John 11: 1 – 16 The death of Lazarus
Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’
St John makes sure we know who he is talking about. It’s Lazarus, from Bethany, the brother of Martha and Mary. Oh, and that’s the Mary who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. This is his way of saying, ‘Look, you can check this. This is something that happened to real people, in a real place, and there were witnesses.’
When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’
With his crucifixion fast approaching, Jesus is closer to the Father than he’s ever been. He knows what’s going to happen, he knows how it will happen, and he knows why it will happen.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’
‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?’
By human wisdom, going back to Judea sounds like a really bad idea. The chief priests and Pharisees have repeatedly tried to stone Jesus; surely he can’t keep on escaping them? And aren’t there other ways Jesus can heal Lazarus?
And, of course, there are. For example, he could heal Lazarus at a distance, as he did the court official’s son. He didn’t do this though. Why not? Because he knew it wasn’t God’s plan. He knew God’s plan was to achieve more than merely preserving Lazarus’ mortal life.
There’s a big lesson here for me. Faced with a decision, I might have a really good plan. It may look very much like the sort of thing Jesus would do. But if it’s my plan and not God’s plan, it’s not going to do God’s work. It seems more and more important for me to listen to Jesus.
A lot of our intercessory prayer is prayed without first seeking God’s will in the situation. It’s a human cry for help. Absolutely nothing wrong with that; it’s what Martha and Mary do. “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’” But it’s only the start; we have to discover God’s plan for resolving our need; and there’ll be more about that tomorrow
Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the day-time will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.’
There is a time and place for everything. The light – Jesus – is still in the world, and God’s work must still be done.
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.’
His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’
Jesus, through his closeness to the Father, knows that God’s plan doesn’t just involve healing Lazarus, or even raising him from the dead – dramatic though those signs are. No, it’s more comprehensive, more caring, than that. And there will be more about that, too, tomorrow!
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us all go, that we may die with him.’
Probably all the disciples were expressing similar sentiments, but St John singles out Thomas. I wonder why?
Thank you that I can come to you and ask for help. Please teach me how to listen to your reply, and know what I need to do to align myself with your will. Let your will be done.
In Jesus name, Amen.