Of Love, Life, Light and Frustration: A reflection on this weeks Gospel (John 11:1-45)

After a short stint in a cave, Jesus brings Lazarus – and I – out of it back to life; back into the light! (Who doesn’t like a metaphor?) Just as Lazarus has been loosened from his binds, so too have I. And so life carries on, and caves remain. In examining the story of Lazarus much can be read from it and in it, as is the way with much of scripture. Of these, here is what I wish to bring forth.

On finding out that Lazarus is dead, Jesus remains with his disciples rather than leaving straight away. The usual response is to run to comfort or aid the remaining loved ones. Yet Jesus, as usual, works on his own schedule, not ours. But his waiting is to give glory to God. (I wonder what would have occurred during this time? The awkward conversations; the forced normality of life with mentions of Lazarus breaking through.)

How many times do we pray to God expecting things to be done in our timing, not his? In these times, his waiting can still bring glory to God today.

Martha in catching up to Jesus states a perfect act faith: she is seeing the light of which is spoken. Her faith though remains incomplete no matter how more advanced it might be compared to the disciples. In response to Martha, Jesus confirms that he is the Resurrection and the life: a fairly ambiguous association which alludes understanding today, though many have tried. Nonetheless this association is confirmed later in the story with his display of power. Faith precedes power, or as some might say, works.

After waiting patiently for Jesus to come, a time which gives glory to God, do we have faith that he will deliver? He exceeds expectations! He not only fulfills our needs, he gives us more than we could ever imagine! No eye has seen, no ear has heard…

There is a word in this passage – a part of the smallest phrase in the whole bible – which is most commonly interpreted as “wept”, as in Jesus wept. This is not the best translation, according to my lecturer anyway. He says the word is commonly used to describe a horses bray. This though seems to not make sense. Why would Jesus make to sound of a horse? I understand this best that the sound Jesus made is from a sense of frustration. Jesus had been doing all these miracles, for all the world to see, and despite his best efforts they are still not believing in who he says he is; “I AM”. All except for Martha who had already professed her faith in him. On making the sound of frustration, the Jewish leaders sarcastically say, “Look how much he loved him?” The voice of skepticism.

Amid seeming loneliness, doubt and confusion we too can question “how much does God love me?” Despair and rejective doubt breeds contempt, which places our own knowledge above that of God’s. Do we truly let God work in his way, in his time? Trust and know that he is God.

The resurrection of Lazarus, a forerunner of the resurrection of Jesus, comes amid the doubt, confusion and despair. This contributes to Jesus’ frustration. He has worked in his time, in his way, in the very eyes of his skeptics. Taken as a slap in the face by some – and wonderment by others – Jesus continues to distinguish true believers of God from those who seem so: those who live in the light and those who remain in darkness, those who seek eternal life (which the resurrection allows) and those who do not seek it. The distinction is made with love: the love Jesus has for Lazarus and for Martha.

A final word on the different resurrections (Jesus’ and Lazarus’). The rock was rolled away at Jesus’ summoning; Lazarus was summoned out by Jesus; his binding was loosened on Jesus’ command. This is the way John the Evangelist depicts Jesus’ command over death.

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