Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.
John 11:9 NKJV
One of the pleasures I get out of studying the scriptures is thinking and trying to figure out just what God is trying to tell us in any particular passage. In many ways, God reminds me a little of my own father who rarely came out and said exactly what he was thinking, but rather made comments that made me have to think in order to know what it was he was trying to tell me. Many times I would walk away from a conversation with him wondering if I actually got an answer to my question or not. This passage from John is much the same because when I read it my first reaction was "huh"? At first glance I certainly did not understand what Jesus was trying to say, but as I thought about it more and more, this is what I came up with.
If we examine the context, we find this is the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus eventually raises from the dead. But as the story unfolds, we discover Jesus is not in the same vicinity as Bethany, and must travel to get there. Rather than leaving immediately to go when He gets the news, Jesus delays for two more days. Then, when He says He is going, the disciples question His decision to return to Judea where an attempt was made to stone Him. His reply was this verse, and then an explanation that Lazarus was dead and He had to go. So what does this all mean? I came up with two questions of my own, and came to realize they both had the same answer. Why delay, and why go? One, Jesus delayed because He had work to do, and wasn't going to leave until it was done. Two, why go? Same answer; because He had work to do and needed to get there to do it.
So why did Jesus answer with the statement that there are twelve hours of daylight in a day? Considering He was talking about the work He had to do, my first thought was to ask myself this question: "How many hours in a day do I serve the Lord doing His work?" Obviously we have to sleep sometime, so it seems God is dividing up the twenty four hours as work time and rest time, and the implied question is what are we doing during our work time? You see, I think what we are being told here is that we can choose to try and look for ways to serve every minute of every hour of every day, or simply passively wander through life waiting for an "opportunity" to do something. I see it as the difference between walking and running. No matter what your shape, you can only run so long, but most anyone can walk for hours and hours as long as they maintain a comfortable pace for themselves. With all the verses in the Bible using the word "walk", and this reference to twelve hours in a day, my thoughts were that Jesus would prefer we work long hours at a comfortable pace, rather than run explosively for a short period of time then spend the rest of the day "recovering". Let me try to illustrate this another way.
I was fortunate enough to retire a couple of years ago at an early age. Not content to just sit on the couch, I looked for things to do that would keep me active and healthy. Since sitting at a desk had not been kind to me physically, I decided to join a gym in order to see what might happen if I began to workout like I had when I was younger. Every day, for at least an hour, I would walk or ride my bike to the gym and subject myself to the many torture machines that have been invented while I was blissfully working at a desk unawares. I did actually enjoy it after awhile, and kept notes on what my progress was on different machines and how my strength and endurance was changing. After one full year of this, exactly what were the results? Well, truth be told I was rather disappointed to find that although I felt I was in much better shape, I had only managed to lose a grand total of 5 pounds. Certainly not what I was looking for.
It was about this time, however, an opportunity arose for me to return to the workplace in a much different capacity than before. I now have a job where I only work about five to six hours a day doing mildly physical labor, but always moving and on the go, rather than sitting behind a desk. I had to let my gym membership expire, which did in fact disappoint me as I had come to enjoy going every day. Imagine my surprise, though, to discover that after only six months at my new job I had somehow managed to lose 30 pounds! Now rather than focusing on the fact I had 30 pounds to lose, I prefer to look at this situation as an illustration of this passage. (Good move, right?) You see, even though I thought I was in good shape physically, it wasn't until I was busy all day that I discovered what kind of shape I really could be in.
As believers, how often do we do one or two things for God in a day and then feel like we have done our "part" for His work? I believe this passage speaks to the importance in God's eyes that we seek to be busy all day working for Him, and not be content to do only a few things for only a small part of the day. Why else would Jesus need to remind us that there are twelve hours of light in a day? I believe He wants us busy all those twelve hours. We also should not forget that just as I saw rewards for my work, there are rewards for doing God's work as well. As much as we have seen the signs that His return is near, consider this passage from Hebrews.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Hebrews 10:36,37 NKJV
Are we busy doing His work all day long? The promise is, if we are, He will come and not tarry. Let's all work harder, longer, and see Him come.