"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:21.
Her words, encased in anger and frustration, hurt Him. How could Jesus explain His long overdue arrival? Could she really understand the reason for His delay? Probably not.
Have you ever wondered how Jesus felt walking into that hornet's nest? His life was totally beyond His control. Words and actions reflected only those of His Father. Without explicit instructions to respond to Lazarus' illness, all Jesus knew was the sickness would not end in death, but would give glory to God.
I assumed that Jesus always had the complete heads-up on every situation, but I don't now. I believe He had to exercise the same faith we do which means being in the dark about the details most of the time.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Hebrews 5:8. This may have been one of those hard lessons.
Was He tempted to question His Fathers judgment in this case? I would have. Jesus spent enormous amounts of time and effort ministering to complete strangers, sometimes without so much as a "Thank you." Now, a close friend needed His help. He had the power, but lacked the permission from the Father to use it. The choices were to either follow His natural feelings or obey. He stayed put.
Two days later the "Go ahead" came. The disciples were less than enthusiastic;
Judea was no longer a safe
place. If Lazarus wasn't dying, but just asleep, he'd recover. Why put
themselves in harm's way? Finally Jesus spoke plainly, "Lazarus in
dead..." John 11:14.
The reception at
was strained to the snapping point. His reputation as a friend was in serious
jeopardy. Both Mary and Martha laid the responsibility for their brother's
death squarely on His shoulders. The Lord's willingness and ability to heal were
damaged. No one knew or would have understood the constraints of operating in
strict obedience to His Father. No one also could have guessed that a widely
held religious tradition was about to bite the dust.
Martha protested opening the grave; the smell would be awful. Everyone (in that culture) knew that the soul of the deceased remained in close proximity for only three days. This was the fourth day and Lazarus' soul was long gone. It was too late.
Jesus defied tradition. Lazarus' resurrection disproved a deeply entrenched belief. Still, the question of God's timing lingers. How would an immediate response to the situation have hurt anything? The outcome would have been the same.
Mary and Martha aren't the only ones caught in the conflict of God's seeming indifference to our needs. "If only You had been here:
- the planes wouldn't have hit the
; Twin Towers
- Katrina wouldn't have destroyed
- I wouldn't be a single parent;
- this injustice would never have happened;
- we wouldn't have gone bankrupt;
- my mate wouldn't have died so soon."
Fill in the blank, the list is endless.
It is hard to continue to believe when you feel that God's really let you down. Maybe Jesus felt the same way when He wasn't allowed to immediately help Lazarus. When He finally could go His reputation as a friend was damaged, and his ability to minister doubted. It's hard to be misunderstood for obedience sake and not get upset.
Often God's timetable and agenda clashes with ours. Walking by faith is a challenge in the face of God's perceived indifference. We're tempted to question His judgment sans a clear explanation for His inactivity on our behalf.
How about you? When have you said to God," If only you had been here...."? How did He respond? If your situation, unlike Martha and Mary's didn't reverse, how did you handle it? Have you ever considered that the reason Jesus hasn't answered your prayer is a timing issue, not a lack of desire to help? If you're still upset with God for letting you down, what can you do to resolve the roadblock, reopen the lines of communication and regain your peace? Can you and God be friends again?