Although we may try to avoid them, some things in life simply are inevitable and irreversible. Things end. Things like one’s youth, one’s marriage and one’s life come to mind. And that’s exactly where Martha and Mary are with Lazarus. Their brother had been buried for four days (Jn. 11:17). His time on earth and his life were over – all hope was gone. Irreversible. The body of Lazarus likely would have begun to decompose (11:39). It’s not a picture anyone wants to think about.
John 11:17-18 accomplishes two things: it tells us about time and geography. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Out of love for the family and His ever-present desire to glorify the Father (11:40), Jesus came to Bethany, which is less than two miles from Jerusalem. Many would have considered this a huge risk due to the intense hostility Jesus was facing from religious leaders (cf. 10:19-21, 30-31, 39; 11:8, 45-57). His “hour” would come soon enough. The Good Shepherd would lay down His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:14-18), but not just yet. Jesus always got the picture. He knew the immediate need and sorrow of a family He greatly loved and He knew the ultimate need and sinfulness of a world He came to save.
John 11:18 tells us “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them.” It was a thoughtful gesture, and says much about the character and influence of this family. Friends and neighbors wanted to console them with their words and by their presence. It’s a picture many of us have personally experienced. As grateful as we are for this picture, something still is lacking. It’s incomplete.
Because of Jesus, the picture completely changes. The Word came. The Word spoke and encouraged and loved. The Word IS life and GIVES life – both now and eternally. God came near. May We Seek to See Jesus in Every Picture in Life. – Mike Vestal