Letters to the Prison - Week 126

Hello, everyone.  We’re continuing our study of John 11.  Last week, we considered one of the most important conversations in the history of mankind:  Martha’s confession of faith in response to Jesus asking the main question:  Is Jesus who he says he is? (John 11:25-27)
As we continue, we see Martha fetching her sister Mary to go and meet with Jesus (John 11:28-32).  Some key things to consider about this moment:
1) Jesus, here again called “teacher,” calls for Mary (John 11:28)
2)Mary quickly responds to the call, and she is followed by many other people (John 11:31)
3)Mary does not hesitate to publicly fall at Jesus’ feet and call him “Lord” (John 11:32)
4)Mary then speaks from her own beliefs: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).
Here again we see a person whose words and actions match their beliefs.  Mary is not afraid of what the crowd might think.  She’s not too proud to fall at Jesus’ feet.  She reacts quickly to Jesus’ calling.  She speaks a profound yet simple assertion that is rooted in her belief about Jesus:  That Jesus is Lord and has power and authority over life and death.
What we will see in the next few verses speaks volumes about Jesus.  To begin:
•When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. -John 11:33
That Jesus had such emotional reactions to things is profound enough on its own.  God feels things.  He feels them deeply and perfectly.  That’s a lot to think about.  But there’s more.
We could also spend a lot of time discussing just exactly what Jesus was feeling and why at this moment.  In brief, the disturbance he shows here goes way beyond any sort of sympathy for Lazarus’ mourners or any grief he might feel for Lazarus’ death.  Being fully man and perfectly compassionate, it’s not unreasonable to think that Jesus felt such things at this moment.  After all, his friend Lazarus experienced what it was like to get terminally ill and die.  Lazarus’ family experienced what it was like to watch their brother suffer and die.  There’s plenty of room there for Jesus to have sympathy and compassion for what his friends experienced on a human level.  But the language used to describe Jesus’ emotions at this moment suggest that there’s a lot more to it than that.  Consider this:  We’ve been examining Mary and Martha’s actions and statements of faith.  They believe Jesus is who he says he is.  They recognize his power and authority over life and death.  Yet the people around them grieve for Lazarus as if he’s gone forever.  Sure, believers in Jesus grieve the loss of their Christian loved ones even as they recognize by faith that death is not truly the end.  It’s the sort of grief that says, “I loved that person and I had to watch them suffer and though I will see them again one day, now they’re absent from my life and I miss them.”  It is a grief seasoned with a profound and enduring hope in the promises Jesus made about eternal life… sad and beautiful and joyful all at once…
But that’s not the sort of grief Jesus is seeing in the people mourning for Lazarus.  They think he’s gone forever… never to return… as if there’s no hope at all.  It is a grief rooted in unbelief.  We’ll consider this more next week.  We love you!

Dean A.

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