This is part two of a six-part conversation about how God gives us enough time to finish our lives well, but just enough time. If you’d like to begin at the beginning… or if youwould rather, you can see the entire essay at barneywiget.com.]
Sometimes we go into overtime
There’s another piece of this story – the main storyline itself, actually – that presents yet another possibility about me (and you) having enough time to do God’s will. His friend Lazarus was sick, and instead of hopping on the most fleet-footed camel to Bethany, Jesus intentionally waited two more days to go to visit him. Some versions even say, “He heard that Lazarus was sick, therefore he waited two more days.” Though it wasn’t immediately apparent to those around him, he had a method to what seemed more like madness. He knew that the Father had things in hand and that he still had time to do what he was supposed to do.
By the time he got there Lazarus had been in full rigor for at least four days. His sisters were well into their grieving when Jesus finally showed up. They expressed their disappointment that he was late, too late. “If you’d been here earlier my brother wouldn’t have died,” they moaned in succession. But Jesus wasn’t late. There was a perfect time for him to arrive in Bethany and call his friend out of his tomb, and that time hadn’t yet passed. There may be a “bad odor,” but there’s still time, and for God’s glory he delayed until that perfect time. You couldn’t have convinced his sisters of it, but for Lazarus, the sun hadn’t actually set. The coroner had long since pronounced him doornail dead, but on God’s clock there was still time to spare.
As much as the Lazarus-raising was a mercy miracle, it was also an overtime miracle. The official clock had run completely down for Lazarus. Regulation time had run out, but since God had other plans for how this game was supposed to conclude, he sent it into overtime! Of course, this was an opportunity for Jesus to show his authority over death, but my guess it also had something to do with Lazarus needing more time to finish his own work. He still had things to do on earth before setting up permanent residence in heaven.
We only have record of Jesus raising three dead people, all of which, eventually died again at some later date. As such, these were more like “resuscitations” than resurrections. But in addition to the Son of God showing the world that he has authority over death, he gave these three an overtime to finish their purpose here on earth. I don’t know what Lazarus had yet to do, but Jesus gave him more time to do it! One wonders how often God postpones or overturns our dying in order to give us the time we need to finish our assignments. Probably more often than we suspect.
For Lazarus the clock had run down to zero and the buzzer had sounded. It seemed like all hope was way out the window – the game was over. The fans of Death and Darkness were cheering and pouring out of the stands and onto the field. The Referee interrupted the celebration and put the game into overtime. What seemed final was only temporary, miraculously the clock had time on it again, during which the Team of Life and Light scored the winning touchdown! “Lazarus come out!” The fans of the winning team flooded onto the field in victory.
That’s how God gets his wins sometimes – in overtime! His miracles extend the usual. When the time is right he sets up overtime victories. He doesn’t always do it this way, but picks his spots for such dramatics. Maybe it’s because his overtime wins are more memorable. He shows up late (so called) and by the time he’s finished doing whatever it is that he does, late seems right on time.
One time he even made time stand still. The earth stopped revolving while he kept the sun in noon-position long enough for his army to win their battle (Joshua 10). But his most famous overtime win was, well you know what it was… Hope was dead, all was lost, hell had won – but wait! “Wasn’t that the stone they put in front of the cave three days ago?”
Sometimes he takes his time and then some. He waits longer than we’d hoped, lets our life situation degenerate to desperation, until he transforms it for his glory and for our good. He lets the clock run all the way out, but then takes the game into overtime – another outrageous win for the God Team!