Watch Here

Listen Here

5 Lent Year A                                                                                    3/26/2023

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

Rev. Mark A. Lafler



Our readings from the Gospels these last few Sundays have been a tour through the Gospel of John…

Famous narrative after narrative about the life of our Lord.

Today is of course no different.

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is well known.

And to think it only comes to us in the Gospel of John.

The other three Gospels…

Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not have this story of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Which is quite amazing…

A story of this magnitude…

You would think would be in all four Gospels.

There are all kinds of scholarly reasons and theories…

But now is not the time to go into all of that.


Nevertheless, it is our reading for today…

And a good one to think and meditate on before next Sunday…

Being Palm Sunday and then we walk into Holy Week.


Have you ever been in a place where people don’t seem to be in a hurry?

Perhaps, when you need to drive somewhere quickly, and the person driving in front of you seems to be on a wonderful lazy drive as they coast 10 miles under the speed limit.

As frustrating as this is…

they apparently, are not on your time.


I remember when Tera and I travelled to France in the early 2000s…

Eating over there is an event…

No one is in a hurry…

So, you wait in your seat for the check…

Just relax…


Time is just different.


I recently read a story about a visitor to a small West African town…

Travelling with his American pastor who made sure to arrive on time for a 10 am Sunday service.

Inside the humble sanctuary, however, he found the room empty.

So he waited.

One hour.

Two hours.

Finally, about 12:30 pm, when the local pastor arrived after his long walk there…

followed by some choir members and a gathering of friendly town people…

the service began “in the fullness of time,” as the American pastor later said.

“The Spirit welcomed us, and God wasn’t late.”

The pastor understood the culture was different for its own good reasons.[1]


Time seems relative,

but God’s perfect, on-time nature is affirmed throughout the Scriptures.


St. Peter wrote in his second letter (2 Peter 3.8-9):

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,

and a thousand years are like a day.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,

as some understand slowness.

Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,

but everyone to come to repentance.

St. David wrote in his Psalm (31.15):

My times are in your hands


God’s timing was perfect when he rescued Isaac from the knife of Abraham.

God’s timing was perfect when he rescued the people of Israel as Moses led them out of Egypt.

God’s timing was perfect when Joshua marched around the wall of Jericho.

God’s timing was perfect when he had David anointed as the new king of Israel.

God’s timing was perfect with leading Esther to take courage before the king to save her people.

On and on… throughout the Old Testament…

And the New Testament…

God’s timing is perfect.


God’s timing was perfect when Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Even the timing of his death on the cross…

And his resurrection came at the perfect time.


And the timing of Jesus to arrive at the grave of his friend Lazarus was in just the right time.


Oh… Mary and Martha didn’t see it.

Others there didn’t think so.

Jesus was late.

And they wanted to tell him.


Thus, after Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus arrived four days later,

with Lazarus’ sisters asking why.

Lord,” Martha said to Jesus,

“if you had been here, my brother would not have died.


In other words, they were saying:

Jesus your timing was off.

You were late.


But Jesus walked in the perfection of God’s timing.


This part of our story about the timing of Jesus reminds me of director Peter Jackson’s movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings…

…the Wizard, Gandalf is accused of being late to a party by Frodo Baggins… the hobbit…

Your late! He said.

And the wizard replied:

A wizard is never late, nor is he early.

He arrives precisely when he means to.


It’s a great movie line…

However, Jesus is way more than a wizard…

He is the Son of God…

And walks in God’s perfect timing.


We may think the same,

wondering why God doesn’t hurry to fix our problems.

God if you would have done this… then I wouldn’t be in this disaster.

God if you would have shown up here… I wouldn’t be in this mess.

God if you would have come here… this would have turned out differently.


It all sounds a lot like… well… Mary and Martha.

…if you had been here, my brother would not have died.


We are actually called to wait.

It is better instead to wait by faith for His answers and power.


As theologian Howard Thurman wrote:

We wait, our Father,

until at last something of thy strength becomes our strength,

something of thy heart becomes our heart,

something of thy forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. 

We wait, O God, we wait.


Then, as with Lazarus, when God responds,

We are miraculously blessed by God and his timing…

Realizing after all, it wasn’t a delay.


You have probably heard, “Timing is everything!”

But it really should be “God’s timing is everything.”


We can work and operate on our timing…

Our own planning…

Our own purposes…

But God will work things toward his purpose…


And that might not line up with our own will…

and timing…

and planning.


As the prophet Isaiah wrote (55.8):

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.


We are called to trust…

Not to control.


We are called to believe…

Not to exert our own power.


And that gets to the main emphasis of our text today.




Jesus told Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again.



And then Jesus said to her:

“I am the 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.

Do you believe this?”


She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,

the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”


That is the same question that Jesus asks us today.

I am the 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.

Do you believe this?


Do you?


Despite all the troubles in this world…

Despite all the things that don’t happen in our timing…

Despite the fact that Jesus said this almost 2,000 years ago…

He promised to return…

And here we are.

Hasn’t it been too long?


And yet…

The question persists:

Do you believe this?


I pray that we answer as Martha did.

Yes, Lord, I believe…


So, in all the things that we have going on in life.

All the things we have going on in our nation and in the world.

May we say…

Yes, Lord, I believe…


We are called to live in the faithfulness of God…

Trusting in his perfect promises…

His perfect timing.


May we do just that…

trusting in Him.



[1] Patricia Raybon, Our Daily Bread (Tuesday, January 17, 2023)