Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Dicey Drama Before Lazarus Got Sick

Part 2 of the story series, "Questioning God's Goodness ...."

When Mary and Martha sent Jesus the message that their brother was sick, they and everyone else knew the practical human reasons why Jesus might not show up.

It all had to do with a dicey little incident in Jerusalem ... at Hanukkah, or, as people called it, "The Feast of Dedication."

"It was winter," recalls John, the disciple Jesus loved. "Jesus was in the Temple Courts walking in Solomon's Colonnade."

What happened next must have shaken John and the rest of the disciples to the core. Things got absolutely violent. Yes, violent.

Violence, right there in the Temple, during the holiday of the Festival of Lights. Imagine it. John tells a chilling story of brutality that all started with one question: "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Now read John's account of what happened ... see him in your mind's eye as if he's telling you the story over coffee at your kitchen table. He wrote it for you to get the full picture of what Jesus was facing. Two-thousand years later, his words still ring with a harbinger of dread that he and the other disciples must have felt acutely.

Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one."

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods?”’If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus.

What in the world?

Stoning Jesus?

In the Temple Courts?

So of course, we see another reason behind the simplicity of Mary's and Martha's message, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

The girls knew full well that if Jesus put one toe into their neighborhood, people were waiting to pounce. They knew He' be risking His life to show up. Perhaps they felt it was enough to let Him know the circumstance. Perhaps they had enough faith that He could stay where He was, speak one word from where He was, and their brother would get better.

Or ... perhaps they had enough faith as well to know that if God protected Jesus from being stoned, it was a no-brainer that God would also envelope Him if He traveled to Lazarus's bedside.

The bottom line is, everyone in Israel by this time knew that Jesus was staying away from Jerusalem and the burbs around it, including Bethany, for good reason.

When He didn't show up, even though it was heartbreaking for the sisters, they had to have known the human logic of the why.

That said, if "the one you love is sick" then died, they must have faced the question that all of us do when bad things happen to us and to those we love:

"Why did God let this happen? Is God really good? Does God really love me?"

Tune in for part 3 of the story series.

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