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. — John 11:5-6 (ESV) (Emphasis mine.)
John 11 is probably one of the most quoted and pulled apart chapters in Scripture. Jesus heals Lazarus. Jesus wept. Jesus declares that He is the resurrection and the life. It is a rich and full chapter.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this passage, marveling at His words to Martha about seeing the glory of God. Or secretly snickering at the drama Thomas brings when he tells his friends that they might as well follow Jesus to Jerusalem so that they can all die with Him. I’ve often thought about the awe, fear and wonder the people must have felt when Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb and he WALKS.OUT.ALIVE.
However, in all the times I’ve read this chapter, I’ve never taken a close look at the verses above. John tells his readers in previous verses that Lazarus is sick. Jesus digests that info and tells His disciples that the sickness Lazarus has is not unto death.
John then reminds us that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Which hardly seems like need-to-know information. But then John follows it up with one of the most baffling sentences in the Word. “So he when he heard Lazarus was ill, he stayed TWO DAYS LONGER where He was.”
When I initially read these verses, that phrase arrested my attention. It took several minutes for my mind even to wrap around the concept. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. So He waited.
In my walk with the Lord, I’ve often wondered why He hasn’t answered. Or why He hasn’t appeared right when I called out to Him. Why in the midst of deep wounding, pain, or difficulty He has seemed so far away. Of course, there are multiple reasons for this. He is God; I am not. While He never leaves us or forsakes us, He still is not obligated to shower us with His presence all the time. And, most clearly, as the author of Hebrews says, without faith, it is impossible to please Him. He wants me to trust Him.
But I don’t know, that, in all my years of pursuing Jesus and reading His word I considered His active waiting as a response to me. Which is really, really dumb of me. And I love how John tells us that Jesus decided to wait. It wasn’t because He was busy. It wasn’t because He didn’t have time.
Jesus waited to go to those who were dear to Him because He loved them.
In turn, it’s tempting to respond like Martha and Mary when Jesus appears. To say to Him, “Lord, if you’d been here, x, y, and z wouldn’t have happened! Lord – why didn’t you come sooner?” As if Jesus doesn’t already know the outcomes of my life.
Truthfully, I have responded that way. I’ve taken the circumstances of my life, lifted them to Jesus and with a tone that is more accusing than accepting, I’ve asked Him why He didn’t change things or fix things the way I wanted them.
In His graciousness, He remains silent. In His love, He waits.
I realize now, in response to His waiting , I am also called to wait. The prophet Isaiah says,
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul adds love to this equation and it is true. If we love Him, we should be willing to wait on Him.
I don’t know what you’re waiting on Him for. I don’t know what you’re facing, what is crushing you, or what has you in despair. What worries you or what occupies your mind when you’re not trying to push it away through busyness. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
However, if something hasn’t happened and you feel like the Lord is silent, consider Jesus has decided to wait for no other reason than He loves you. Perhaps waiting to respond is the best thing that could happen to you from His hand.
Hold fast to your faith in Him.
Do not waver in your trust of Him.
Believe His word.
Love Him, no matter how He decides to move or respond.
Love Him in the waiting He has appointed to you.
And consider when He does decide to move, to speak into your circumstance, to change your life, to remove or add something to you, that His purpose is singular. It was His purpose when He walked in the flesh, and it is still His purpose as He lives through the lives of His disciples.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40