January 27, 2010

In the Land of Not Yet

2010 1503 31 capARTOONIST MICHAEL LEUNIG TELLS HOW AS A BOY HE WATCHED HIS FATHER build an extension onto their henhouse. His father was hammering a nail when he accidentally hit his thumb a violent blow. His dad closed his eyes, and it was as if his breath froze in pain. After a moment he said: “Jesus wept.” Then . . . silence.
The words and silence caught the imagination of the younger Leunig. He began to wonder about this mysterious person, Jesus, and His tears.
“Jesus wept: what a powerful and mysterious effect these little words seemed to have on me,” Leunig wrote, “for in his primal utterance, I think my father may have provided or created in me a Jesus that was able to withstand all the other versions of Jesus to be offered or inflicted on me by Christians and anti-Christians in the years to come.”1
Jesus was being taken to Lazarus’s grave when He broke down in weeping (John 11).
“See how he loved him!” someone said (verse 36).
2010 1503 31“Could not he . . . have kept this man from dying?” some asked (verse 37). Martha, Lazarus’s sister, had said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 21).
Jesus wept. He felt their pain. “He weeps with those that weep,” Ellen White says when writing of this scene.2
I write this article a few days after a popular Avondale College student died in a road accident. Tyson was full of fun and life and energy—a positive influence on campus. He had a passion for Jesus and shared his faith. “Not,” he wrote on his MySpace page, “for credit points or frequent flyers to heaven. Nah, it’s just about the love and the passion we have for God.”
There’s pain in the loss of life. Jesus also weeps. He, too, feels the pain. But this same Jesus stood in front of Lazarus’s tomb and said, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43). Bound in grave clothes, Lazarus staggered forth from the grave. Four days dead and brought back to life! Now that’s a miracle.
But why only Lazarus? Why not the father who died the week before? Or the single mother who left her children orphaned the previous month? The same question fits other miracles, such as why some people were healed and not others.
Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand, and He showed this in what we could call “sample form.” There’s no sickness in God’s kingdom, so Jesus healed the sick—a sampling of them. There’s no blindness in God’s kingdom, so Jesus healed some of the blind. There’s no death in the kingdom of God, so Jesus raised a few people from the dead.
When John the Baptist’s disciples went to Jesus and asked whether He was the Messiah (Matt. 11), Jesus told them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (verses 4, 5).
The kingdom of God is having an impact, but it hasn’t completely taken over—not yet. These are just glimpses of the reality to come.
We live in the Land of Not Yet. It’s a land where we suffer and mourn; where we ask for the miracle that may never come; where we experience rejection. But Jesus is with us. We still see glimpses of the reality that is the kingdom of God; but in the Land of Not Yet we wait. We wait for the fullness of the kingdom to come. In the Land of Not Yet we wait for the time when Jesus—and His children—will weep no more. 
1Michael Leunig, “Away in a Chook Shed,” The Age, March 22, 2008.
2Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 533.
Bruce Manners is pastor of the Avondale College church in Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia. This article was published January 28, 2010.