Friday

“For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (v. 15)

John 11:1-16 Friday 4 August 2017

Psalm: Psalm 49


Background

Today's passage begins a section of John's Gospel which is theculmination of Jesus' public ministry. It leads to the seventh signwhere Jesus brings life out of death in the raising of Lazarus: aforetaste of his own death and resurrection, a cementing of hisidentity as the Son of God and a manifestation of God's glory. Butthat is jumping ahead! In this passage Jesus hears that his friend,Lazarus, is ill. His response is not what we expect. Jesus doesnothing. He waits for two days and only then declares his intentionof going to "awaken" Lazarus (v. 11).

We are not told why Jesus waited. One view is that this ensuresthat by the time that Jesus gets to Bethany there is no doubt thatLazarus is dead for he has been in the tomb for four days (John11:17). This is understood to be the period of time after whichthere can be no legal or physical doubt that someone is dead.Another view is that there were real dangers to be faced on thejourney and time was needed, or that Jesus was occupied with othermatters; but we do not know.

Whatever the reasons, there are the implications that, had Jesusresponded more quickly, Lazarus would not have died and Martha andMary would have been spared their deep distress. In the face ofhuman grief and pain Jesus' actions are not always easy tounderstand. It perhaps serves as a reminder that we do not alwayssee things as God sees them. For example, Jesus is clear thatLazarus has died and yet also says that the illness does not leadto death but is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may beglorified through it. His words are contradictory, unless they arepointing to the limitations of our understanding of life and deathand encouraging us to perceive them differently.

Whilst it becomes clear that through Jesus' actions a deepertruth is revealed, this does not always make it any easier for usto emotionally understand. Why did he wait? What of the pain causedthat could have been avoided? Perhaps the questions that this partof the story can prompt reveal something about our own expectationsand frameworks as we seek to understand the salvation that Jesusbrings?


To Ponder

  • How do you make sense of the times when you long for God to actbut it feels as if God is not there?
  • One way of reading this story suggests that human pain andsuffering (and death) are secondary to God's purposes. How do yourespond to this suggestion?
  • How is your understanding of God affected through reflecting onthis passage?
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