John 11:21 (NKJV) – “Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:32 (NKJV) – “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
The raising of Lazarus or the resurrection of Lazarus, recounted only in the Gospel of John (John 11:1–44), is a miracle of Jesus in which Jesus brings Lazarus of Bethany back to life four days after his burial. In John, this is the last of the miracles that Jesus performs before the Passion and his own resurrection. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2018, ¶ 1)
No doubt in the account of Lazarus’ illness, his death, and resurrection reported by John, Martha, Mary, and probably others wondered why Jesus delayed in visiting Lazarus and thought that Jesus was too late to heal Lazarus. That was not the case.
Is God ever Tardy?
In our mere mortal minds we often think God is late in answering our prayers but not from God’s perspective. He has reasons for asking us to wait.
When we pray, God can answer in one of three ways: “yes”, “no”, or “wait”. Given our fast-paced, want-it-now mentality of today’s world, I think waiting is the most difficult of the three answers for most people to accept. Waiting requires patience, and patience is not everyone’s virtue.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV):
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
What are reasons God might ask us to wait?
- To teach us patience which builds character (Romans 5:4).
- We’re not ready or spiritually mature enough to handle a situation. I remember when I was praying for God to send me “Mr. Right”. Really, I must have been a real nag about the situation. After all, all my friends were getting married. I wanted to get married too. However, God knew I wasn’t ready and neither was “Mr. Right” ready for me. Later in God’s perfect timing, when He knew both Milton and I were ready, He brought us together. God knew what He was doing making me wait.
- To protect us – remember the stories of individuals who worked at the Twins Towers who through God’s providence survived the 9/11 disaster due to delays that kept them from going to work that day. In my own life, I recall being upset about being late for an event only to learn later that had I left on time, I might have been involved in a major accident that took place at the normal time I would have been on the road. No doubt, many others have similar stories of God’s providence protecting them.
- For His own Glory, as was the case in the Book of John where Jesus delayed in visiting Lazarus.
No doubt, there are a number of other reasons why God might answer “wait” to our having a prayer answered. As frustrating as I can get at times waiting on God’s answer, I firmly believe, as The McKamey’s sing, God is always “Right on Time“.
Is Tardiness a Sin?
Now that it’s been established that God is NEVER tardy, but always right on time, is being late a sin for mankind? My answer to that question would be, “that depends”. Got Questions Ministries (2018) reported,
There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shall not be late, ever,” so it’s not as simple as one Scripture reference to determine God’s view on tardiness. Everyone has been late to something at some point, often due to unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances. But, if someone is habitually late and unconcerned about being on time, especially if that person professes to be a Christian, then scriptural principles do apply. As with all things, God looks at the heart, “for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). (¶ 1)
Just as with any other action taken, man’s motives in being late must be considered in determining the morality of tardiness. In making that determination, I believe the following questions should be asked:
- What’s the person’s intent in being late?
- Could being late have been prevented?
- Is the tardiness habitual?
- Is the tardiness hurting others?
How can being late negatively affect one’s self and others? Regarding self, being late can hurt one’s reputation and influence. Those “in wait” for the “tardy” person can be hurt in a number of ways. Examples might include having time wasted unnecessarily, experiencing unnecessary stress or frustration, and feeling disrespected.
What are Scriptures that would indirectly imply that being late can be a sin?
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) – 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Luke 17:1 (NKJV) – Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!
Matthew 22:39 (NKJV) – And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Got Questions Ministries (2018). What does the Bible say about being late or lateness? Retrieved January 23, 2018 from https://www.gotquestions.org/late-lateness.html
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2018). Raising of Lazarus. Retrieved January 23, 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_of_Lazarus