The gospel of this fifth Sunday of Lent (John 11:1- 42) presents us with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This story can be our story, any day, any time! Lazarus was the brother to Martha and Mary, family friends of Jesus. Lazarus had fallen sick, and the family had done everything they could to save him, but all to no avail. So, they turned to Jesus because they knew that if only Jesus lays His hand upon him, he would be made well. He had done these innumerable times for many people. So, they sent word to Jesus that Lazarus, his friend, was seriously ill. One would have thought that Jesus would rush down immediately to save His friend. Instead, He spent two more days before leaving to respond to this urgent call. By the time he arrived, four days later, Lazarus was already dead and buried. You can imagine how the family must have felt. Expectations and the certainty of how Jesus would respond (come down immediately) turned into despair and disappointment. Both Mary and Martha reminded him of this: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
Why had Jesus ignored their need? Wasn’t He the one who said, “Ask, and you shall receive?” Where was He when His friends needed Him most? My friends, you and I could easily be Mary and Martha, where we have asked God for help, and He seemingly hasn’t heard our prayers. We are tempted to lose hope in Him, become discouraged, disillusioned, or even lose faith in His faithfulness. Yet, this story teaches us how to deal with situations like that. We must never forget that God won’t always answer our calls when, where, or how we expect. But that doesn’t mean our requests are unheard. Delay is not denial! Sometimes, the Lord’s response to our request is an immediate “yes.” Sometimes, His response is “not yet,” and still, some other times, His answer could be “not as you want it.” No matter which response is at work during our supplication, the key is to keep the faith and to continue walking with Jesus, for He will, in His time, find a way to use even the most painful of situations to help us see the glory of God and testify to His faithfulness. The fact that Lazarus was already dead, buried, and stinking by the time Jesus arrived made no difference in what God could do. No human condition can frustrate the power of God’s divine healing grace. Christ simply asked Lazarus to stand up and come out. Case ended.
Scripture says that when Lazarus rose, he was all bounded, and Christ ordered: “Unbound him and let him go.” Many a time, we may feel as though life has gone out of us or perhaps that life has passed us by. It could be that we feel soulless and wrapped up in things that won’t let us go. No matter the case, this story tells us that Jesus offers us new life. He calls us by name and can and is willing to loosen that which binds us. All we need to do is to bring Him to the dead places in our lives, in our relationships, in our families, and in our inner selves, and then listen as He calls us out by name and commands our bondage to let go and set us free. Brokenness should never keep us bound but rather should draw us to Christ who can release us into a new life of freedom. When we turn to God, we are forgiven, healed, and restored, and on our lips will be words of praise to our God (Isa 57:19 NLT). My friends, it is never too late for God!