I am astonished at how quickly my belief turns into doubt! One minute I can praise God for all the great and amazing things he's done in my life and the next minute I can be devastated by events that cause me to doubt his very existence. I may try to cover my unbelief with a fig leaf by justifying the situation by saying God isn't finished with me or my situation yet. I can even invent a new platitude or cliché about why things don't work out the way I planned. Quite frankly, if I were God, I would be frustrated with me, too.
What if this is exactly what Mary and Martha faced when their brother Lazarus died? Chapter eleven of John's gospel tells us about a mind-blowing story of God's glory and power. But, not in the way anyone had expected. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were like family to Jesus. Scripture tells us Jesus loved them. They shared an intimacy with Jesus few others shared. Imagine your family was the family Jesus chose to hang out with on the weekends or just hours before he was arrested!
Lazarus gets sick and eventually dies. Death was devastating news to the family and the community. The sisters sent word to Jesus. But, Jesus did not immediately rush to the situation like a well-trained EMT driving a spiritual ambulance. God was up to something far greater than curing a sick brother. Jesus was about to deal with their unbelief. How could someone who had first-hand knowledge of Jesus was ever doubt him or his power? Clearly, Mary and Martha did. Could it be they represent the rest of us?
Some Christ followers will agree with Martha's belief about the resurrection. She believed in the resurrection as a promise for the last days in some distant miraculous future. She certainly didn't believe that Lazarus could be raised from the dead in this life. Other Christ followers will align with Mary's belief about Jesus' power to prevent death all together. Neither belief is sufficient in this case. Suddenly the shortest verse in the Bible leaps off the page. "Jesus wept."
Jesus doesn't weep ordinary tears. The Greek translation of this passage says, "Jesus snorted with anger." Could it be that the Son of God was frustrated with the unbelief of those closest to him? God's power and glory were revealed as Lazarus stepped away from the tomb. Revelation is God's primary tool to teach us who he is and what he is capable of in any situation - even death. Why doesn't Jesus just show up and stop it all? Because Jesus didn't come to bring judgment. He came to bear the judgment we deserve. The only way Jesus could have interrupted the course of sin and death was to go the cross, die our death and bear the judgment we deserve. Maybe the only prayer I need to pray today is "Lord, help my unbelief."
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" John 11:25-26 NIV