March 18, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 11:1-6, the beginning of the story of the raising of Lazarus.
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who will ill. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Jesus seized the impending death of Lazarus as an opportunity to glorify God and to be glorified himself. In raising Lazarus there could be no doubt of his death and no way to refute the power of God over death through His son Jesus.
On the other hand, Jesus knew that this was likely to lead to further enmity with the Jewish authorities and probably his eventual death. So, Lazarus’ death and resurrection prefigured his own death and resurrection. That’s a pretty obvious point of this story.
However, as is so often the case in the gospels, it doesn’t make sense to me that Jesus would learn that Lazarus was near death but delay setting off for two days. That’s not what I would do. I would jump in my car and book a flight as soon as possible. Once again, though, Jesus is teaching me not to respond from the human perspective but from the divine.
Lazarus means God is my help. In one sense Lazarus, Martha, and Mary all knew that Jesus would provide whatever help was needed. When the sisters sent word to Jesus, they didn’t ask him to come; they assumed that he would. They had complete trust in him as a friend and as God’s anointed one. He would help them in this situation, dire as it seemed.
Here’s the message for me. Do I have that kind of trust? Do I really believe that God is my help? Do I have the capacity to wait until Jesus comes to me rather than demanding instant attention and amelioration of my struggles or pain? It seems that trust and patience go hand in hand. Can I have one without the other? When I’m hurting I want it to be relieved; I want help then and there. I don’t want to suffer. However, it is often through suffering that I find clarity. It is often through suffering that I am able to surrender to God in the realization that I am helpless. Therefore, it is often through suffering that I am able to change. Perhaps that’s what Lazarus’ resurrection represents for me — transformation by giving up my tight grip on life as I want it, not as God intends.
Jesus wants me to be Lazarus. He wants me to take the name Lazarus, to know through my most personal identification, my name, that God is my help. He wants to use me for the glorification of His Father, to be transformed into one who surrenders to and is faithful to HIs will. He wants me to trust and to be patient, to die to my desire for control and immediate gratification. That would truly be a transformation!