How do you cope with delays? They are so much a part of every week that we all have to deal with them. But they are not just part of a week, they can last a week, a month or even years.
I would like to suggest to you that the way you deal with delay reveals your heart, to you and to others. Your reactions may range from exasperation and anger through to perseverance and patience.
Without further delay, may I take you to a series of events in the life of the Son of Man? We are looking at his journeys and trying to glimpse his heart.
The sequence we are examining starts with a message from two friends. Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were very close friends. The two women send a message to the Son of Man informing him that their brother is sick.
John, who tells us the story, informs us that Jesus loved these three people, yet waited two more days before setting out.
There it is, a delay. Observers must have been puzzled at the contradiction between the friendship and the slow response. The Son of Man, however, hints that the “end game” is God’s glory and yet this 48-hour pause was, on the surface, perplexing.
You now have the benefit of hindsight and can read John’s 11th chapter to see the outcomes and we will look at them again.
But I want to point out to you the characteristics of the heart of the Son of Man which reveal themselves in this delay. If you’re not careful you can miss them as you focus on the story from Mary’s, Martha’s, Lazarus’s, the follower’s or the critic’s point of view.
Two massive things were coming Jesus’ way. Once he announces himself to have power over death, he will provoke such a strong reaction from his opponents that he will no longer be able to move about freely in public. He will be like a royal or celebrity, hunted and hounded by the masses.
Second, his opposition will then actively plan to kill him and to kill Lazarus.
It will be an astonishingly violent reaction. Nothing would be the same. It would be dangerous for him to be anywhere.
So I suggest to you at the heart of this delay is a mystery, something so profound and intangible that you can only glimpse at its nature.
It’s as if the Son of Man takes a deep breath, knowing full well that what he would do and say in the next few days would take on humankind’s greatest enemy, biggest fear and final frontier. Death itself. This pause was not because the Son of Man didn’t know what was coming next. It is because he did know what was coming next.
Every seen and unseen force would gather their vested interests and oppose him. This was the work he was born to do. Yet once he raised Lazarus he guaranteed his own death. Here he was spending credit he could only repay at the cross. He’s plunging himself into debt which only he can clear, and he is doing it for a close friend.
No wonder he weeps, no wonder he waits, no wonder he pauses.
Has it ever occurred to you that the delay in your life and work could not just be about you but about how much it will cost the Son of Man to come to you? Have you ever attempted to see it from God’s perspective or even considered that there is such a perspective?
It’s a mystery, for delays can be puzzling, but the Son of Man still says; “This will not end in death, but God’s glory”.
If you are in a time of waiting, wondering about what looks like a delay, can I encourage you to reflect on this thought, knowing that there is always a lot more than meets the eye? Delays are not empty with God they are full of powerful dynamics. Perhaps we should not wish them away, perhaps we should be careful what we wish for, perhaps the sisters were wise just to send a message rather than propose a solution.
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 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. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year,spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
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