"Are There Not
A study in John 11:9
As the life of Jesus was drawing to its close the increasingly ferocious hostility of the Jewish authorities caused Him to withdraw Himself from Jerusalem and its environment on several occasions.
This seems to have been necessary because His utterances became more challengingly emphatic, and His works more startlingly miraculous. By reason of this greater emphasis, Jesus drew the attention of the common people more definitely to Himself, but at the same time it fed the flames of anger and malice which for some time had smouldered in the hearts of the rulers.
One of His startling miracles at this time was the bestowment of sight upon the "man born blind." To supplement this gracious act Jesus uttered the parable of the shepherd and his sheep. For daring to defend the character of his benefactor the once blind man was "put out of the synagogue" by the infuriated rulers. They thus cut him off, as they thought, from the hopes of Israel. To show the people the true character of the Pharisees and rulers, Jesus told them, illustratively, of an occurrence which had happened many times in their midst. False hireling shepherds "whose own the sheep are not," had failed to preserve and keep the flock from danger, while a true owner‑shepherd would risk his own life rather than that of his flock. Both the people and the Pharisees saw at once the point of Jesus' story.
The Pharisees had cast out of the fold one of the sheep of Israel. They cared not what became of him. Jesus, by kindly act and forceful word, had found the wandering sheep, and gave him sight deeper than fleshly sight. The Pharisees cared more for Sabbath‑day formalism than for the poor man's eyes. Jesus thought more of the stricken man's sufferings than of their Sabbath‑day restrictions. It called not for deep insight, therefore, to understand which was hireling and which was shepherd. This was a daring challenge to make against the self‑perpetuating rulers in Israel, and so incensed them that they "took up stones again to stone him" (John 10:31).
But inasmuch as His time was not yet come, the hostile Jews could not take and destroy Jesus, however much they desired so to do. "He escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan" to Bethabara—the place where John the Baptist began his ministry. There, for some time, He abode. (John 10:39‑40).
While dwelling there, a messenger arrived with the tidings that Lazarus (whom Jesus dearly loved) was sick, and that his grief‑stricken sisters would greatly appreciate the presence of their beloved Master and Friend. Instead of proceeding immediately to the succour and comfort of the sorrowing household, Jesus remained, for reasons best known to Himself, in Bethabara for two whole days. During this period Lazarus died. Towards the end of the second day Jesus came to know, by some means, that Lazarus was dead; but strange to say, not until He knew this did Jesus take steps to go to Bethany. When, however, the knowledge had come, Jesus proposed to His disciples that they should accompany Him to the home of the bereaved friends. "Let us go into Judea again" said the Master "Oh Master" the disciples replied "it is only recently that the Jews sought to stone thee. Wilt thou go to Jerusalem again so soon? Wilt thou openly put Thy life and person in danger by such a step?"* Instantly Jesus made the reply "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day he stumbleth not…" How strange an answer to make to their solicitous reply. What did Jesus mean by these words?
To realize their meaning, let the words first be considered carefully in relation to Jesus' experiences before, during, and after this incident, and it will be seen that this strange answer has an application to the Master Himself. A slight change of wording may bring out its intended meaning, and show how fearless Jesus was, when the Will of God called Him to service. "Are there not twelve hours in MY day? If I walk and work in the day I cannot stumble and fall. Can the Jews deprive me of so little as a single moment from that full day? If my Father bids me go again to Jerusalem to perform another challenging work among that hostile people, can any man interfere with Me till my work is done?"*
Jesus knew He had a "day" during which He must work the works of His Father, and in that "day" He could not be thwarted; but He also knew that a night would come when He could no longer work and in which He would fall to His enemies wrath (John 9:4). But till that "day" was fully run, until His work was completely done no power on earth could interfere to put His life in danger. Until His "twelve" full hours were spent His life was sacrosanct, and could not be extinguished. Adopting an unknown writer's forceful phrase, Jesus was "immortal till His work was done." That was the secret ground of Jesus' confidence. He had "work" to do, and no malice of men nor hate of demons could interfere with His safety while engaged on His Father's business.
What lessons can we draw from this scrap of Jesus' history and from this cryptic statement from His lips?
