Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” …though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:1-45)
In moments of crisis, we want God to act and act immediately. For many, this is the decisive moment of their faith. It is the moment where we know whether our faith in God is real or just a theoretical notion. Martha told Jesus that she believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It was not enough. She needs to make the transition from theory to reality. She needs to know that the God she believes in is not just a concept but a reality. It was an intense moment. In fact, the whole gospel passage is very intense. If we stop thinking about Jesus as some spiritual superhero for a moment and think of Him as a human being, we can sense the intensity of the text. Everyone was putting God on the line including Jesus. Jesus took a big risk when He waited.
Lazarus has been dead for four days. There is a common belief in the East even today that the spirit of the dead remains around for at least three days before leaving this world. Whether there is any foundation to this belief is not the issue. The people believed this and Jesus waited for more than three days. When Jesus arrived there, no one believed that there was anything that could be done at this point. Everyone had exhausted all their physical and emotional resources. There was only one thing to do now.
“Jesus wept.”-John 11:35
We weep because we are helpless in the face of the human tragedy. Even Jesus wept, He was truly human and only humans can know their limitations. Only humans can sense that there is something greater beyond their reach. We don’t weep just because we are sad. We weep because we are too weak do anything. We need something different. We need to have new strength. We need something to change the meaning of the tragedy in our lives.
This new change is the Resurrection.
Martha knew the theory of the Resurrection but now she experienced its reality. This transition cannot occur unless we are willing to acknowledge the limits of our humanity. In order to this, we need to follow the example of Jesus, we need to take a risk. Without risk, we never discover the reality of our God. Without taking any risk, we are settling for a comfortable existence of theoretical religion. It is a religion that never realizes the meaning of the Resurrection for the here and now. Lazarus was resurrected in the here and now. We know that he eventually died but it changed the way he understood Life.
The gospel text addresses the issues of death, mourning and fear. All these make for the tragic elements of Life. These are things that most of us make every effort to avoid. Yet, Jesus deliberately faced these things because He waited to go to Lazarus. Because he waited, He helped his disciples including Mary, Martha and Lazarus have a new understanding of the Resurrection.
Jesus took a risk for us so that we can experience the new reality of the Resurrection. It is a reality where God comes piercing through our darkest moments to bring new Life. And He will wait for the perfect moment to do this.