There’s Still Hope
No matter how hopeless your situation may look, there’s always hope with Jesus.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11:41 ESV
How many times have you had a situation in your life when you said, “Lord, if only you had been here!” or “Lord, if only you had intervened, then ________ wouldn’t have happened” (fill in whatever disappointment or confusing outcome you experienced). I can think of several. In John 11, both Mary and Martha came to the same conclusion when their brother Lazarus died. But first, let’s rewind and see how things unfolded.
John chapter 11 is the amazing account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Of all the miracles of Jesus, I find none to be more jaw-dropping and more thought-provoking, aside from Jesus himself being raised from the dead. John 11 starts off like this:
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it He said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” (John 11:1-4 ESV)
Lazarus, beloved brother of Mary and Martha, was ill. He wasn’t just some bystander or person that Jesus had a brief encounter with. Jesus was very good friends with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Indeed, the message Mary and Martha conveyed to Jesus was “He whom you love is ill.” Jesus loved Lazarus. Hold on to that. In response, Jesus said this illness wouldn’t end in death, but would be for the glory of God. He already had a plan. In verse 5 we read:
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)
At the outset of the story, John wants it to be clear that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters. It reminds me of the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where he says, “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.” So it must be distinctly understood that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. And when Jesus learned that his good friend Lazarus was ill, someone he loved, what did Jesus do? What would you do? If you heard that a friend you loved was very sick, wouldn’t you drop everything and rush to be there?
“So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:6)
This is astonishing to me. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples, “Lazarus is sick and dying, so we must go right away.” No, when he heard Lazarus was ill, he extended his stay another two days! Again, Jesus had a plan that no one would have understood had he revealed it at the time. In two more days, Jesus and his disciples headed to Bethany.
“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.” (John 11:17)
The fact that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days is significant, and something else that must be distinctly understood. According to Jewish tradition, the spirit of the deceased hovered near the body for three days, and they believed resurrection was possible for up to three days after someone died. After that, they believed there was no hope for resurrection. If Jesus and his disciples had left for Bethany as soon as he received word that Lazarus was ill, they would have arrived when he had been dead for two days. Jesus’ delay had him arrive once Lazarus had been dead four days, ensuring there was no way Lazarus was coming back to life apart from a powerful miracle from God. With another nod to A Christmas Carol, just as it must be distinctly understood that Old Marley was dead, it must be distinctly understood that Lazarus was not only dead, but he was beyond all hope for resurrection.
When Jesus first learned that Lazarus was sick, he could have simply spoken a word and Lazarus could have been made well at that very moment. Isn’t that what we hope for if we’re in a dire situation—that Jesus would simply say the word and make it better? Instead, Jesus delayed his departure to set the stage for a powerful, far-reaching miracle.
When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Mary and Martha (still distraught over the loss of their brother) both said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Here’s something else I find profound. Jesus knows he’s going to bring Lazarus back from the dead, so you’d think he would be upbeat and telling everyone “Hey, it’s going to be ok!” But look at what happened after he encountered Mary:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)
So often, when Jesus doesn’t come through like we are hoping or expecting, we might tend to think he doesn’t care. He does care, more than you know. Are you hurting? Do you need healing? Are you in a difficult situation relationally, financially, or emotionally? Jesus loves you and cares deeply. He hasn’t forgotten and he has plan.
When Jesus got to the tomb and asked for the stone to be rolled away, Martha said “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Can you imagine? Lazarus had been dead so long that his body was starting to decay and smell. What a setup. Then comes one of my favorite Scriptures in the whole Bible. Jesus says to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:41) Oh, to see the glory of God in our situation! And what does Jesus say to do? Believe.
Finally, Jesus takes center stage. He’s at the tomb, the stone is rolled away, a huge crowd has gathered, he prays to the Father, and then cries out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43)
It’s hard to imagine the scene at the tomb when Lazarus, who had been dead four days and starting to decay, walked out of the tomb. Gasps, screams, cheers, weeping—all sorts of emotions on display. I think it must have been a bit challenging for Lazarus, since his hands and feet were bound, but Jesus called him and he came out!
That miracle had such a profound impact that later people came not only to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus back from the dead. Many of the Jews who were there and witnessed that miracle believed in Jesus, and as a result, from that day on, the Pharisees made plans to kill Jesus (John 11:53).
What area of your life have you been praying for, asking Jesus to come through, but you haven’t yet seen the answer? Healing? Provision? A broken relationship? Maybe it’s a dream you once had that you’ve given up on.
One thing must be distinctly understood: He loves you. You’re not just some bystander that Jesus has met briefly. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Then you are his close friend and he loves you very much. Your prayers haven’t gone unnoticed. He sees, he cares, and he has a plan. Keep believing. Keep trusting. And you will see the glory of God.
Jesus, thank you for loving me, caring for me and having the best in store for me. I lift up my situation to you, knowing that you see and you care. You are the resurrection and the life, and I know you can even resurrect dreams I’ve given up on. I love you and trust you. Thank you in advance for what you have in store. Amen.