Working together with God

And Jesus, looking up to heaven, said, Father, I give praise to you for hearing me. John 11:41

I have to admit that this verse always bothered me. Where was I coming from? Jesus said that he was only doing what he saw the father do. Now, why then would it be important that the father heard him? And why – as Jesus goes on to say – was it important for the people to hear that?

Jesus was God. And he was all man, tried in everything we are tried in. Otherwise he would not understand our struggles – at least not all of them.

Frankly, since I am a Christian, one of my biggest struggles is waiting for the right timing of what I know will have to be done or happen. Waiting for that word to be released, waiting for that fact to change. Waiting for God to come through.

Could it be that Jesus was going through the same thing?

Let us recall the story: Jesus had a favorite place on earth – Bethany. Here he was always welcome. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were good friends. They had an open home for him. Here Jesus went after he triumphantly entered Jerusalem, and then cleansed the temple. Here he was anointed. Here he departed from this world – 2 miles east of Jerusalem, on the slope of Mount Olives.

And here he resurrected Lazarus from the dead.

After Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he waited for a few days, and when he came to Bethany, Lazarus had died and been put in his grave four days ago. We learn that Jesus mourned. He was sad about the death of his friend – and went on to do something about it.

Now, why did Jesus wait? He tells us: so the father would be glorified.

I can feel the inner struggle of Jesus. When he heard that his friend was sick, he wanted to immediately go to Bethany, but his father told him to wait.

This part is my imagination playing wild: Maybe the father did not tell him, why he had to wait. Jesus’ faith was tested – he just knew two things: the father knows what he is doing, and there is no sense in doing my own thing here. That is called faith.

A few days later – and a few nagging question from the disciples later – God told him to go to Bethany. Maybe he told him then, maybe even later during the conversation with Martha, or even only when he started to move in faith, telling them to roll the stone away. I do not know. Or maybe something totally different took place.

Maybe Jesus asked the father to give him permission to raise Lazarus from the dead. And suddenly, the verse makes perfect sense: Thank you that you heard my request, my desire.

The implications? They are absolutely stunning.

First, Jesus had desires of his own, apart from what he saw God do – but did not follow through with them unless it was the fathers will. Now, him being in perfect union with the father, he was always heard, but just had to wait for the right timing. It was the father putting the desires in his hearts and giving him the fulfillment as well. God gave him the desires of his heart – just as it says in Psalms. But that means that we work together with God. It is not a one way street. He listens to our desires, and grants them. And the more we are one with him, the more our desires are of his nature, the more freedom he has to grant them.

Secondly, Jesus went through waiting periods. His faith was tested as much as ours. He understands my struggle.

Thirdly, there must have been a reason for the wait.

On one layer, it is very comforting for me as an individual to learn, that things long dead can be resurrected back to life. This might be dreams I let go, sin ridden areas in my life, relationships, even my relationship with God himself.

On another layer, the same is true for churches. Things, relationships, whole churches can be brought back to life, even though they are dead and stink. Breakthrough into fresh truth of God is possible for the deadest religious group that comes to your mind right now. They are just in need of two people: some to role the stone away, and some to proclaim life in faith.

On yet another layer, there is hope for humanity. Jesus had to wait until Lazarus had been dead for four days. Why? At that time, it had been 4000 years since the fall – one day is like a thousand years. Even after Adam hid from God for 4000 years, man was to be resurrected and put right with God again. Jesus himself, by the way, came back of his grave in the third day.

God wanted to do something similar with Moses. Moses had to smite the rock the first time, but talk to it the second time to release water. What God wanted to show: Jesus first had to die for the water of life being released to this creation, but now we just talk with him. Ask, and it will be given to you. Moses failed, and God told us so we can still see the deeper meaning.

So there are three great things I take away from this little verse, hidden in a great story:

  1. God wants to work together with us, and I surely have a part to play apart from obedience. I can be creative and have desires of my own. And the more they are of Godly nature, the more I think like him, the more God will look for their realization – in the right timing.
  2. Jesus really understands my struggles. Not only the ones of my sinful nature, but also the special challenges that faith brings into our lives.
  3. 4000 years Adam was dead, before man was brought back to life. On the third day, before morning broke, Jesus returned.

So much hope.

Now, for a moment, imagine Jesus had not prayed this prayer. We would have never known.

Tell me your thoughts.

About Ralph Rickenbach

Accompanyist | Writer | Son of God — ideation | learner | deliberative | intellection | futuristic