Other than containing the Bible’s shortest verse, this weeks Gospel reading is flat out famous because of the amazing miracle – Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. From personal pain and grief to inexplicable joy and greater faith. Our passage this week is from Section 118b (John 11:17-44) in the Harmony of the Gospels, and John alone tells the story. To tell it compassionately one should at least read from the beginning of the chapter (Section 118a) where we read of Lazarus’ sickness and death. The story captures sentiments and responses that many of us have had when face to face with the realities of life and death, but it can also challenge our own faith for such things seem impossible.
32 Therefore1 when Mary2 came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell3 down at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”4¯5 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,6 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.7 36 The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” 37 Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind,8 have also kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”Martha,9 the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?” 41 So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.10 Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. 42 I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude standing around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Free him, and let him go.”
Grief is an emotional reaction or response to loss. However loss is not just about losing someone we love to death, we may experience intense loss at the end of a relationship, a loss of autonomy or purpose, our job, our home, our freedom, even our health. In her remarkable book, On Death and Dying. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the emotional process and experience one faces in such times. While its is appealing, its grossly inaccurate, and she herself did not intend to “set in stone certain steps” but rather to help people understand the array of emotions that are common, normal and expected. A tool for the grieving and those who love them. In the same way, Greg Troxell (founder of Harmony Bible) has mapped an array of emotions in the Emotivational Spectrum, as a tool to guide individuals (and those who share the journey with them) to feel and understand their current condition, motivational needs, and aspirations so that they can live in the fullness of that moment and make healthy choices.
For those still learning how to sojourn with someone facing loss, particularly death, here are some tips from a hospice company and some of our own:
- Pray for guidance, courage, and compassion before going, calling, or approaching them
- Just Listen. Don’t philosophize or preach.
- Feel with them. Express empathy
- When the moment feels right, share your favorite memories. Remember that your friend wants to know that the person they still love is also cherished by others, that they will be remembered, and missed
- Make an offer of practical help. Don’t insist and don’t add another decision. Grief can be exhausting and paralyzing. Say something like, “Can I come by and…”.
- 1,2,5,10 years later – it still hurts. Remember anniversaries and honor loved ones. Take time to share a pot of coffee, or an activity they enjoy
John 11:25 are the resounding gospel note that we proclaim this day: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.”
- What types of loss have you endured?
- What do the preceding verses (John 11:1-32) lead you to ponder about the ‘bad things’ in your life experience?
- What can we learn from Jesus’ response to Mary’s opening indictment?
- What manner of hope, help, and healing did you find in the fray of such times?
- How was your faith manifest to you in and after that season of loss?
- What has changed since then?
- Having read the accounts of Jesus healing so many (and the Apostles as well) do you believe healing is possible today? How does your response match up with your personal experience and testimonies you’ve heard?
Healing, intercession, God’s timing, faith, being honest about our emotions, emotions reveal what we value, how to make healthy choices in tough times, prayer, doubt, grief, sorrow, living with vitality.
- By this word, οὖν (oun): therefore, then, so then therefore/then (G3767), we know that we must read what comes before to grasp the impact of this story.
- This is one sister of Lazarus, mentioned also in: Lk. 10:39; Jn. 11:1; 12:3. See Mary and Martha.
- while some suppose this is the same as ‘worshiped’ it is more likely that it was an outward expression of her grief. The Greek word is πίπτω (piptō): to collapse to collapse (G4098)
- Though the Greek word here, ἀποθνήσκω (apothnēskō, G0599) can be used in either the literal or figurative sense, the preceding 31 verses of this chapter will clarify that he was dead 4 days
- CR John 4:49; Luke 8:41
- This is not to say that he was bothered, but saddened with her, and for her loss.
- CR: Romans 12:15. There in her presence, sharing the sacrament of that present moment – Jesus wept, with Mary. Our outward expression of our sorrow and grief seen through our tears, talking about a loved one who has died, sharing memories, and even celebrating anniversary dates are all healthy expressions of mourning. Let us love one another and be there in times of sorrow, sadness, sickness as well as in joy, hope, and happiness.
- There are six occurrences in the Harmony of the Gospels that speak of Jesus healing one or more blind people (Sec. 57 Mt 11:5 / Lk 7:22; Sec. 61 Mt 12:22; Sec. 81b Mk. 8:22-26; Sec. 100a Jn 9:1-7; Sec. 126 Mt 20:29-34,/ Mk 10:46-52 / Lk 18:35-43; Sec. 131 Mt 21:14). Four of the instances lay chronologically before this event and 2 more occasions afterwards.
- See Mary and Martha
- Tradition is that Lazarus’ tomb was in a town now “al-Eizariya”. See Harmony Bible Map Sec. 118a,b