I’ve been trying to get this blog released for well over a month, whilst trying to take in its contents in view of my present situation and see it through the eyes of the revelation. Sometimes we get words from God, that we know are for us, and we know why He has sent them yet we still need time to digest them and see precisely how they fit into our present situation in order to apply it and live by it.
About a year and half ago I was getting ready to embark on a new project that I knew God had instructed me to carry out, when one day out of the blue a thought came to mind that suggested I would fail. The thought questioned my faith in God and insisted that things would not turn out the way I believed they would, and that this venture would be no different to others I had attempted only to be left disappointed by the outcome and find myself plummeting into depression. At the time of this attack my life had changed so much, the Jemma that would have once felt overpowered by negative emotions no longer existed, and I found myself fighting back, without even trying.
For me the thought of agreeing with the emery is like stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp ice pick….exactly. It didn’t take long for me to locate the origin of the thought, and I wasted no time cancelling it out with the word of God and the actions I took alongside my faith. I was determined to trust in God who had instructed me to carry out the task.
The task has proved challenging and at times disappointing, and to top it all, the taunting words of the enemy are presently transpiring. But for every door that has slammed in my face or refused to budge I push on, and each time this happens, satan is right there saying “I told you so, I told you so.” Refusing to entertain him regardless of how things look I’ve been back to God time after time asking Him what I need to do and where I’m may be going wrong or not doing enough etc.., whilst actively pursuing many avenues, but He has been silent. And while God has been silent, satan has been chatting non-stop! But still I refuse to give into the enemy even though the very thing I believed would not happen is the very thing that is happening. Then a few weeks ago God gave me an interesting revelation. One I believe is relevant to my situation, and the situations of others, when the worst thing we believe could happen, happens.
We have all read the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, but have you ever studied the sequence of events in relation to your own situations and the way in which God answered their prayer?
We first read of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-41 where Mary out of her love for Jesus chooses to sit at his feet and listen to His teachings, while Martha out of her love for Him chooses to serve His needs. While Martha has to be reminded that it’s not all about being busy serving, Mary is praised, so much so, she is mentioned in John 11 regarding washing Jesus feet with ointment and drying it with her hair prior to the incident actually taking place in John 12, but regardless of how we are introduced to the sisters, we are assured of Jesus love for them and their brother.
The sequence of events in John chapter 11 is thus, Jesus hears. Jesus answers and declares the outcome. Jesus acts by delaying, (even though the sisters believe the issue to be urgent). Jesus attends the scene. Jesus is accused. Jesus is true to a His word and delivers
THE REQUEST John 11: 1-3
Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha is sick, very sick and the sisters sent word to Jesus because they believed He would come and do what He was renowned for doing, which was healing the sick. Although this was a physical notification, today this would be done in the form of prayer.
THE RESPONSE John 11: 4
Upon hearing the news Jesus responds to himself and possibly those around Him, that the sickness, the situation will not end in death, but is for God’s glory so that He may be glorified. He received the message, He has heard the prayer request and He knows precisely what He is going to do and how best to execute it
THE KEY NOTE John 11: 5-6
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
I’ve read this story many, many times, but this time, when I read this verse my eyes were drawn to the fact that John makes a point of emphasising Jesus loved the family, even though He then did something that to the mere human did not make sense. It was like God was showing me, look, Jemma, look. I loved them, but I waited, I loved them but I delayed, I didn’t answer them straightway but I loved them.
Generally when you love someone you do everything in your power to help them, which usually means doing what is best for them. From a human perspective you don’t leave them to suffer or die. But that’s exactly what Jesus did, He allowed Lazarus to suffer and die, He allowed the sisters to feel abandoned, sad, and hurt. To experience grief and possibly even confusion because that was the best way to answer their request. His way of showing them how much He loved them and what exceeding things He could do above and beyond their imagination. And He did this for one reason, and one reason only – to bring glory to His father. And glory to the Father, even in death, will always work in our favour
There are always two sides to a story. In God’s eyes, because He can doing anything, He had everything under control. He is not limited by time, death, sickness, weather, emotions or any form of attack or hindrance. In man’s eye we see what is happening moment by moment. We see certain devastations as final. We say we believe God can do all things, yet there are areas and situations in our lives where we think “if God does not do something right now, then I don’t know what is going to happen”, or “if He does not act now it will be too late”. And these are the thoughts we send up to heaven, to a God that is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent and has no beginning or end.
