Christ never hurried anywhere.
Walking the dusty roads of Palestine, He had no way to hurry. He owned no creature that would carry Him. The only animal He ever rode was borrowed just for the occasion (a humble donkey, on Palm Sunday).
Yet we see no evidence of Him ever worrying that He’d be late for something. Late for an appointment. Late for work. Late for play. Late for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. He travelled in utter assurance that He would be where He needed to be, when He needed to be there.
There were many times when Jesus could have hurried; plenty of times when someone needed desperately for Him to hurry.
Martha, her beloved brother sick and dying, sends word to friend Jesus to come, please come quickly. Surely, He will come. He had stayed with them, eaten with them, fellowshiped with them. He alone could help. He was their friend. He loved them, she was sure of it. Surely He would come in time.
Jesus receives this message, brought in haste, the urgency in every line. He does a curious thing.
Here’s what the scripture says:
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. John 11:5
He loved them, SO….He hurried as fast as He could to comfort them and rescue them.
He loved them, SO…He sent messages saying that He would be there as soon as possible.
He loved them, SO…He ran to charter a camel that would get Him there more swiftly.
No. He loved them, SO…He stayed two more days.
This doesn’t look or sound like love to me. I’m just being honest. This looks like…indifference. Cruelty, even. Let’s skip the theology for a minute and look at it from Martha and Mary’s perspective: Jesus, the Jesus that was their friend, the Jesus that had performed miracles for thousands of others, the Jesus that had sat at their table and eaten their food, well…He couldn’t be bothered to come in their hour of need.
Four days after Lazarus has DIED, He finally shows up.
He’s TOO LATE. Too late to heal. Too late to help. The wrappings have been applied, the body interred, decay a certainty. Mourning is well underway.
Where am I going with this? Spoiler alert! LAZARUS IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD.
Everybody knows that!
But Martha and Mary didn’t know it.
When Lazarus died, they didn’t know Jesus was going to show up and raise him from the dead. In the back of Martha’s mind, at least, it might have been a wild, frantic, ridiculous, fleeting hope, but she certainly wasn’t banking on it. She is the reasonable sister, the practical one. She understands that Jesus is the miracle-maker, but maybe not in this case. One wouldn’t want to hope for too much.
Mary herself was so distraught that she didn’t even come to greet Jesus until Martha (lying, apparently) told her that Jesus was asking for her specifically. When she does come, she falls at His feet.
It is a pattern with Mary to be at Jesus’ feet. She washed His feet with her tears and anointed them. Sat at His feet in adoration as He spoke. Mary is not the composed sister, not the one to practice restraint. She is all about abandonment to Him, and she does not hold back. She voices the same thought that Martha spoke in composure, but from her, it is with tears, accusatory:
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
If You had only been here when I needed You. If You had only come when we asked. If You hadn’t decided we were not as important as something else. If You had really understood how much we needed You. If You had really cared.
But You didn’t.
And now he’s dead.
Are there things dying in your life right now as Jesus takes His time? Is he dawdling, uncaring, while your dreams shrivel and waste away? Has decay set in on the things you love the most, while He stands afar off, busy with other people?
Then this story is for you.
HE LOVES YOU, SO….He is coming. Not when you think He will. Not in the way you think He should. Not to do what you think needs to be done.
I am Martha, desperately begging Christ to come. Don’t be late, Lord. Please don’t be too late. Yet even as I plead, my dreams die. My plans, my hopes, my loves…they die. I weep, and I wonder, and I wait some more. And in the waiting, it feels like He is uncaring, unmoved, unloving, and absent.
But He is on the way. He is up to something. He has a plan, and He is asking me to trust Him. To trust, as Martha, that even if all dies, He is able to resurrect.
Because He is trustworthy.
And it is BECAUSE He loves me that He tarries. He knows what I do not know; that in both the waiting and the revelation, my faith is refined. In the waiting, as I learn to trust, the purifying occurs. And the revelation, the thing that rises up from the ashes, will be all the sweeter because of it.