When God Seems Late / Day 1

BIBLE READING

John 11: 1-7; 14-25; 43-44

Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’

When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’…

… then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die…

… When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’

SUMMARY OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE

We’re on week 2 of our series on miracles. What happens when you don’t get your miracle? What do you do when God doesn’t intervene supernaturally in your situation?

When Jesus was on earth, three of his closest friends were Lazarus, Mary and Martha. When Lazarus became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus. We read this:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days….”

It’s almost as if it’s saying - because he loved them so much, that’s why he waited two more days before he even started the journey to go to Lazarus.

The people we expect the most from are generally the ones that we have done the most for. We deserve their help, they owe us. We may also expect that if we do good things for God, then He will do good things in return for us. If we are good people then God will have to be good to us. But what happens when our expectations aren’t met? When we do good things, the right things, and try to be good people - but our life doesn’t go as we hoped or planned? 

After 2 or 3 days Jesus and the disciples are on the journey to Bethany to go and see Lazarus and Jesus says:

“…then he [Jesus] told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (vv 14-15)

This is hard to understand if we look back at verse 4:

“Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death.”

Then verse 14:

“…then he [Jesus] told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead…”

What do we do when what we see seems to completely contradict what God has said? When we have a promise from God but our current reality we’re living in looks completely different to the promise we’re holding on to?

When Jesus eventually arrives at Bethany we’re told that Lazarus had already been dead for 4 days. Jews at that time believed that when someone died their spirit hovered around their body for 3 days and then it departed to the afterlife. So by telling us that Lazarus was dead for 4 days, it’s telling us that he was really, really dead.

Mary and Martha both go out to meet Jesus. Even with their different personalities and temperaments, it’s interesting that these two sisters both say exactly the same thing to Jesus:

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (vv. 21 & 32)

They’re both expressing this mixture of faith and frustration. They have complete faith that Jesus could have healed Lazarus, but they are really frustrated that it didn’t happen and he’s now dead.

Here’s two sisters torn by grief, and their pouring it out to Jesus. And while they don’t say it explicitly, what they are implying is: ‘Jesus, you’ve disappointed me. You’ve let me down. You’ve failed me.’

If you follow Jesus long enough, sometimes you’ll be disappointed. If that is the case, we need to deal with our disappointments honestly. It’s okay to express it to Jesus.

Mary and Martha say, “If only….” That’s a good place to start, but we don’t stay there. This keeps us living in the past and can eventually lead to deep sadness and even bitterness. They then shift their thinking from the past to the future, talking about ‘some day’:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’” (vv. 23-24)

Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life.” It’s present tense, it’s today, right now. It’s not: ‘I was once.’ It’s not: ‘One day I will be.’ It’s: ‘I am.’

Resurrection isn’t primarily a time or place – it’s a person called Jesus. You see Jesus had said: ‘This will not end in death.’ Then he gets there and Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. Both were true. Lazarus had really died and had been buried. But when the resurrection and the life arrives on the scene - that which looks dead, feels dead, seems to be dead, or even is dead – comes back to life as if it was just taking a long sleep.

Jesus has the stone rolled away from the tomb, he utters a prayer, and then he calls on Lazarus to come out. When Jesus speaks, his voice has complete authority over death. He shouts a grave-shaking word of life, and that which was dead has to be resurrected. It’s not over until Jesus says it’s over.

In your life right now it might look like something is finished, it probably appears that it’s completely done, it’s dead, it seems absolutely impossible – but it’s not finished until Jesus says it’s finished. God is not limited to your past, predictions or probabilities.

When Jesus does move it’s often to do so much better than what you were even asking for. That’s what we see here. To heal someone when they’re sick, that’s would have been a good miracle. Jesus had done that for hundreds of people before. But to raise someone when they’ve been dead for 4 days, that’s an incredible miracle. He only did that for one person, his friend Lazarus. So why did Jesus wait so long? Because he had something greater in store than what he was being asked for. 

Sometimes Jesus doesn’t give us what we ask for because what we are asking for is so much less than He wants to make available to us. Sometimes God has to disappoint our expectations so He can exceed them. He wants to show us something of Himself in this situation that we would never experience if he did it the way we expected.

Our trust in Someone must become greater than our expectation of something.

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