This morning in Vacation Bible Adventure our children experienced John 11 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Today’s theme was “No matter what you feel . . . you can trust God.”
Too often when John 11 is read, we want to jump immediately to the end when Jesus shouts at the tomb, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man walked out, his hands and feet still bound with strips of cloth. The raising of Lazarus verifies trust in Jesus.
But I think most of us live not at the end of the story, but rather the middle. We live with Mary and Martha, the two sisters who cared deeply about their brother Lazarus and worried when he became ill. They knew and trusted Jesus, so they immediately sent word to him, asking for his help. Jesus’ response is puzzling,
Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:4-5).
Jesus’ delay puzzled the children at today’s VBA and it puzzles me as well. Jesus cared but delayed. Jesus tells the disciples that it will be beneficial to them and others that he was not there to heal Lazarus (John 11:14).
This story has shaped some of my thinking on emotions. First, after Mary and Martha sent the message, they would be hopeful that Jesus would respond quickly. Then their emotions would move to disappointment as Lazarus nears death and still no Jesus. When Lazarus died, they would be devastated, shocked, probably angry. Did their friendship with Jesus count for nothing?
Finally, when Jesus showed up four days after Lazarus’ funeral, I sense resentment. Martha said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). A little later, Mary says the exact same words to Jesus. One can hear the disappointment, hurt and anger in their statements. Yet there remains also a note of hope. Even in this most difficult moment, they call Jesus, “Lord.” Even in their pain they see Jesus as the true ruler to be trusted.
Lord Jesus, help me to trust you no matter what I feel.