FOLLOWING IN THE PATH OF THE DIVINE….BETHANY (Part 8 of 10).
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.” (John 11:1-2).
“When death has come and taken our loved ones, it leaves our home so lonely and drear; then do we wonder, why others prosper living so wicked year after year. Farther along we’ll know all about, farther along we’ll understand why; Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine, we’ll understand it all by and by.” (W.B. Stevens). This is a famous Baptist hymnal that ask the question, why? Why did God let my loved one die? It is a haunting and agonizing confrontation with God and death. This inevitable life event, has and will shattered the ground beneath those who have called on God in earnest, to stall death. However, their prayers were not granted, according to their prayer request. When family members or friends departs from this life, many wonder why God did not intervene to deter death and heal them. In Bethany, Mary and Martha watched their brother Lazarus die, while they called on Jesus to come and save Lazarus from death. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest in sick.” (John 11:3). Following in the Path of Divine to Bethany, we see Jesus express his power to glorify God the Father and raise the dead. Also, to deliver consolation to Mary and Martha, by answering the question, why?
It is clear in the gospel of John, that Jesus loved Martha and Mary, and Lazarus. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” (John 11:5) Also, it is as equally clear, that they loved and honored Jesus. Mary anointed Jesus with an expensive ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. (John 12:3). This is an extreme public display of affection for Jesus. Martha cooked for him and served him, and Mary sat at his feet and took in every Word that dropped from his lips. There is a tremendous bond of love and faith in Jesus! It is only natural that when they called for Jesus to come their aid, they expected him to hurry and save his friend and their brother. When Jesus did not return to heal their brother, it was a great disappointment to them. Everyone else was comforting them, except for the one they expected to be by their side. I suppose they may have felt that Jesus abandon them. If you have ever been a caregiver for someone you love, it is an emotional hurricane. It is not because you don’t love them. On the contrary, it is because you do love them so much, that it hurts to see them suffering and you can’t heal them. We do everything we can to make them comfortable, but we want more than that, we want to see them well again. So, we pray and ask God to heal them and make them better, but it sometimes seems as if God has abandon us. We ask ourselves, how could the God we love and publicly worship, not fulfill our prayer request? It is an overwhelming feeling of despair and uncertainty. Finally, Jesus appears after Lazarus is dead. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11:21). Martha and Mary are now blaming Jesus for their brother’s death because they did not understand, why?
Our love for someone is what makes death so painful. It is the love connection which rips at the core of our soul. We have given a part of our soul in love. They live in our soul and when they depart from this life, they take a piece of us with them; and that wound in our heart has to be repaired with a greater love. But many will not receive the mending love of Christ. They get lost in the deterioration of “what ifs,” and the blame game; and never regain the strength to look at the power of the resurrection, who is Jesus! The mourner stops trusting that God has a greater restoration plan for those who have died in faith believing. We have to remember: “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Cor. 2:9). Remember the hope of the promise of God! Jesus said to Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again.” (John 11:23). Yes, Martha believed in the last resurrection, but she wanted her brother now! Jesus said, “I am the resurrection!” I would embrace that as, “Martha you have Me.” Jesus is enough to keep us from falling in our time of despair, if we would just embrace him. He understands the sorrow and grief that we feel when our love ones die, Jesus wept. (v.35). There were some who stood around criticizing Jesus, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? (v.37). When we pray and there is no healing, the spirit of bitterness swells in our heart! Do you think God felt any less sorrow when his Son was crucified? God’s Son died of an agonizing death. The condition by which our love one dies compounds our reaction. Especially if the departure is a result of evil and injustice, the question of why seems more elusive; and our heart has not recovered.
The question is still, why? Jesus knew all the time that Lazarus was going to die, but he had to wait that he may glorify his Father. He had to demonstrate God’s power to raise the dead, to give unequivocal proof that God has power over life and death. But the why is still lingering! The answer is really a fundamental one. It is because of sin, which instituted death! There was no death until the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when they ate the forbidden fruit, all of humanity fell into sin. Their act of disobedience ushered in death! We cannot live eternally in this life, due to sin. We must die to be raised in a new life and in a new resurrected body. Jesus had to die to pay death the ransom for our sins; and to be a resurrected proof that God has the power to raise the dead! God allowed his Son to die, and he did not show up to rescue Jesus, because his death was necessary to pay our sin debt: and for God to be gloried in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Our death is necessary for the glorification of God and resurrection. “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet for the last trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Cor. 15:51-53). We cannot live in the presence of God in our present corruptible state. Knowing this truth, will not cancel the pain of losing a loved one. Death is and will always be a sorrowful departure. We are not always ready to let go: and sometimes death comes unannounced and too soon in one’s life. Sometimes it is the how, which our loved ones depart that overwhelms us. If we are to have any consolation when death comes and take our loves ones, it is this: We must preach Jesus Christ and repentance and live a righteous life, that they may be saved. This was the consolation that Jesus gave to Martha and Mary, “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25).
We entered into this world in sin, and the only remedy to rid our souls of sin is Jesus Christ. He has the power to forgive us all our sins. It is imperative that we preach and teach those who are near to us, that in order to live a resurrected life, they must repent now before death comes. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:22-23). The scriptures speaks for itself. The righteous shall live with God and the unrighteous shall live in hell. With this understanding, I can’t close without giving some consolation to those who’s loved ones, have already died in their sins because they rejected Christ. God will not allow our sorrows for the unsaved, or any pain, follow us for eternity. “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God, will wipe away tears from their faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8); and “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:17). We will be in the very presence of God, who is pure untainted Love. Following in the Path of the Divine in Bethany, calls us to start preaching repentance in our homes and among our own family first, that they too may be saved!
For the record, this message is for everyone who has lost someone to death; and for those who are caregivers. I pray you find some recovery and peace and consolation in this post. God bless you and amen!
Written by Jessica L. Matthews