How to Interpret God’s Scheduled Delays 3/15/98

John 11:33-44; John 11:14-15
Page 1572 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST left Jericho and proceeded to Jerusalem. He was about to perform His last miracle. It was to be on the southeastern slopes of the Mount of Olives in the little town of Bethany, home of some of His dearest friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

When Lazarus became ill his sisters, Mary and Martha, knowing of the many Jesus had healed immediately thought of Him. They had entertained Him in their home. They had been gracious hostesses for Him. Surely, if He would heal persons He didn’t even know He would come to their rescue in their time of need. He didn’t. Question: “Why?”

The issue wasn’t love. Verse 35 describes Jesus as weeping. His emotional response led people to properly conclude, “See how He loved Him” (Vs. 36). He did. The Greek word translated “loved” is the verb form of PHILIA which means “human affection,” or “brotherly love.” He affectionately loved Lazarus and his sisters knew it.

In verse 5 it is recorded that Jesus also loved Mary and Martha. The Greek word translated “love” is AGAPE, divine love.

When God delays in responding to your need it is not because of a lack of love for you. What ever the reason it is not a lack of love.

Do you ever question God? Sure we do. Often we don’t come up with a clear easy answer. Sometimes we simply have to believe and respond in trusting faith.

After receiving word of the death of His dear friend Lazarus, Jesus delayed two days before going to Bethany. By the time He arrived Lazarus had been dead four days.

Does it ever seem God delays in dealing with your problems? There is always a reason. Most often these reasons aren’t obvious initially. His delays demand our faith. Faith is confidence in God’s character.

Jesus delayed in order to bring a greater blessing. “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you” (Isaiah 30:18). This text reveals His delays are purposeful. Three are noted:
(1) “That He may be gracious to you,”
(2) that He may be exalted,”
(3) that He may have mercy on you.”

Often there is a time lapse between when we pray and an answer is obvious. Sometimes God answers “No.” However, that is an answer. Sometimes He says an immediate definitive “yes.” At times He says, “You have got to be kidding.” At other times He says, “Wait a while.” We are such people of the immediate moment we had often rather have a immediate “no” than a “wait a while.” Why these “wait a while” responses?

Often the time between when a prayer is offered and when it is answered draws a person closer to the Lord than the answer. There is dependency on Him while waiting on Him and that is good for us. Give God time to be God.

When He delays He is often getting the answer ready for us. That is, He is working out circumstances to our advantage.

Often He delays in order to get us ready for the answer. He has to condition us.

If God is making you wait on Him it is a gilt-edged guarantee. He is preparing a blessing for you. It might not come in the package you are expecting but it will be another equal or greater blessing. His delayed blessing is often one you would not have recognized initially. He may be making you wait for something even greater than you would have recognized initially. Don’t rush God and demand second best. Wait!

Poetically it is said: “His purpose will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.” Isaiah said, “Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30: 18).

Let Him determine your outlook and it will always be a bright upward look.

A young boy walking along one bright summer day spotted a penny at his feet. He was elated. He picked it up and clutched it with pride. It was his and cost him nothing. He resolved to always be on the look out for lost money. Thereafter he always kept a watch for lost money. He even kept a record. During his life he found 302 pennies, 24 nickels, 41 dimes, 8 quarters, 3 half dollars, and one worn dollar bill. His total = $12.82.

It had cost him nothing. Nothing but, the breathless beauty of 30,127 sunsets, the colorful splendor of 1,327 rainbows, babies growing, white clouds floating across the brilliant blue sky, birds flying, animals running, and smiles of friendly faces.

By not focusing on Christ it costs us dearly.

It diminishes our understanding of what He is trying to do in our lives.

It costs us the serenity that comes from sensing His presence. It costs us the joy inherent in seeing Him at work on our behalf.

The mood among the religious leaders in and around Jerusalem was hostile related to Christ. Rumors persisted there was a plot to kill Him. Going near the city was risky.

Vs. 16, Thomas thought Jesus would be killed. In loving response he wanted to die with Him. Thomas had strong love but weak faith.

Martha bemoaned, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” (Vs. 21). What a brutal game to play. “If only …”

To be the effective Christians we must be aware that there are three essentials in which we must trust: God’s will, God’s power, and God’s timing.

