Summary: God is in control of time and circumstances to achieve His purposes, and He understands your life hurts and sorrows.
Today we are going to look closely at one particular event in Jesus’ ministry. This event helps us understand the heart of Jesus for us.
It had happened suddenly. In the town of Bethany, Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha and friend of Jesus, fell sick. The sisters tried their best to help him but soon his condition grew worse. They decided to send a friend to look for Jesus and inform him of this news.
Jesus was in the region of Perea, a few days journey north-east of Bethany. They delivered an urgent message: "Lord, the one you love is sick." (v.3)
Then the sisters waited... And worried. Within a few days, their brother Lazarus died. Immediately the friends gathered to comfort the two sisters, including those from nearby Jerusalem. They mourned the loss, and helped the family to prepared their brother for burial. Finally his body was carried into the tomb and a stone rolled over for cover. There was still no sign of Jesus.
The mourners stayed with Mary and Martha to give comfort. And then the news came. Four days after Lazarus’ burial. Someone shouted, "Jesus is coming." Martha dashed from the house and met Jesus on the outskirts of the village.
"Lord," she said, practically falling into his arms, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Then, realising her words might have sounded rather disrespectful, she added. "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
And the first words that come out of Jesus’ mouth was this -"Your brother will rise again."
They were words of hope in the midst of hopelessness. Words of comfort in the midst of sorrow.
The remarkable part of this event is this -
(1) Everything is under His control to achieve His purpose.
We see a contrast - Mary and Martha desperately looking for Jesus, seeking help for their brother. Both sisters came to Jesus with the same words... "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (v.21; 32). There was a sense of urgency, of desperation... of hopelessness.
But we read the passage this morning, Jesus was totally unperturbed by the news. He was not in a hurry to reach Lazarus. He delayed his journey for two more days (11:6) and He knew that Lazarus will not remain dead - He told his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up." (11:11). He even suggested to His disciples to go back to Judea (v.7), which is even further away.
Man live under the constraints of time and circumstances. To us, time is critical. If we are sick, we must get treatment fast. The earlier we get it, the higher the chance of recovery and healing. To us, if Jesus had been around 4 days earlier, Lazarus may not have died. Man hopes in such a way because we living under the constraints of time and circumstances.
Jesus showed us He is in control of time and circumstances. We have a God who rules time and space. No delay is a delay to Him. Nothing can stop God from fulfilling His purpose. In fact, everything happens to fulfil God’s purpose. Jesus said this event happened "...for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it." (v.4). He told the disciples plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe..." (v.15).
Jesus was so in control of time and circumstances, that He was making the delay to achieve His purpose. The delay and His absence was made to serve God’s purposes.
Bro/Sis, I do not know what you are going through today... but we can be confident. We have a God who knows... Time is in His hands. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Eccl 3:11); "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28).
Nothing happens by chance to God. He is in control. And He is fulfilling His purpose in His own time and own way. We can trust Him.
There is a 2nd remarkable thing we see in this event.
As the story unfolds, we saw Mary running out to meet Jesus. When she reached the place where Jesus waited for her, she threw herself at his feet. "Lord," she said through tears, unknowingly echoing her sister’s words, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the friends who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"