Where was Jesus?
“Where was Jesus?”
Doubt, fear, and anxiety sometimes become the voices in our heads when we face troubling scenarios or upsetting circumstances. If we look to the stories contained in the Bible, we find we are not alone. The Psalms reveal a raw and uncensored look at how some ancient Israelites expressed their disappointment in God when life brought absolutely hopeless and discouraging events. These specific texts are known as “Psalms of Lament” because they reveal the reality of sometimes wondering, “where is God?” With cries such as “Lord, why do you stand so far off? Why are you hidden in times of trouble? “(Psalm 10) or “My soul is in anguish, how long Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6), there is no wonder why this genre received its name.
In Job, the rawness of struggle is revealed in a story where the righteous don’t receive blessings like the Torah suggests (Deut 28); in fact, it’s the opposite! Despite being righteous, Job finally questions why he does not have a prosperous life, being cursed instead. God’s response involves demonstrating that He is not in a bubble but sees all and is always orchestrating something grand, regardless of its appearance. This leaves Job with one singular response: “Surely I spoke of things (showing a lack of trust) I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
This is hardly a comfort for those going through undesirable circumstances, but it does join us to the many contributors of the Bible that would have empathy for us.
The story of Lazarus raised from the dead is another example. The story is hardly about Lazarus and actually brings Mary and Martha to center stage, for the story is theirs. Lazarus’ name appears seven times in this story, while Mary’s and Martha’s names appear eight times each. The story centers on Yeshua being asked to heal Lazarus, a man close to him. But, Jesus tarries, and Lazarus dies.
By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for days and was already placed into a grave with a stone rolled over it. Martha being irritated is an understatement. While Mary stays at the house, Martha makes a beeline toward Yeshua. “If you had been here [when I asked you to be], Lazarus would be alive.” Martha does not understand why this happened. How could it? Her following sentence further acknowledges her faith in Yeshua’s identity, “despite this, I know God gives you whatever you ask.” Martha struggles. Martha struggles with knowing Yeshua and trying to make sense of fear, worry, anxiety, sickness, tribulation, and death. She struggled even with the knowledge of who Yeshua is.
Yeshua responds, explaining Lazarus will rise again. Martha quickly snaps back, “I know this. Everyone knows we will rise again in the last day.” You can feel her tone as her grief and disappointment are not resolved. “Martha, I am the resurrection, and all who believe in me, if he dies, will live. Do you believe this?”
Martha responds: “Yes. I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into this world.” In the accounts of Matthew and Mark, these words come from the mouth of Peter. In John’s account, it is Martha who reveals this truth. When Martha proclaimed this, she was still grieving. She was still mourning. She was still in the thick of the hell of watching her brother suffer from sickness and pass away. This didn’t go away, but she still trusted. We know how this story ends; Yeshua calls Lazarus out of the grave. Even when Yeshua requested the stone to be rolled away, Martha objected with, “don’t you know he’s rotting? He stinks!”
In moments like this, it is only natural that doubt creeps in, fear, confusion, and a sense of being wrong about the power of God. Through all its examples, stories, and raw poetry, the Bible gives allowance for doubt, but always with a persistent demand; trust anyway and watch what happens. Trust that God may have tarried to do something great, trust that God is grieving and mourning next to you, and trust that God is using you even amid these circumstances. It’s ok to be a Martha standing between the tomb and Yeshua; in fact, that is where the strongest of faith occurs.
“Lazarus, come forth!”
Matthew Vander Els
Pastor Matthew Vander Els is Founder of Founded In Truth Ministries and leads FIT fellowship in Fort Mill, SC. Matthew’s passion is the person of Yeshua and the power of the gospel, His crucifixion, and how the resurrection changed the world forever. Matthew also loves exploring the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the archeology and anthropology of Near Eastern kingdoms as they relate to the Bible.