Jesus’ beloved friend Lazarus is dying, but Jesus stayed two days longer in the place where he was before setting out (v. 6).
What must those two days have been like for the three siblings?
I imagine Lazarus asking his sisters through labored breath if there has been any word from Jesus yet. I imagine Mary pacing from her brother’s bedside to the window, looking up the road for a familiar gait. Anticipating that Jesus may arrive during the night, perhaps Martha sits up with a lit lamp to wait for him. Perhaps dawn looks cruel when Jesus, on whom all their hopes for Lazarus’s survival depend, still has not arrived. And then Lazarus dies.
Surely Jesus understands how devastating his continued absence must be to Mary and Martha. Jesus probably has reasons for not leaving immediately, including the fact that people where he is need his healing and teaching. Jesus may declare, “This illness does not lead to death” (v. 4), because he knows that Lazarus will be resurrected for God’s glory. Maybe it still pains him to know Lazarus is hurting, but the siblings don’t know this. Lazarus still suffers and dies. And Mary and Martha are devastated.
It can be so difficult to understand why God sometimes delays coming to us when we are in pain and in need. That absence can feel cruel, at odds with the loving God we know. Still, we don’t fully comprehend the big picture playing out in our lives. In time, we trust that at least some of that expansive perspective will become known to us to help us understand.
Have you ever been deeply hurt by a beloved person’s absence in your time of need? Have you ever hurt someone by not being present with them in their pain?
God, in the times I’m hurting and don’t understand your delays, help me to remember that you love me deeply and do not take my pain lightly. Amen.