5th Sunday of Lent
April 2, 2017
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he remained two days in the place where he was.
It is safe to say that most people, upon hearing of the grave illness of a close friend, would naturally try to drop everything to be by the side of their loved one as soon as possible. If, like Jesus, we had the power to cure our friend, how much more would we want to hurry! And yet, not only does Jesus not hurry, he deliberately waits until Lazarus is dead! The scriptures make it quite clear that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister (Mary) and Lazarus.” When you think about it, Jesus seems to be exhibiting some rather odd behavior for someone who “loves” these three people so much. The inevitable conclusion: Jesus’ delay IS love.
The disciples are the first to be perturbed by Jesus’ behavior. In answer to their questions, Jesus even goes so far as to say to them: “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, so that you may believe (John 11:14-15). Martha, for her part, had been anxiously watching for Jesus’ arrival, and when he finally did appear she, as a friend of the Lord, wasted no time to gently remonstrate Jesus for his seemingly deliberate tardiness!
We, of course, come to understand later in the story that Jesus’ intention is to raise Lazarus from the dead. As he always does, Jesus has a very good reason for this delay. But no one understands why Jesus is delaying until the end of the story, and this is very significant for our lives too. Like Martha, Mary and the disciples, we often find ourselves wondering what God is up to, unable to figure out his plans for us – often until the very end. In fact, don’t things frequently make the most sense when we are looking at them in the rear-view mirror of life?
God has his own timing when responding to our prayers. He cannot be made to “hurry up” (I know because I try to get him to do this on a regular basis) or accomplish things in our lives according to our timetable or plans. These stories in the gospel are really the stories of our lives as well. Who hasn’t been in a situation like Martha and Mary were in, anxiously and desperately praying for some outcome we feel is best, all the while wondering if God is even listening? Don’t we wonder sometimes why prayers turn out differently than what we asked for? Why God is taking so long? Yes, the Lord frequently takes his time, even though he loves us as much as he loved Martha and Mary! He is glorified by our waiting for him in faith.
God has a perfect plan for our lives. He frequently appears to delay or seems to be deaf, or to allow things we would not prefer, but always, always, always he has our best interests at heart. He knows what we will prefer he had done once we reach eternity, and this is the key to understanding many of the Lord’s mysterious actions in this world—and in our lives.