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August 5, 2021

Ann Farabee: Worried about the smell?

Lazarus was sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha, were very concerned. They went to look for Jesus.

We have been there, haven’t we? The problem is huge and we know there is nothing we can do. Nothing. We go look for Jesus.

They found Him. Jesus’ response to them in John 11:4 was: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.”

But then, Jesus waited. And He waited. By the time Jesus got back to them, Lazarus had been in the grave for 4 days … Now, that was a wait that Mary and Martha did not understand.

They were perplexed, but God had a plan.

At the grave, Jesus told them to take away the stone that was across the entrance to the tomb. Martha did not want to remove the stone that was keeping him in the tomb. Instead, she responded, “Lord, by this time he stinks. He’s been dead four days.”

Let’s review:

• Her brother was dead.

• Jesus had come to deliver him from death.

• Martha was worried about the smell.

That’s just like me. I may pray that Jesus will help someone, but often fail to realize that He may choose to help them through me. (Yes, I guess you could say that sometimes, I may worry about the smell.)

In John 11:40, Jesus reminded Martha that if she would believe, she would see the glory of God. So, they took away the stone, and Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth.”

And, Lazarus came forth! Talk about a comeback!

But … the hands and feet of Lazarus were still bound with his graveclothes, and his face still bound with a napkin. I can just imagine Mary and Martha standing there staring at him — still totally bound — while they waited on Jesus to free him.

But … Jesus instructed Mary and Martha to loose him and let him go. Another slight hesitation, possibly, but they got to work! And Lazarus was freed!

Jesus restored life in this account from John 11. He also involved Mary and Martha in the “restoration and recovery” process as their brother was brought back to life. They had the privilege to take away the stone, to loose him, and let him go. Had they not loosed him, he would have remained in his graveclothes. How sad to think that Martha — for that brief moment — could only think about the “smell” and came close to missing out on seeing victory over death as the stone was rolled away in her brother’s life.

This story has an application to our lives, doesn’t it? We are often faced with loved ones — or even strangers — that God may place before us that deal with seemingly hopeless or helpless situations. God can — and does — deliver them and restore life. He may use us to help them be set free and to see that there is truly hope and help in every situation, because if we believe, then we will see the glory of God.

We never know when our next test – or next time of opportunity — for helping others may arise. But … when it does, remember this:

• Don’t worry about the smell.

• Take the stone away.

• Loose them.

• Let them go.


Ann Farabee, writer, teacher, and speaker, has taught in Kannapolis City Schools and Mooresville Schools. Contct her at or visit



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