Why Did Jesus Wait Two Days Before Going to See Lazarus?
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. - Luke 11:3-6, ESV
He sent professional fishermen back out onto the water in the heat of day after they had fished all night. He told people He had healed not to tell anyone about their healing. He intentionally drove large crowds of followers away by telling them that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Sometimes the things Jesus did simply make no sense from a human perspective. But of all of His puzzling actions, none has left me more stumped than His choice to remain in the place where he was for two full days after He heard that Lazarus was gravely ill. What is even more puzzling is the Apostle John's explanation: "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." John says that it was because He loved this family that He decided to stay where He was for two days longer.
Martha was obviously deeply confused by Jesus' decision to delay His arrival. When she greeted her Lord, "Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (v. 21) Why would this man who loved her and her family so much, who had healed so many people, delay in coming to them until after Lazarus had died and been buried?
What we learn when we read the rest of John 11 is a powerful and important truth: Whenever Jesus fails to meet our expectations and confuses us by His actions, it is always because He has something better planned for us. God never withholds good things from His children, but sometimes the good we want is not really God's best. God often withholds the good we want because He wants to give us the better we don't even know exists.
Even though Martha says, "But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you," it's obvious that she doesn't expect Jesus to raise her brother. When Jesus says very plainly, "Your brother will rise again," she sees this as a reference to the resurrection on the last day. So Jesus says to her, "I am the resurrection and the life." He wants her to see who He really is, because in seeing who He really is, she will have a salvation and hope that nothing can ever take from her.
Jesus' words draw from Martha one of the strongest and clearest confessions of faith in the Gospels: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” This woman, who is still best know to history for being busy and distracted by meal preparations, has come to true and saving faith in her Lord. She now knows and confesses that He is more than a great prophet or powerful miracle worker. He is the Christ, the Son of God.
Do we want God to meet our felt need in this hour of our lives, or do we want Him to give us the faith that will save us forever? Do we want Him to scratch us where we itch or save us where we are truly lost? This is what is so often on the line when Jesus acts in unexpected ways. We want our desires fulfilled, but He wants to bring us to know Him in a better, deeper, truer way. We want His gifts and blessings; He wants to give us Himself. May He give us the grace to let go of the lesser things to receive Him instead!
Prayer Based on Psalm 30:
I will extol You, O Lord, for You have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help,
and You have healed me.
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Let Your people sing Your praises, Lord,
and give thanks to Your holy name.
For Your anger is but for a moment,
and Your favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By Your favor, O Lord,
You made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face;
I was dismayed.
To You, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!