A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha… so the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Master, the one you love so very much is sick." When Jesus got the message, he said, "This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God's glory by glorifying God's Son." Jesus 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." They said, "Rabbi, you can't do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you're going back?" Jesus replied, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn't stumble because there's plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can't see where he's going." He said these things, and then announced, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I'm going to wake him up." The disciples said, "Master, if he's gone to sleep, he'll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine." Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap. Then Jesus became explicit: "Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn't there. You're about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let's go to him." John 11:1-15
This is a surprising story! I don’t know about you, but if I received news that one of my loved ones was critically ill, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would be there as quickly as I could. I certainly wouldn’t be as laid back as Jesus seems to be, enjoying the hospitality of friends for a couple more days. Didn’t Jesus realise that this was life and death stuff? Yet he takes his time and even uses this opportunity to teach his disciples a lesson about using the safety of the daylight to get things done, and avoiding the potential danger of the night. I’m sure even the disciples were wondering why Jesus wasn’t getting a wriggle on; they also would’ve known how close Jesus was to Lazarus.
Jesus never seems to be worried or hurried! Despite the various demands placed on him he always seems to be able to accomplish what needs to be done in a calm and purposeful manner. He seems to be clear about what he needed to do, and was content to leave the rest to others. He didn’t seem to rush around worried that if he didn’t preach or teach, people would miss out on his message. He didn’t jump on a boat to Greece thinking only he could be trusted with the job of spreading the good news. He was content with the scope of the task before him. Jesus seemed to have time for everything that needed to be done.
He also knew that his job was to point to the one who sent him – to manifest God’s love and power over all things, including death. Lazarus’ impending death was not met with a hasty panic – Jesus knew that whatever happened he had the power to overcome death and use this opportunity to bring others to belief in God. In fact, it’s perhaps through his tardiness, that more was accomplished. Surely bringing somebody back from death was more impressive than just making that person well!
This reflection leads me to remember two things. Firstly, God’s ways are not my ways! This wisdom of man is foolishness to God. He can do all things and He is accomplishing His purposes regardless of what I think is possible, when I would like it to happen and what I think should be done! We sometimes become anxious because God is not responding quickly enough to a situation we care about. We pray and petition for God’s intervention; that He will bring healing, hope and faith. And yet, things don’t happen as we would like them to. In these times we need to trust that God has all things in His hands and He has the power to accomplish all things; in fact, He has already accomplished all things and in time, this will be revealed.
Secondly, we can also learn something from the purposeful nature of Jesus’ ministry. When we are confident that we are doing His will we can relax and move without feeling worried or hurried. We can work during the day, and rest during the night. More is not always best. Being deliberate and intentional about the work God has called us to is what matters. In this knowledge, we can relax and enjoy!
Applying these two truths to our present situation is important. As Christians, and those wanting to be signposts to God’s coming Kingdom, we need to remain calm; knowing and trusting that all things are in God’s hands. We are to be people of hope and encouragement, people of good cheer in all circumstances. Becoming angry, frustrated, hopeless and fearful is not an option for God’s people. As we go about doing God’s work, in our daily tasks and occupations, let’s be faithful to the task he has given us. I can only do what I can do each day, in His grace and provision, I can do no more! That is enough! May this attitude and truth give you peace and purpose, even in these troubling and uncertain times and more importantly, as you press into His Word, may it provide comfort and encouragement for each day.