John 11 shares the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It is one of the most unbelievable stories in the Bible and way crazier than you’ve been taught…
Picture this: Jesus is walking around with his disciples and he hears the news that Lazarus is sick. The Bible says that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were very close to Jesus. In verses 5 &6, it tells us that because Jesus loved them sooooo much, when he heard the news about Lazarus, he decided to wait a couple of days before he went to see them…”Wait?!What?!”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.5-6
It’s important to keep this in mind, because all of the events that follow are because Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus and his disciples so much.
“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.”14-15
The disciples remind Jesus that the people in Bethany want to stone him. It always makes me laugh that the disciples were always reminding Jesus of the obvious.
“Uh…Jesus, did you forget that the people there want to gather together in a crowd and hurl rocks at you til you are dead… and like, that’s not good…and what about us?”
Like Jesus was going to say, “Oops. I forgot that people made death threats towards me last week.”
The disciples were fully committed to following Jesus. They were even ready to go to Bethany and die with him, but they were far from fully understanding him. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew that and I’m pretty sure that’s why they needed to see Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Because all of those who were close to Jesus were about to go through an excruciating trying time that was going to test everything in them. (This happened right before Jesus’ last week.)
Then Thomas, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go too, that we may die with Him.”16
So…somewhere along the way, Martha comes to meet Jesus. I love the real brutal honesty of her conversation with Jesus. She starts out with, “you know you could have fixed this”!
Religion romanticizes this conversation with poetic language and painting them walking around with halos only saying holy sounding things. But I don’t see it that way at all. I see real people struggling with real emotions.
Martha meets Jesus and starts out with:
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give to You.”21-22
I don’t know for sure what Martha’s tone was with Jesus as she said this. I imagine it was respectful and anguished. She obviously knew that Jesus was who he said he was, but she didn’t understand why he would allow this to happen. She knew Jesus could have kept her brother from dying but she didn’t understand why he didn’t.
Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again.
Martha responds by saying that she knows he will rise in the resurrection on the last day. And the obvious implication is: “Yeah. I have hope for his eternity but I’m still hurting a lot right now!”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”25-27
As Martha was saying this, there was this glaring truth, big elephant in the room, huge stumbling block that’s kind of hard to miss: People who believe in Jesus die. Lazarus was dead.
So, “never dying” doesn’t take away the sadness and struggles of this world. It gives meaning and purpose and is amazing! But physical death still happens. No matter how much you hate my blog and think I’m obnoxious, wordy and flighty, you can’t argue with me on this point.
Then Martha went to get Mary. Mary came out to see Jesus, followed by a crowd of mourners. Mary fell at Jesus’ feet and began weeping.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”33-36
In one of the saddest cases of missing the glaringly obvious point, religious people have debated for centuries, why Jesus wept. I’ve heard at least ten sermons about all the deep hidden meanings that this scripture alludes to. (Which was at least 10 too many!) The most common thing I was taught is that Jesus wept because he knew that raising Lazarus from the dead was going to start the chain of events that would lead to his crucifixion. (This is the same guy who knew they wanted to kill him in Bethany, right? And the same crucifixion he had been telling his disciples about from the beginning and that prophecies had predicted hundreds of years earlier…sigh, eyeroll, smh…)
If you think about it, Jesus weeping makes absolutely NO SENSE. I mean, he was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead. Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to have jumped up on a rock or something and yelled, “Hey y’all watch this!” (I mean that’s what I’d have done!)
Why would he weep? It’s a mystery that has been debated by good religious people for centuries…
…Which is weird since the text plainly says, “when Jesus saw her weeping”…and the crowd “also weeping,” he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled”33.
The Jesus I know from scripture didn’t see people weeping and feel deeply moved because “Oh, no. If I help them how is this going to affect me?” Jesus was deeply moved because, DEATH IS SAD and people around him were sad about death.
Jesus chose to enter the human experience and feel what we feel. Even though he knows he has the power to change it. Even though he knows in a few minutes, days, weeks, or years, or in eternity, he is going to fix it. He still cares and feels with us, RIGHT NOW. He chooses to weep with us! Even though he knows the big picture. Even though he sees all of humanity through all of eternity.
And here is how I can relate all of this to a story about poo and vomit…
Interestingly, my daughter in law called me as I was writing this post. She is currently puking her guts out with a horrible stomach virus. I had the virus a few days ago. To spare you the gory details and still give you a picture of how bad this virus is, let’s suffice it to say, I lost 4.8 pounds when I had it! That’s a lot of vomit and poo! And it was awful…for 24 hours.
So, when my daughter in law called me, I didn’t think, “Well, you’ll be over it tomorrow so I don’t feel bad for you!” I thought, “Oh you poor thing, how can I help!” And because I love her deeply, I felt horrible for her, I wanted to relieve her suffering and I tried to help, even though I know she will feel better tomorrow.
Obviously, knowing that pain and suffering will end does give us hope which gives us strength to endure. But pain and suffering is still painful and suffer-y which is still hard. And God chooses to feel those feelings with us! He loves us beyond what we can imagine and he hurts with us.
It is the hardest, craziest thing that Jesus taught. Even when we say we believe it, it doesn’t make any sense.
And the more I follow Jesus, the crazier and more awesome this kind of love is. The more he opens my eyes to how much he loves people and how much he hurts with those that are suffering, the more I love him in return and desperately want others to know this love that absolutely makes no sense.
For those first followers, they got an extra boost, they got to see Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.
The response to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is quite telling about human nature and how religion works. Some people who witnessed Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead immediately believed in Jesus, (I like to think I’d be with the impressed crowd.)
Others went to tell the Pharisees. I don’t think they were just big bratty tattle tales. I think they needed religion to explain things for them. It’s like they just could not part with their traditions. It’s like no matter how much they wanted to believe in Jesus, they still needed approval from the religious elite…(which makes me think I’d have been one of the tattlers…)
It’s like me as a young woman (and sometimes still) how I continually wanted church people to approve of me. God was working in my life and freeing me in many ways, but I kept running back to judgmental church people begging for their approval and I always felt like I fell short. It took me years to just accept that God loves me and he cares about my struggles. My struggles don’t mean that he has abandoned me. They mean I’m living the human experience and he is right here with me. Loving me through it all: All my mistakes, triumphs, anxieties, stomach viruses, deep hurts, and miserable failures. Even though he knows I will one day be in heaven with him, he still chooses to go through the trials of life on earth with me.
It’s absolutely crazy. Completely makes no sense. There is no logical reason that God would want to go through the messy roller coaster that is my life WITH me! But I’m sure glad he does!
I hope that whatever mess you are dealing with in your life today, you accept just a little more of how much God truly loves you. I hope you know that even when you walked away from him, he stayed by your side and hurt with you. I hope you rely on what he has shown you to be true of him and his love for you and shut out the voices of judgmental religious people who would keep you from seeing him…
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!
Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean…. Reflections on Luke 5:12…
You want truth? You can’t handle the truth! Luke 4:38- 5…