“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him . . .” John 11: 20
John 11 paints a familiar image. Jesus’ friend–Lazarus, whom He loves–becomes ill. His family loves Jesus. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, each have personal relationships with Jesus. Martha knows exactly what to do when trouble comes: call Jesus! With confidence she sends out the dispatch. With confidence she soothes her brother and sister: “Jesus is coming, we have nothing to fear.”
But He doesn’t come. Lazarus gets sicker and sicker. Mary and Martha tend to their brother, trying to remain calm . . . Where is Jesus? Why isn’t he coming? They assure their household that Lazarus will be fine. Jesus will come for his friend, won’t he? And then, Lazarus slips away. Where is our Lord? They take his body, wrap him, and perfume him. Lord? They seal him in the tomb. Day 1 passes. Day 2 . . . Day 3? Surely, Jesus will come before this soul departs! Day 4 . . . hope takes flight with Lazarus’ spirit . . . and then, here comes Jesus, so late we wonder why He bothers coming at all.
I wonder what Martha was thinking the moment she heard Jesus had arrived. She was certainly busy: her home overflowing with mourners, her heart bogged down in grief. Still, Martha runs out to meet Him. She knows the one thing she needs: an audience with her Lord. She’s unabashedly honest, “Lord, if you had been here!” If, if, if! (And I wonder if He heard her heart pray, and where have you been? Did you forget about us?) I can feel her hot tears welling up in my eyes as I picture her collapsing at his feet on the dry, dusty road. How many of us have uttered a prayer similar to Martha’s? How many of us, no matter how deep our faith abides, wonder if there are some moments God just falls asleep?
Jesus knows this. He knows that the present realities of this world can swamp our vision. He knows that it is so very difficult for us to see the plans He has for us as we are drowning in physicalities. And, He knows our need to ask Him a million questions as to how and why He didn’t intervene when we think He should have. He cries with us as we stare at fresh graves and drowned dreams.
But, do we follow Martha’s example and run to Him, after all hope of a miracle is gone? Do we see Jesus not just as Provider and Miracle Worker, but also as friend? Can we set aside our anger at Him for not doing what we think He ought to have done, and allow Him to weep with us? Can we open our hearts to a crucified Lord who knows what it is to cry out to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34.
I have spent my fair share of time angry at God for allowing bad things to happen. I have shaken my fists at the sky, and ached with the desperate void I refused to let my Lord fill. But, I have learned that the best place in the midst of the scariest storms, when I don’t understand Him and my heart is flooding, is in the shadow of His wing. Martha understood the truth of Hosea 6:3:
“Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
He may come late, He may not do what we want. But He always come for us. When He does, I’ve learned my best course of action is to run to Jesus.