When God Waits
10 Sep 2011, Dr Alex Currie
(Alex is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
When God Waits
We have discovered in our studies of the Gospel of John that this beloved disciple at the end of the first century wants to highlight the divinity of Jesus.
- Chapter 1 - God (the Word) became flesh.
- Chapter 2 - Changes water to wine.
- Chapter 3 - Jesus is God's Son who came to earth to save.
- Chapter 4 - Jesus tells the Samaritan woman 'I am the Messiah.' v 26.
- Chapter 5 - To Jewish leaders he says God is his Father.
- Chapter 6 - 'I am the bread of life' - manna - shewbread
- Chapter 7 - God sent me - water of life.
- Chapter 8 - Forgives sin - Light of the World - candles in Sanctuary.
- Chapter 9 - Heals blind - He is the Son of Man
- Chapter 10 - 'I am the good shepherd' v11.
- Chapter 11 - "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish."
John 11 and 20 are like two mountain peaks in this Gospel. Because of Lazarus's resurrection humanity has hope beyond the tomb. Because of Christ's resurrection we who believe, have eternal life. John 3:16. If Jesus Christ could do nothing about death, then whatever else He did amounts to nothing. Paul wrote "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 1 Cor. 15:19. The core of Christianity is Christ's death and resurrection. Most people feel uncomfortable talking about death but Jesus called it a 'sleep'.
John 11 demonstrates God's unconditional love in three ways:
1. When He Waits (John 11:1-27)
Mary and Martha send a message (v3) "Lord the one you love is very sick". v5 "Although Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days and did not go to them." Have you ever prayed about something and it has not happened? Mary and Martha must have been confused and perplexed. They must have been tempted to doubt and lose faith when Jesus did not appear quickly. As humans we are often presumptuous, assuming that God will do just what we ask.
There are two themes in John. The first is Faith. Some form of the word faith appears eight times in John 11. The second it 'the glory of God" John 11:4,40. Jesus wanted to strengthen the faith of people.
Use your imagination for a moment. Mary and Martha were watching their brother decline in health, gradually growing weaker and less responsive. They knew Jesus had incredible power to heal. So they hoped and prayed that their brother would hang on until Jesus arrived. But Jesus waited. Imagine the anxious glances to see if Jesus was coming. Jesus waited. Picture the crushing disappointment when Lazarus died - v21 "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." But Jesus waited.
Recently I saw my first cousin die of cancer. Literally she wasted away. But promises such as 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 gave her hope. "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Why did Jesus Wait? v4 "But when Jesus heard about it he said, "Lazarus's sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this." What was the purpose of Jesus waiting? There was a divine reason. Jesus waited intentionally. There is something about waiting that teaches us, even if it is patience. God is seldom in a hurry. Perhaps it's one of God's ways of cultivating in us, a sense of absolute and utter dependence on Him. When you are in a waiting season of life, God is most likely trying to teach us something. He may be trying to teach us to rely on Him rather than human resources. Perhaps He is trying to speak to us. His lack of visible action does not equate to His lack of love for us, but perhaps it's His divine way of directing our lives toward even greater trust and dependence on Him.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts your thoughts." God doesn't ask us to understand everything but He does ask us to be faithful.
Trust God's promises. Psalms 25:5 "Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Another translation says 'for you I wait all the day long'. Isaiah. 26:3 "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
Lamentations 3:22-6. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is good to those who wait for him to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.'
A wonderful book about Jesus, Desire of Ages says on page 528: "Had Christ been in the sickroom, Lazarus would not have died; for Satan would have had no power over him...Therefore, Christ remained away. He suffered the enemy to exercise his power, that He might drive him back, a conquered foe. Her permitted Lazarus to pass under the dominion of death; and the suffering sisters saw their brother laid in the grave. Christ knew that as they looked on the dead face of their brother their faith in their Redeemer would be severely tried. But He knew that because of the struggle through which they were now passing their faith would shine forth with far greater power."(1)
Waiting Can Be a Burden or a Blessing. His waiting showed He cared. 1 Peter 5:7 "cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." His waiting showed He was cautious.
