Reading and Prayer – November 18

Reading: John 11: 1-44 (abridged)

Now a man named Lazarus [of Bethany] was sick. So the sisters, [Martha and Mary] sent word to Jesus. When he heard [it], Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days… On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. …Martha [going] out to meet him [said] “Lord,…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die… Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world….”  When Jesus saw [Mary, the other sister] weeping [Mary had also greeted him with the words “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”], …he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled….Jesus [himself] wept. [When He] came to the tomb [he said],“Take away the stone.” “But, Lord,” said Martha…by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone…. Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Lord, I struggle sometimes with the strength of my emotions.  There are losses that seem almost too hard to bear, and there are heights of emotion, triggered by things that I love so much, that I am tempted to make of them an idol.  I thank you, Lord, that Jesus understands this about me.  He was a man of emotion too.  He knew what it was to have friends, to be “deeply moved” in his inner being.  How wonderful it is that we do not have a dispassionate, impersonal God — a God who operates according to impersonal laws of justice or of karma, but who knows us in our “inner parts,” who cares enough to intervene savingly in our story at great personal cost, and who delights over us with singing. 
Yet Lord, in this story, I see a Jesus who sets personal feelings aside, to look at the larger picture.  How easy it would have been to run to Lazarus’ bedside before he died!  It was what his own human love impelled him to do, and what was certainly the expectation of those so beloved sisters.  But Jesus cared more for the glory of God that would be revealed in denying this impulsive emotion.  He recognized that sparing the sisters THIS grief, while a kindness in the short term, would not have taught them the greater sense in which God answers ALL grief, by the glorious hope and power of resurrection. Jesus’ refusal to be swayed by his emotions gave to the sisters and to the world a far greater gift — a way of attaching emotion to the bedrock of what is True, rather than to the shifting sands of circumstances.  

Oh Lord, this is a lesson I need to learn!  Help me to ground my faith on the things that are True, and worthy to be believed, whatever the ups and downs of my immediate experience.  Help me to ground my faith on the Truth that Jesus loves me and has passed through death to give me the hope of resurrection, however I may be feeling about God, or the goods that He is giving or withholding from me on a given day.  Help me manage my emotions toward other people.  Give me the emotional stability not to be reactive — not to the hurts of the world with either an answering spite or a collapse of self-confidence — and not to the praise of the world with either a susceptibility to flattery or a need to please people rather than God.  These things I ask in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

-Rev. Karla Wubbenhorst