It’s too late

Published in the April 2010 issue of Faithlink, the magazine of Faith Methodist Church
And it's too late baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died and I can't hide
And I just can't fake it.
“It’s Too Late” is a Grammy Award-winning song sung by Carole King. The lyrics speak of the death of love in a relationship and that it’s too late to salvage the relationship. Are you (or your loved one) facing a similar “too late” situation - gone too far down the road to make a U-turn?

In John 11, we are confronted with a “too late” situation. Jesus was in Perea, beyond the River Jordan (John 10:40) when news reached Him that Lazarus was gravely ill (John 11:3). Lazarus was then with his sisters, Mary and Martha at Bethany on the other side of the river, approximately 32 km away.

It would seem that Lazarus died around the time the messenger left to find Jesus because (1) Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany; (2) the journey probably took another two days – one day for the messenger and another day for Jesus; and (3) when Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been entombed for four days (John 11:39).

It was too late. Both Martha and Mary said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died …” (John 11:21, 32). When Jesus ordered the stone covering Lazarus’ cave-tomb to be rolled away, Martha protested "by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days." According to Martha, it was too late; Lazarus’ body had begun to decay.

Humanly speaking, it was indeed too late. For mortals, nothing else could be more final than death! It’s the end. Is it?

Maybe, it’s NOT too late

With a loud voice, Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus emerged, probably stumbling, as he was bound in burial wrappings (John 11:43-44). With Jesus, nothing is too late or too hard. Jeremiah 32:17 declares,
"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
What is that “too late” situation you are facing? Have you lost your feelings of love for your spouse? Are you unable to secure a job at your age? Are you too deep in debt? Do you have wayward son or daughter who had got into trouble with the law? Is it too late for you to have a baby? Do you have an unsaved loved one who is critically ill? Are you feeling lonely and unloved at your age? Whatever your situation, bring it to the LORD in prayer; ask Him for what it is that you really want? James 4:2 states, “… You do not have, because you do not ask God.” So ask God, tell Him your desire.

When I am going through rough times, I hang on to what I know (to be true) and trust God for what I don’t.
Alan S.L. Wong
God is silent

You have been praying, crying your heart out, asking God for help in your situation but you have been put on hold … waiting for an answer. In John 11, Mary and Martha sent out a frantic call for help, their message got through to Jesus but instead of going immediately to Bethany, Jesus deliberately remained in Perea for two days. Mary and Martha were put on hold.

Now Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 11:5), so why did Jesus wait two days before leaving for Bethany (John 11:6)? There were two reasons. Firstly, that God may be glorified (John 11:4). It was God’s will that Lazarus died so that Jesus could raise him. Secondly, that people might believe that God sent Jesus (John 11:42, 45).

Why did God put you on hold? Not because He does not love you for Romans 8:32 declares “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Not because He cannot grant your request for Jesus whom we worship today is the same God who raised Lazarus from the dead, the same God who parted the Red Sea. So why did God keep you waiting for an answer? I don’t know but until God gives you an answer, keep on asking and believing. Jesus said, “… all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11:24).

Note that the witnesses to the raising of Lazarus were actively involved in the outworking of the miracle. They rolled the stone away from the tomb and removed the burial wrappings around Lazarus’ body. Ask God for wisdom as to your part in the resolution of your situation.

EVEN IF it’s too late

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed at home (John 11:20). Why didn’t Mary go to meet Jesus? She was probably numbed with anguish over the loss of her brother. When she finally met Jesus, she fell at His feet and her first words were, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) and she wailed. Jesus was deeply troubled when He saw her and the Jews weeping and He wept (John 11:33-35).

After Lazarus was brought back to life, there is no further mention of him in the Bible. In all likelihood, Lazarus died again some time later (as would all men) and Mary would have wept once more over the (second) death of her brother. If Mary had prayed that her brother be brought back to life again, God might not have answered her prayers.

I don’t know the situation you are facing; it may indeed be too late. You may feel disappointed with God. You had asked Him to intervene but He seemingly did not and you are left with shattered hopes and the nagging thought, “If only God had …”

When I am going through rough times, I hang on to what I know (to be true) and trust God for what I don’t. I know that God loves me and He is in control of the affairs of my life. I acknowledge that His wisdom is above my wisdom and His ways higher and inscrutable (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I do not know why God did not answer your prayer but I believe Jesus is deeply touched and moved by your grief. When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, He shared in our humanity and is acquainted with grief. Right now, He is at the right hand of God, interceding as our sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). Our God is a compassionate God (Psalm 145:8).

Your Response

I have talked about the lessons that Christians can draw from the raising of Lazarus but perhaps you have yet to believe in Jesus; what would your response be?

The raising of Lazarus received radically different responses. Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in Him (John 11:45). But the chief priests and Pharisees chose to disbelieve and sought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus (John 11:53; 12:10). What will you do with Jesus?

Death is the consequence of sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Death is a step into eternity … eternal bliss in the presence of God, or eternal agony, removed from the presence of God.

In John 11:25-26, Jesus asked Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” How about you … do you believe that Jesus can give you eternal life? The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus. It’s not too late to believe. If you like to receive this gift of eternal life, pray believing:

“Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Help me live a life that is pleasing to You. Amen”

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Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © January 2010 by Alan S.L. Wong