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
Scripture stories of people in God's waiting room. Abraham. Gen 12. When Abraham was 75 God said "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Abraham waited 24 years for God to make good His promise and Sarah become pregnant. Gen 17:1-2.
Joseph, was sold into slavery, imprisoned, released and became a powerful political leader.
David was anointed to be king by Samuel but spent years running from King Saul before he became King. The nation of Israel, was in Egyptian slavery for 400 years, then conquered by Babylon and taken captive for 70 years, and at the time of Christ had been in the grip of Rome for long time.
In John 11:14-15 Jesus "told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I am glad I wasn't there, because this will give you another opportunity to believe in me. Come let's go and see him." New Living Translation. God waits sometimes, so our faith might increase. Hebrews 11 commences with "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Then the chapter cites Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham as living lives of faith. Then in v13 it says "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance." If those saints persevered and hung in, knowing only the shadows of hope, how much more should we who know Jesus as a personal friend and Saviour, persevere.
Even so called doubting Thomas believed. John 11:16. "Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples 'Let's go, too - and die with Jesus." Although Thomas was known for his scepticism, and although he did not fully understand what Jesus was going to do, he was determined to follow Him. In the face of confusion and perplexity, Thomas' example, inspires us to persevere in faith and discipleship. Remember, the snake, the 'serpent' was not victorious at the cross. Our victory is centred in Jesus who triumphed on the cross.
In the Hunter Valley Gardens there is a delightful sculpture called "Expressions of Love" that captures a grandmother's love for her grandchildren. The brass monument then declares "It is a love that binds the past and the future." That's what Jesus did on Calvary's cross. He bound, past, present and future together but sealing His covenant of love forever with his blood.
2. When He Weeps (John 11:28-37)
In verse 3,3 Mary and Martha were surrounded by family and professional mourners, 'other people wailing', which possibly included flute players. Jesus was 'deeply moved'. The Greek uses the word 'embrimasthal', which refers to a horse snorting.(2) In other words, deep emotion caused an involuntary groan from the soul of Jesus. Bruce wrote: "In every pang that rends the heart, the Man of Sorrows had a part."(3)
Dr. Kubler- Ross observed five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally awareness, adjustment and acceptance.(4) The Bethany family were still in shock and grief when Jesus arrived.
Notice how Jesus counselled both Mary and Martha individually. Martha was anxious and concerned. She ran outside the house to meet Jesus who spoke words of calm assurance. John 11:25 "Your brother will rise again...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."
In Christianity we do not reach up to God by our religious works, but God reaches down to us. Mary is the opposite to Martha who appears an extrovert, whereas Mary is contemplative and prayerful, staying in the house to grieve. Jesus wept with her out of love and compassion. John 11:33,35-6 "When Jesus saw her weeping...he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled...Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
Christianity is all about a Person, Jesus Christ who identifies with us. Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."Jesus who wept cares for all broken hearts. Ps 34:16 "The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
3. When Working (John 11:38-44)
The broken-hearted motivated Jesus into action. So he called out "Roll the stone" and the grave burst open. He shouted 'Lazarus come out' and he shuffled out, wrapped in grave clothes. Col. 2:13-15 'God made alive together with Jesus, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." 1 Corinthians 15:55-6 "O death, where is your sting?" - sin is the sting that results in death. John 11:25 "I am the resurrection and the life' - believe!
One of our great spiritual motivators penned these words: "It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance...Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise." (5)
Ephesians 2:4-5. 'But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So He gave us new life because of what Christ has done. He gave us life even when we were dead in sin. God's grace has saved you."
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even if he dies. And those who live and believe in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?" Thank God, Jesus has power over death.
(1) Ellen G White, Desire of Ages, p 528
(2) William Barclay, John
(3) Michael Bruce, Gospel Sounds--Christ Ascended
(4) Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Touchstone, 1969.
(5) Ellen G White, Ministry of Healing, p 251.
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