Sometimes Jesus Is Not Likeable

Every one of us faces hardships, trials, suffering, affliction. And for Christians who believe that Jesus is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good, the worst part is often this confusion. Whether it’s illness (cancer, stroke, unexplained sickness, chronic pain); whether it’s the death of someone we love (parent, child, sibling, friend); whether it’s persecution, opposition, or enmity; whether it’s anxiety, doubt, depression — here’s what we know:

Jesus is able to fix this. He’s omnipotent. We know he could fix anything, if he so chose.

In his compassion, Jesus has fixed these sorts of things for others. He did heal the blind man. He did heal the official’s son. That’s what Mary and Martha want. And that’s what we want too.

Jesus loves me.

And yet, sometimes, the illness is still here, the death still happened, the persecution has intensified, and the darkness has not lifted.

We’re constantly saying, “Couldn’t you have prevented this, Jesus?” Like the sisters, we repeat over and over, “If only you had been here . . .”

The Love of Jesus Waits
The first word is “so” (John 11:6). It’s the most shocking word in the whole story. Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. So, when he heard about the illness, he stayed two days longer. He loved them; therefore he stayed. The love of Jesus kept him from going to heal Lazarus and sparing them the longest week of their lives.

Some Bible translators can’t handle that word. They say, “Jesus loved them, and yet, when he heard, he stayed two days longer.” In other words, despite the fact that he loved them, he waited. But that’s not what John wrote. John said, He loved them; therefore he waited. He loved them; therefore he let Lazarus die. He let Mary and Martha sit in their grief, their tears, their confusion, their questions. If Jesus would have been here. . . . Why wasn’t he here? Why didn’t he come right away?

Because he loves you, Martha. Because he loves you, Mary. Because he loves you, Lazarus. The word “so” teaches us that the love of Jesus waits.

The Love of Jesus Weeps
Second, two more words: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). This too is love. The crowds recognize it immediately. When Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, they say, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). And in this, we see the amazingly complex and righteous emotional life of our Lord.

This is so important to remember. Yes, the love of Jesus waits. It even rejoices in waiting. But that doesn’t mean he does not meet us in our weeping. When we come to him with our confusion and our questions — Where were you? Why didn’t you do something? — he doesn’t rebuke us. He says, “I know. Grief is great. I’m with you and for you. Bring your confusion. Yes, I waited. And I’m still with you, because I love you.”

Sometimes, Jesus is not likable because we would have Him different. Yet, He loves us still.

J. Rigney

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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