John 11:11-15

Tuesday, March 28
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly “Lazarus is dead.  For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

So many questions arise as I read these few verses. To begin with, rationalists say that miracles are a violation of nature. And then there is the problem of Jesus’ timing, which seems curiously “off.” Why does Jesus wait to raise Lazarus? If he knew his friend was seriously ill, why did he not intervene sooner? Poor Lazarus. Jesus has healed at a distance before. Why couldn’t he have healed at a distance this time? But Jesus says that he is glad that he was not present to heal Lazarus so that when the disciples witness the miracle, they will believe. They have witnessed Jesus’s miracles before. Why do they need to witness this particular miracle, which required the suffering and death of his dear friend and the deep mourning of Mary and Martha? Does Jesus care?

This question is really one for theodicy to address—why does God permit evil if God is good?  And it is a question which is asked daily, hourly even, in this world of injustice and suffering. 

Sleep is healing, the disciples say, and if Lazarus has fallen asleep, he is going to survive this illness.  Jesus corrects them and tells them that Lazarus is dead. But the disciples are not wrong. Lazarus will indeed survive this sleep because God is revealing God’s self in Jesus. Does God care?  Deeply. But as C. S. Lewis has said, “God does not shake miracles into Nature at random as if from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they are found at the great ganglions of history.” And this is one of those moments, one of the greatest, when Jesus reveals his true identity, his authority, and his compassion. The stage is set for what is to come, the miracle of God on the cross dying, and of God resurrected.

Dear Lord, bring us healing. Bring us back to the abundant life we can have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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