I’m in the book of Acts this week and whew! It’s a doozy. But it’s chock full of accounts that took place after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, leaving the disciples and followers responsible for then spreading the good news. No pressure.
In studying, I have been flipping back and forth to other NT books – namely Luke and John – to read about the events leading up to the Great Commission. One of the things that jumped out at me is the idea of waiting. I know yall hate that whole sentiment just as much as I do. Waiting for the rain. Waiting for it to clear. Waiting for 5 o’clock. Waiting on the right job. Waiting on the right relationship. Waiting for the kids to be older. Waiting for it to be your turn.
It made me really think about the reasons why we would be allowed the opportunity to wait. Like that turn of phrase? It reframes the idea of waiting and puts the emphasis on the seeing that good can come of it. Seasons of waiting always offer us the choice to lean on Jesus. Of course, that’s our goal every day, but the trials of waiting are especially full of these opportunities.
Maybe you’re waiting for your job to get better, or to start a new one. Maybe you’re waiting for the opportunity to have your first child, or to find out the diagnosis of the one you have. Maybe you feel like all the waiting has ended, but there’s nothing for you on this side of it.
John 11: 25 is often cited as the shortest sentence in the Bible. Simple, but full of meaning. See, throughout his ministry, Jesus had many friends. Not just people who followed him around because they were supposed to. Not just people who retweeted some of his seemingly tongue-in-cheek quotes on the internet.
No, Jesus had actual human relationships like you and I do. His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus loved Him and spent time with Him. They housed Him when He was in town. They prepared meals for Him. They took care of Him in the way we do for our friends. Not out of obligation, but because we genuinely enjoy being with these kinds of people.
So, when Jesus got word that Lazarus was sick, He was obviously worried about Him. I mean, He already knew how this story would play out, but He still had to watch from afar as his friend became ill and died. He intentionally waited to go to his friends’ house.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but someone like Jesus, who has all the power to heal the blind, cure leprosy, make the lame walk, and harness the wind and seas, seems like the kinda dude who could have easily rearranged His schedule to accommodate going to see His friends. I mean at the very least, he could have gotten them a gift card so they wouldn’t have to worry about dinner while they were taking care of Laz. (As someone who takes care of people for a living, the thought of planning dinner at the end of a long day is literally the bane of my existence.)
Jesus knew Lazarus was hurting. Jesus knew His friend was probably thinking, “Dang, if Jesus would just come and heal me like He did for all those folks He didn’t even know…” Jesus knew Mary and Martha were calling all of their medical friends and prayer warriors. He knew they were looking on WebMD when they laid awake at night.
But He waited.
And Lazarus died.
Yall, His friend died and He knew it was coming. That’s as tough as knowing your own death is coming and you still have to walk through it.
I wonder how many times Jesus has been troubled (11:33) when He saw me floundering in my seasons of waiting. I wonder how often He tried to remind me to hang on a little longer and to seek Him in the meantime.
He got to Mary and Martha 4 days after Lazarus had passed. This is important, because if Jesus had showed up on the scene any earlier, the people there would probably have assumed that there must have been some kind of mistake, and that Lazarus had not in fact died. All of the customs of the time would have come and gone. The family would be in the stage of grieving where everyone is sitting around looking at each other and wondering why this thing had to happen.
Yall know how much I love our dear, blunt Martha. She didn’t even let Jesus get to the house before she lit into him. She met Him in town, saying that if Jesus had been there on time, He could have prevented this. But she eased up a bit when she remembered He is also God, and added on that, ya know, she still knows He can do anything He chooses.
Mary is more my speed. She was hanging back at the house, surrounded by those closest to her. When she, too, said that if Jesus had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died, it hit differently. I feel like Mary is one to hold her tongue. The one who reminds Martha to reign it in once in a while. She’s the one who probably packed Lazarus’ cleats on days he had ball games and threw in a candy bar for good luck. So, for her to openly say something like that to Jesus’ face, feels a little different.
But the story was not over. No, when Jesus did arrive, He was directed to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried. I love how nonchalant Jesus was. He just said, “Lazarus, come out.” No theatrics. No prepared dance moves. Just a Son calling on his Father and then telling his friend to come out and live.
If you’re into literary stuff, this is what they call foreshadowing in the biz. A common man who died and was buried only to be raised from the dead days later, after all hope was lost.
Sometimes though, yall, those in between days are looooong. And when we’ve already sent word to Jesus but He didn’t show up on our doorsteps with his Fix-It kit, we start filling in the gaps on our own. We start making pros and cons lists. We start googling homeopathic alternatives. We start scheduling second opinions. We start asking friends what they would do in our situations. We turn from the one we know can cause the change because we are tired of waiting.
It can leave us mentally and physically weak, opening the door for the spirit of fear to slip right on in. We know that God made a way another time, and we’ve seen him working it out for our friends. But on the loneliest nights, it can feel like He’s used up all that power on everyone else.
I’m here to tell ya that even when it hurts, there’s still hope. Maybe even especially then. We learn to listen to the Holy Spirit in times when we can’t see a way forward, making it all the sweeter when we are out of the valley and can enjoy and delight in the lord.
Don’t quit while you’re waiting. Don’t look to something else to bide the time. Don’t let your mind wander to places not supported by His word.
Keep going. Keep resting in the knowledge that your story already has an ending. Even if there is no one in your corner, remind yourself that God is for you, not against you. There is wisdom to be found in the waiting. Each day, we have the choice to wallow or worship. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we told God we would only wait forty days or only sing if that song came on, and those stipulations have expired. Yall, do it anyway. Pray as if the miracle has already been done. Don’t waste your waiting.
John 11:1-45 “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”