In these troubled days amid the perils of our modern world, it is well for each child of God to ponder these singular, but confident words of our beloved Lord, for as Jesus "was" in His eventful day so is each consecrated believer in our day. Every follower who is "in Christ" may claim and enjoy the same privileges before God which our dear Lord possessed. Every promise and assurance which God gave to Jesus (compare Isa.49:8 with 2 Cor.6:2) may be claimed by Jesus' associates as his or her very own. Each child of God has his or her own "day" for his or her own "work"—a full complete "twelve hours" with which no foe can interfere. In face of peril or danger, be the source thereof what it may, each consecrated follower of the worthy Lamb may say "Are there not twelve hours to my day?" "Is it not God alone who determines what my work shall be and when the span of life shall end?"
It will greatly contribute to the peace of heart for every one who loves the Lord to realise that his "times" are in the Lord's hands, and in His hands alone, and that no man nor confederation, of men, even with the world's deadliest forces at their command, can shorten or interfere with their little "day." This is a part of God's "Care" which He reserves to His very own control. "He careth for you" is no empty phrase. God has set "twelve hours" to every believer's "day" according as his "work" shall be, and no one who is "against us" can alter its length, though they marshal all the forces and furies of creation to their aid. The Lord God orders all the steps of a good man, from the beginning of his pilgrimage to its end, and there are no steps in a responsive son's life which a loving Father allows other hands to order, so that when each child's "day" comes to its close, it is God's hand alone which rings the knell of closing day.
But due recognition of this tremendous truth should not dispose any child of God to rash or careless procedure at any time, least of all in these uncertain days. Although Jesus knew there were "twelve hours" to His day, He did not presume upon His Father's providential care. He withdrew from the place of danger and went into a safer place. He did not unduly hazard His life nor fly into the face of danger. He performed one great work which raised a storm of passion and hatred—then quietly withdrew to allow the storm to subside. But when another challenging "sign" was due to be given He hesitated not to go back to the danger zone, knowing that the doing of His Father's "Work" would ensure to Him His Almighty Father's protection and care.
Our lesson is; God keeps and protect those who have God's work to do. That is a truth we must keep in mind today, when death may meet us at any street‑comer. God has never guaranteed His saints unconditionally against calamities and violence, even in ordinary times. Those who lived the life of faith, even back to pre‑Christian days, were always subject to the risks of human passion and bigotry, and many, of whom neither the Jewish Age nor the Gospel Age (Christian era) have been worthy, closed their eyes for the last time amid scenes of violence and bloodshed; but not before their allotted work was done. God kept them all until their little "day" was done. There were "twelve hours to every little day," and so it is today. God will keep His workmen here, and hedge them round with providential care until their work for Him is done. No opposing foe can interfere with God's work, and if the doing of God's work requires the presence of God's workman there, then Omnipotence can challenge every foe and control the fierce fury of both mob and fire.
But when God's work for any Age or occasion is accomplished and there is nothing more of the allotted task still to do, God's workman will go Home. When Jesus' work was done, God took the hedge away, and left Him to the dark forces of hate and sin. When His "Day" of work was ended, the night closed round Him, and what could not befall Him in the "day" befell Him when its "twelve hours" were run. But Gethsemane was the prelude to Easter morn and Olivet, and God's "right hand." The "day's" work done, the Messianic workman went Home to enjoy His Father's smile.
If, today, God's allotted work for His Church is done, then the time has come for His workmen to go Home. God is under no promise or obligation to keep them here when the "twelve hours" are run. From the moment of full surrender their only reason for remaining here is to do God's work, in God's own way. That work accomplished, no reason then exists for God to keep them here. His great consideration is the outworking of His Plan, and as each stage arrives at its conclusion the workmen are removed and another stage, with other men, then occupies the scene. If then, the Church's work is done, the time has come for the Church to go "Home," but if it is not yet done, then it is God's responsibility to keep His workmen here. And though the whole world becomes a howling mob, hurling destruction from the skies like torrential rain, the Hand of God can shield His child and keep him safe until the clock of Providence chimes the hour.
Let every child of God take courage then, and know within his heart of hearts that till his (or her) clock strikes "twelve," no weapon that is formed against him can reach its mark—he (or she) "immortal till their work is done."