Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of
Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Let’s play a little game today. I call this game, “Fill in the blanks.” Ready?
Consider the statement of Mary to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Let’s add something to the end of that: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died and I would not ____________________.” Fill in the blank. What would Mary have said?
Now that you’ve had a chance to think of your answer, I imagine that many of them are one of the following:
a) I would not have been left here to struggle on alone.
b) I would not be grieving for him.
c) I would not face an uncertain future without my brother’s protection.
d) I would not now be faced with a loss of faith in your love for me.
It’s fairly certain that Mary’s greeting to Jesus was in the nature of a rebuke. If only Jesus had come sooner, everything would be different. She was totally focused on what this event had done to her, losing sight of the bigger picture.
Martha’s greeting, on the other hand, started out with the exact same sentence, yet she followed it with a strong statement of her faith in Jesus. But even Martha was concentrating on the wrong motives. Jesus is not some sort of on-call miracle worker, there to fix whatever life has thrown at you, like a plumber or electrician.
But that is how we often think of God, isn’t it? Someone to step in and rescue us when the going gets tough, just as it did for Mary and Martha.
But, guess what? It’s not all about you. It’s not all about me. If you’d like to be more factual, we are all about HIM.
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill, it’s almost like he was expecting it to happen. He was not worried and he took his time getting there. Why? He says, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it" and “I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." The illness was there, not to punish Lazarus for sin or to punish Mary and Martha, but for no other reason than that it was God’s plan for Jesus to show the glory of God through raising Lazarus from the dead.
When Mary and Martha concentrate on what is happening to them personally, they lose sight of what Jesus was there for. Yes, he worked miracles. But the purpose of the miracles was not the miracles themselves, but the reflection of God’s glory so that those beholding them could see and believe, and so be saved. And we, in our Christian lives, often make the same mistake. In our self-centeredness, we concentrate on what God should be doing for us, rather than what we should be doing for God.
Max Lucado, in the book “It’s Not About Me” talks about the error of self-centeredness with the analogy of a symphony orchestra. If every instrumentalist was out to grab their place in the spotlight, the result would be cacophony. He describes it like this:
“Tubas blasting nonstop. Percussionists pounding to get attention. The cellist shoving the flutist out of the center-stage chair. The trumpeter standing atop the conductor’s stool tooting his horn. Sheet music disregarded. Conductor ignored. What do you have but an endless tune-up session!”
Mr. Lucado points out that playing in such a group would not make any musician happy. Yet this is exactly what the world teaches us to do for ourselves every day. He goes on to say:
“No wonder our homes are so noisy, business so stress-filled, government so cutthroat, and harmony so rare. If you think it’s all about you, and I think it’s all about me, we have no hope for a melody.”
Mr. Lucado’s suggestion is one that would have served both Mary and Martha well: stop thinking about what *I* want and concentrate on what *God* wants. But this is very hard to do.
When you think about it, the way that Mary and Martha greeted Jesus on the day of Lazarus’ resurrection is often the way we greet him. We can fill in the blanks differently this time:
“Lord, if you had been here, (fill in the blank) would not have happened.”
“Lord, if you loved me, you would not allow (fill in the blank) to have happened.”
“Lord, if you really are God, you would not let (fill in the blank) to do (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank.) You would do something to stop that from happening.”
By shifting our attention away from ourselves and towards God, we can see things entirely differently. Mr. Lucado’s conclusion points the way towards doing that. He says:
“The God-centered life works. And it rescues us from a life that doesn’t.
“But how do we make the shift? How can we be bumped off self-center? Attend a seminar, howl at the moon, read a Lucado book? None of these (though the author appreciates that last idea). We move from me-focus to God-focus by pondering him. Witnessing him. Following the counsel of the Apostle Paul: “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV).
Beholding him changes us. Couldn’t we use a change? Let’s give it a go. Who knows? We might just discover our place in the universe.”