During this fast season we are exploring - through what we read in a chapter a day of the Bible - who God is and what He is like.
1. Pray and read - preferably together
2. Pray and share
This story revolves around Jesus’ statement “I am the resurrection and the life!” It is one of the great “I am” sayings in John’s gospel through which he reveals different aspects of who He is. All of them begin with the statement “I am” which would have been familiar with His Jewish hearers, but deeply shocking too. For this is how God revealed Himself to Moses.
Jesus is in effect claiming to be God. People out of their right mind might think they are God. An evil and manipulative person might pretend to have divine powers. So, as C S Lewis famously wrote, either He was mad or bad or exactly what He claimed to be!
Look at the responses of the characters in the story to Jesus.
The disciples see only with human eyes the risks of travelling to where the Jewish authorities are looking to arrest and kill Jesus. I like Thomas’ response. It was not a resigned, fatalistic “OK but we are in trouble.” Instead, it seems his response is “Whatever happens we are with you, Jesus!”
Martha has the hope of a resurrection at the end of time. Far from being disembodied spirits we can look forward to a perfect, new creation. She has no expectation of a resurrection ahead of time! But she expresses her simple trust in Jesus. She knows - whether by revelation or because of previous teaching and discussions or conversations with Jesus - that He is the long expected Messiah.
Mary is emotional and perhaps reproachful: “If only you had been here earlier!” Jesus responds tenderly. He does not teach or tell her off, even very gently. He does not explain anything. He just joins her in expressing deep emotion. He too loved Lazarus. Though He was God He was also fully human and the human tragedy of a friend’s life lost touched His heart. That is the kind of sympathy people often need when deep in grieving a bereavement - no words, just shedding tears together.
Lazarus’ response is to leap to life - though he still needed help to be free. So often new believers are born again and transformed but need help from the Body to take off some grave-clothes that bind them. This was nothing other than a supernatural event. When the Word of God speaks out, life comes. Jesus is the ultimate source of life, as Col 1:16-17 explains. Incidentally, Lazarus later died: his resurrection was a miracle for a time in this age and he will no doubt be raised to life forever along with all the saints at the end!
The Jewish leaders’ response is to want to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. Even though motivated by fear and wanting to keep the fragile peace with the Roman occupiers, Caiaphas actually prophesied. The supernatural broke out even in the hard hearted chief priest. God can do anything and use anyone!
3. Pray and act
Lord, we want to respond to You in simple trust. Whatever happens and whatever the circumstances, You are the resurrection and the life. Whether we see a miracle now or have to wait till the resurrection, we trust You. Fill us so that we can minister life to others and speak words of life and hope.