Saturday, January 21, 2017

Encounter at Bethany

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  As far as Martha and Mary were concerned, He was too late.  While each one greeted Him separately, both said the one thing which had no doubt been said many times after their brother, Lazarus, had died.  "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32)  Let no one miss their disappointment.  It is likely, too, that there was some anger inside their greeting to Jesus.  They obviously believed that Jesus could have come earlier and could have saved their brother from death.  While Lazarus was sick and the sickness was surely the cause of his death, it also sounds like these two grieving sisters wanted to put part of the blame on Jesus.  He could have made things happen differently.
There is some raw honesty in the story of this encounter which makes those who have never really suffered in the darkness of hopelessness to gasp and cringe.  "How could they say such a thing to Jesus?" they might well say.  Those kind of believers think of Jesus in such an exalted way that everything said to Him must be measured and tempered.  And, if harsh thoughts ever come to their mind, they are pushed away as inappropriate to say to Jesus.  Better to think them than dare to say them aloud.  In other words, some people do not feel the freedom to be who they are at any given moment in the presence of Jesus. 
This story of Lazarus is a wonderful story, but it also reminds us that Jesus does not turn us out when we say the things that are stirring in the darkness of our unthinkable moments.  He spoke no condemning words to the sisters.  He did not chide them for their lack of faith in Him.  Instead, He went with them to the place where their brother was buried and cried with them.  He may not always do what we think He ought to do, or what we want Him to do, but there is no end to His compassion when He looks upon us. 

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