THE ACTION PHASE 1
So Jesus receives the message, He hears the prayers and immediately answers. He knows what He is going to do but the He keeps the sisters in the dark. As well as His delay, His course of action involved NOT sending word back to the sisters notifying them of his plan. He did not even send a word of acknowledgment. You’ve cried out to God, but He does not send an answers, neither does He share His thoughts or plans with you. There is nothing but silence, but you are sure He will do something because of the nature of the issue. The last thing you expect is for Him to hear you and not only not respond but purposely delay coming to your rescue. Do you think it would have made a difference if Jesus had told the sisters the sickness would not end in death? Probably not, because their brother would still have died, be it only for a few days and they would have been even more devastated than they already were. They would have worried when Lazarus condition worsened. They may have grown angry with Jesus and doubt of who He really was may have crept in. Who knows what else may have transpired. And how do you think the sisters felt when Jesus didn’t respond or show up? Imagine having to put up with snide remarks from the community. “Where is the teacher, the one you call the Messiah? If He loved you He would be here, He would heal your brother” Imagine the sisters fending them off, but inwardly thinking “Jesus, where are you?”
How do you feel when God doesn’t respond to what you believe to be an urgent request, neither does He show up? How do you handle the taunts of the emery when the thing you are asking God to fix before it cracks and breaks, doesn’t just break but smashes into smithereens?
When we read scriptures like Isiah 55:8 – For my ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts. Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding, we really need to grasp their meaning and throw out any form of human reasoning that we may be relying on. Reasoning that may make the slightest bit of sense, and think and act like we have lost our minds in and to faith. Become consumed by the impossible, to the point where all we see is Mat 19:26
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
In this incident first and foremost Jesus wanted God the Father to receive abundant glory. Glory that would have been limited had He done what was expected. In fact had He responded to what was expected, all He would have done was healed another sick person, a miracle the Jews and Gentiles were well accustomed to seeing, a miracle that He was renowned for. What we call a miracle and what God calls a miracle are two entirely different things
THE ACTION PHASE 2
Knowing and seeing all things Jesus waits until Lazarus is dead, until the thing you have been praying would not happen, happens. Then He makes His move. The scripture stated He loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, He loved them just like He loves you. Mary had made Him a priory in her life and He had praised her for it, yet when He heard her brother whom they both loved was sick, He stayed where He was and delayed commencing His journey by 2 days. Jesus had a plan but without being privy to what was going on in His mind it would have seemed like He was doing nothing, but by delaying he was in fact doing something. From His perspective everything was in hand and on track, but from the sisters perspective when Lazarus died all hope was lost. Not only did Jesus not heal their brother, He did not even respond or come to their aid. There was silence. To them he said and did nothing. But yet He loved them.
THE ACTION PHASE 3 John 11: 7-14
Then He said to His disciples “let’s go back to Judea”
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
So let’s get this straight. A problem arises, and because you know God and you know or you would like to believe He loves you, you send word to Him, you cry out to Him and ask Him for help. He says nothing in response to your plea. Then the thing you wanted Him to prevent transpires. The thing you wanted Him to fix, breaks. And while you are in dire straits, because it’s too late and you’re mind is full of reasons as to why He didn’t help you, unbeknown to you God then says “it’s time, let’s go”. By whose account is it too late?
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up”
Do you really believe that nothing gets past God?
Jesus knew what was happening, He knew what had happened, and He knew what was about to happen and what He was about to do. Without faith it really is impossible to please, serve or fathom God. Without faith IN God it is impossible to understand the works of God or trust Him. Without faith IN God for being God, for no man knows the mind of God.
Often when God’s speaks we take everything at face value and we draw our own concussions, and this is made clear in Verse 11 and 12 when Jesus states Lazarus is sleeping, meaning dead and the disciples reply that if he is sleeping he will get better. So due to their lack of understanding Jesus makes it clear to them that Lazarus is dead. Could you imagine what was going through their mind at this point? “Dead, but why didn’t He go to Bethany when He first received the news? Why did He delay two more days? And if he dead, why are we going back now? This does not make sense? He does not make sense!
“Lazarus is dead”
It’s over, despite my prayers and tears it still happened! But I prayed. I believed. I trusted and it still happened.
