March 19, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 11:7-16.
Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
John returns to a common refrain of his gospel. This passage echoes Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in chapter 8, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus was preparing his disciples for the time when he will not be among them. As Moloney writes in The Gospel of John, “The disciples are invited to join him, not stumbling like ‘the Jews’ but walking in the light. In the days that lie ahead if the disciples have not light in them they will stumble.”
Jesus knew that his disciples did not yet have the light of life, his life, in them. He realized that raising Lazarus from the dead was an opportunity to show forth the power of God through His son Jesus. True, he loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, but he was fundamentally true to his mission, to firmly fix God’s love, compassion, and justice in the hearts and minds in all of his children. Thomas still didn’t get it, but he was brave enough to rally the others to accompany Jesus to certain death with no anticipation of Jesus’ victory over death through his resurrection.
When I don’t have the light of Jesus in me, I stumble about as if walking in the dark, reaching blindly in front of me searching for a handhold, for a knob to a door. The light of Jesus — loving without judgment or conditions, living in faithful obedience to God’s will, leading others into the kingdom of God. Those are the criteria by which I k know whether the light of Jesus is in me. When I am illumined by that light the path before me is clearly evident and the way to the kingdom is straight. Sometimes that light becomes faint and I let it extinguish altogether. That’s when uncertainty, doubt, selfishness, distrust, and all my other undesirable, unattractive qualities assert themselves.
Jesus wants me to say to the world through my actions, not my words, that I am the light of the world. He doesn’t want that appellation reserved for himself alone. Day by day I can awaken to new life like Lazarus and be the light of the world. For that Jesus will be glad for then he will know that I believe.