“If only….” That hanging phrase causes so much angst. Especially in the case of Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus had other important things to do, like lingering for two more days in the same place.
A prominent Jewish belief was that the soul of a person hung over it for three days hoping to reenter the person. By the fourth day the soul had given up and left. Jesus had risen others from the dead, the son of the widow of Nain shortly after death in Luke 7, and Jairus’s daughter the day of the death in Matthew 9. Jesus wanted to wait four days to prevent anyone from denying Lazarus’ death. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus was in the tomb four days.
When Jesus saw the people weeping, “he was deeply moved” (v.33). And when he came to the tomb, he was “once more deeply moved” (v.38). He saw the end result of sin—death. He had proclaimed to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v.25). He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, because in verse 4 he said Lazarus’ death was for “God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” He had already prayed about Lazarus being raised from the grave because he said in verse 41, “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.” He entered into battle with Satan to conquer death and show the people that he is the resurrection and life. Then he called Lazarus from the tomb and the mummified Lazarus came forth alive.
Many of the Jews attending the wailing wake that day “put their faith in him,” just as he had prayed in verse 41. In fact, this miracle had such an impact the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus, because “many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him” (John 12:9-10). Christ’s prayer was definitely answered that day.
However, some of them reported the event to the Pharisees. This culminated in Caiaphas’ prophecy of his death and his ultimate death on the cross.
So what happened because of Jesus’ four day delay? He conquered death, proved he is the resurrection and the life, prayed many would believe in him, and many Jews turned to him.
If only… no, his delays have a purpose. Yes, even his delay in answering a specific prayer I have prayed for over ten years.
Lord, I do not understand some of your delays. Forgive me for my impatience, lack of trust, and frustration for not answering when I know you know the answer. However, I trust in your delay because I know “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Bring glory to your name in your delay. Amen.
Question: Is there a delay you have be battling that can be given to him for your good and his glory?