Sometimes it seems Jesus waits just a bit too long for our liking. We pray in earnest hope for help in trouble. We lift up sincere hearts seeking His will amidst chaos. We cry for respite when our faith is stretched beyond ourselves. At times our cries, our sincerity, our hope, and our prayers are greeted with silence. We ask, He waits. We plead, He waits. We seek, He waits. We feel ourselves dangerously close to the breaking point, and we ask, ‘Why is He still waiting?’.
The disciples must have wondered the same when Jesus was told that his good friend, Lazarus, was sick, and Jesus’ response was to wait. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were no casual friends of Jesus. He would regularly stay and eat at their home. This waiting was confounding.
The faithful siblings too were waiting, they were waiting on Jesus. They had hope, for they had a Friend like no other, who could do things like no other, a Friend who healed with a word, or a single touch. It’s possible they thought, ‘If Jesus healed strangers and passersby, then surely He will come to heal His friend whom He loves.”
But Jesus did not come. The sickness came to a climax and Lazarus deteriorated into death.
Here the story turns, we are given a glimpse into divine intention. While Mary and Martha begin mourning their brother; miles away, Jesus says to His disciples, “Let us go to Judea…Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe…” (John 11:7-15) By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus had been dead for four days. By all accounts, Jesus waited too long.
But we know how the story goes, Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth. Jesus had not quite done anything like this before. He had healed people, He even raised them soon after they died, but not like this. Lazarus, who had laid decaying for 4 days, came forth.
The seemingly deaf Jesus heard something Lazarus and sisters could not hear. He heard cries from people who were not even aware they were crying; unspoken pleas of people who needed more than this earthly life; people who did not know that while living they were already dead. In waiting, Jesus would turn Lazarus’ tribulation and suffering into a glorious monument.John 12:10-11 tells us, “…the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”
In waiting “too long”, Jesus turned Lazarus into a threat to the establishment, a hazard to the enemy. Jesus waited till Lazarus’ pain and suffering reached a breaking point, and in waiting, Jesus gave Lazarus the greatest gift a friend of Jesus could ask for. Lazarus’ very life became a testament for the glory of the Savior. This great act of God became a way by which people saw, believed, and surrendered to Jesus. Lazarus’ suffering, his pain, his cries, and that of his sisters produced something they could not have known, seen, or imagined. What they heard as silence was in fact divine orchestration.