Our reading for Wednesday, May 15, 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
Could Jesus have kept Lazarus from dying? Yes! But it is clear that he chose not to. He informed his disciples earlier when they questioned his lack of urgency that “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus had an ulterior motive behind his manipulation of this event and though he made his intention clear the disciples could not grasp it as neither did Mary or Martha.
The sisters had reason for their ignorance as they were not present when Jesus revealed his purpose and also considering the distraction of their grief we should not expect them to be attentive to the movement of God at the time. The twelve had no excuse however except for spiritual insensitivity. We also may not comprehend God’s purpose behind events we observe and participate in and need to cultivate our spiritual sensitivity which is our expectation that God moves and works behind every circumstance. Oh the anticipation of the active follower of Jesus when we get engrossed in the mysterious unfolding of God’s plan. Our awareness of God becomes heightened and we are drawn into participating with God as God’s partners.
The plan all along was for Lazarus to die and provide the opportunity for Jesus to give witness to his true identity as the promised Messiah. It was news of this event which spread to nearby Jerusalem that caused his followers to begin the parade we have come to know as Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. His glory was revealed but this event would become a greater precursor to an even greater resurrection – that of his own. Had Jesus not raised the expectations of the masses the religious authorities would not have had their fears elevated which brought them to plot Jesus’ demise.
Did Jesus care that Lazarus would have to suffer and die or that his sisters would have to mourn unnecessarily? Of course and we know because John records in the shortest verse of all scripture that “Jesus wept.” He cared for each person involved but his concern was broader than those of the other actors of this events. Jesus witnessed the grief and fear of the family and the crowds that gathered to mourn with them. Death was so final in human understanding and worthy of fear for anyone of reasonable mind. The tears Jesus shed were not limited to those present but for all humanity since the dawn of time to its conclusion.
Do we weep over the death of others who may not live in God’s grace? Do we not weep over the ways people without Christ attempt to salve their sorrows and dispel their fears or fill their limited time chasing after things that cannot ever satisfy? I have witnessed death many times up close and personal, both in living and dying and cannot comprehend anymore living under death’s dark shadow without the assurance of faith and resurrection. I question how I would live with the expectation of eventual personal extinction and of those I am closest to. How do people come to grips with the potentials of judgment?
Sometimes we do not comprehend the working of God in tragic events we witness or experience, yet that does not negate the fact of God’s presence or concern. It may sound opportunist but should we not be moved to see the opportunity provided us in life’s challenges and tragedies, and embrace them as opportunities to witness the work of God in all things and all places. Yes, we must become sensitized to the movement of God in all of life and with sensitivity point to Jesus and what he may be doing at the time. Let us live the present from the outside to celebrate the intersection of life and faith. Let us live as people who know Easter joy and project an Easter hope.