THE ACTION PHASE 4 Verse 20 -27
Back in Bethany Lazarus has died, been embalmed and laid to rest in a tomb. He has been there four days and the mourning period is in progress. Acting as if nothing has happened, but knowing full well what to expect Jesus arrives in Bethany. Now, it struck me at this point, Jesus didn’t just wait until Lazarus had died to return to Bethany, He waited until he was embalmed and laid in the tomb for FOUR days, and then He returned. Until not just the worst thing that could ever happen, had happened, but until in the eyes of man, the most impossible thing that could ever happen, would happen. Now when God broke it down to me like that, I had to stop writing, meditate and digest that one, and you might need to do the same.
At the sound of His arrival Martha rushes to meet him, but Mary stays at home. It is unclear as to whether Martha worships Jesus or acknowledges His godly presence prior to her speaking to Him. It is also unclear as to why Mary, the sister who had sat at His feet soaking up all His teachings while Martha potted around the house doing chores, remained at home. Was she angry? Upset or too vexed to speak to Jesus? Did she blame Him for the death of her brother? One can only speculate, but we can’t be sure. Upon reaching Jesus, without a hello or holy greeting, Martha’s first words were:-
“Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Was this a polite way of saying “Lord where have you been? why didn’t you come sooner?, why didn’t you answer me?, I thought you loved me?, I prayed and I sent word to you. Something could have been done had you come sooner. The situation could have been rectified had you answered my prayer and come when I asked, but you did nothing, and now it is too late. Have you ever thought that way?
By making these assumptions and more we limit the works God can do to the answering of a specific prayer request in a specific way, and we call believing He will answer that prayer faith. But in fact what we have done is put God in a box. In this story Jesus didn’t just want to heal Lazarus, which would have been the most logical solution to the problem, He wanted His Father to receive the glory when He gave the siblings more than they could ask or even think. He wanted them to know and learn more about Him, so He chose to do it His way and not theirs, and if His ways are not our ways that means His thinking will not be as our thinking either. We may think we know best, we may think all we need is ABC, we may have explored all the possible avenues and prayed for God to lead us down one of them, any of them as long as He does not leave us at the cross road. But just who is the creator and where is your faith based? In Him or in the things YOU want Him to do for you?
When I read the second part of Martha’s next statement, I really thought she had grasped it. That she believed nothing was impossible with God. That regardless of what had happened and was happening the Lord had arrived, He was near, and if He was near, anything was possible.
“But I know even now God will give you whatever you ask”
However this was met with confusion when her response to Jesus comment
“Your brother will rise again.”
Was one not one of “yes Lord, even now you can bring him back to life, I know you can,” but rather
“I know he will rise again, but that will be in last resurrection.”
Remember she makes this comment after admitting that she knows God will give Jesus whatever He asks, which would suggest that’s she has faith in God doing the impossible. After hearing Martha’s response Jesus replies
“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?”
“yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world”.
Conversation out the way, Martha rushes to Mary and tells her Jesus is in town and is asking for her. Now I have to wonder if Mary already knew Jesus had arrived, but was too upset to accompany to her sister, and if that was the case, did she feel comforted by the news that He was asking for her? Because the bible says she got up quickly and went to Him. Almost like she was just waiting fir Him to call her. When God calls you how do you respond? Unlike Martha when Mary reached Jesus before saying a word she fell at His feet, presumably in an act of worship. Then she ushered the same words as her sister
“Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
It is obvious that the sisters were convinced Jesus was going to come to their rescue and in doing so their brother would not have died. And they had no doubt He would have come because He had been a guest in their home, they were good friends whom He loved and they loved Him. But in their minds their friend had let them down and though they still honoured Him, they were disappointed and with limited facts made their disappointment known. Have you ever presented to God, what you believe to be all the facts, only to realise your facts are wrong? The bible says Mary was crying, she was broken, and I suspect it was a mixture of grief and disappointment. But even though the sisters and those with them were far off the mark, Jesus didn’t rebuke. Instead the bible says:-
He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled .ESV
He groaned in the spirit and was troubled .NKJV
a deep anger welled up within him .MSG
At this point, I guess Jesus was all talked out! And who could blame. How many times did He have to tell them who He was and what He was capable of? How many times does He have to tell and show us? Tired of the reasoning, accusations, lack of faith and to an extend selfishness and with nothing left to say, He proceeds to show them rather than tell them, and inquires as to where Lazarus has been laid to rest. While on His way He sheds a tear. A reaction that has triggered many responses from great scholars, but as I have no views on this I won’t comment, besides that may be an entirely new blog on its own. On route to the tomb Jesus is greeted with the small-minded comments and thoughts of onlookers, comments some of us may be guilty of:-
“could not He who opened the eyes of blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Everyone had a comment, everyone had an option, and everyone thought they knew what was best, what should have been done and how it should have been. But none of them realised that Jesus had come to give them precisely what they wanted and MORE…….
