9 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. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”John 11:9-10 ESV
The story contained in John 11 is quite familiar. Lazarus, dead for three days, is raised from the dead. While it is dramatic, it could still have been told in just a couple sentences. The facts are fairly straightforward.
Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus was very sick so they sent word to Jesus. Jesus took his time coming and Lazarus died. When he arrived he raised Lazarus from the dead after three days in the tomb.
I am so thankful that the passionate “disciple whom Jesus loved” told this story instead of straight shooting doctor Luke or factual Matthew. John takes his time and paints clearly the emotion of each player in this scene.
He takes us step by step through the intentional delay that Jesus chose which resulted in him arriving at the home after Lazarus had succumbed to his illness. But Jesus knew that God the Father was looking beyond this temporary setback. Knowing that Lazarus had died, and knowing the threat to his own life as he re-entered Judea, Jesus determined it was now the time to go. He clearly walked in the light.
This light was not external. This light was “in” him, as it should be “in” us, illuminating our life choices.
Martha approaches Jesus first. Their relationship is strong enough to handle some confrontation.
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.John 11:21 ESV
She had incredible faith in him. She showed that she still trusted him, but she also wrestled with some confusion about his handling of the situation. I can relate. How many times have I cried out to God, “You are bigger than this. You have the power to change this situation. Please act, heal, bring change, restore, etc.” I trust that He will change what He can and the good (or “right”) outcome will prevail.
Then, God doesn’t respond in the way or timing that I presumed was best and I must wrestle with the truths and promises that God has already given. Regardless of how things look in the moment, my declaration of faith should not waiver just as hers did not, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” She didn’t wait for him to clarify anything else, but went and brought in her sister who seemed to be struggling even more seriously with her emotions. I can picture Mary storming out of the house, collapsing at his feet, completely broken at the loss of her brother, and feeling hurt by Jesus’s delayed response.
The genuine love that Jesus had for this family comes through so clearly in each word of their interaction. He wept, caught up in their grief. He hurt with their hurt. Then, he lived out how to deal with unspeakable tragedy. Through prayer. He turned to his heavenly Father. Likely, he had been having an ongoing internal dialogue before now, but here he speaks out loud, so others can hear his prayer. Directing all praise heavenward, and all eyes on the newly unsealed tomb, Jesus calls the dead man’s name.
Can you imagine?
They’d seen the blind healed, crowds fed, miracles performed, but now. Now, they saw Jesus talking to a stinking, decaying corpse and commanding it to breathe once again. And, of course, it did. Lazarus came walking out into the blinding sunshine of the Judean countryside as friends rushed to uncover his eyes and help unwrap the linen strips that had recently been wrapped around his dead body.
2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV
Jesus exemplifies whole-heart obedience to the commands of God, unlike others throughout the Old and New Testament. We often might give ourselves half-heartedly. Jesus poured it all out. Every emotion, every choice, every word was spoken in surrender to the eternal plan. We might have our sinful nature blocking undiluted obedience, but we can continue to confess our sins and start again.
He’s been there, in the face of deep pain and grief, and knows the power that is still at work even in those situations.
Dear God, thank you for a life lived for us to see and learn from. Help me to follow you with a whole heart. I don’t want to hold back from your plan and call on my life. Thank you for getting so involved with real people while you lived on earth, and preserving these beautiful stories of how entwined you were with their lives and griefs. May we not forget that you are just as entwined with our daily lives. Your love overwhelms. In Jesus name, Amen.