Sometimes God doesn’t make sense.
"If God is good, why is there suffering in the world?" That is the most popular question that non-believers tells angrily. The second is like it: "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
Church folk ask these questions but with more "spirituality": "How can evil exist in a world where we also believe that there is an all-powerful God?" "How can a loving God who can do anything he wants allow for evil things to happen to his children?"
A brother and I were recently talking about recent events. School shootings. Tragic weather in the Mid-West. Struggling farms. The disease of cancer. And after everything was said, he exclaimed “Sometimes God doesn’t make sense!”
No matter how sanctified you are, the truth be told, each and everyone of us will reach a place in life when what you go through does not match your understanding of God. You are left scratching your head. Wondering how could God let you go through this. If God is everything you know Him to be, if God can do what He wants to do, if God can stop something, if God can just speak a word to bring something into reality… How can a good God allow such a bad thing in your world?
It is important to know what do do when we get to places within our lives when God doesn’t make sense. When God is silent and seems to be distant, that he is not paying attention to our situation, our need. What do we do when we experience the silence of God? What do we do when our prayers are not being answered? What do we do when you have troubles, and God doesn’t move? How many of us ever wondered what God was up to? Have you ever experienced the silence of God? We have all been there.
Today, we are going to find what we are to do when God doesn’t make sense by exploring a time and a place when Jesus didn’t make sense. It’s a portion of text which captures one of the greatest mysteries of Jesus.
Journey with me in the Gospel of John. First verse. When we read, let’s find the part where Jesus doesn’t make sense…
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Here we have news that some faithful followers of Jesus, some friends of Jesus, have bad news for Jesus. Let me set up the context so we can appreciate the content. Jesus is on the other side of the Jordan River. He is about a 2-4 days walk from Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
In the first century, when someone wanted to send a message, a messenger was sent out on foot. Mary and Martha would have sent word by a messenger to Jesus. The messenger would have walked for two-four days to get to Jesus, and maybe more if he didn’t know where Jesus was. It was costly to send this message. This means the sisters message was serious: Lazarus wasn’t just sick, he is dying. This is bad news.
Ever get bad news? It’s about a bad situation. Your husband has been in an accident. Your wife has been diagnosed with cancer. Your friend landed in the hospital.
Are you ever in bad news? You can’t make it through the month financially. Your having difficulties kicking the addiction. Your having difficulties at work or at home. There’s bad news.
So Mary and Martha have bad news for Jesus. They send word to Jesus to come by the house. The sisters want Jesus to come quickly to the bed side of their brother Lazarus. The sisters know Jesus can heal. They want him to heal Lazarus.
When we have bad news, we send word to Jesus. Because when something bad happens you want God to be there. God can heal, God can fix any situation. So we pray. Ever pray for God to show up in your situation?
So Mary and Martha sends word to Jesus to come to them. I find it interesting that they felt a need to “the one you love” is sick. How many of us when we want Jesus to come to us, to intervene, to move his hand over our situation, we tell him “Remember you love me! I am a friend of yours. Friends come to help in a time of need!” …Verse 4…
"When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,"
Mary and Martha knew Jesus would be a friend. Just imagine with me. The sisters are waiting for Jesus…“Any-day now, he will show up.” As the day progresses, and noon time comes, NO Jesus. The day passes and the sun sets, and NO Jesus. “Maybe, Tomorrow, he should be here!” Tomorrow comes and passes, NO Jesus. At this point anticipation is replaces by anger:
LORD! WHERE ARE YOU? I CALLED ON YOU AND YOU KNOW WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH! YOU KNOW WHAT I NEED. SURELY YOU WOULD HAVE SHOWED UP BY KNOW IF YOU LOVED ME.
What Mary and Martha don’t know is what we know as the greatest mystery of Jesus’ ministry. Today’s theme is found within verse 6. While he knew that Lazarus, the one he loved, was dying he decided to wait to move, wait for two more days. Not because he was busy with ministry. But because he knew that Lazarus was deadly ill.
The verse tells us that because Jesus loved them, he waited there two more days. This doesn’t make sense. Since Jesus loved them, he didn’t do what the sisters asked for. He deliberate waited, when he was needed most. Jesus doesn’t make sense.
It reminds me of a story of a father and daughter. Father was in the military stationed within Virginia. His daughter was six years old, living in Kansas. The daughter wrote a letter to her father requesting that he come home for Christmas. She knew her father was coming home, he was allowed to come home every Christmas. On the day of Christmas, the little girl waited at the door and looked through the windows every hour looking for dad. Christmas passed, her father didn’t come home.
It’s hard to make sense of a person who loves you but doesn’t do what you ask of them. It’s hard to make sense of a God that loves you but doesn’t seem to help you when you ask Him?
Everyone of us will reach a place in life when what you go through does not match your understanding of God. When God doesn’t make sense, it’s because we can’t trace his hands.
When we can’t trace God whereabouts, He comforts us in a way no one else does… he will comfort us with a strange question. What’s the question? Let’s seek to find the question by dropping down with me to verse 17…
"On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home."
Lazarus is dead. Been dead for four days. That’s dead. Jesus is completely late.
In ministry I have discovered that people are more comforted by you visiting their dying on their death bed than you visiting their dead on the morgue's table.
The Jews got there before Jesus to comfort the sisters. Where is Jesus? Jesus is late.
