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John 11:1-3, NIV 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
October 1, 2011Lazarus, Martha and Mary. One brother and his two sisters. Possibly living as one household. No spouses are mentioned. No children, no parents. Although it doesn't actually say they lived in the same house, just in the same village of Bethany which was about 2 miles outside Jerusalem.
Luke's gospel tells the story of Mary and Martha being hosts to Jesus and his disciples. That's the time Martha complained to Jesus because Mary left her in the kitchen alone to do all the work while she sat at Jesus' feet and listened as he taught the men who were gathered around him. Lazarus is not mentioned in that episode.
Mary is also remembered for the other incident alluded to in verse 2. The gospel writer, John, is referring to an event recorded in his next chapter, yet he seems to guess we already have heard the story. That was the situation in which Mary forgot her secondary role as a woman and walked unwelcome into a room full of men and stole the spotlight.
Jesus loved this unconventional family. Therefore when Lazarus became so sick that he couldn't stand up anymore, they sent a message to Jesus. Assuming that if Jesus knew his friend Lazarus was not well, he would come, right away, and heal him.
John 11:4-6, NIV 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
October 2, 2011The ending of this scenario will not be death, but glory for God. In the Lord's prayer we connect the glory and the kingdom to God's name. Glory belongs to our Father in heaven, whose name we hallow and whose will we want to see accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. Glory implies honor, benevolent power, utmost respect, worthiness. The word itself shines with brightness. Whatever it is, we know God's glory is wonderful and the last line of this chronicle will dazzle everyone who sees it or hears about it.
Today's reader knows that. The disciples heard him say it and must accept his words in faith. Of course, since Jesus and the Father are one, then God's glory will be glory for Jesus as well.
Martha, Mary and Lazarus are left in the dark. All they can see is the approaching grim reaper, speeding up toward his next victim. And the fear that Jesus may not get there in time.
Jesus was in no hurry. Although he loved this family, he deliberately delayed his departure and let them suffer! Alone, without his presence, without his aid. Jesus used these friends to demonstrate God's power without their permission or foreknowledge. Maybe he assumed, "They'll forgive me in the end."
Things sure look different from a human perspective than from the divine vantage point. I have felt alone, without his aid or presence. I know what that's like.
Maybe they'll forgive me in the end--it's interesting that phrase came up here. Years ago I was in a study group using When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S Kushner. One of his concluding comments has to do with forgiving God for not being perfect, meaning that God has not meet our expectations. Martha, Mary and Lazarus will have much for which to forgive God.
John 11:7-10, NIV7 Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 8 "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
October 3, 2011The disciples had their own fears. As much as the sisters in Bethany wanted Jesus to come, the disciples wanted Jesus to stay away from the area surrounding Jerusalem. They were afraid of death, too, their own and the death of Jesus himself. To them it made no sense to go back there, even to save the life of Lazarus.
Once again Jesus responds to his disciples with words that do not mean what the dictionary says. The average day has twelve hours of daylight. OK. If you travel by day you will have natural light from the sun. But at night there is danger that you will stumble because there is not sufficient light to see every rock or pitfall in your path. That's what Jesus said, but that's not what he meant.
Jesus has already claimed he is the light of the world. So if we walk with him, we will always have light, whether the natural sun is shining or the moon is in the darkened sky. The light of Jesus is not limited to daylight hours.
Jesus often spoke poetically, or metaphorically. We read or hear his words and let our mind play with those images, We have all stumbled in the dark. We have all welcomed the morning sun. Jesus is that morning sun and he invites us to follow him throughout the day. And trust him at nightfall, too.
Those who threatened to kill Jesus were living in the darkness and didn't even know it. Their eyes were so accustomed to being in the dark, they thought it was normal. The devil is the father of lies and has deceived us into thinking our natural habitat is shadowy, dark, and dank. No, we are children of the God of glory and Jesus has come to lead us into the brightness of his kingdom.
Is this what the disciples needed to quiet their fears? Why didn't Jesus simply say, "Trust me."?
John 11:11-16, NIV11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." 12 His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
October 3, 2011In the eyes of Jesus, Lazarus had just fallen asleep, Those surrounding Lazarus could see clearly that he had died. He was dead as could be. Sleep to the disciples was a positive sign, and I agree. If you get some good rest you will wake up feeling much better. I wonder if Jesus rolled his eyes at that. Like, will they never understand me! No they/we won't! So Jesus had to tell them plainly and I wonder why he didn't speak plainly all the time.
Lazarus is dead. We are not told how Jesus knew that. He just seemed to know everything, whether it had happened already or not, whether he was present in the flesh or not.
For the sake of his disciples he was glad Lazarus was dead, in Bethany, while he was at a distance. Possibly they were still on the eastern side of the Jordan River. This was going to be a huge story, one that would inspire great faith. An account that his disciples could repeat with enthusiasm and win over many hearts to join them in believing in Jesus. Because of the death of Lazarus, many people would come out of the dark and into the brightness of God's son.
Lazarus was dead. The mourning had begun. Martha and Mary had lost their beloved brother. And Jesus was glad!
The disciples were 100 % human and they didn't share the joy. Nothing was making much sense to them. "Let's go to him."--Jesus sounded like Lazarus was still alive and he had just told them Lazarus had died.
"Let's go" meant we must be on our way. No holding back. Didymus was quite the pessimist. Some would say a realist. Jesus was in one of those elevated moods again where he wasn't making any sense. But Thomas knew they were walking right into a death trap. Were some of the disciples thinking maybe they would sit this one out? Thomas seemed to convince them otherwise. We can't send Jesus off alone. What kind of disciples would we be if we did that? Come on, let's all go die with him!
Why were they going back to Jerusalem and then on to Bethany? Was it to be with Mary and Martha? Was it to bring glory to God and simultaneously to Jesus himself? Were the disciples going along out of love for Jesus? Or a sense of loyalty and honor? Were they starting to imagine what their lives would be like if Jesus did in fact die in Jerusalem? And how they would hold up individually if their own lives were threatened?
There's a lot going on in the minds of this little band. I think in John's gospel this is the final time they would be going up to Jerusalem together. But only Jesus knew that at the moment. He was excited, eager, and happy. The mood of the others was quite dark. I hope they don't stumble.