Doubt and fear are part of faith (part two of three)
We are working through John 11 this week. Let's keep reading together. Start here today.
You’ve got to feel for Jesus as this point. He finally makes it Bethany and there’s already a crew there mourning. I’ve been to Middle Eastern funerals, so there’s definitely some wailing (and maybe a little bit of chest pounding and other displays of emotion).
I remember a few years ago my uncle died. He died young and he was well loved. And it was a dark time. And the wailing was so extensive that we had to ask people to quiet down since my grandmother, who was burying her own son, could mourn.
Martha, a close friend, probably in tears runs up to Jesus and probably exclaims that if only he was there, her brother and his friend wouldn’t have died. And Jesus, who may have prayed over the last few days regarding this precise issue, is probably thinking the exact same thing.
Martha’s rudimentary reply to Jesus’ declaration that he will rise again shows us how much of a platitude “the afterlife” can be even for a believer. That’s probably the worst thing you can tell someone who has lost a loved one—“he’s in heaven. He’s looking down on you.”
Jesus tells her the truth: believe in Me and if you die, you’ll live.
Jesus wrestles with death a lot through John, and we’ll see this again next week. In Lazarus’ death, Jesus begins to contemplate his own death and that is also part of the mortality that he is facing.
Mary comes out next and says the exact same thing. Another dagger to his chest. Certainly he’s prayed and he is certain that this is the path that he needs to take, but the constant doubt around him doesn’t make things easier. You can feel that he’s on the verge of tears.
He gets led to the tomb and right when he sees it—probably a cave with a stone in front of it—he cries.
It is amazing. One translation says he “burst into tears.” The emotions, the vulnerability, are what indicate that Jesus loves us. Jesus’ humanity shows the world that he loves it. Everyone around Christ, who may have been stoic up to this point, realizes his love for Lazarus when he cries.
I am reminded again of how important it is to know that if we love, we will suffer. Jesus is about to heal Lazarus of death. But he still cries. We can cry too. We can die with Jesus too. I hope we can see the humanity of Jesus here and know that he mourns just like we do. I hope that can finally free us to suffer and mourn too.
Feel your pain and your sorrow and be still with it. Allow yourself to weep. It’s true God makes everything new, but in a moment, just be OK with the hurt.
They ask the same questions we do (and the same questions that Jesus asks the Father, too.) Couldn’t Jesus have saved him? Why doesn’t he save us? Why would he allow anything bad to happen? Jesus gets asked the same question again when he is on trial and crucified.
John is pointing us again and again the Ultimate Truth of the World—it is only through Christ’s death that we are saved. Jesus needs to share the common fate of humanity to save it.