies. Let’s show them Father what we mean when I tell them you sent me.”
Then he shouted, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Was Martha amazed? Was she still wondering about the stench? Was she so entranced by Lazarus coming out that she stood there dumb? Was this so far outside her realm of thought that even joy was not yet possible? Was she afraid?
Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.” I’m thinking that Martha still was not convinced everything was OK until Lazarus was unwrapped. I wonder if she was expecting to see a Lazarus that was shriveled and rotting. Lord, unwrap your resurrection in my life so I can see it. Help me to see that my brother is alive.
This is how I let scripture wrap itself around my frustrations and questions about life. I believe it was the Holy Spirit leading me to that story as I was journaling my discouragement and lack of hope. It is as if Jesus sat down with me and taught me, reminded me about this story and who he is and why he came. He reminded me who is God and who is not. Very powerful. Very humbling. Very helpful.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.