Christ followers want to do exactly what God wants them to do, exactly when God wants them to do it. They want to be in sync with God’s timetable.
Jesus set the perfect example for us to follow. The most important reason Jesus came earth was to give his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross. From a human level, he could have done that at any point during his life. But he had much work to do before that – teaching, healing, training disciples, more – so he resisted the temptation to go to the cross before the time was right.
One of the most amazing miracles he performed (a foreshadowing of his resurrection) was raising Lazarus from the dead. That miracle was a sign indicating that he is the Resurrection and the Life. Lazarus’s sister Mary was one of the eyewitnesses to the miraculous sign. After that miracle, many people trusted in him as their Savior and Lord, but many others rejected him and sought to get rid of him. John 11:45-57 describes it this way:
45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what He did believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do since this man does many signs? 48 If we let Him continue in this way, everyone will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.” 49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill Him. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And He stayed there with the disciples.
55 The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple complex: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will He? ” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it so they could arrest Him.
Notice verse 54. The Bible says that at a certain point Jesus decided to take his disciples to the countryside, to a town called Ephraim, to stay there rather than to be in Jerusalem. Verse 53 tells us why: there were people in Jerusalem who were plotting to kill him. And although Jesus knew that he was headed to the cross soon, it wasn’t quite time yet.
Here are five things we learn from Jesus’ example:
1. Jesus had vision. He was crystal clear on the Lord’s will. To be on God’s timetable, you must seek the Lord through prayer and Bible study, to know exactly what it is the Lord wants you to do.
2. Jesus had wisdom. He was aware of contemporary events. Jesus knew that going to Jerusalem at that particular time meant certain death, which would have taken him off of God’s timetable. It wasn’t time for him to die yet. He had more work to do. He was aware of the hostility that certain leaders had toward him. We make ourselves aware of contemporary events and how they relate to God’s timetable by listening, reading, observing, praying and thinking deeply.
3. Jesus was fearless. He was unafraid in the face of opposition. Jesus didn’t go to the town of Ephraim because he was afraid. He went away to wait on the Lord’s timing. When the time was right, he went right into Jerusalem during the days of the Passover festival, riding on a donkey while the people lined the street with palm branches shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” That entrance into Jerusalem was one example of Jesus fearlessly declaring that was the Messiah, the king who came to save us.
4. Jesus was patient. He waited patiently without wasting a minute. While he was in Ephraim, he continued to teach his disciples. He continually poured into them so they would be ready to lead after he left the earth. While Jesus was waiting on the perfect time for him to head back into Jerusalem, he was teaching his disciples a few more things. When we are patiently waiting on God’s perfect timing for whatever it is the Lord wants us to do, we should continue to walk with the Lord, continue to serve where we are serving, continue to disciple others, and be ready for the timing to be right for our next step of faith & obedience.
5. Jesus was ready. He was ready to act when the timing was right. Jesus was sitting “on ready.” We must be too. When God reveals our next step, we must be ready to respond with faith & obedience. Our next step may be a big step or a small step, but when God reveals what our next step should be we must be ready to take that step. (For more on this, I highly recommend the Bible study Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King.)