Waiting

Several years ago, when Laura’s mom was no longer able to live by herself, we moved her into one of our downstairs bedrooms. We hired CNA’s to sit with her during the day so we could come and go, and at night we provided her care. One morning while I was at work, my cell phone rang. It was one of ladies who cared for Nancy. She was in a panic, in fact it seemed like she was going to come out of the phone. “Mr. Motis, something is wrong with Nancy, I think she has had a heart attack.” I asked, “is she breathing? She answered yes. Is she awake? Yes, again, but Mr. John, something is very wrong with her. Have you called 911 for an ambulance? No was her response. I asked her to call and I was on my way home. I ran out of the office to my car, when I tried to start it I found that I didn’t have the keys, where are they? I ran back inside and grabbed the keys and raced towards home. All the while wondering what situation I would be walking into when I arrived at home, knowing that I would be well ahead of the ambulance. In the front door and down the stairs I ran. When I reached the bedroom, Nancy looked at me with panicked, tear filled and scared eyes. I went to her and she said, “John it hurts, help me!” I reassured her that help was on the way. Then I wondered to myself yes, but when? Just then, Laura came in the room, obviously quite upset. She asked, where is the ambulance? Nancy continued to complain that she was hurting, I felt helpless, I couldn’t help her. What if she was having another heart attack right now? Did I remember my training? Would I be able to do CPR if I’m called upon in this real-life situation? Where is the ambulance? Would she still be alive when they finally arrived? Just then, I could hear the distant sound of a siren. It occurred to me that they would certainly miss our driveway and they would be delayed even longer. You see, if they are using GPS they would go down the neighbor’s drive a delay that might just be too much. I ran out the door and up the long steep driveway to the road. First a firetruck then an ambulance. I directed them to the drive, and I ran beside them down to the house. I wanted to demand what took you so long? Once inside, they immediately went to work. Wires, blood pressure and EKG. Very quickly they determined that she had a heart attack and was having another. Her heart was out of rhythm. She was in serious trouble. They gave her a shot, then the attendant said, “clear” and he hit her with an electrical shock. she screamed. No change. The attendant said clear again, shocked her once again. No change, it was easy to read the look on their faces, it wasn’t hopeful. He called in on his radio and told the supervisor that they had to transport if there was any hope of saving her. I helped them push her up the steep sidewalk and load her in the ambulance. Laura and I followed behind her as they raced to the hospital. We prayed as we drove toward the hospital, both with the helpless feeling that this was probably it. Nancy wasn’t going to make it. The ambulance parked up on the ramp at their entrance. We had to park over in the other parking lot. As we climbed out of the car we watched them as they pulled the door open at the Emergency entrance at the hospital. As they wheeled her out we could see her raise her arm. We ran over to see her, she seemed so much better, she was now able to speak to us. The panic was over. Instead of our worst fears, she had improved on the way to town in the ambulance. Even though it seemed like hours and hours had past. This whole event was less than 2 hours from the original 911 phone call to our arrival at the hospital. We placed that 911 call with the knowledge and expectation that the ambulance (help) would certainly come. Then in those anxious moments we wondered if only in time! In the Gospel from John that we just heard, Mary and Martha made their own 911 call by sending word to Jesus, “He whom you love is sick.” They knew that when they send word, Jesus would come. Jesus had a lot of disciples, but scripture only records three friends. They were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who lived in Bethany. Their home was a home away from home for Jesus. However, instead of waiting for minutes or even hours, they waited for days! After Jesus received word, He intentionally waited for 2 days before He set out for Bethany. When He finally arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days. Very much dead. Can you imagine Martha and Mary’s range of emotions? I expect they started out with some hope, “now that we sent word to Jesus it is going to be OK” Then anxiety, tears, prayers, pleading, and deal making. Where can Jesus be? What is taking him so long? Their tears of hope would change to tears of grief as his condition declined, as he became weaker and weaker, he would go from bad to worse and finally Lazarus their brother was dead. Don’t you suppose they might have thought or perhaps even said, “Lazarus in gone, where was Jesus when they really needed him?” Didn’t He care what happened?” I also expect they felt like Jesus had abandoned them in their time of need. Perhaps questions we all ask don’t we, when things get tough, or when answers to our prayers don’t seem to come in a timely manner? Jesus had other plans in mind for this situation. He had told his disciples before heading out to Judea, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake, I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Jesus knew what He was going to do. He knew who would be there and where this miracle was ultimately going to take him. Jesus was going to use this to Glorify God. When Jesus arrives on the outskirts of Bethany, the family is grieving Lazarus’ death. They were surrounded by a large group of mourners (as was customary among the Jews) among them were religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees). In Jewish society, a prolonged mourning for the dead was considered an essential part of every funeral. It was also convenient for many Jews to be there because Bethany was a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When Martha hears that Jesus had arrived she goes out to meet him. Her feelings are a confusion of censure and faith. She implies that Lazarus would still be alive if Jesus had come promptly, (in other words, “where have you been, you came too late”) yet she seems to believe that a miracle is still possible. Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will rise again. Her response was the orthodox Pharisaic expectation. That belief which is when a person died they went to Sheol to the hope of a resurrection on the last day. Jesus response was not about the general resurrection but about the resurrection of Lazarus in particular; and even though no one would have any reason to know it at the time, Jesus was speaking of His own. Jesus says, that anyone who has faith in Him already shares in eternal life. Because He will rise, we can rise; because He has eternal life, so can we-both now and after physical death. “I am resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Martha’s confession was similar to Peter’s when asked by Jesus “who do men say I am?” Now, Mary enters the scene, she had been sitting at home mourning among family, friends and official mourners. She falls at His feet and bathes them with her tears-something which she had done on a previous occasion-but then it was tears of repentance, now they are tears of grief. Jesus is obviously deeply moved by this, “Jesus was ‘deeply moved and troubled.’ With Martha, I can picture Jesus grabbing her by both shoulders and saying, “Listen to me! Don’t despair I’m here. Resurrection. Life. That’s what I am. Do you believe me?” With Martha, it is about truth and reality. With Mary, its abut presence and tears. She needed consolation and He stepped into her sorrow with complete sincerity and integrity. Even though her words were the same as Martha’s “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus responded differently. When He saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said, “Lord come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” ‘He wept.’ Just like some of the Jews we assume that His tears are a sign of His love for Lazarus but, I think Jesus is not weeping for Lazarus. Why would He weep over someone He knew that He was going to raise from the dead? Christ knew what He was about to do so the tears are not for Lazarus, he is going to be raised to life. Jesus tears are for Mary and Martha and the grief of their souls at the death of Lazarus. His tears are for the pain that death brings into the life of a family and friends. His tears of empathy is for all of humanity who must go through this experience at some point of their lives here on earth. His tears are for the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve which brought death into creation and brought such pain into the hearts of mankind. He weeps with them and He weeps for them. He weeps with us! John tells us that Jesus was once more ‘deeply moved’ when He arrives at the tomb. Jesus instructs them to remove the stone from the tomb. Look at Martha’s reaction to this request of Jesus. In verse 39 Martha had stated her belief in Jesus as the Christ. She had said that she believed Him when He said He was the resurrection but now when asked to take a step of faith – up comes all the reasons for not removing the stone. Lord, Lazarus has been dead for four days, dead four days. Perhaps she was saying “Lord it is an impossible situation, there is no life here only death. Lord, there is no hope here. Then says, “and besides think about the smell.” Jesus challenges all their unbelief and again states the reason for what is about to happen – that they might see the glory of God. Jesus prayed, ‘not for His benefit but so that the crowd may be in no-doubt as to whom the glory belongs. Jesus thanks the Father for what is about to happen, even before it happens. All along He has been praying to the Father – praying for the Father’s will to be done and the Father’s glory to be manifested. There is a lesson here for each of us in our prayer life, the key to any of our prayers, what will bring God the greatest glory? Then the miracle happens, Jesus calls to Lazarus and upon hearing the voice of Jesus Lazarus walks out from the grave. The voice of Christ brings life to the dead Lazarus. Jesus reveals His authority over death. The power which had held mankind in its terrible grip has been defeated. Death has been conquered by the Word of Jesus. This is the revelation of the glory of God and the glorification of the Son – the defeat of death. The Word of God in Christ brings forth life from the grave. This miracle caused many to believe. However, Jesus also knew that this miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead would bring about jealousy and resentment of the religious elite. They would forget their differences and begin to plot His death. “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” Isn’t it ironic that by raising Lazarus from the dead He was bringing about His own death. Jesus knew that if He was going to save us, He was going to have to die for our sins and bear the judgement we deserve. The underlying message here, the slap in the face which the Sadducees and Pharisees felt and all of Israel heard was the God is in charge. No matter what happens, even death, God can reverse it if God chooses to. In the stark reality of the stench of death, life looked like it was defeated. But through Christ, for and through whom everything what was and is and ever will be was created, death was defeated. Life was affirmed by the author of life. God, proved that He is always victorious and in charge. The only thing more powerful and provocative would have been Jesus’ own death and Resurrection. Of course, they didn’t know it yet, it was just around the corner. Can you imagine Jesus thinking, “You think that was something, just wait ‘til you see what God has in store for you!” Just wait and see! What are you waiting for today? How long have you been waiting? Finally, when will the answer or result come? While most of us are in a hurry, it seems God is usually not in a hurry. From our perspective, we have everything figured out and we want God to move within our timeframe. But, God rarely does things according to our timeframe, and because of this we can easily get discourage. If we aren’t careful, we’ll think He’s uncaring or mad at us. Jesus made Martha and Mary wait, He was accused of taking too long! Look what He did with that situation. God always has good reasons for making us wait. Waiting is a part of life and of God’s tools for developing people. We are in good company: the Bible is full of people having to wait on God. Such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel, Jesus, Martha and Mary, Paul and countless others. I believe God is just as interested in the journey as He is in the destination. We may not always understand why we have to wait, but the good news is that God never asks us to wait without Him. We just have to wait and see what He has in mind. It’s most likely to be a different plan with much better results than what we ever could have imagined. Amen