There are plenty of times in life when I wonder why God didn’t intervene. This week a friend of mine lost his 28 year old cousin due to a seizure. I never knew her, but I feel a pit in my stomach from his grief. This past Saturday, a couple of teenage boys were digging a tunnel in the sand at a nearby beach. It collapsed on them. One of them was trapped under the sand for fifteen minutes. Now he may remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. The boys were there with their church youth group. No one recognized the danger. I would have. I wish I’d been there to intervene. Souls have so much value. How precious is a life. It’s hard to understand unexpected loss. It can seem like God doesn’t care, but God understands how we feel and has compassion for us.
“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’
When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
They called on Jesus because he had healed so many. He was also their friend. But he didn’t show. Lazarus died. It was only after his death that Jesus came.
“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 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. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.
‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.
Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’
But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
“Some of them said…” but all of them were thinking it. Martha asserted her faith in Jesus, despite what had happened, though it was hard to fathom. He let them down. Their hearts were gravely wounded. Yet, Jesus knew all along that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Here, he is just seconds away from doing it, but he stops to weep. Why? Why is it recorded that he did? It was his compassion, knowing the pain and grief they were suffering. He wanted to make it all better. It was only because of a greater purpose that he had waited.
There are only a handful of instances in scripture where God raised people from the dead. It’s clearly an anomalous event. Even those who were raised eventually died again. Death is our norm, but here we see a case where death was clearly unexpected. Divine intervention was expected. Jesus came to bring just that, but he waited because of us. There was more to this than Lazarus’s resurrection. When he raised Lazarus it was an example for us all, then and now, of our own fate and a greater resurrection we must wait for beyond it. A resurrection Jesus came to obtain for us.
It’s important to note the context of these events. Even Jesus’s own disciples did not understand what he was doing until he had accomplished his mission. He told them he would be betrayed a killed. They didn’t get it because of their preconceptions about what the Christ do on earth. They expected an earthly kingdom. What Jesus brought was bigger. He brought us a heavenly kingdom, a place in eternity. They all thought too small because they couldn’t fathom the depths of God’s power and plan.
When Jesus raised Lazarus he demonstrated God’s power over death. It is the ultimate defeat so far as we can see on this side of the veil. We need this example to tie it to God’s ultimate power over death. This gave his followers faith and confidence in the eternal resurrection yet to come. Though all seemed lost when Lazarus died, it was just a relatively short wait until his resurrection. All seemed lost when Jesus was crucified, but it was a relatively short wait to his resurrection.
Life is always short. An aunt of mine remarked to me, and I’ve heard others say the same, about how she felt like the same person inside as in her younger years despite her body becoming old. Her soul was the same. Her body wore out. I believe she was grasping her spirit, her soul. We are more than the sum of our biology; more than just thoughts created by electrical energy between neurons. We matter because our souls matter to God. Our souls are priceless and irreplaceable.
I imagine the soul has no physical weight, yet, in loss, it feels so heavy. Jesus is the one who lifts that burden.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30