I could not sleep most of the night. Tossing miserably, my mind refused to shut down. Neither would the pain vibrating throughout my body.
If I died, what will happen to my sisters … and my father? With the silversmith shop closed, who will provide for them? These were the worries that tormented my mind.
That evening my three closest friends, Nathan, Samuel, and Tobias, paid me a visit.
I opened my eyes at the pounding of feet up the stairs toward my room.
After the men entered, they each stood around my bed and began to speak.
Nathan leaned forward, his face the picture of sadness. Somberly he said, “Lazarus, you know that I lost my faith in God years ago. Like you, I was taught from childhood that YHWH would deliver our people from our oppressors. But there have been no signs of it. Not just for my generation, but for generations before me.
“All I see around me is pain, oppression, evil. And now here you are, a righteous man who loves God, sick and ready to die. Your sickness only confirms my doubts. A man must die with integrity. I want to encourage you, then, to give up your faith and die with integrity.”
Nathan stopped, and we looked at one another for a brief moment. I didn’t answer him.
Shaking his head in disagreement, Samuel leaned close to me and said, “Lazarus, as you know, I do not agree with our friend Nathan. I believe YHWH’s promises are true and the Messiah is coming to deliver us. But you are mistaken to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.
“If Jesus truly was the person He claims to be, where is He when you need Him most? If He was truly a prophet, He would have known about your sickness and healed you. I don’t want you to die in a state of deception. Renounce your faith in Jesus and repent to God for believing this imposter. I believe God will forgive you if you do. There is still time.”
Tobias drew back, his face blank. “You know I love you, Lazarus,” he whispered.
“And what I’m about to say is with the kindest of intentions. We know that God heals the righteous and afflicts the sinful. This sickness has come upon you for a reason. There is something in your life, some unconfessed or unrepented sin with which you have not yet dealt.
“I want you to get well. I beg you, therefore, to search your heart. Confess the sin that you have committed and seek redemption. I am assured that if you do this, God will heal you.”
I was speechless. The pain in my body moved to my heart. My friends meant well, but their words brought little comfort.
My muscles froze. I willed my face to turn to stone. I didn’t want my emotions to show. My lips tightened. Devastated, the heart-wrenching was almost too much for me.
It took me a little time to regain my composure. Still lying flat on my back, I mustered up the strength to open my mouth. Their accusations still raged through my mind as I groped for an appropriate response.
“Friends, I know you all mean well. But I will tell you what is on my heart right now.”
I turned to Nathan. “I know that the God of our fathers lives, Nathan. Even though I cannot see it now, I believe He will fulfill His promises one day just as He always has. His timetable is not like ours. I will die trusting in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Nathan’s face sank into his chest.
At this point my throat tightened. Struggling to breathe, I looked into Samuel’s eyes and said, “I admit that I do not understand why Jesus hasn’t come to me yet. And I know that if He were here, I would be healed.
“But I trust Him, nonetheless. And I believe with all my heart that He is the promised One, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Of that I am sure. I expect Him to come and heal me soon. But even if He does not, I will die believing that He is the One to come.”
My heart pounded harder.
I looked over at Tobias. “Tobias, I have searched my heart before God, and I do not believe that there is anything I have done to bring this illness upon me. I cannot explain to you why I am sick. If I die, I will do so believing that I have not sinned against my God.”
My arms and hands went numb. My legs quickly followed.
With my hand I motioned to Nathan to move his head near mine. “Call my sisters and father,” I whispered in his ear.
Mary, Martha, and my father rushed up the steps to my room. I looked at each of them with love in my eyes, struggling to utter my parting words. Martha’s hands trembled. Tears slid down her cheeks. Mary sobbed on the shoulder of my father.
I could feel the blood leave my face. But before I could say a word, I fell asleep.
I died in their presence.
Adapted from God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola author