“Have a seat. We’ll call for you shortly,” they say. Open a magazine or two. Ruffle through the newspaper. Scroll through Facebook. And watch some news on a tiny television. Welcome to the waiting room.
It can’t get much worse than this, folks. The waiting room sits among the most dreaded places on the planet. Next to the Walmart checkout line.
But how often do we find ourselves here? Not the typical waiting room decked with cushions and chairs. Rather than waiting on a doctor, we’re waiting for an answer. A cure. A job. A spouse. A friend. I think you get the point. None of us are exempt from the waiting rooms of life.
For the next two weeks, I’m drawing from the text of John 11:1-44. It’s the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Together, we’re studying the Bible (perhaps one placed by the Gideons) in the waiting room.
Lazarus has two sisters. One of them is Martha, and the other is Mary. We read about them in Luke 10. It’s an interesting story of two different personalities. Let’s take a look.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted by much serving….” (Luke 10:38-40 ESV).
I hope you see the major difference between these two sisters. One of them is easygoing. The other is frantic. One of them wants everything to be perfect. The other recognizes what matters most in the moment. But here’s what I really want you to get: Mary sits. She takes a seat at the feet of Jesus. Keep that in mind. Now, let’s turn to our main passage.
John 11 is a waiting room of sorts. “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (v. 1-6 ESV).
It seems crazy, doesn’t it? I mean, if Jesus really loves them, why doesn’t He heal Lazarus right then and there? (I’m writing about that next week). Instead, He keeps Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in a waiting room for at least four days.
After all, the Bible says, “Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days” (v. 17 ESV).
How do Martha and Mary handle the waiting? How do they react when Jesus finally shows up? Verse 20 gives the answer: “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house” (ESV).
Remember, Mary also takes a seat when Jesus visits her home in Luke 10. But Martha gets moving rather quickly both times. The personalities of Mary and Martha are vividly seen between the texts of Luke 10 and John 11.
It’s a minor detail, but it makes a major difference. So, what’s the significance of Mary’s sitting?
Patience is knowing that God has everything under control even when we can’t understand. It’s leaving the matter in the hands of Jesus. And through our every tear and pain, it’s sitting still and waiting on the Lord to work.
As the psalmist writes, “‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’” (Ps. 46:10 ESV).
Sometimes, we just need to have a seat in the waiting room. To just be still and know. Even in the difficult seasons of our lives, God is good. Like Mary, we can have a peace deep down in our souls. Why? Because we know the One who works in our waiting.