For us who are part of God’s family, and even for many who are not yet there, Jesus has always been, and will be, our model, our mentor, the one we follow. The life and teachings of Jesus are our foundation – our “go to” – when it comes to figuring out how to live well as a child of God. But there are times in the life of Jesus when it can be difficult to understand what his life means for us, what the message is for us.
This Easter I revisited one such passage – the fascinating story of the healing of Lazarus as found in John 11. There is so much in that story, but I admit that I have often puzzled at Jesus’ response to a sick friend. He doesn’t rush to his side, instead he waits until He knows that Lazarus has died. And then he finally arrives at the place where families and friends are grieving, outside of the tomb where the body of Lazarus has now lain for 4 days – long enough that the perfumes and spices have worn off. And what does Jesus do? He stops and he weeps. Now, while I appreciate the model of joining friends in grief, my question has always been why Jesus would not immediately bring life back into Lazarus’s body. He knew he could. He knew he would. And in so doing, he would put a stopper in the flow of grief of his dear friends. Why not stop their grief as quickly as possible?
I am pretty sure I do not yet have a definitive answer to that question, but through reflection several things have been impressed upon me. Certainly, I have been reminded that I must keep learning the lesson that my timing is not God’s timing. Rushing to the solution is not always the best thing to do. I have also been learning the importance of joining friends in grief without having to talk, or explain, or rationalize. Both of those are important for me to come to terms with.
Above all though, it seems that there is a key lesson that rooted in Jesus actions, his delay, his weeping, his wisdom. That is this: for God, it is about relationship above all. Jesus wants us to know that he understands our pain and he hurts with us. He wants us to know that he joins us. He wants us to know that our relationship with him isn’t simply about the solutions he brings, it is about the bond we have. His person should be more important to me than his plan. His presence in my life should be more important than the solution I am hoping for.
So, in no matter what your role may be, whether you are a leader in formal ministry, or a new member of the family of God, keep following the model of Jesus – love people well, join them in struggles, and make the relationship more important than any resolution. But most importantly, as you follow Jesus, as you meet with Jesus, don’t ever forget that he wants to know you, he wants to join you, he does understand your journey, and nothing is more important to him than a relationship with you. It can be hard to believe that when you compare who we are with who he is as creator of universe and giver of life. And yet that is the truth we find in His Word. And maybe it is a truth you needed to hear today as you journey through whatever this life is giving you right now. I say to you all, revel in his Word where you find such truth, and revel in the place you have in the heart of God. That is a mystery bigger than any others, a puzzle bigger and better than Jesus’ timing with Lazarus. Bask in that one for a while!
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