The Fragrance Of His Presence
Four Days and Still Waiting
Today’s Study Text:
“So when Jesus arrived, He found that he (Lazarus) had already been in the tomb four days.”
John 11: 17
“The mature response to tough times is to affirm, by faith, that God has a purpose in everything He does or allows, even though that purpose might not be clear.”
Thoughts for Consideration:
Have I found it difficult to wait upon God’s timing in my life?
What does it mean to know that I am engraved upon the palms of my heavenly Father’s hands?
“The reason so many of us struggle so intensely with adversity is that we have yet to adopt God’s perspective and priorities.”
How To Handle Adversity
“At the darkest moment in your life, you need to see that God is always in charge. He never loses control of the situation. He is always working behind the scene carrying out His plan.”
For four long days mourners made their way to the gravesite of Lazarus. And now, Jesus and His disciples also made their way through the weeping crowd to the familiar home where so many joyful hours had been spent in gladsome conversation. As Matthew Henry reminds us, “When Jesus had been last with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it was probable that He left them well, in health and joy…now He found His friend Lazarus in the grave…four days buried.”
It is to this four-day timeline that I want to draw your attention. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, there are three specific events which bring the focus of our study on Christ’s ability to overcome the power death exhibited in the lives of three individuals.
Example #1: Mark 5: 22 -24, 35-43 (Amplified Bible)
As Jesus was ministering, a ruler of the synagogue came up named Jairus. This heartbroken father “prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet. And begged Him earnestly saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed.’” It is truly heartening to witness the faith this father showed. You can tell how very much he loved his little girl and would leave no stone unturned in order to find the help required to heal his daughter.
However, on the way to the ruler’s home, a messenger came with the tragic news, “Your daughter has died. It’s no use. Don’t bother Jesus with this issue anymore.” But instead of stopping and agreeing that the situation was hopeless, Jesus continued His journey to the home of the dead girl. And once He arrived, “Jesus looked [carefully and with understanding] at [the] tumult and the people weeping and wailing loudly…He went in where the little girl was lying. Gripping her [firmly] by the hand, He said to her, ‘Talitha cumi – which translated is, Little girl, I say to you, [arise from the sleep of death]!’ And instantly the girl got up and started walking around.” The importance of this event is that the young girl had not even been dead for 24 hours. Actually, some scholars note that she may have stopped breathing only a few minutes before Jesus arrived. Consequently, the naysayers who plagued Jesus, could and did question if the child ever really died.
Example #2: Luke 7: 11-13
In this example, Dr. Luke relates a story about a widow from the city of Nain. After her husband’s death, she relied on her son and then, much to the heartbreak of the boy’s mother, he died as well. Now to say that a widow’s lot was pathetic at that time in history would be an understatement. Thankfully, the grief expressed by this widow touched the heart of Jesus. Dr. Luke tells us “Jesus had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Then Jesus did the one thing that would make that mother’s heart beat with absolute delight: “He (Jesus) went forward and touched the funeral bier, and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise [from death].’ And the man [who was] dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” In this case, one can deduce that the young man had been dead perhaps for just a couple of days when Jesus “gave him back to his widowed mother.”
Example #3: John 11: 17
In the case of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, not only had Lazarus been sick for several days, but he had been “in the tomb” for 4 days. This meant that most likely, decomposition of his body had begun to take place. But more importantly, at that time it was believed by the ruling theologians that it took 4 days for a “soul” to make its way to its eternal home. In other words, for those who didn’t even believe in a resurrection, the death and resurrection of the young girl and the widow’s son “didn’t really count.” But with Lazarus, they had a big problem and Jesus knew it. This man was dead! He was buried! Four days he had been in the tomb! And with Bethany just two short miles from Jerusalem – news traveled fast. Believe me when I say that Lazarus was the headline on the “Jerusalem Enquirer!” Dead man is really alive! You can hear the crowds shouting this news.
You see, Jesus knew that in a few weeks, He would be dead and buried, as well. And so He trusted His precious friend Lazarus to be the most faithful witness of all. For every time anyone laid eyes on Lazarus, they couldn’t help but think, “I thought Jesus had forgotten Lazarus but He didn’t. Even after four days in the tomb – Jesus resurrected Lazarus!
I love the words of author Mary Nelson in her book, Grace For Each Hour, “There are certain things in this life that God can reveal to us only in the midst of adversity. There are hidden places deep in our souls He can reach only through our suffering.” And I would like to add, there are lessons that we learn only when we find we can trust our Lord in front of the grave and it’s been four days and we are still waiting. In the words of Brother Lawrence:
“Good when He gives, supremely good;
No less when He denies;
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.”
“Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.”
Arthur Bennett, Editor
The Valley of Vision
“The cry of man’s anguish went up to God,
‘Lord, take away my pain
The shadow that darkens the world Thou hast made;
The close coiling chain
That strangles the heart; the burden that weighs
On the wings that would soar
Lord, take away pain from the world Thou has made
That it love Thee more!’
Then answered the Lord to the cry of the world,
‘Shall I take away pain,
And with it the power of the soul to endure,
Made strong by the strain?
Shall I take away pity that knits heart to heart,
And sacrifice high?
Will ye lose all your heroes that lift from the fire
White brows to the sky?
Shall I take away love that redeems with a price,
And smiles with its loss?
Can ye spare from your lives that would cling unto mine
The Christ on His cross?’
**Words found written on a hospital wall.
“The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction.”
All of Grace
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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