Tag Archives: Lazarus

No Matter What You Feel . . . You Can Trust God

This morning in Vacation Bible Adventure our children experienced John 11 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Today’s theme was “No matter what you feel . . . you can trust God.”

John 11 certainly has a roller coaster of emotions along with the challenge to trust God in the midst of the emotions.

Too often when John 11 is read, we want to jump immediately to the end when Jesus shouts at the tomb, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man walked out, his hands and feet still bound with strips of cloth. The raising of Lazarus verifies trust in Jesus.

But I think most of us live not at the end of the story, but rather the middle. We live with Mary and Martha, the two sisters who cared deeply about their brother Lazarus and worried when he became ill. They knew and trusted Jesus, so they immediately sent word to him, asking for his help. Jesus’ response is puzzling,

Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:4-5).

Jesus’ delay puzzled the children at today’s VBA and it puzzles me as well. Jesus cared but delayed. Jesus tells the disciples that it will be beneficial to them and others that he was not there to heal Lazarus (John 11:14).

This story has shaped some of my thinking on emotions.  First, after Mary and Martha sent the message, they would be hopeful that Jesus would respond quickly. Then their emotions would move to disappointment as Lazarus nears death and still no Jesus. When Lazarus died, they would be devastated, shocked, probably angry. Did their friendship with Jesus count for nothing?

Finally, when Jesus showed up four days after Lazarus’ funeral, I sense resentment. Martha said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). A little later, Mary says the exact same words to Jesus. One can hear the disappointment, hurt and anger in their statements. Yet there remains also a note of hope. Even in this most difficult moment, they call Jesus, “Lord.” Even in their pain they see Jesus as the true ruler to be trusted.

Lord Jesus, help me to trust you no matter what I feel.

Stories, Butler Bulldogs and Lazarus

As shown in my recent posts, I am a big fan of stories, especially how the Biblical story intersects with our own individual and community stories.   I am an advocate of narrative theology, the idea that the heart of the Bible is not an instruction book of regulations and rules, but a story of God’s creative and redeeming that we live into.   Yes, there are commandment and rules to follow; all stories have those.  The commandments guide and shape the story but they are not the essence of the story.   Stories have surprises, twists and turns, which the story actors discover along the way.

Bulter Bulldog Prior to Game

Last night NCAA championship basketball game had its own story.  Butler University, a non-major University from Indiana, was playing for title against an established powerhouse, the University of Connecticut.  The Butler Bulldogs was poised to write a new chapter in the “David versus Goliath” motif.  I confess my own fascination in the developing storyline.  

Then the game was played.  Butler could not buy a basket, and the expected story fell apart.  Now the Butler team and fans will have to adapt to a different conclusion to their story.  

Stories have a way of doing that, not following the established plot line.  Lives have that trajectory as well.   One can follow all the rules, do all the hard work, follow the established norms and still not achieve the desired outcome.  Or a surprise or twist of grace can intervene and a new story begins.

This Sunday the gospel text is John 11, the story of Lazarus.   Lazarus was sick and his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for their friend, Jesus, to come quickly that Jesus might heal their brother.  One would expect that Jesus would have honored their request.  The story explicitly states: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5).

The story, however, takes a strange twist.  “Yet when he heard that Jesus that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”  Jesus deliberately chose not to rush to Lazarus’ aid. The story catches us off guard.   That twist opens us up to a new perspective on Jesus and life.   Jesus is not a magician who serves our needs.  Jesus is like an author shaping the stories we live. 

More on Jesus’ part in our story tomorrow.

Who are active writers in your life story?