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, 2011
Lazarus, 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, 2011
The 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, NIV
7 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, 2011
The 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, NIV
11 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, 2011
In 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.

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