In John 11 Jesus visited with a much loved family who was grieving. Lazarus had died and his sisters Mary and Martha were in the midst of grieving their loss. When Jesus arrived, the funeral was over. The two sisters made the same statement to Jesus, yet Jesus gave different responses to each. Here is what is written in John 11:20 and following…
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” 28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 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. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
John 11:38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Observation: God’s timing is always right, good, and perfect… even when we don’t understand. Earlier, when Jesus found out Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was until after Lazarus died… so that through the events to follow God would be glorified.
Observation: Both sisters made the same statement to Jesus, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus responded differently to the sisters. To Martha he confronted her with truth by proclaiming who He was and the resurrection from the dead. When Mary made the exact same statement to Christ, he responded with tears… not truth.
Observation: In each situation there is a time for truth and a time for tears. The Spirit prompts which is appropriate. Martha needed truth. Mary needed tears. Some are ready to hear truth while grieving. Others just need someone to weep with them.
Observation: Jesus was a man with emotions, just like us. The Scripture records he was deeply moved emotionally two times during this event (Vv 33 and 38). The actual meaning of these phrases are that he quaked with rage. This means that at the funeral Jesus was furious… but why and at who?
Possible objects of Jesus’ anger: Mary and Martha could not have been the object since they were dealing naturally with the death of their loved one Lazarus. He couldn’t have been angry at Lazarus for obvious reasons. The others present at the funeral couldn’t have been the ones he was angry at as they were simply following the custom of the day in supporting a family they loved.
The object of Jesus’ anger: Satan, sin, and death were most likely the object of Jesus’ rage. Were it not for Satan and sin, death would not ravaged God’s creation. Were it not for Satan and sin, there would not be the brokenness that is present in the world. Were it not for Satan and sin, there would not have been the constant battle His loved ones would have to fight against. And so he quaked with rage toward the evil that brought about the situation.
Personal Application 1: In grief, there is a time for tears. Weeping is proper while in grief. There is no shame in grieving and being deeply moved emotionally.
Personal Application 2: In grief, there is a time for truth. God’s truth tempers our grief and properly addresses the eternal hope of heaven.
Personal Application 3: When ministering to those in grief, it is good to begin with tears… and then when the time is right (By the Spirit’s leading) truth can be proclaimed.
Personal Application 4: Doing God’s will… and/or being blessed by God… can result in adversity, hardship, tribulation, and attacks. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was the event that eventually brought about His crucifixion (Jn 11:47-53). It was also the cause for Lazarus’ life to be in further danger (John 12:9-11).