Summary: If you’ve lost all hope, trust Jesus with your life, and don’t be surprised by His delays, His devotion, and His deliverance when it finally does come. It will be far greater than anything you’ve ever asked for: a resurrection instead of a healing.
John Ortberg, pastor of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, talks about a friend of his, who used to work as a denominational official in Minnesota. One of his jobs was to travel to little rural communities where they didn't have churches to do funerals. He would go out with a funeral director, and they would drive together in the hearse. One time, they were on their way back from a funeral, and Ortberg’s friend, John, was feeling quite tired. He decided he would take a nap. Since they were in a hearse, he thought, “Well, I'll just lie down in the back of the hearse.”
The funeral director, who was driving the hearse, pulled into a gas station, because he was running low on gas. The gas station attendant was filling up the tank and he was kind of freaked out, because there was a body stretched out in the back. While he was filling the tank, John woke up, opened his eyes, knocked on the window and waved at the attendant. John said he never saw anybody run so fast in his whole life. (John Ortberg, The Empty Tomb: How Will You Respond? www.PreachingToday.com)
The man was surprised, because people in the back of a hearse don’t usually sit up, knock on the window, and wave. So imagine the surprise 2,000 years ago when Jesus came out of a cave-like tomb, secured with a 2-ton rock, the governor’s seal, and Roman soldiers.
But that’s just like Jesus! He loved surprising people, especially those who had lost all hope. Is that where you are today? Have you lost all hope? Then this message is for you. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to John 11, John 11, where we see Jesus surprising a family that had lost all hope.
John 11:1-5 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 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.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (ESV)
…So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he hurried back to Bethany. Is that what your Bible says? No!
John 11:6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (ESV)
Now that’s a surprise. Instead of immediately rushing to his friend’s aid Jesus delayed his coming. And sometimes Jesus does that to us, doesn’t He? We cry out for help, and Jesus doesn’t seem to do anything about it, at least not right away. In fact, He often seems to stay away, and we can’t figure why help doesn’t come right away. God seems so slow sometimes, especially when we’re in a hurry.
A preacher, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer asked, “What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes.” The doctor agreed: “I've never seen such slow golfers.” The pastor noted, “Hey, here comes the groundskeeper. Let's have a word with him.”
The pastor called out to the groundskeeper, “Say, George, what's with the group ahead of us?”
George said, “That's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”
The group was silent for a moment. The pastor sympathized, “That's so sad. I think I'll say a special prayer for them tonight.” The doctor added, “That's a good idea. In fact, I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist friend and see if we can do anything for these guys.” Then the engineer spoke up: “Well that's great, but in the meantime, why can't these guys play at night?” (Charles Lowery, “Laugh Lines Heart or Head?” Home Life, April 2000, p.65)
Most of us don’t like to wait, do we? And when God makes us wait, it seems even worse. We don’t always understand it. But that’s okay. Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand him either.
John 11:7-8 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” (ESV)
What do you want to do? Get yourself killed!
John 11:9-10 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (ESV)