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The story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus contains some of the most memorable verses in scripture. In it, John’s recount reveals a Jesus that is simultaneously powerful over death and intimate with those suffering. It is therefore not surprising that the passage has been a source of enduring comfort for those going through seasons of uncertainties and trials.
At the outset, Jesus spoils the ending, revealing that Lazarus’ illness is not going to lead to death. While suffering is still coming, everything that is going to happen is “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Through this, John provides the framework for entering into stories of suffering. Even as God is not the author of sin or suffering, he uses these seasons so that we might bring him glory. Surely, at many points in the story, this would seem foolish, particularly as Mary and Martha are weeping. Yet by the end, Jesus’ words are vindicated as he calls Lazarus from the tomb.
We see why Jesus allows this pain and suffering at the deepest point in the story while talking with Martha. Comforting her, Jesus reveals not only who he is, but what that means for those who believe in him. Into her pain and loss, Jesus announces, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Through our pain, it is this truth that secures us as an anchor for a ship in a storm. Come what may, Christ has conquered death, and through him, we have life.
At the same time, it is important not to miss the intimacy of the passage. In times of trial, we often run to God’s power and sovereignty. This is good, reminding us that he is in control when so many things seem to be out of our hands. Yet over time as crisis deepens, many Christians struggle to believe God is with them in their pain. John invites us to see Jesus’ humanity in his empathy for Mary and Martha.
Moved in his spirit and visibly crying, Jesus models for us his teaching to mourn with those who mourn.
Just as Jesus entered into the pain of Mary and Martha, who in your community needs you to enter into their mourning? Reflect on signs of pain where you can share in their burden while bringing the message of Christ’s resurrection as the hope for their deliverance.