26 Mar An Impossible Situation Turned Around
Take a walk with me towards Lazarus’ tomb. What would we have seen if we’d been there? What would we have heard? It depends largely on which day we were ‘visiting’. If we’d been there on any of the first three days after Lazarus died, we would have been surrounded by people crying, mourning, and weeping – uncontrollably. There would have been lots of noise, especially during the funeral itself – there was an expectation at Jewish funerals in Jesus’ day to have people there who wailed loudly and threw dust in their hair. In the midst of all this noise and commotion our eyes would have been drawn to Mary and Martha – our hearts going out to them as we witnessed the obvious sorrow in their eyes. Would we have cried with them? Probably.
Then Hope arrives. News filtered through to Martha that Jesus was on His way so she went out to meet Him1. The atmosphere now completely changes – at least for Martha, because even though her brother had been in the tomb four days,2 she still believes Jesus can change things round for good because she says “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You”3. Don’t miss those two words – “even now”. In the darkest of places, shrouded by death and despair, Martha still believed Jesus could turn things around. That’s remarkable.
Jesus was still outside Bethany at this stage, so Martha went to tell her sister Mary that Jesus had arrived. As she shared the news with her, hope now entered Mary’s heart as well, and she ran to meet Jesus and threw herself at His feet when she saw Him4. Scripture tells us that when Jesus saw the grief that enveloped Mary and those who were with her, He was “deeply moved in spirit and was troubled”. He then broke down and wept as He witnessed how death had got a hold on those whom He loved5. Overwhelmed by seeing their grief, Jesus took action. He tells them to remove the stone covering the tomb then spoke the Life of God into the situation6. That’s what changed things around for everybody – not just Lazarus but everybody now had hope because of the miracle they saw Jesus do. I wonder what it must have been like for those who witnessed it first-hand – those who saw the ‘impossible’ being dismantled before their very eyes?
As we turn our eyes to the ongoing situation affecting the United Kingdom and other countries across the world, an important lesson we can learn from this account is that Jesus is not detached from the sorrow and grief that death brings to those affected by it. He weeps. What we also see is that Jesus responds to the cries of those who love Him. In the depths of her grief, Martha believed that Jesus could still turn things around7 and He responded to that faith. Jesus did it for Martha, and Jesus will do it for us – because He hasn’t changed8.
If the curtain of God’s heart were drawn back today – what would we see with regard to this current world crisis? I can tell you – we would see exactly the same heart we see in Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb – sorrowful and weeping as He looks at the despair that comes on those affected by death. That’s true because Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’9. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing10 and said what He heard the Father say11 – which means that Jesus’ response here at Lazarus’ tomb is simply a demonstration in the earthly realm of what Father God was experiencing in Heaven. So in our current situation, seeing the world He loves suffering under the cloud of death grieves God to the point of weeping, and it’s out of this love for people that God gave His Son as the Ransom that enables us to escape the destruction that death brings12.
The message of the Gospel is a message of hope, and that’s what Jesus demonstrated when He arrived and commanded death to release Lazarus. He brought hope into Mary and Martha’s impossible situation, and He will bring hope into the situation we are currently facing if we ask Him. Martha’s faith was an “even now” faith – even in the depth of darkness, even in the most impossible of situations she still believed – no matter how dark the hour was. As a church family let’s be an “even now” people – let’s tell Jesus that in the midst of the hopelessness that surrounds us that we believe with all our hearts that He can bring hope into this situation. It was in response to Martha’s “even now” declaration that Jesus answers her and says, “Your brother will rise again”.13
- John 11:20
- John 11:17
- John 11:22
- John 11:32
- John 11:33-36
- John 6:63; 11:39, 43
- John 11:21-23
- Hebrews 13:8
- Colossians 1:15
- John 5:19
- John 8:26
- John 3:16
- John 11:22-23
(c) Gwynedd Jones 2020