Notice who when Jesus shows up, he is not met with a crowd singing Hosanna. He is met in two different ways. Martha goes out to meet Jesus. I don’t know how things work up here, but in my hometown you where an hour away from everything, so when someone was approaching your house, you went out to meet them. It’s the polite thing to do.
Martha goes out to meet Jesus. But Mary stays home. Mary doesn’t want to speak to Jesus. I am not talking to you. I don’t feel like talking to you. Now, this is the same Mary that broke the alabaster jar of perfume open and washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. When you don’t make sense, I am not talking to you!
When God doesn’t make sense, the first thing that gets attacked is our pray life. Why should I talk to God? I have done all of this praying. God hasn’t answered.
Mary stays home. She is distancing heartfelt from Jesus. Because when God doesn’t make sense not only do we stop praying, we distance ourselves from him and his people, the church. We stop. Because, what’s the point? I read my Bible, I attend prayer meetings, I give to the church, but God didn’t show up when it counted. That’s Mary.
But Martha, comes close to Jesus. Look at her response.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
She knows the reason why her brother is dead. Jesus did not come. But she also knows that Jesus is now there and that he is powerful. Jesus is able to heal. Martha has faith, and Jesus affirms her faith in verse 23... “Your brother will rise again.”
Her response is interesting: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Martha is expressing a Jewish belief. The common understanding there will be a resurrection on the last day.
If you had any faith in Martha having faith, her response ruins it. Martha doesn’t get what Jesus just said. He is relying on her understanding of God instead of depending on her faith of God. There’s a difference. This is why Jesus says in verse 25, "I AM," not that I will be, but I am.
What Jesus understands when you reach the point where God’s work doesn’t make sense in your life. When God hasn’t done what you though he should have done. What God could have done. God didn’t answer your prayers the way you wanted them to. When God didn’t move in a timely matter. When God’s works doesn’t make sense. Here is what Jesus understands, It is all about what you believe. Jesus asks of us “Do you believe this.”
The word believe shows up 9 times in this chapter for a reason. In fact, the very reason that Jesus waited to move was told to the Disciples in verse 14 and 15:
"So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe…' ”
What Jesus is wanting to get through to us, is that in moments when God doesn’t make sense, what pulls you through is not what you understand, it what you believe. here is a subtle difference. To see the difference look at at what Mary said in verse 32…
"When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'”
LORD! WHERE WERE YOU? IF YOU ONLY ANSWERED ME AND CAME WHEN I CALLED YOU, MY BROTHER WOULDN’T BE DEAD! THE BLOOD ID ON YOUR HANDS JESUS!
Crazy how we blame God for everything bad that happens.
If we compare the two sisters response, it become apparent was understanding is and what belief is.
"If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Both Martha’s and Mary’s responses acknowledge what happen. If Jesus was here, there wouldn’t be death.
Martha however, doesn’t stop there… BUT, I know even now God is able and willing.
See, Belief says, “This would have not happened with you, so I need you with me now.”
Unbelief says, “This happened because you weren’t here.”
Belief says “With Jesus there is no death.” — Focus on Jesus - What Jesus is.
Unbelief says “Without you I died.” — Focus on past - What Jesus didn’t do
Lazarus is dead, but Jesus says I am going to raise him up. Somebody here this morning is dead, but God is going to raise you up. Then Jesus stands in the face of death. And says, I am the resurrection and the life. Not I will be, not that I shall be, not that I hope to be, I am right now the resurrection. I am the life. Even in the mist of your bad news, your sin-sickness, your death, I am still the resurrection and the life.
We have to understand that God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken.
See, God is too good to change his character, he is too loving to be mistaken and although you have reached a place in life that does not match your understanding of God, don’t think that just because your finances, your emotions, your health, your circumstances, that God’s goodness ceases to exist. He will stand right in the face of your death, and say I AM THE THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE! In spite of what the doctors say. No matter what the lawyer says, In spite of what the people say, I AM LIFE! And he says, you don’t have to wait to get out to see that I am, you can see that I am when it looks I will be. This is why King David wrote..
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord…” (Psalm 27:13-14, NASB)
Jesus says to you and I, “Do you believe I am good?” Say it you neighbor.
Dominate Thought: When we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.
Remember the story about daughter and her father. The father didn’t come home for Christmas, although he could of and should of. The daughter was disappointed. Little did she know the mystery of her father. He was delayed to days, as he went to a near by state to buy her a pony as a gift so they could going riding together. When he came home walking down the driveway with a pony, his daughter was anxiously waiting with tears not of sadness but of joy. Later when the father asked how his daughter handled his delay, she replied, “I knew you weren’t here, but I knew my daddy more. I believed in you.”
Despite your waiting, do you believe in God’s goodness? If we try to understand God, we will misunderstand Him. When we cannot trace his hands, God doesn’t make sense. So when God doesn’t make sense, we must trust His heart. We must believe that we will see the goodness, despite the badness of our situation. Because when we do, we will see the land of the living, Lazarus did. See how he did in verse 38…
"Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said.
'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'
Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?'
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him."
When Jesus saw the tomb of Lazarus, he commanded the stone to be removed. Tells Lazarus to come to him and strip off of himself death.
When Jesus sees our gravely situation, he moves the stone away. He takes away the thing that we are burdened with. He takes away the thing that opposes us. He takes away the thing that he can’t see through. He takes away that we can not move. He takes away. And he calls us towards himself. So may walk alive!
“This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”
(Ephesians 5:14, NIV)
Will you let Jesus shine on you today? Today, Will you believe that you will see the goodness of God?
Dominate Thought: When we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.