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Weeping for Lazarus

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Weeping for Lazarus?
The Lazarus Problem

There is a huge problem or challenge in the account of Jesus
resurrecting Lazarus of which Christendom seems to not be aware.

DEATH OF LAZARUS PASSAGE

John 11:1-16  And a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and Martha her sister.  It was the Mary applying ointment to the Lord and wiping his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Master, behold, the one you love is sick."  Upon hearing this Jesus said, "This illness is not for death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it."
     Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  Yet when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was.  Then after this he says to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again."  The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were now seeking to stone you, and do you go there again?"  Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the daylight?  If any one walks in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees in the light of this world.  But if any one walks in the darkness, he stumbles, because the light is not with him."

It should be clear that Jesus upon the sickness of Lazarus, whose dearest friend was setting up this whole scenario. Upon hearing the news that his friend was seriously ill, he deliberately stayed away until Lazarus had died. When the disciples tried to give him advice—imagine giving advice to the creator of all things—he found an oblique way of suggesting to them how inappropriate that was.

This is Jesus' way of telling them, who didn't know what they were doing (walking in the darkness), to listen to him, who did know what he was doing (walking in the light), and not try to tell him what to do.

These things he spoke, and then he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going that I might awaken him."  The disciples said to him, "Master, if he has slept he will recover."  But Jesus had spoken of his death, yet they thought that he spoke of slumber in sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died; and I rejoice for your sake because I was not there, that you{pl} may choose to believe.  But let us go to him."  Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us go, that we also may die with him."

The above passage again makes it clear that he deliberately stayed away until Lazarus had died. Notice the negativity and defeatism that characterized the thinking of Thomas, arguably the most educated and intelligent of the immediate disciples.

        JESUS TALKS WITH MARTHA

John 11:17-27  Upon coming, Jesus found him being held in the tomb already four days.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to be around Martha and Mary that they might console them concerning their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus is coming, she met him, while Mary was sitting in the house.  Then Martha said to Jesus, "Master, if you were here, my brother would not be dead, because I still know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you."

This is a pretty straightforward accusation. The sisters had sent notice to Jesus in time for him to come and heal their brother, something that they had no doubt that he could accomplish. And here he has come now when it is too late. Martha couldn’t understand this, and consequently she braced him with this heartfelt complaint. Which one of us would not feel this way? What is the point of having a “friend” that can heal if he won’t pay attention to healing your dear brother and his own dear friend?

Jesus declares to her, "Your brother will rise again."  Martha says to him, "I understand that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."  Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life source; the one who believes in me [choosing what to believe within what he said or believing in his total credibility], though he be finished dying, yet shall he live, but anyone LIVING and believing me in no way shall die ever.  DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?"  She said to him, "Well, sir; I HAVE believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world."

With this predictable plaint from Martha, the pieces are now in place for a great revelation. So he assures her that her brother will live, and she gives him the predictable response because she has been taught to believe in the “resurrection at the last day”. Jesus now gets very plain and tells her that anyone now living and believing in him “in no way shall die ever”, and then asks her point blank if she believes this.

Given that Jesus had ALREADY demonstrated that he WAS the Son of God and that Martha accepted this and readily confessed it, WHY didn't she show an eager interest in the potential resurrection of her brother, or even more the proffered immortality? The semi-sane reasonable person would not have believed so firmly that God could NOT have been offering the very thing that we want the most, and would have been intensely interested to hear the words that the J-person spoke. This IS the SIN problem highlighted to the ultimate degree!

How typical that she goes into a deflecting mode, and gives him a sop. COME ON MARTHA, answer the damn question! You are going to divert, “handle” the creator and avoid giving him a straight answer? Which obviously would have been, “No, I don’t believe that!” We do so much lying to ourselves that we think we can lie to the Originator. How pitiful! How mind numbingly tragic!

