Thursday, January 19, 2023
By Alex Mueller, Journey Host Team Member & High School Leader
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” – John 11:25 (The words of Jesus)
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a common story heard in Christian households. I learned the story as a child, and as Tim Mackie from The Bible Project often says, “Sometimes we need to undo the Veggie Tale effect.” In other words, we become so familiar with the story that the moral gets lost.
Your children’s book version of this story may have read something like this: Lazarus became sick and died. Jesus traveled to meet Mary and Martha, who were angry at Jesus for not coming to cure Lazarus. Then Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave, raising him back to life. How miraculous! Moral of the story: Jesus worked another miracle. Time to undo the Veggie Tale effect.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. You may know Mary as the lady who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. (John 12:3) We know Jesus could have easily healed Lazarus, but his response points to the moral of the miracle, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4)
Sometimes in life’s hardest moments, I struggle to see how God’s hand is in the pain, hurt, anxiety, and even death. But over and over, God turns the pain into an opportunity to shape us for His glory.
In a 2019 ‘viral’ interview, Stephen Colbert summarizes why we should be grateful for the death of a loved one. He lost 2 brothers and his dad in a plane crash when he was 10. He quotes J.R.R. Tolkien, “What of God’s punishments is not a gift?”
Colbert goes on to say, “It is a gift to have life, and life comes with suffering… I wish this had not happened. But if you are grateful for your life, then you have to be grateful for all of your life. I suffered something at a young age, so that later in life, I could realize that in some way everyone is suffering. I, however imperfectly, have the gift to go down with that person into their suffering. To be able to share that moment with them is THE gift. So I am grateful that I suffered because it allows me to connect and share wisdom with other people about my experience.”
Mary and Martha don’t initially see a gift in Lazarus’ death. The pain and grief has clouded their belief that through it, God would be glorified.
When Jesus arrives, he tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (11:25) Mary meets Jesus and exclaims, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (11:33)
Jesus’ response is profound. “Jesus wept.” (11:35) He has compassion for the pain and hurt of Mary and Martha, becoming a perfect example for comforting those who grieve. Because God comes to earth as a human and experiences all human emotions, Jesus knows suffering. Not unsurprisingly, in the next chapter of John, Jesus is arrested and enters the passion.
“That if you believe, you will see the glory of God…that they may believe that you sent me.” (11:40, 42)
This year, how might you use your pain, hurt, anger, anxiety, or experience with the death of a loved one as a gift to show someone God’s grace? How might you glorify God in your suffering?
“God, thank you for giving me life, both the mountains and valleys. Help me praise you in my suffering and recognize the gift you are giving me to connect with your suffering and your people. Amen.”
Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily Scripture passage several times. From the passage of Scripture you read, highlight one or two verses that stick out. Write them down, and even consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.
Make some basic observations about the scripture you just read by asking these questions:
- Why was this written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- What is the author trying to communicate?
- What does the Scripture passage teach me about God and humanity?
After taking some time explaining the highlighted scriptures, begin to think about how they apply to your life. Ask yourself these questions and spend some time writing down your thoughts:
- What do these verses mean today?
- What does this verse(s) mean for my life?
- How does this verse challenge my thinking and actions?
- What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?
Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through the Bible verses. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.