Sometimes … oft times … many times … most times … Jesus is confusing! Do you agree?
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha are some of Jesus’ most diligent worshipers. Mary is legendary for her anointing of Jesus’ feet with perfume and her hair. Martha is known for her action, affection, and Christian hospitality. All three of them are found ministering to and with Jesus throughout Palestine.
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha are some of Jesus’ best friends. Throughout the years, they have grown to enjoy one another’s company, and the Son of God is consistently stopping by their house to enjoy some rest and relaxation,
Now, in John 11, Lazarus, one of Jesus’ best friends, the “one whom Jesus loves,” has fallen ill. His sisters cannot aid him. Doctors do not seem to be slow down his demise. And the prognosis for Lazarus is going from bad to worse; he is dying.
Time being of the essence, Mary and Martha take off to find Jesus. He is the miracle-working prophet. He is the Great Physician. He is the Messiah, God in human flesh, and he is their best friend. He’ll know what to do. He’ll fix things. Jesus will make everything better, for oh, how he loves these three disciples!
Now, from an observer’s point of view, this is a no-brainer. Jesus is Lord over all disease and sickness. He can hit the road and be there in a day. Better than this, he can mysteriously appear, speak, heal, and go on about his daily business. Jesus also has the option of performing one of his long-distance healings – these are pretty spectacular to behold. Yes, this should be a slam-dunk. These are his most faithful worshipers, his dearest of friends; they are hurting, and they have come to the right man.
But have I told you … Sometimes … oft times … many times … most times … Jesus is confusing.
Jesus says the “illness does not lead to death,” but this illness will indeed lead to the death of Lazarus.
Jesus tells the ladies that the “glory of God” will be manifest, but he does not let them in on the details of his plan. He can give them more information that will warm their hearts, but he does not do so.
Jesus intentionally stays two days longer in the place where he is. This means he intentionally allows Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and many others to suffer — horribly.
Jesus informs his disciples they are going back to Jerusalem. This is like marching into the lion’s den, for Jerusalem is the place where his enemies are gathered and plotting to arrest and execute him. His disciples must be wondering, “Is Jesus building a kingdom, or is he on a suicide mission?”
When Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus has died, he tells them he is “glad” he has not been present.
Jesus, upon arriving, knowing what he has allowed, and knowing what he has planned to do to glorify himself, is greatly troubled and weeps.
Jesus may think this is all “glorious,” but no one else does. And Jesus may be “glad,” but no one else is. The disciples are confused and fearful, and the sisters are displeased and sorrowful. From their point of view, Jesus’ slow response is so uncharacteristic, unloving, and unwise. They are most likely asking, “Where was Jesus when we needed him most?” “What happened to our friend?” I’m sure they wanted to look at Jesus and say, “Hey God, what in the world are you doing?”
Yes … Sometimes … oft times … many times … most times … Jesus is confusing.
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 Jesus confusing to 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?
Well, perhaps the rest of the story will help.
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 he is sure his plan is good, and while he is glad he did not intervene earlier, and while he is confident he will increase faith, and while he knows the glory he will receive, Jesus is not happy you are suffering. It bothers him greatly as you hurt. He is not dispassionate. He is not apathetic. He is filled with empathy, and it breaks his heart to see his sons and daughters crying.
Jesus does not sit on his hands without a reason. He is not ordaining, causing, or allowing your harm without purpose. It is not random, and it will not be wasted. So why is your Lord allowing such grief in your life? Who knows? I am not a prophet, and neither are some about you who are cock-sure they know what God is doing. But we have ample stories in the Bible, stories in our own lives, and clear teaching that show how God uses temporal pain for his purposes. Perhaps he is …
- Shaping you.
- Working on another loved one
- Waiting to do a miracle and make his name great.
- Reminds all that this world is not what we live for.
- In the process of humiliating Satan one more time.
- Longs to be with one of his children and see them rescued from earthly sorrow.
Who knows? But it is good that there is bad, it is good there is sorrow, it is good someone is dying, and one day all his children will recognize this as they dance with delight in their Savior’s arms. And this brings us to our final point.
Jesus does not sit on his hands forever. Sometimes, Jesus fixes what ails you before it takes you die. At all other times, for you who are his children, he fixes your problems after you die — after your resurrection. Either way, in this life or the next, Jesus will “Go Lazarus” on you. He will come in his own time, with his strong hand, with his powerful voice, and he will call you forth from your grave. On that day, he will completely heal your hearts, heads, and bodies. And unlike Lazarus, you will perish no more. Friends, this is promised; it is a done deal. Jesus will return and wipe away all your tears; he will make all things right.
But until then, let your questions fly and your tears fall. For yes, Jesus is sometimes … oft times … many times … most times … confusing. But now you know the rest of the story. As you hurt, Jesus is crying, constructing, and coming again. And one day, with Jesus we will all cry no more. It will not be confusing then.