The Unexpected Timing Of Jesus
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…John 11:4-6
“So 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.” John 11:14
My children were raised in southern California, as I was. It still feels like home when I visit the area and various places around our previous home. We spent twenty-five years in the same house and have some really special memories attached to those years. But along with the really good memories were some less than pleasant memories that came with home ownership. One particular evening, when we had accompanied my youngest daughter Katie to a school awards ceremony, a feed line to the sink in the upstairs bathroom broke. For the four hours we were at the ceremony water shot out of that line, initially covering the bathroom floor and then moving out into the hallway and upstairs bedrooms, and eventually, soaking through the carpet and flooding the whole downstairs area. I remember returning home from the event and stepping into our downstairs living room where the carpet was soaking up water like a sponge. My feet squished and sloshed across the floor and I heard the sound of running water, more so cascading water, like an out door water feature.
Though we love the sounds of a rushing stream or a spilling waterfall, the sound we heard at eleven o’clock that night just made us cringe. Our house was being flooded and I was completely at a loss as to what to do, except to panic and try to affix blame. I kept thinking, “If I had only been there, I could have prevented this nightmare”. The four hours spent away from the house, as all this was happening, just meant the damage was worse. The reality was a pipe had burst because it was old and corroded and there wasn’t anything I could do. But I kept wondering how this disaster might have been avoided.
When Jesus heard His friend Lazarus was sick the Scriptures say that rather than going immediately to His friend’s side, He waited two more days. When He finally did arrive Lazarus was dead. From a human stand point He was too late. Martha and Mary both say to Jesus, “If you had been here…” and one can sense their discouragement and loss of hope.
It would be easy to imagine that there is no upside from such a devastating circumstance. The grief associated with loss of a loved one is profound. It is not something one should treat in a cavalier manner. Jesus comes into the situation and seems to fully embrace the grief and pain with His compassion. Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus and His love for His friend is obvious to those in attendance. But it is still difficult for me to comprehend His decision not to come immediately. One might even say it seems like “Too little, too late”.
Jesus says two things that might shed some light on what can seem like His poor timing. First of all, Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” The circumstances surrounding the sickness and death of Lazarus will provide opportunity for God’s glory and the glorification of the Son. For Jesus, the glory of God seems to always take precedent over everything else. It takes a deeper perception to recognize the opportunity for God’s glory in the midst of tragic circumstances.
Jesus, from the raw material of tragedy, is able to glorify His Father and Himself. His intent is that His disciples will see God glorified through His work in the midst of tragedy. Only as Jesus pauses and initiates a period of waiting will this opportunity for God’s glory be able to be manifested in this way. In the same way, when circumstances seem overwhelming and even tragic, the pause and waiting may provide an opportunity for me to watch and see a more profound expression of the glory of God in my life. In the midst of difficult experiences, I am praying for eyes to see the variety of ways Jesus is seeking to reveal God’s glory to me.
Secondly, Jesus identifies His absence in this devastating circumstance as an opportunity to engender faith in His disciples. It seems that the other prominent concern of Jesus, besides God’s glory, is the growing faith of His followers. He says, knowing that Lazarus has died, “for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” When I ask the question, “What could be more important than preventing tragedy?” Jesus seems to indicate that inspiring the belief of His followers was one such thing. It never ceases to amaze me how devastating and painful circumstances seem to both reveal the immature quality of my faith and also challenge me to deepen my roots of faith in God. It seems that easy answers and immediate gratification of my desires tends to produce only surface roots of faith. It is when things become increasingly and unexplainably difficult that the roots of faith must seek deeper places of nourishment in God. So, as I pray for eyes to see God’s glory in the face of tragedy, I am also asking for God’s help to extend my roots of faith into deeper places of His person.
We live in the midst of a world where tragedy is happening somewhere, if not directly to us. It is difficult to avoid. Our home survived a flood of water and the damage was minimal compared with some of the things others in this world are presently experiencing. Floods, fires, death and destruction happen. Recognizing and grieving over those tragic occasions is a healthy part of being human. Sharing compassion and empathy in those moments reflects the way of Jesus. But, to be able to catch a glimpse of God’s glory and have one’s faith transformed into something deeper in those difficult moments provides the further resources we need to continue this journey of life.
May you, as you experience the tragic and difficult of life, have, in the midst of waiting, eyes alert to the manifestations of God’s glory, and an ever-increasing faith in His goodness, love and grace as you wait for the new dawn of His coming. Here is a song to further your reflection.