“Let us also go, that we may die with Him” said Believing Thomas (it’s always bothered me that we burden St. Thomas solely with the descriptor “Doubting”). I don’t believe Thomas actually knew what he was saying, but I think I know what it might mean to us.
“Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Why would we want to die with Lazarus? Why would we want to die at all?
I can think of a few reasons. For example, that we are to die to ourselves that Christ may live in us. In John 11 it appears as if the reason we, along with St. Thomas, might want to die with Lazarus is so that the Son of God might be glorified through our death. In this way, of course, our dying to self does indeed bring glory to God. Every time we mortify ourselves in Lent (or during any season of our lives), we bring glory to God.
Now this is an exceedingly strange passage of Scripture, and for that reason it has the ability to teach us. Several years back, I spent some time reading books on training the memory. I wish I’d assimilated more, especially the ability to instantly memorize 50 names and faces in rapid succession. Alas, it appears that just as I was priested in 2000 (the year I turned 40), my normal memory for names became subnormal.
But I do remember one thing from those books, and that is that if you can associate unusual images with things you want to remember then you are more likely to remember them. This works out just dandy for me since I have a penchant for weird things anyway.
So the strangeness of this passage works in our favor. Weird and unusual things have an extra bonus: they provoke us to find the reason why they are weird and not “normal.” How much have the abnormal people of the world contributed to our understanding of normal humans! (I haven’t quite decided which camp I’m in.)
What do we expect, when we hear that Lazarus was the one whom the Lord loved (verse 3) and that He also loved Martha and her sister (verse 5)? Any hack could have written, “And so, as Jesus imagined the mourning of the sisters of Lazarus and the pain of death, He immediately went to Lazarus and healed him.”
But that’s not the way it happened. And so here is the delicious strangeness of Jesus, one of the proofs to me that He is God Himself. Here’s what really happened: “when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”
Say what?! When He heard that the guy He loved was very sick He stayed where He was 2 more days) to make sure Lazarus had time to die)?
But why would He do such a thing? Why? This isn’t the Jesus I know and love – or is it?
We know that Jesus loved Lazarus, and we know that He could have prevented him from dying. But He doesn’t. Why not? So that the Son of God might be glorified. By allowing Lazarus to die so that He might make Him alive again, Jesus brought glory to Himself as the Son of God.
There is a lesson here for us. “Why?” we ask. “Why are we allowed to die in this life? Why am I allowed to suffer? Why can’t you heal me right now?”
And Jesus lovingly answers, “Because I am working in you a far greater and more eternal weight of glory. By sin you brought suffering into the world and by suffering you shall be purified from sin, through Me. Your sickness and suffering are not unto death but for My glory. When it is time, I will come to you and awake you from your sleep and relieve you of your suffering. But in the meantime you must learn to trust Me that I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
When we have passed into glory, we shall all realize just how glorious He really is, the One who has raised us from the dead and healed us from every infirmity. But even in this life, whenever we see our healing or the healing of another, our faith is to be strengthened, and we are to believe! Every time we are given strength to bear our suffering, waiting for His healing, we are to believe and give Him glory.
Here is the greatest miracle of all: that having not seen Him we believe Him (in contrast to Thomas’ moment of doubt). Having not been raised from the dead yet and not healed from all our sufferings, we believe Him.
In this, He is greatly glorified.
“Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Prayer: O blessed Redeemer, relieve, we beseech thee, by thy indwelling power, the distress of this thy servant; release me from sin, and drive away all pain of soul and body, that being restored to soundness of health, I may offer thee praise and thanksgiving; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. In what ways are you or someone you love suffering? How are you responding to the Lord’s timing in His healing?
2. Remember some of the times in your life, or in the life of one you love, when Jesus has healed or delivered you. Remember to give thanks and praise!
Resolution: I resolve to use my suffering as a means of meditating upon the healing and new life that Jesus promises.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson