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Thursday, September 22, 2011

I don't like to wait!

5-7Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, "Let's go back to Judea."
(John 11:5-7)

These verses are taken from the story of the healing of Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus.  Lazarus is quite ill, near death, and his two sisters (Mary & Martha) send word to Jesus and his disciples.  Their intent would be that Jesus would come at their request and that he would intervene to heal their brother.  Their brother was not only their "kin", but in the economy of the time of this writing, he was their provider.  The single women were under the care of their male living relatives (father, brother, uncle, etc.).  If he passed away, it was a huge change in the lives of these two women.  Yet, their plea for his healing is likely motivated by their intense love for their brother.

What stands out is the delay we see in Jesus' response to their plea to come.  What the sisters did not understand was that God was using this experience to reveal his glory.  The lesson we can learn from the delay is that the period of waiting is never a sign that Jesus loves us any less.  It says in the passage that precedes these verses that Jesus loved Lazarus.  We don't see that recorded too many times, so we know that Jesus had a special fondness for this good friend.  It is hard for us to understand that if Jesus loves us that he doesn't immediately intervene in our lives at our immediate point of need.  Mary and Martha were struggling with this very same issue.

Jesus may delay in his intervention, but it never is because he fails to love us. In fact, a delayed intervention is often an opportunity for God to display his greatness and his glory on a grander scale.  He has a different plan!  There is always a "bigger picture" that we don't fully see or understand in any of God's "delays" in our lives.  There may be a specific audience he is preparing to witness the intervention.  There could be a specific lesson of faith that he wants to develop within us that will act to sustain us later in life as we face other challenges.  Regardless, it does not mean that his love for us has changed.

In the midst of the circumstance that causes us to panic, God sees a whole different dimension.  He sees the need for our faith to increase.  He knows that our hearts are in a state of anxiety and that we need to learn to trust more fully.  The lessons are innumerable - and the "wait" is invaluable!  We may see no way out, but God saw our way out long before we recognized that we even would find ourselves in that circumstance or need.  God has the plans for our "intervention" already formulated and set in motion long before we ever cry out for his help.

The delay of those two days must have been heart-wrenching for these two sisters.  Watching their brother fail before their eyes probably tore at their hearts and elicited all kinds of emotions.  Martha meets Jesus on the path to the house - Mary stays inside - weeping for the loss of their brother.  The crowds question why Jesus delayed - if he loved Lazarus as much as he claimed, then why was there not a quicker intervention?  Martha resists the opening of the tomb - Lazarus had been there several days - he would be quite "ripe" by now.  

All this goes on - Jesus patiently allowing the grief of the women to overflow, the accusations of the unknowing crowd to be expressed, and the doubts of the masses to come to the surface - then he makes his move.  We don't get it, do we?  Why the delay?  Why the seeming lack of concern for what Mary and Martha were going through?  But...it was for the glory of God.  He had bigger plans!  That very "delay" brought many to a place of making a decision about Christ that day.  It says that many "turned around" from their doubt and began to follow him.  I wonder if our sustained grief is an occasion for his excellence to shine forth even more?

Know this - God's delays NEVER lessen his love!  We may have high expectations that Jesus will be right there at the first mention of his name - his delay may cause us to wonder if he heard us, or if he cares for us.  His love NEVER fails!  His "delay" is really for our benefit (and often the benefit of those around us).  I put "delay" in quotation marks because it SEEMS like a delay to us - but in fact, it is the perfect timing of God that brings about the perfect resolution to our need and the perfect display of his glory.  We receive (in just the right timing) what he planned for us right from the beginning.  God knows the end from the beginning - we have to trust that he has a plan - even in the "delay".