Take Off Your Grave Clothes
Terry J. Hallock
Two beliefs formed Mary and Martha's despair over the death of their brother Lazarus.
First was their belief in the power and permanence of death. They had watched their beloved brother Lazarus become sick and then grow weaker and weaker until his body ceased to function. They had seen him wrapped in the burial clothes and placed in the tomb that was then sealed for all time. The funeral processions had come and gone. The mourners wept and wailed. Lazarus was dead and that was that. . .or so they believed.
Second, Mary and Martha believed Jesus had failed them. ''If you had been here,'' they cried, ''our brother would not have died.'' Hadn't Lazarus been a dear friend to Jesus? Hadn't Jesus eaten food from Lazarus' table? Hadn't Lazarus and his sisters opened their home in hospitality to Jesus whenever it was needed? And wasn't this the same Jesus who had given sight to the blind, healing to lepers, and enabled cripples to walk? Yet when Lazarus was sick and in need, not only didn't Jesus heal him, He delayed even coming to Lazarus' side until it was too late to do any good.
Both of those beliefs - that death's power is permanent and that Jesus had failed - were consistent with the thinking process of the natural. They were understandable reactions when seen through the prism of what were generally accepted as the immutable laws of nature. Lazarus was dead and since death is the end of life Lazarus had no future and Mary and Martha had no hope. Dead is dead! Jesus could have healed Lazarus but didn't thus Jesus had failed to meet the need of a friend who loved Him.
Each of us has or will know the grief of Mary and Martha. Each of us will experience the death of a loved one Jesus could have healed but didn't, a dream Jesus could have saved but didn't, a need Jesus could have met but didn't, a work Jesus could have rescued but didn't, an evil Jesus could have stopped but didn't, or a suffering Jesus could have soothed but didn't. Our despair, like Mary and Martha's, will be exacerbated because not only won't Jesus act when we believe we need Him the most, He will seem to consciously delay even responding to our pleas.
In the midst of Mary and Martha's grief, despair, and sense of absolute defeat Jesus made a declaration about His identity, described the result of believing that He was who He said He was, and asked a question about their faith. ''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). Everything that would follow depended on Martha's answer to that question. Everything God desires to do in the grieving places of your heart and among the dead places in your life depends on your answer to that same question. Jesus has declared that He holds the power of life and the power of resurrection. He has made in unequivocally clear that ...
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