The Death of Lazarus
1-2 A man by the name of Lazarus was sick in the village of Bethany. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha. This was the same Mary who later poured perfume on the Lord's head and wiped his feet with her hair. 3The sisters sent a message to the Lord and told him that his good friend Lazarus was sick.
4When Jesus heard this, he said, “His sickness won't end in death. It will bring glory to God and his Son.”
5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and brother. 6But he stayed where he was for two more days. 7Then he said to his disciples, “Now we will go back to Judea.”
8“Teacher,” they said, “the people there want to stone you to death! Why do you want to go back?”
9Jesus answered, “Aren't there twelve hours in each day? If you walk during the day, you will have light from the sun, and you won't stumble. 10But if you walk during the night, you will stumble, because you don't have any light.” 11Then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, and I am going there to wake him up.”
12They replied, “Lord, if he is asleep, he will get better.” 13Jesus really meant that Lazarus was dead, but they thought he was talking only about sleep.
14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead! 15I am glad I wasn't there, because now you will have a chance to put your faith in me. Let's go to him.”
16Thomas, whose nickname was “Twin,” said to the other disciples, “Come on. Let's go, so we can die with him.”
Death and illness are two things which can stop us in our tracks. I was in England when my grandfather passed. At the time, my work was heavy in a production cycle and no one was allowed time off, for any reason. I will never forget looking up from my desk at my two editors and telling them he’d died. They just looked at me and said “Go. You’ll regret it if you don’t.” I didn’t even have to ask.
In this passage, Jesus’ close friend Lazarus is dying. His sisters don’t just want him there for comfort, they know he has the power to heal. Isn’t it interesting then to notice the disciples’ reaction? They said, “Hang on. Are you sure? Last time you were there people tried to kill you!” Now there are a lot of reasons for avoiding a gathering, but fear of being murdered is probably top of the list.
But one of the things I love most about Jesus’ portrayal in the Gospels is how very self-assured he is. He knows who he is and what he was called to do – and that identity is deeply rooted in his relationship with his heavenly father. He knows that despite Thomas’s dour predictions, this trip will not end in death, but in the joy of witnessing Lazarus being brought back to life. As Jesus reminds us in this passage, when you walk in the light, you don’t stumble.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for setting an example for us of what it’s like to live life in the security of the knowledge of our relationship with God. Please help us to focus on your light so that we may make wise choices without stumbling. Amen.