There are few people we can be truly honest with in our lives. They are the ones with whom we can let down our entire guard, allow our emotions to run their course, and offer our disappointments and doubts. We cannot do it with everyone, but there are a few that are safe, a few that will receive us as we are no matter what.
Two sisters and a brother were those people for Jesus, and Jesus was that for them. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had a deep friendship with Jesus. It was Mary who fell at Jesus’s feet and anointed his feet with her hair and oil (John 11:2; John 12:1–8). It was Martha whom we can find being completely honest with Jesus when her sister leaves her in the kitchen with all the work (Luke 10:38–42). It was Lazarus who was described as being loved by Jesus (John 11:3, 36). Jesus loved this family, and with this depth of love came the freedom to be themselves, to be honest in their disappointment, to be vulnerable with their tears, and to offer Jesus their whole selves, stopping short of nothing (John 11:5).
Knowing Jesus well, the sisters sent Jesus a message, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill” (John 11:3). You would expect Jesus to respond with, “Okay, I’m coming right away.” But he didn’t. He said some cryptic words about his illness not leading to death and being for God’s glory (John 11:4). Then he stayed two days longer where he was. He seemed to be unfazed by the sisters’ news, and then said plainly, “He is dead” (John 11:14). He followed this with another cryptic statement: “I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:15). What was Jesus up to? Did he not see their pain? Did he not feel it either?
Jesus then began moving toward Bethany, the sisters’ hometown. Martha heard he was coming and went to meet him, being honest about her disappointment and her expectation of Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
Later in the story, Mary came to Jesus and said the exact same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).
The community responded with, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Another fair question. And Jesus welcomed it all.
Jesus eventually raised Lazarus from the dead. He had his purposes in waiting as well as his welcome of grief, confusion, and questions. Jesus did not rush to resurrection, and he met Mary, Martha, and the people with his own humanity as well. Yes, he will resurrect, but there is something in the waiting that he has for each person. He has himself. Waiting for resurrection gave Martha, Mary, and the people more of him. And that is what he gives us as well.