THE ACTION PHASE Verse 38-44
Right on course with His plan Jesus is led to the tomb where He proceeds to do what He had always planned to do, which was – answer the prayer request, the desire of the sisters heart. He is not too late and He is not too early. Once again deeply moved Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away. There seemed to be a lot of sighing, tears and groaning done by Jesus in this passage, and I believe the reason for it is the mindset of man. Even after declaring her belief in previous verses, when Jesus asks for the stone to be removed, Mary jumps in and reminds Him that Lazarus has been dead for four days and has already started to decay and stink!
Yet again we see human thinking dictating to God that it is too late, there is nothing that can be done at this point because breath has left her brother’s body, he is dead!!! It is over. If only, if only, if only. No wonder Jesus was filled with so much grief, it must have been frustrating. In a sense Mary was saying, Lord I believe you can do all things my mind will allow me to accept, and in this case you are too late. Sound familiar?
The opening line of verse 40, reminds of my mother when she was vex, just before she was about to give me a beating. In frustration and anger she would say “didn’t I tell you?” or “how many times do I have to tell you?” And at this point who could blame Jesus for feeling like that? How many times Has He showed us and told us What He can do? How many times has God asked us if we trust Him? If we believe in Him? If we believe He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do? And how many times have you answered Yes, believing your statement to be true, only to realise further down the line there are more than a few elements of doubt and lack of faith?
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Upon the removal of the stone, Jesus prayed a prayer that summed up His confidence in His Father and our lack of faith in Him and His Father. Jn 11:40-42:-
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
This last act was for the benefit of those around him, for our benefit. To show us that He was more than the stereotypical miracle worker they had come to believe He was. That He had the power and authority over ALL THINGS. Now I know we have heard this before but for us humans, there are certain things that we believe to be final, whether it be death itself of situations in our lives. We believe that there comes a point when time runs out, or it is too late, that’s it, I give up because only God knows what is going to happen now or how we can come back from the specific issue. We say only God knows in a manner that would suggest there is no hope. But if we mean only God knows, then hope and expectancy should be at its highest peak.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
there is so much power and hope in this verse: – Then the DEAD man came out! Then the DEAD man, came out!
What God was showing in this teaching was pertaining to a situation in my life. A situation that was completely out of my control and heading in the complete opposite direction of what He had said would happen. Everyday I watched it crumble more and more, as it appeared to be dying, and in my mind I wondered how it would change. I believed somehow it would change, but my hope was not at its peak, it was somewhat deflated. And the only reason I was holding was because I refused to agree with the enemy.
God showed me that when you see something as being dead, it is only dead in your eyes, in your flesh, and I want and need you to stop placing me in the same box! Death is nothing to me, the word late is nothing to me. Unless I say something is dead, or unless I say it is too late, it does not matter how it looks to you, what matters is how it looks to me. As far as God was concerned death was a temporary state of rest for Lazarus. From the beginning He had said it would not end in death and regardless of what took place between His declaration and the end of the story, the fact remains that it did not end in death!! That that Lazarus died meant nothing because he didn’t die in the flesh and remain in that states, it was a temporary state that God HAD allowed.
God repeated to me “I said the sickness would NOT end in death and the sickness did NOT end in death. Death has no power over Me. Nothing in this word has power over Me. The most devastating situation has no power over Me. No human or earthy paradine has power over Me. Anything that you see as final, in My eyes is not final unless I say it is. I have the last say, not your circumstances. If I say something will happen, then it WILL happen and if I say something will not happen, then it WILL NOT happen. In the midst of what I say will or will not happen, what YOU see is irrelevant, but what is relevant is what I SAY about the situation. Don’t watch time, watch Me, don’t watch your circumstances keep your eyes on Me”.
“Regarding your prayer, I ALWAYS hear them and I ALWAYS answer. Sometimes you hear me and dismiss me, sometimes due the clatter you don’t hear me at all and sometimes you don’t hang around long enough for the answer, but I ALWAYS answer and I am ALWAYS true to my word. I am the beginning and the end and there is ABSOLUTELY nothing that I CANNOT do. Believe it, accept,digest it, but DO NOT reject it!”
Wow! What a conclusion!