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When Jesus Waits

48 Hours

by Dr. Dan Stolebarger


When Jesus was made aware of the situation with Lazarus, He “stayed two more days” … “48 Hours.” Why did He Wait? Why do bad things happen to good People? Where is God’s protection?

For many of my friends, 2013 was a difficult year; one filled with pain, sorrow and even the loss of family members. Many went through the proverbial “dark night of the soul” and most of them are still waiting for the promise of “joy coming in the morning.” As I have been trudging through trials of my own, as well as wanting to provide relief to my fellow sufferers, I have turned to the Scriptures, as well as to some traditions from Judaism.

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 11:5–6

For those who have encountered the death of love ones and family members, we have shared the concept of “sitting sheva,” trying to flesh out the Pauline command from Romans:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15

I know what it is like to go through tough times and how easy it is to pull out a verse to try to help ease the pain but sometimes our friends do not need to hear a verse or read a “great book”; they simply need someone to lean on, someone who will just listen and silently pray. Since I mentioned “sitting sheva,” let me give you a definition:

“Sitting Sheva” is considered a great mitzvah (literally “commandment” but usually interpreted as “good deed”) of kindness and compassion. Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and friends simply wait for the mourners to initiate conversation, or remain silent if the mourners do not do so, out of respect for their bereavement. Friends will actually come over and sit on the floor and bring comfort to the grieving primarily through their presence.

Wikipedia

Last week, as I was reading and writing my daily KFIR devotional, I came across John 11:5–6 and the following hit me like a ton of bricks…when He was made aware of the situation with Lazarus, He “stayed two more days”… “48 hours!”

Now, this time delay did not go unnoticed by both Mary and Martha:

Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:20–22; 32

I wish we had the video of this conversation because it is so easy to spiritualize things. I wonder if both women were not only distraught but a bit resentful of those 48 hours of what they perceived as abandonment? We know that Jesus is caught up in all the emotions of this event as well, as we read those two electrifying words here: “Jesus wept!

  • Why did He wait 48 hours?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Where is God’s protection?
  • Why doesn’t God heal our kids when we pray for them?
  • Why does God allow horrific accidents?

You know that this is just the tip of the iceberg and I could go on and on writing about all the bad things that are caused by the evil that was brought into this world at the Fall. As I was up to my neck in all of this muck, I began to think about those who have gone on before us and started to think about their “48 hour” real-time life experiences!

  • Think about Abraham and that three-day period that he would have to endure. As he was walking up Mount Moriah he knew when he arrived that he would be killing his beloved son.
  • Think about Jacob out in the fields working for his uncle, Laban, wondering if this whole thing would ever come to an end, wondering if he would ever be able to return home without incurring the wrath of his brother.
  • Think about Moses and the time he spent on the backside of the mountain shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law, wondering if he was forgotten and why things had turned out the way they did.
  • Think about Joshua and his defeat at Ai. The victories of crossing the Jordan and the walls of Jericho were distant memories as he was undone and on his face before God!
  • Think about Rahab and those days in between. Yes, she had made a deal, but would God actually save her? A Gentile prostitute? I wonder what she was feeling as she was watching the Israelis circle her city?
  • Think about Ruth and Naomi and the trip back from Moab. Death had come to their husbands and they must have wondered what would happen next as they made their way back to Bethlehem. I wonder how Ruth felt as a Moabitess working in the fields?
  • Think about the many events in David’s life …on the run with his motley crew from the cave of Adullam, wondering why he was always being falsely accused by King Saul. Imagine the nights of sleeping with your spear in hand wondering if this night might be your last!
  • Think about Job and what life was like in the midst of it all. Remember, we know the end of the story but he had to live through all the atrocities not knowing where or how things would end up!
  • Think about the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, always being ignored and mocked and waiting to see if and when God would do what he revealed to them.
  • Think about what Elijah felt when he was depressed and panic stricken! Remember how he cried out to the Lord that he was ALONE?
  • Think about Peter (the Rock) once he heard that rooster crow. Can you imagine his despair that led to that breakfast encounter on one of the beaches on the northern shore of the Galilee?
  • Then think about blind Paul as he awaited the prayers of Ananias.
  • And finally we come to Mary and Martha…48 hours of despair, 48 hours of grief, 48 hours of wondering…where in the world is Jesus?

Each one of these examples was a real person, like you and me, with real issues like you and me, and each of them wondering… WHY?

As much as I would like to play the “stay tuned” card and make this a Part One of two articles, I will resist that temptation and give you some of my feeble answers… they may be feeble, but I want you to know that they are real, born out of the muck and the mire of a Christian trying to make sense out of the mess that real people experience in this fallen world.

First things first—God has promised that, despite our sense of feeling alone and abandoned, He will never leave us. Despite our feeling of isolation, we are NOT alone! I know these passages are familiar but for me they are the bedrock of my faith!

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:18

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

We all know what is coming next—that passage that we all probably can quote by heart—Romans 8:28. I must confess that there are times that I have felt like tearing this passage out of the Bible and forcing those who were “using” this on me, to cram it down their throats! But with that being said, there is a time to take in the glorious truth of this passage.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

All Things … God promises to use ALL THINGS. No matter what the circumstance, God will be with us through ALL THINGS and even though He may wait a minute, an hour, a day or “48 hours,” He truly does know the end from the beginning and will use ALL THINGS. The big picture is that God uses our tragic situations to deepen our relationship with Him.

When you (finally) emerge from your fiery furnace, your faith will be deeper and your character more godly. You will find that God has another weapon to combat the woes and despair of the world. That weapon? Your testimony!

But in a microwave world, timing is everything, which is why we, as Believers, need to learn the lesson of “sitting sheva” and hone our listening skills. Sometimes (probably most times) our presence and compassion will speak much louder than our words. I know this song is secular, but I must admit that my eyes often tear up when I hear Bill Withers sing “Lean on Me.” Take a Selah moment and look at the words:

“Lean On Me”

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Chorus:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
’Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand.
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on

(Chorus and verse above)

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load If you just call me

Call me (if you need a friend)
Call me (call me)
Call me (if you need a friend)
Call me (if you ever need a friend)
Call me (call me)
Call me (call me)


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