“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. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. ” (John 11:1–17, NIV)Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. A man whom Jesus loved and a family that He regularly spent time with during His ministry. It makes sense, in a time of their greatest need, for them to call upon the One who has invested so much of His life into their lives. In a moment of desperation they cry out, “Jesus, we need you.”
When Jesus received the news, He reflected on what God had prompted Him to do. He regularly went before His Father in prayer in order to align His will with the will of His Father. He did nothing on His own accord and God was in sovereign control of His ministry on the earth. Since God had not directed Him to go to Bethany, when Jesus received the news, He did not react to the crisis. Instead, He trusted in the faithful guidance of His Father.
And 2 days later, God said it was time. Jesus prepared His disciples and told them they would be traveling to Judea, but the disciples protested. They were looking through the eyes of reality and based on what they had experienced in the recent past, Jesus and the disciples would be walking into a death trap. Something tells me that Jesus knew that the disciples were right about the death that awaited them. But what they didn’t understand was who was in control.
That seems to be an important point of this passage. You see, the timing of events indicated that Lazarus would have died before Jesus could have arrived even if He would have left right away. But if this were the case, everyone would have concluded that Jesus did everything He could but simply arrived moments too late. “It was outside of His hands,” they might say. “He did the best He could.”
His intentional delay, as guided by His Father, would reveal a different conclusion. It is not out of His hands…God is in control…and everything was happening according to His perfect plan. “Walk by the Light of the Lamp at your feet and God will guide your every step,” Jesus said. “But step away from His leading hand, and you will become lost in confusion and darkness.”
What a great lesson in trust. Are you walking in the light of the lamp at your feet?
This may mean that you can only see one step at a time. Do you trust His sovereign control? Perhaps the circumstances appear as if God has chosen something less than what is best. Do you believe that He ordains everything for His eternally good purposes, even if they do not make sense in the moment?
This was the lesson God intended for the disciples. I believe He is still teaching this lesson today. Trust in His sovereign control and His eternal goodness. As Thomas concluded, God’s plan for your life is worth dying for.