For the longest time, I truly had the mistaken idea that the best Christians are the ones that never doubted. Silly AJ.
But John 11 blows that out of the water. Because Jesus’ friends doubted Jesus. But Jesus loved them even though they doubted.
Jesus was really good friends with three siblings named Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were such good friends, that when Lazarus became deathly ill, Mary and Martha sent a messenger to find Jesus with this message: “Lord, The one you love is sick.”
And in 11:5, John confirms it by saying: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
So we would expect verse 6 to say, “And so Jesus immediately went to tend to his friend.”
But instead, we read this shocker: “So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
Come again, John? You’re saying that because Jesus loved these three, he dawdled around for two extra days? But I think, based on what happens later, this is an act of grace for us. Because this whole story demonstrates something so important about faith.
Finally, Jesus heads over and in verse 17 finds that Lazarus had been dead for 4 days.
Try to imagine if you were Mary and Martha and you sent word to Jesus for help. Messenger went out, messenger came back. But no Jesus. You spent time with Jesus, you saw the miracles he performed. You believe he can help your brother, so maybe you’re holding your brother’s hand going, “Any minute Jesus will walk in and make everything right.” “He’ll fix it all.” “He’s saved so many people, surely he’ll be here any minute to help his friend.”
And you wait. And wait. And wait. And then Lazarus is dead and all hope is gone. And you keep waiting. And Jesus finally shows up in your life 4 days after the body went cold. That’s 4 days. D-A-Y-S.
Could you even imagine? What would you even say to Jesus?
Well Mary couldn’t even face Jesus. Martha goes and runs to see Jesus when she hears that he’s near, but Mary stays. And we have no idea why she stayed back at first, but if it were me, I’d be fuming angry. Jesus where were you when I needed you most of all? Jesus, I did everything right. I followed you. I believed in you. I trusted you. And you let me down.
But Martha ran to meet Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (v.21) Jesus: “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
In other words, Jesus, yeah. I know all the platitudes about dead people. They’re in a better place. We’ll see them again. Blah blah blah. It doesn’t help me now!
But Jesus’ response is dramatic: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
You thought the resurrection was an event. You thought life was a thing. But Jesus is here to say, you thought wrong. The resurrection is a person. Life is me. I hold it all together. And whoever believes in me has my life in them. They will live on, not in a metaphorical sense, but in very much a real way, even though they die.
Finally Mary comes, and a huge crowd of mourners follows her. And when Jesus sees their emotion, Jesus becomes deeply moved. That’s the context for the shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35 simply says: “Jesus wept.”
Here’s the deal. It would be easy to say that Jesus wept because his friend Lazarus was dead. But I think it would be wrong. Jesus just got done saying he is the Life, and he knows he’s about to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why would he be sad about Lazarus’ state?
No, no, no. I think Jesus was sad because he was deeply moved by the sadness of Mary, Martha and all of the mourners. Jesus experiences the pain we experience. He goes through what we go through. We never go it alone.
But a lot of people can do that. A lot of people – hopefully, if you have good people in your life – will go through the hardest things in your life with you.
But Jesus does more than that. He’s worth following, not just because he cares. He’s worth following because he is the resurrection and the life. And he proved that to us by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus cares. And Jesus is strong enough to move our biggest rocks.
That’s why I follow Jesus. That’s the only reason to base your life off anyone. 1) Do they care? and 2) Are they bigger than all the rocks I’ll ever face in my life?
Because, let’s be clear here, a lot of people and religions are going to give you a lot of reasons to follow their guy. But Jesus is the only God that stepped out of heaven, became one of us to experience what we experience. And he proved, over and over and over, that he’s not just some guy that cares a lot. But that He is God, and has power over all things. Yes, even over life itself.
So if you follow Jesus, you can walk away a little more confident about trusting Jesus. But what about those times of doubt?
What I love about this story is that Mary and Martha spent a lot of time with Jesus. They got to see, firsthand, many of the miracles and signs that we only get to read about.
And yet they still doubted. They didn’t lose their faith completely, but they certainly questioned whether Jesus had their best intentions in mind.
And was Jesus’ response to kick them out of the club? To push them aside because they weren’t super Christians? Hardly. He loved them. And gave them a simple reminder: “I am.”
I don’t know what you’re going through but unless you’re following Jesus through it, I can tell you that you’re heading down the wrong road. It may take a few days to figure it out. Or it may take decades. I just hope one day you’ll give up trying to follow things that don’t care about you or that certainly aren’t stronger than your biggest rocks. Because Jesus cares. And only he is strong enough.