Our reading for Wednesday, May 8, 2019 is John 11:28-37
28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.”Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” NIV
At times it is difficult to grasp that Jesus loves us when he allows us to go through such suffering and hardship. We judge God on the basis of what we would do for those we love. We would prevent and intervene when our loved one does suffer. We would take away their pain as much as we could and as a parent I remember times where I had prayed that I could take my child’s place. Even with these sentiments we must accept our limitations and those of circumstances we face to end suffering. And that is just for those we know intimately and love dearly, what about the rest of humanity.
We must admit that the circle of our concern grows less intense the farther the relationship is removed from us, yet not so with God’s love. The Word professes that God loves all of humanity to the extent that God became a man to walk in our shoes. Accepting the idea of God’s unlimited capacity of knowledge and power it is difficult to comprehend how then God would let suffering prevail considering the unlimited capacity of his love. It is understandable then to agree with Mary’s comments to Jesus saying, “Lord, if you had just been here, my brother would not have died!”, or that of the onlookers who commented, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
We comprehend God’s compassion as we read how “Jesus wept,” but then if he possessed the capacity to undo circumstances we should expect he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead. That he did this is true, yet this is not done for everyone. There are deep theological explanations to account for this discrepancy between the compassion and power of God which allows for evil, injustice, and suffering to continue. Some have proposed a limited concept of God in terms of his willingness to use his power or even those who question the capacity of God’s love. Deists propose that God set things in motion, established the sustaining of the universe by the natural laws before stepping back to watch how things unfolded. This is too much like the outlook of ancient Greek mythology where humanity is the pawns and playthings of the gods.
We who walk with Christ know his compassion and his power. We are comforted by the story of Jesus’ compassion for Lazarus and his sisters and accept the power Jesus displayed by his raising Lazarus from the dead. We know that Jesus planned this scenario to demonstrate both of these concepts because he intentionally delayed his arrival and even told his disciples that this would not end in Lazarus’ death. We must accept also that Lazarus and his sisters eventually died. What he did as well as any of the miraculous interventions he performed were only temporary interruptions to the unfolding of human fate.
These miracles were demonstrations of God’s unlimited compassion and power, but they were also indicators of deeper concerns God was addressing in balancing divine control and human destiny. The fact that urgency was absent in Jesus only reveals his knowledge of the story behind the story we read. Physical life and death is the realm of the transient with an eternal reality that out shadows the suffering and challenge of this limited earthly life.
We live in the dimension of the immediate and cannot see beyond the limits of our three dimensional reality into the realms of what the apostle Paul described as the “seventh heaven” or dimension he was privileged to envision. We can only imagine heaven or eternity and lack the capacity to fully comprehend the reality of the cosmic conflict that caused the Son of God to come to earth, die and be raised to life. Our focus is to equip ourselves for heavenly living and for partnering with God to assist others in this limited life and with finding their way to their true home.
Our questions should serve only to lead us and others to Jesus who not only has the answers but is the answer.