During the summer of 2009, I was driving across the country with a friend. He was moving to Pasadena, California to study at Fuller University and I was accompanying him as a way to mourn the loss that I would experience without him in my everyday life and to honor him and his friendship with me.
I remember I was anxious on my trip. Driving across the country is hard and it takes a long time. Come to think of it the Red Bulls and red eyes might have caused my anxiety! I needed to make to San Jose by a certain time to catch a plane home. We had mapped out our trip and knew it was doable, but I was nervous because when I got home, the next day would be the first day at a new school.
I kept thinking that day was the first day of the rest of my life. I’m sure you know the feeling. The night before you go on vacation, start a new school year, the last night you are sleeping in your room before you move into a new home, the night before you get married, et cetera. It’s hard to know how to deal with it. It’s emotional. I remember I used to sleep in the clothes I would wear the next day to school the night before. You might have done something similar.
Those human emotions of anticipation, anxiety, and sadness are all normal, and for me, it is incredibly comforting to know that Jesus also experienced those things. All of the feelings that I experience on earth, Jesus did too.
I think Jesus is pretty emotional in all of the gospels, but since John is really trying to get us to see that his humanity, it shines pretty clearly in his Gospel. John is trying to get us to see that Jesus is God Incarnate. You might need to ask yourself if it’s harder for you to see Jesus as a human or as God? I think John offers hope to both limitations.
This week we are going to venture through what is quite possibly the most emotional chapter in the book of John and a moment where we see repeatedly that Jesus is indeed human, but we also see that he is repeatedly proving to the world around him that he is God, too.
Let’s read the first section of John 11.
Right when Jesus hears that his friend, whom he loves, is ill, he responds in a peculiar way. He says that the illness isn’t fatal. He didn’t even tell his disciples that Lazarus was sick for two days.
What was Jesus doing? This is one moment where we see Jesus’ humanity. Jesus knows that something big is going to happen here. That he is about to perform his seventh sign—his most powerful sign, this sign will make it clearest to the people around him that he is indeed God Incarnate. And for Jesus, it is truly like the first day of the rest of his life. We can see him here wrestling with the Father’s will.
He’s could be nervous. He’s going back to Bethany and the Jews there are frustrated already with the signs he’s performed and they are ready to stone him.
So you can imagine all that’s going on in Jesus’ mind. He’s not quite ready to process it verbally, mainly because the stakes are so high. So he stays quiet for two days. You get to see Jesus the introvert here.
He spends two days not just stuck in our own cycle of anxiety, I think he is praying. I think he is waiting for the moment to present itself. He’s praying that that he can wait for Lazarus to die, for him to raise Him from the dead, and show to the world who He is.
He might be praying, Let me get this straight: I have to let my friend die, raise him from the dead, and so that the world knows that I am God and then wants to kill me.
He is waiting and showing us a new way. He’s not doing what we might want Him to, it’s in God’s timing. Jesus is even wrestling with that idea as he prays here for two days.
He comforts his disciples, and us, telling them to walk in the day—walk and follow Jesus. It might not always make sense, but you’ll stumble if you try and do it on your own.
He tells them Lazarus is sleeping probably because Jesus knows he’s coming back to life. But the disciples are confused, so he just lays it out: he’s dead now. And Jesus reveals what he’s learned in his own interior life: it’s good that he’s dead that you can believe, if I was there he wouldn’t have died. But now that he has, Glory will come to God.
Thomas, who mainly has a reputation in the scriptures as a doubter, offers the right response here. “Let us go too so that we may die with Jesus.” It sounds like Thomas really knows what’s going on, honestly. Following Jesus in the light will lead to life, even if death comes first. I suppose that is a point of Lazarus’ resurrection.
I’ve felt similar levels of anxieties and wondered to why I am where I am and what God has in store for me. So often, we have to pursue God as he is revealed in the Scripture, community, and our own personal lives, instead of just using our own rationality to solve our problem. I wonder if we can get to a place where we realize that “God speaking to us” isn’t just our best guess, our best rationalization, or our emotional conclusion at the time.
Today, I hope we can find comfort in waiting for Jesus to show up, even in death.