Love and waiting – John 11:1-6

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. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 

Lazaraus was sick and near death. Jesus loved Martha Mary and their brother Lazarus. So why did he wait. It would seem to make more sense to say that Jesus loved them, “so her hurried to get to Bethany.” But this is Jesus, and he is right, and he waited two days longer.

I am something of a failed bonsai hobbyist. I’ve tried to grow the little tress and have at times succeeded, even for years at a time with a single tree. The trick is to keep them growing almost indefinitely, like trees in the wild. The longer they live the more your work pays off, and the work tends to be mostly toward the beginning.

In order to properly train a bonsai tree you have to be patient. You bend a branch or guide the trunk to a certain angle and then you wire it in place. Then you have to wait weeks or months to bend it more. To try to bend too much at once can break the branch. Eventually, you get the desired shape and then you leave it. The tree will mature, but adapting to the careful training you gave it right from the start.

God knows how to train us. He knows how to bend us into shape. And that does not always come all at once. Martha and Mary had to wait for Jesus while watching their brother die. Jesus loved them and somehow knew that it would be better for all concerned if Lazarus was in the grave for four days before Jesus arrived. I’m not sure what was going on in the hearts of the two sisters during that time, but we may speculate that the waiting did them good.

The same goes for us. As we wait for the answers to unanswered prayers, sitting patiently when there is little else that we can do, that may be evidence of the love of God. He is forming our character, testing our faith, and building our strength to persevere under trials. This is all for our good. Love and waiting are often intimately tied.

A Prayer Prompted by John 10

Dear heavenly Father,

We receive your Son Jesus as our Shepherd.  We put our faith and total trust in him. 

We believe that you sent him to lay down his life for us.  We receive that eternal life offered by your grace. Let us never waver from that commitment.  Let no one ever remove us from your hand.

In Christ, Amen.

John 6 – Verse by Verse

John Pic

After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus returns to Capernaum.  There, in the synagogue, he declares himself to be the bread of life.

John 06.pdf

John 06.mp3

Here is a link to the livestream video:

The old man at the temple – Luke 2:22-32

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

This text does not exactly say that Simeon was old, but I’ve always pictured him that way.  He indicates he is now ready to die and his happy that he can do so in peace, having finally seen Jesus, the child of promise.

I admire the old guy.  His perseverance and faith are worth imitating.  How often are we tempted to give up when we are simply tired of waiting.  The enemy attacks people in their maturity the way a lion might look for a antelope lagging behind the herd. 

But not Simeon.  He was righteous, devout, sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and waiting.  Mostly waiting by this time I would guess.  He knew how to express his faith by his faithfulness.

The thing about perseverance and faith like this is that it is acquired by not giving up.  Does that sound simplistic? Maybe so, but it is not simple.  In fact, it can be hard.  Giving up is relatively easy – you just stop trying.  

But not Simeon.  I pray and commit to not being a quitter either, and I am praying that right now for you.  Like Simeon, the old man at the temple, we should each aspire to someday being that old man or woman in the church.