God knows what He is doing. He has the power to do it. His timing is always perfect. The Lord knew what He was doing then, He had the power to do it, and His timing was right. He knows what He is doing now, He has the power to do it and His timing is right.

Often all three are questioned. Martha questioned only one.

Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (Vs. 23). Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day” (Vs. 24). She believed His will: “our brother will rise.” She believed His power: He will “rise.” She doubted His timing: “in the last day,” not after just four days. She believed Jesus would resurrect him in the future, but she couldn’t believe He would resurrect him after only four days. How like us she was. We profess to believe Jesus will come again in the clouds on a white horse. Deferred victory we attribute to Him, but we have difficulty turning the keys of today over to Him. We profess His ultimate eternal victory but when it comes to trusting Him for today’s bread we have an anxiety attack evidencing we don’t have confidence He can act today. Trust Him for today and eternity.

Martha’s confession was made in the pit of despair (Vs. 27).

The setting and circumstances is summed up in the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept” (Vs. 35). Literally, “Jesus burst into tears.”

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus appeals because Jesus feels.

Jesus is limited only by His PURPOSE not His POWER.

I am glad Jesus wept and thereby revealed even more fully His capacity for human love. He was God. He was man. He was the God\man. His human emotion verifies, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Eighteenth-century Scottish poet Michael Bruce in “Christ Ascended,” wrote: “In every pang that rends the heart, the Man of Sorrows has a part.”

Theologians have debated why He who said, “Let not your hearts be troubled…” would weep. We will never fully understand the reason. However, it has been suggested that He who came from heaven, Jesus, knew what it was like and it broke His heart to think of calling Lazarus back from that place of glory to this gory place.

When our beloved ones die in Christ we need to keep that in mind. Who among us would pluck the diadem of blessings from the brow of their beloved who is in heaven. Would we remove the palm of blessing from the hand that will never again know pain?

Dare we compare the emptiness of our lost love with the enjoyment of a loved ones presence with the Father?

To resent the going of our beloved is to resist the blessings they have coming.

Jesus said, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (Verse 40) “believe…see.” We want the order reversed.

The voice that wept as a man now speaks as God. In the Greek it is, “Lazarus, hither! Forth!” (Vs. 43). Jesus used a “loud voice” not in order to awaken the dead, but to inform the living.

“He cried with a loud voice…” He shouted not to wake the dead but to focus the attention of the crowd. It was His way of saying, “Presenting, center stage, live and in good health, Lazarus.”

If Jesus had not called Lazarus by name the authority in His command would have brought forth all dead.

The very name Lazarus is meaningful. It comes from the name Eleaser which means “one whom God helps.” There has never been a more appropriate name.

This is a foreshadowing of truth revealed in I Thessalonians 4: 16, 17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Jesus gave a command that involved the people: “Take away the stone” (Vs. 39). This shows divine and human cooperation. The disciples had to act first and do their part before Jesus acted. Divine operation often waits on human cooperation.

Just before this Jesus had told a story in which one of three personalities kept their gift wrapped in a napkin. Now these persons had Lazarus wrapped in the napkin of grave clothes. If opened a blessing would be released.

What is in your napkin? Are you reluctant to release it for Christ’s use.

“Loose him and let him go…” (Vs. 44).

Only then was the purpose of Lazarus’s sickness and death properly understood. Christ stated it: “This sickness … Is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Vs. 40).

Jesus came to Bethany that day prepared to deal with physical death. It is a graphic of Him coming into the world to deal with our spiritual death.

In essence Jesus came into the world to deal with humanities death, our funeral.

Jesus came to Bethany as a humble voluntary act.

He came to Bethlehem as a humble voluntary act. Jesus came to a family in need in Bethany.

He came to the human family in need at Bethlehem.

He didn’t really have to deal with Lazarus, but love compelled Him to act.

He didn’t really need to deal with us, but His love compelled Him to act.

Jesus said it best, “I am come that you might have life” (John 10:10).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Vs. 25).

That is a message that needs to be heard today. We need confidence in someone who have power even over death. In making a way of victory for Lazarus He proved there is a way for us.

Jesus said, “Do you believe this?” (Vs. 26). Belief is the human side of salvation. For the Christian death is simply the escape hatch to glory. Belief unto salvation is trust in Christ in time and for eternity.