Daily Devotion – March 24, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

John 11:1-45

    1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

  7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

  28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”   38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

  45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

This is a rich story set at a pivotal time for Jesus. If we thought healing the man blind from birth would cause confusion (and anger) and fear among the people around Jesus, especially the religious folks, this story shows a Jesus who is determined that people need to become confused about what they thought God wanted from them and what was okay or not okay to do, and through that confusion, believe. In both stories, Jesus tells key persons that what happened to the two men in question, the blind man last week and Lazarus this week, happened in order that people might believe.

We know this week’s tale. Jesus lingers, Lazarus dies. When he arrives, Martha confronts him about coming so late, and after a little while Mary confronts him as well. He suffers with them, stands with them in their sadness, even as Jesus stands with all who grieve, even now. And then he calls out to God, not to summon God and ask for a bit of divine magical intervention, but to thank God in order that the people who are present may come to believe.

Lazarus is raised. It is a miracle. And instantly many of the bystanders believe in Jesus. We also know from later stories that because of this act he is feared or hated by others, who will conspire to arrest him because he is dangerous. But those who witnessed Lazarus’s resurrection, like those who witnessed the healing of the blind man, were privileged to see God at work in their very midst. They believed because they saw God’s hand at work in the loving acts of Jesus. Their belief was overwhelming.

God asks us to believe without having seen such wonders. How lucky those people are who can believe without seeing. But also, how lucky those people are in our day who can see miracles of loving acts by human beings as loving acts of God. People who care for others enough to still their fears, make them smile, feed their physical and emotional hunger, are acting just as Jesus did, as God’s hands in this world. Jesus raised Lazarus in order that folks would believe. When we act as God’s hands to feed, comfort, and care for others, might people watching us believe because of these acts? Indeed they might.

Holy God,

Bless our actions each day. Help us to listen for your call and do what you would have us do, that good might come of our actions and even that someone might believe. Then help us to know that, whatever the result, we have experienced your kingdom coming near to us.