Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Are your expectations of Jesus set too high? Or too low? Do you want Him to fix your little owies; or exercise resurrection power?

“Martha therefore said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died’.”

Lazarus was dead and everyone was confused except Jesus.

We’re not told all that went through the minds of the disciples during the two days Jesus delayed after hearing the news that His friend was sick.

But we can speculate a little bit. Why is He delaying? We know how much He loves that family in Bethany. Well, it is a little close to Jerusalem and there can’t be anything but trouble for Him if He goes there. He has healed from a distance in the past; why not just do that now? Why, when He got the word of Lazarus’ illness, didn’t he tell the messenger, ‘go your way, Lazarus is healed’?

When He finally, two days later, says, “Let us go to Judea again”, they’re astounded. He had just narrowly escaped stoning, in their estimation, because He claimed to be the Son of God.

And isn’t it humorous now, knowing the full story, to see in verse 16 that Thomas, (doubting Thomas), boldly declares, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him”.

Yuck, yuck, Thomas. In about 12 days or so you’re going to get your chance to prove how noble and faithful and brave you can be. Not today.

The journey from where they were had to have been at least two days, because it says He delayed two days after hearing the news, and when He arrived in Bethany He was told that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.

I want you to try to put yourself in the moment. Try to put yourself into Martha’s heart.

Her brother has been dead for the better part of a week now. The funeral is over. The professional wailers have gone home. Whoever it was who took the news to Jesus about His friend’s condition is sitting around wondering if He got lost, robbed and beaten, arrested; in any case He was a no-show.

Very disappointing.

So it’s over. You’re Martha, and it’s four days after your brother’s funeral. What are you feeling right now? Loss, to be sure. Grief.

What about anger? I mean, you’ve seen Jesus heal people. You’ve heard the stories of the times and places when you were not present. You know about the walking on the Sea of Galilee, the command that calmed the storm…

…but what about the storm that now rages in your heart?

He didn’t even come! At the very least, as a family friend, He could have made it to the funeral. Even the one who took the message to Him was back in time for that! (an assumption, but a relatively safe one)

Someone says, “Jesus is coming!” You look out and down the road in the direction several people are now pointing, and there He is, typically surrounded by His chosen disciples and a crowd of others.

Walking up slowly like there’s no rush.

Well, there isn’t a rush anymore, is there? Lazarus is dead and rotting in a hole in the ground.

But you run out to meet Him. You don’t wait in the house like grieving Mary. You don’t even give Him an opportunity to reach the village and sit down in the shade.

Jesus has failed to meet your expectations, and He has a scolding coming.


Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem to a mouse whose nest he had stirred up while plowing. Funny, the things that inspire artsy types, huh? Part of one stanza is familiar to most of us:

“The best laid plans of mice and men,

Often go awry,

And leave us naught but grief and pain,

For lack of promised joy”

I took the liberty of English-izing it, since if I copied it the way he wrote it I’d have to read it with a Scottish brogue and I’m not good at that.

I wonder what he meant by “promised joy”. That sounds like an expression of expectation to me.

Depending on who promised the joy, if indeed it was promised at all, it could be a very unreasonable expectation.

I mean, we can’t even promise our own loved ones future joy. We can hope for it, we can pray for it, we can want it very much for them. I would hope nothing less for my children, than that their future holds much joy. But then reality kicks in and we have to concede that the things life inevitably brings are often far from joyful.

Now Jesus does promise joy, in Heaven. And He said in chapter 15 of this gospel that He had spoken certain things to His hearers, “…that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (vs 11)

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