Friday, May 3, 2013

Outside a tomb...

From John 11

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (1,3)

So when He (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (6,7)

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.” (11-15)

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  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. (17, 20-21)

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. (28-29)

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.  (32-33)

Have you ever stood "outside a tomb?"  I don't necessarily mean in the literal sense, but figuratively speaking.  Perhaps someone handed you a pink slip, and the job you were counting on to pay your mortgage and keep your children clothed and fed was suddenly no more.  Maybe you, like I did at one point, stood holding another negative pregnancy test in your hand... for the eighth month in a row.  Or maybe you watched as the doctor could not find a heartbeat on your ultrasound. Maybe your divorce papers came in the mail.

Now I ask again, have you ever stood, grieving, outside of a tomb?  Did you like Martha and Mary have to to stop and ask, "Where were You Lord? Why didn't You come?"  Maybe the accusation even came out, "If You had been here then..."

It is hard in the midst of loss and suffering, in the midst of grief to understand that the Lord is with us.  I feel for Mary and Martha.  They had seen the Lord do many amazing miracles.  They had known what it was to stand in the actual physical of their Messiah. Martha herself had been the recipient of Jesus' loving rebuke, "Martha, Martha, why do your trouble yourself over many things?"  And Mary, she had received His praise, "Mary has chosen the better part."

But on that day things had been better. On this day, it was a day of great sadness and disappointment, their brother had died. Jesus wasn't there to stop it.  What if they had known He had actually delayed coming intentionally.  Would their grief have been even greater?  Perhaps an accusation that ran deeper "How could you Jesus?"  I can hear the faint whisper of my own words behind the sentiment, "I thought You loved us."

"I thought You loved me."

Even if I try to remind and convince myself that He does, because He says He does, then it only births more questions. Well, at least one more question.


If You love me, then WHY are girls having abortions getting pregnant every day who will only abort Your babies? But I suffer in my infertility.

If You love me, then WHY is that guy who is cheating the company getting a promotion while I am getting laid off?

If You love me, then WHY did you let my husband cheat on me?

Let my unborn baby die?

Let my son get sick with cancer?

Let my dream die?

I do not have a single answer to these questions. I only know that Jesus met Mary and Martha there outside the tomb.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (38-39)

I just love Martha here.  I honestly think in the midst of her grief, she has forgotten to Whom she was speaking.  She has forgotten what she has seen and knows.

"It's too late, Jesus!" she is, in essence, saying.  "There's nothing you can do!"

Funny how her own accusation, "If you had been here, it could have been different," suddenly cancels out her faith that He has the power to change things now. 

The cancer is terminal.
I'll never be a mother.
My career is over.
There is no hope.

This scene outside of this tomb reminds me a lot of what a particular Saturday must have been like.  Jesus having been crucified, the disciples fled and hid.  They too must have had a lot of "Why's" being asked among them.  "A lot of "if only's" being imagined. 

But Jesus had something to say to Martha outside of that tomb.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe,
 you will see the glory of God?”

It occurs to me here, what is it Jesus is asking us to believe?  I don't think He was asking Martha and Mary to believe in the resurrection.  Earlier in this passage (not quoted above) Martha said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v.24) Can you hear the "but" hanging off the end?  (Yes, yes, but that's not good enough, I want Lazarus here, now, with me...) But I don't think that's what Jesus is asking.

I don't believe it's a WHAT He is asking her to believe in, I think it is a WHO - THE Who. The Who is Jesus, He is being asked to be taken at His Word.

"If you believe IN ME," He is saying, "you will see the glory of God."

Do you believe when He said in ALL things, He will work together the good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose?

Do you believe when He promised He would never leave you or forsake you?

Do you believe Him when He said He has a plan for your life - for a future and a hope?

Because it is in your choice to believe and say "Yes, Lord - I believe YOU" that the ability to see God's glory revealed is released.

Seek His face, not His hand.  Believe IN Him, and...

you will see the glory of God.
In Jesus' name...

So be it and amen.