       JESUS TALKS WITH MARY

John 11:28-37  Having said these things, she went and discretely called her sister Mary, saying, "The Teacher is here and calls you."  And as she heard, she rises quickly and comes to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was in the place where Martha met him.  Then those Jews being with her in the house and consoling her, seeing that Mary quickly rose and went out, followed her, gathering that she goes to the tomb that she may weep there.
     Then Mary, when she came to where Jesus was and seeing him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Master, if you were here, my brother would not have died."  Then Jesus, as he saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, himself seriously agitated in spirit and deeply troubled, said, "Where have you{pl} put him?"  They say to him, "Sir, come and see."  Jesus wept, so the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"  But some of them said, "Was this one, opening the eyes of the blind, not able also to arrange that this man should not die?"

Now we come down to it. After suffering the same accusation from Mary as her sister pronounced, and experiencing everybody mourning and weeping, Jesus himself wept. So very much has been made out of this shortest verse in the King James Bible numbering system. I have heard sermons drone on about how touching it was, but I have never heard someone say, “Wait a minute! Jesus can’t have been a crybaby or prone to weeping in front of other people.”

So Jesus himself wept. BUT WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! He can’t have been weeping for Lazarus, for not only was Lazarus not suffering but he was a couple of minutes away from being resurrected and reunited with his family. He can’t have been weeping for the pain of the sisters and the other mourners, for they were a couple of minutes away from being thrilled and overjoyed.

Could it be that he was weeping because it was now apparent that even with his closest friends, they were not going to believe what HE said about some of the ultimate issues, he was not going to be able to stimulate their volition into believing the best about god? That his closest friends and disciples were not going to let even him give them the different-from-what-they-believed yet true account of God’s plan!

It should be obvious that Jesus came into this world not to die, but to usher in the age of healing and justice, to bring a wonderful resolution to this age of woe, this veil of tears, and a resolution to all things. Oh, he obviously came PREPARED to die, but he is not a person to be suicidal, and there is no greater-than-god law or system that demanded his death. Plan A was to inspire belief in the best and go forward into a glorious eternity with real believers reversing the demeaning belief in the Originator that led to the fall. Could it be that he was weeping partly for himself? That he had now come to the conclusion that he was NOT going to find or engender real faith/belief on the earth, that this world of woe was going to have to continue indefinitely and that he was going to have to go all the way to the crucifixion and grave to make the ultimate statement about the character of God? And that the whole universe would now have to wait until someone some day gets it?

       LAZARUS RESURRECTED

John 11:38-44  Then Jesus, again deeply troubled in himself, comes to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone was lying on it.  Jesus says, "Lift the stone."  Martha, the sister of the dead man, says to him, "Master, by this time he stinks, for it is four days."  Jesus says to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the magnificence of God?"
     Then they lifted the stone from over where the dead man was laid.  And Jesus raised his sight upward and said, "Father, I thank you that you heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this because of the group standing by, that they may choose to believe that you sent me."  After saying these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus! Here! Outside!"  And the one having died came out, his hands and feet bound with sheets, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus says to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

This whole passage and scenario raises some serious and even troubling questions, the greatest of which are: Did Jesus do Lazarus a favor? Did Jesus raise Lazarus only to have him repeat the process of dying, either through accident, disease, or the “normal” process of dying from that most insidious, “inevitable” process, aging. I am not sure that I would want that kind of favor from god. In fact, upon reflection, I am sure that I would NOT want that. If I have finished the process of dying, however that may have taken place, don’t set me up to go through it all again. Just wake me up at the “resurrection of the last day”! How could Jesus justify doing that to Lazarus?

If Lazarus didn’t die again, what DID happen to him? Was this whole experience a springboard for the three siblings to finally come awake? Were they part of the first fruits that were gathered to a better situation? If so, what about the rest of us? Why don’t we get treated to a wonderful, tangible exposition of god’s power and life-oriented intention? How are we expected to believe the best when we haven’t even had the tangible experience of Jesus, much less such a dramatic exposition of life-restoring power for a family member? Is this the time and place to mention what Jesus said to Thomas in the upper room after his resurrection,

“Thomas, seeing, NOW you believe? Blessed are those who believe and who do not see”?

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