Some days you just need to know that Jesus cares. Maybe today is that day for you. If so, I think you’ll be encouraged as we take a look at the compassion and sensitivity Jesus showed when Mary and Martha were grieving over the death of their brother Lazarus. I know this story has frequently bolstered my heart.
The siblings’ story begins in John chapter 11 when Lazarus grows very sick, so sick that the sisters send word to Jesus about his deteriorating condition. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jesus doesn’t hurry to the village of Bethany to heal Lazarus, instead He stays two days longer in the place where He was. Despite the fact that Jesus doesn’t hurry to Lazarus’ sickbed we know that Jesus loved this family for the text tells us that He did (John 11:5). So whatever the reason was for Jesus not immediately going to heal Lazarus, it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t care about them. In fact, Jesus knew something the rest of the people in this story did not. He explained it to His disciples in John 11:4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Lazarus’ sickness had a purpose. And that purpose was for God’s glory; Jesus Himself would also gain glory from it.
Could it be that God intends your sorrows and difficulties for His glory?
By the time Jesus arrived in the village of Bethany Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and his sisters were grieving for their brother. Because we’re privy to the story after-the-fact, we know Jesus delayed coming to Bethany so He could raise Lazarus from the dead, but no one else knew that. All the sisters knew was that their beloved brother had died and their friend Jesus, who was well-able to heal the sick, had not come in time to heal him. And now it was too late; their brother was dead. As Jesus arrives in Bethany, He is first greeted by a grieving Martha and then by a weeping Mary, both women telling Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary and Martha knew Jesus could have saved Lazarus from death—before he died; their faith extended that far, but it never entered their heads that Jesus might do more.
Could it be that God to stretch your faith and broaden your view of Him through your present circumstances? When Jesus washed the disciples feet in John 13:7 Jesus explained His actions to Peter saying, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” So many of the events in our lives end up in this category where we will understand hereafter. God has more in mind for us than we realize.
Verse 33 records, “When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled.” Then in verse 35 it says, “Jesus wept.” Even though God intended to use Lazarus’ death and resurrection for His glory, Jesus was “deeply moved” by the His friends’ grief. He wept for their sorrow. He wept that the best plan for their lives included this deep grief. His love for His friends moved Him to compassion for their sorrow, even though He knew that soon their mourning would be turned to joy, and that the sorrow they were experiencing would be buried by jubilation. Jeremiah found comfort in this aspect of God’s character as well so that he penned these words of solace, “For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness (Lamentations 3:31-32).
Could it be that Jesus desires you to know His comfort and learn of the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)? “Jesus! What a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, Even when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul.”
Jesus left us a poignant picture of how to practically minister to the grieving. In following Jesus’ example we will also enter into the joys and sorrows of others and fulfill the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Paul reminded us of this in Romans 12:15 when he said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We enter into their sorrows with them, rather than standing back at a safe distance. There is nothing more endearing in a friend than when they sorrow with us and help bear our burdens. Understanding this makes Jesus’ compassion all the sweeter.
The Scriptures tell us to “consider” Jesus—to think, reflect, meditate on Him. When we do this we find food for our souls, comfort for our hearts, and a guide for the journey. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus’ compassion extends to every one of His children.
Could it be that God intends your present trials to draw you closer to Him? “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).”