So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. – John 11:17
Four days is a long time to be dead.
I’m no doctor, or scientist, but it’s not hard to understand that a person that’s been dead for four days is not normally coming back.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It was an amazing display of the strength and majesty of Almighty God. But there is more to learn from this story than just that.
Lazarus became sick, but Jesus wasn’t around. Jesus heard about it, but He deliberately stayed away for several days. It wasn’t because Jesus didn’t like Lazarus. The opposite is true – the bible says specifically that He loved him (John 11:5). Yet Jesus was glad that He hadn’t been there to heal him (John 11:15). Why?
He had a greater plan in mind.
I’m glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. – Jesus (John 11:15)
Lazarus was dead for four days.
We don’t hear much in the bible about the number four. We do hear, however, many references to the number three. All throughout scripture we see the number three as a number of completion. We know that Jesus was in the grave for three days, after which our salvation was complete, but there are also numerous other examples of the number three being used in the bible:
- Jonah was in the fish for three days
- Joseph’s dream about the butler and the baker would be fulfilled in three days
- Moses and the children of Israel asked Pharoah if they could go three days into the wilderness
- the plague of thick darkness lasted three days
- the spies who visited Rahab hid for three days
- Saul lost his donkeys for three days
- David chose a plague of three days as judgment for the census
- Jehosaphat and his people were three days in collecting the plunder
- Esther and her people fasted for three days
- and so on
But Lazarus was dead for FOUR days. Why four?
Four, here, represents being beyond hope. It’s the day after expectation. It’s the day after the the final holdout of faith. This is the day when it seems like all is surely lost.
This was the case with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. Their hope was in Jesus, that He would come when they sent word to Him, but He did not come. Even when Lazarus died, I’m sure that they had some hope that Jesus would raise Him from the dead, for He had done it twice already (the son of the widow of Nain & Jairus’ daughter). Maybe they had visions in their head of Jesus bursting on the scene at the close of the third day, commanding life to come into to that lifeless body–but He didn’t. The feelings of disappointment must have been staggering. Mary even expressed those feelings when Jesus finally did come, practically laying the blame on Him:
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” -John 11:32
I imagine that Mary felt like we do when someone finally shows up to help do something after the job is already done.
“Gee, thanks, glad you finally showed up…”
Of course, this was a much more serious issue. Mary was angry, sad, disappointed, and afraid. She collapsed at Jesus’s feet in anguish. Why had God let her down?
Mary had come to the place beyond hope. She believed it was too late.
Martha also believed it was too late. Jesus had looked her straight in the eye and said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” When asked if she believed this, she said yes. But moments later, when Jesus commanded the stone to be rolled away, all she could say is this:
“Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” – John 11:39
What? Really? Did she think that Jesus wanted to go in there to give him a hug?
But look at Jesus’s response:
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:40
God wanted to showcase His glory that day. And He wanted to do it in such a way that He could forever show us that no case is ever too far gone, and no circumstance too far lost that God can’t come in and save the day. Even on the fourth day, that day when all hope seems lost, God can still work wonders for those who will believe.
Has God put something in your heart? Have the circumstances of life killed that dream? God can resurrect it. You may think that it is too far gone, that it is too late. But not so with God. It may feel late with you, but He’s always right on time.
Abraham hoped to have a son. It was promised to him at the age of 75. After years, nothing happened. But finally, at the ripe old age of 100, the promise came to pass-with his 90 year old wife bearing him a son.
And consider Moses, who in his zeal slew an Egyptian, thinking that God’s promise was immediately going to come to pass. He was 40 at the time. But it wasn’t until 40 years later, at the age of 80, that the dream was realized. God resurrected that dead dream of freedom for His people, and He brought it to pass.
Joseph’s dreams of greatness died with slavery, they were then buried with imprisonment. For 13 years his dream lay buried, but God, once again, showed His resurrection power.
God will also show His resurrection power to us. Even in the cases that seem beyond hope, God delights in showing His glory.
Do you have a sickness that has lingered? God is still Healer. Do you have a loved one that is still lost? He is still the Savior. Have the dreams that God has put in your heart been slow to come to pass? Or does it look like it’s all over, that it’s too late? Remember that it is God who raises the dead, Who calls things that are not as though they were. He can resurrect the dead things in your life.
What did Jesus say?
Did I not say unto you that if you would believe that you would see the glory of God? -John 11:40
It’s not our job to know the times or the seasons that God kept in His own hand. Our job is to believe – to TRUST – in the God of all power and all might. He will bring it to pass.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the midst of such difficulty, but don’t give up. There is no good reason to give up. Giving up seals your fate, but believing opens the door for God to move.
Press in to God. Maybe there are some things in your life that God has to do before He can bring to pass the vision. Let Him work on you. Let Him teach you. Be open to things looking a little different than you expected.
Be don’t give up. Never give up. Better to die in faith than to die a quitter (Heb 11:13).
Remember: Lazarus was dead FOUR DAYS. If Jesus can raise him up, He can raise up the dead things in your life, as well.
Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. – Psalms 37:5
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