Monday, November 12, 2007

Our Silent, Slow God (Part 1)

The story of Lazarus is a striking example of what is, in many ways, the normal Christian experience. Listen to this story from John 11:

Lazarus from Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha, became sick. (This is Mary who poured perfume on Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair.) The two sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the friend whom you love is dying!” When Jesus heard this he said, “Lazarus’ sickness is not for death but for the glory of God so that the Son will be glorified.”

Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, so he stayed an extra two days before telling his disciples, “Let’s go to Judea.” Then he told them, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sakes I’m glad I wasn’t there, so that you may believe.”

When he arrived at Bethany, Jesus was told that Lazarus had been in the grave four days. Martha, hearing that Jesus was near, hurried to him; but Mary stayed in the house. Martha, finding Jesus, cried out, “Lord, if only you had been here my brother would not have died...” Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again.” “I know he will," she answered, "in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world from God.”

So Martha returned to her sister and told her secretly, “The Teacher is here and is asking to see you.” On hearing this Mary rushed to him where Martha had left him. When she saw Jesus she too cried out, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

When Jesus saw her weeping and those who wept with her, he became deeply troubled and asked, “Where have you laid him?” Then he too began to weep. Some who saw this said, “See how much he loved him.” But others said, “He healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have healed Lazarus?” Jesus, still troubled, arrived at the tomb and said, “Roll the stone aside.” But Martha protested, “Lord he's been dead for four days; and the smell will be horrible.” Jesus responded, “Did not I say that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

So they rolled the stone aside; and looking to heaven Jesus prayed, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear, but I say it out loud for the sake of these who are here so that they might believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” Emerging from the tomb, the dead man stumbled out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!" Those who were with Mary were astonished and many believed.

There are aspects of both Mary and Martha's experience that I resonate powerfully with here. And at first reading, the story leaves me with a host of troubling questions. I'm guessing I'm not alone in this... right?.

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