Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Jesus are the best of friends. They enjoy one another’s company and fellowship as often as possible. Sometimes it is on the road as they participate in Jesus’ campaigns. They also get together whenever Jesus comes to town. When he visits Bethany, there is always a warm bath, a fresh meal, a soft bed, clean sheets, and loving friends awaiting him.
However, in the life of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, there have been better days. Lazarus has fallen ill, and it is very serious. The sisters cannot help him. The doctors cannot help him, and it looks as if he is going down for the count. Upon looking at Jesus’ schedule, the sisters are not sure he is going to return to Bethany in time to help. Time is of the essence. Jesus must be summoned.
Now, from an observers point of view, this is a no-brainer. Jesus is Lord. He can mysteriously appear, speak, heal, and then go on about his daily business. There is also the option of a long-distance healing. Jesus has performed such miracles in past days. And these are his dearest of friends. Jesus’ face lights up when he is in the room with Mary and Martha, and Lazarus is “the one whom Jesus loves.”
John records Jesus’ response:
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” … So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:4-6)
Despite his power and affection, and despite the intense pain of his friends, Jesus sits on his hands and remains where he is. He oddly and patiently waits for his dear friend to die. Then he instructs his disciples:
Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him. (Luke 11:14-15)
Do you see what Jesus says? Jesus is “glad.” Well, he may be glad, but the disciples are confused and the sisters are displeased. None of this makes sense. From the disciples’ point of view, Jesus chooses not walk into the city of danger to save Lazarus, and now that his dear friend is deceased, Jesus seems motivated to march into the lion’s den. From the sisters’ point of view, Jesus’ slow response is so uncharacteristic of their compassionate friend. They must be asking, “Where has Jesus been when we needed him most?” Or, “Why has our Lord and Friend allowed us to suffer so?”
Friends, are you experiencing the slow and strange lordship of Christ? Are you calling out to him only to experience him waiting and sitting on his hands while disaster overtakes you? Is he remaining silent and distant while:
- Your friend dies?
- Your body falls apart?
- Your loved one deteriorates with a physical or mental ailment?
- Your spouse is never provided?
- Your spouse proves to be unfaithful, or uncaring, and then unrepentant?
- Your in-laws destroy your family cohesiveness?
- Your child plays the part of the prodigal and adds scar upon scar?
- Your profitability and finances are dwindling away?
- Your possessions are stolen?
- Your name is slandered?
- Your promotion or transition disappears?
- Your country grows in immorality?
- Your neighbors remain cold to the Gospel?
- Your church remains cold to the Spirit?
- Your sin or “thorn in the flesh” is not removed?
- Your soul lacks joy and hope?
Jesus does not sit on his hands without compassion. Look how he responds to the sorrowful sisters:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled … Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)
While his plan is good, and while he is somewhat “glad” that your troubles have brought him glory and will result in your increased faith, he is not happy that you are suffering. He does care that you are hurting. It does bother him that you are crying. It breaks his heart to see his sons and daughters crying.
Jesus does not sit on his hands without a reason. He does not harm or allow harm without a purpose. So why is Jesus causing or allowing such grief in your life? We are sure it is for his glory. We are sure it is for our good. But other than that, we have no clue what he is trying to accomplish. But know this …
Jesus does not sit on his hands forever. Sometimes, Jesus fixes what ails you before it takes you die. At other times, Jesus fixes your problems after you die — after your resurrection. Either way, in this life or the next, Jesus will completely heal his friends’ hearts, heads, bodies, and environment. Jesus will wipe away all your tears and make all things right.
Are you confused like the disciples? I am too. I cannot figure out my sovereign and strange God. His ways are good, but they are weird. His ways are higher than mine. I have no clue what he is trying to do as he causes himself and others to cry.
Are you despairing and displeased like the sisters? I am too. Sometimes my eyes leak because the pain on the inside gets too great. God is sovereign. God is responsible, and life under his lordship hurts. I do not know what he is up to as he causes me, you, and himself to weep.
But let us have faith.
- God is sovereign.
- God sovereignly sits on his hands.
- God sovereignly sits on his hands with compassion.
- God sovereignly sits on his hands with a purpose in mind.
- God sovereignly sits on his hands for a season; healing is assured.
Now let us spend some time in prayer that this information and good doctrine might make its way to our troubled souls.