Friday, April 12
John 11: 1-27
“This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.” Jesus raises Lazarus. Death is overcome. What had been a mournful funeral becomes a celebration. It’s a familiar story with familiar themes. So, what do I notice as I reflect on it today?
I wonder how Lazarus felt about all of this? John makes it clear that Jesus knew about Lazarus’ illness in time to heal him, to save him before he died – but he didn’t. Instead he waited. It looks like he may have actually decided to let Lazarus die.
Of course we know Jesus can bring him back, but still it seems risky. I suspect that if Lazarus had been consulted about the plan beforehand, he might have felt that a simple healing – avoiding the death and resurrection part – would be safer, easier. It certainly would have been less traumatic. But life doesn’t always work that way. Whether through fate, ill fortune, or our own human weakness, bad things happen. And, this narrative notwithstanding, we usually can’t go back and undo them.
So, while Lazarus may be interesting, I have to remember that his story is really more about Jesus – more about God’s relation to his creation. It’s a story that can help me understand a little more clearly what God does in our lives. As for Lazarus, the important thing to know about him is that he died, that he was deeply loved by many, and that as a result of his death, part of God’s creation was cast into darkness. Even Jesus wept – Jesus, who knew that he could and would bring Lazarus back from the dead. This death was real, it was authentic, it was painful.
And then, Lazarus is raised and God is glorified. That dark moment for Lazarus and his loved ones leads them to a more profound experience of God’s love and God’s glory. It seems counter-intuitive. Sunsets and symphonies and healthy new-born babies are the kinds of things we expect to reveal God’s glory. And often they do. But here we find a more interesting truth: that God’s glory can be revealed even (and perhaps especially) in the darkest and most painful moments of our lives – those times of deep emotional anguish, times that are so excruciating because they are so real. Today, I am reminded that when I invite God to be with me in these dark places, allow him the opportunity to transform them, then my experience of God’s great and loving nature becomes every bit as real and authentic as the pain ever was. The experience of God’s love becomes visceral. The pain, perhaps, does not go away completely; whatever caused it still happened. But the darkness is somehow transformed. And that is God’s glory.