“If you had been here…”

IMG_0980“If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Martha dared to look into the face of her Lord and claim this truth. Can you imagine… Her rage and her sorrow? The love and the loss that flowed through her in that moment, standing in the very presence of her God but forevermore absent from her brother.

“If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

She was right, of course. Jesus chose not to travel to Bethany when he heard the news of Lazarus’ illness. A choice that suggests that Jesus himself agreed with Martha’s assertion – If he had been there, Lazarus would not have died, and so Jesus could not come… Did not come… So that Lazarus might, in fact, die.

For surely, if he had rushed to Lazarus’ bedside, the breath of life would have spilled out of him. Jesus saves, he lavishes life. It’s what he does – who he is. We only have to ask – believe – and goodness, hope, glory overflows. Life abundant. Grace sufficient.

But without Jesus’ presence – his power – Lazarus died while his sisters looked on, helpless, and the women buried his body even while pondering the absence of their Lord.  They mourned in a spirit of confusion and disappointment. And so it was, Jesus didn’t come to me either, on the cold day in February when I needed him most.  I asked him to.  I expected him to… but he didn’t come.

“Lord, if you had been here, my son would not have died.”  It’s a bold truth, but one I believe adamantly. Jesus didn’t come that day, apparently on purpose, and he didn’t come the next day or the day after that, and even now – I wait.

I just don’t understand!! If Jesus wanted Lazarus alive, why wait until he was already dead??? And if Jesus is in fact coming again, promising to bring with him eternal life for myself and my son, why did he have to leave at all??

“The purpose of the illness is not death, but glory.” Jesus explains gently. His cryptic words express the intentionality in Jesus’s delay… while his tears express the great cost. Lazarus had to die, in the same way Jesus had to die… and Graham too… It’s not about death at all really… and it’s also all about death, somehow.  I feel confused but also full of wonderment.

I wonder if the very reason Jesus left this earth for heaven all those years ago, was for the same reason he waited to travel to Bethany until Lazarus was already dead and buried… Perhaps he left us here, amidst the confusion and disappointment, so that my son might die… That I might share in the story of Mary and Martha, that I might share in Christ’s glory… so that Graham could too.

Regardless, Jesus has promised to come, and just as he made his way to Mary and Martha… To the remnants of a shattered family… He will certainly come to me, and so I wait in ruin and with expectation, because when Jesus did finally show up, even the filth of decay could not hold back the life that spilled from him!

“Lazarus come out!”

I can almost taste the glory of that moment – of my moment yet to come!


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