Pause for thought
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Many of the things Jesus did left his followers (and us) scratching their heads! Some years ago there was a wave of enthusiasm to place bumper stickers with the letters “WWJD?” on cars. What would Jesus do? I have always thought that we need to be careful about speculating about actions Jesus might take, and concentrate on the actual examples of the actions he did take. Especially so since in a lot of cases what Jesus actually did was so radically different than the conventional wisdom prevalent in the minds of his followers and the religious leaders trying to trip him up! I believe we need to free ourselves from our self-centered notions of what we want the Lord to do and instead be open to the knowledge that he sees a bigger picture than we do and he is solely focussed on God’s will. There’s a good example to illustrate my point in John’s account of happenings in Jesus ministry: A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him. Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:1-37 NLT I have not quoted the end of the story because I am sure you know how it turned out. What I’d like us to concentrate on is how Jesus handled the timing of the events and why. On the surface this incident begins with the sad and still familiar call to come and visit with a loved one with not much time left in this life. Martha and Mary are emotionally distraught. As an aside, the death of Lazarus would leave them in a precarious position in their society, so they were worried about their brother, but also about the uncertain future they would face. I have often heard preachers give the impression that the sisters “summoned” Jesus, but that is manifestly not the case. The sent word to Jesus because he and their brother were “good friends”. This fact was not lost on the disciples and they knew that Jesus would want to visit with his friend and his sisters, but the environment around Bethany was hostile and dangerous for Jesus. Jesus times his visit in order to teach several groups of people that their conventional thinking about him was wrong. He wanted to teach his disciples that the perceived suffering of his friends would be ultimately relieved and used to demonstrate God’s glory and power over the direst circumstances. As a friend of mine likes to say God, as Jesus, would “show up, and show off!”. I believe “doubting Thomas” gets a bad rap, but in the face of the very real possibility that showing up in Bethany might lead to arrest and death for Jesus and his disciples, he says, “let’s go — and die with Jesus!”. A truly committed and courageous follower! Jesus wanted to confirm Martha’s and Mary’s belief that he was the promised Messiah, and not only comforted them in their grief, but entered into their grief with them. As you probably know the shortest verse in the Scripture is found here, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Jesus was not aloof in his conviction and power, but shared the very human characteristic of sympathy. Jesus also had a lesson for the Jewish leaders who showed up because it was the politically acceptable thing to do and were hypocritically faking their grief. These would be the same religious leaders who were plotting to murder Jesus at the first available opportunity. Although they thought they had control over their timelines, Jesus would demonstrate that God was ultimately in control of the timing of events. Jesus also has a lesson for us. Tombs with Rolling Stones are no barrier to his power. Death is not a permanent state. He is the resurrection. He is life itself. With Jesus we are alive for eternity. I wonder if Jesus thought about the scripture he was about to fulfill that day found in Psalm 30:11 “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy…”? I will take my own advice and not speculate on Jesus’ thoughts, but it is obvious to me that no one can escape the fulfillment of the messianic prophesy of Isaiah 61:3, “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” NLT So may I suggest that when God’s timing doesn’t match our expectations or desires, let’s give God the benefit of the doubt believing that He has reasons for His timing that far exceed our understanding and He is working everything out for our good. “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at