Read John 11
Here’s the cast for today’s drama:
12 disciples (Thomas gets a speaking part)
Mary and Martha who are sisters
Lazarus (Brother to Mary and Martha and on his last leg)
People coming and going and believing in Jesus
Some unnamed messengers
A crowd in Bethany (Much like those in previous chapters). These folks don’t show up until later.
Jesus and his disciples were at the Jordan where John the Baptizer began his ministry. They were taking a break from Jerusalem and Judea. There was a growing contingent of Jews there that wanted Jesus out of the way. Killing him would be an acceptable option.
There were also those coming to Jesus at the Jordan who were seeking the truth and they found him and they believed, but the atmosphere at the Jordan was a little more relaxed than in Jerusalem. Still, Jesus was moving closer to the cross.
News came that Lazarus, a friend to Jesus and brother to Mary and Martha, had fallen sick. It surely must have been serious for the sisters to send word to Jesus. If you had a runny nose or allergies, that might not be newsworthy. I’m thinking it was COVID-1 or COVID-2, but that’s just speculation.
We don’t know if the messengers were masked or not, but Jesus knew exactly what was happening. He announced this sickness will not end in death.
Upon hearing the news of Lazarus’s illness, Jesus decided to stay at the Jordan for two more days. This is just speculation again, but I think that the disciples had booked the Jordan-side resort through AirBnB and had paid for the full week and it was nonrefundable.
We know that’s not the case. Jesus said that this sickness came up Lazarus so that the Son of Man could glorify God through what he would do. It would also be the tipping point in the plot to kill Jesus.
As often was the case, the disciples seemed clueless.
After the two days, Jesus told his disciples that they were headed to Judea. That brought the relaxed time at the Jordan to an end. Was their Master getting Sometimers Disease? Did he not remember that just a very short time agon they were ready to stone him in Jerusalem?
Then Jesus gave them another light and darkness, day and night quip to think on. Maybe it was to give them something to talk about on the walk to Bethany.
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
Here’s the quiz that goes back to chapter one and we revisit time and again.
If you are walking with Jesus, you will not stumble. When your shepherd is the Good Shepherd, you are in good company.
The disciples still didn’t get the big picture. Jesus had to be very blunt with them, they did not pick up on he is sleeping analogy.
Lazarus is dead.
Had the disciples been paying attention, they might have remembered Jesus saying that this sickness would not end in death. So here was their dichotomy.
· Either Jesus finally got one wrong, or…
· There was more to come. Something unbelievable.
Evidently while they were questioning their Master’s judgment in returning to the region where people stood ready to kill Jesus, they had some short-term memory loss. There is no recorded discussion about the sickness that was upon Lazarus not ending in death.
They should have been able to connect the dots for the man who turned water into wine, fed a multitude with a couple fish and a little bread, walked on water, and opened the eyes of a man born blind.
They should have been expecting great things ahead of them; instead, they seemed certain that certain death awaited them.
Thomas, who is known most for doubting that Jesus had been raised from the dead—that comes later too, here commits to his own death out of loyalty to Jesus. It has a little machismo to it. Today is a good day to die.
I could put this into Marine Corps jargon: Come on you %$#&, do you want to live forever?
This is Charge of the Light Brigade stuff, with Thomas shouting Half a league onward. It was much farther than a mile and a half to Bethany, but the cavalier spirit in the face of death was obvious.
Jesus knew what he would do in Bethany. The disciples didn’t pick up on what he had told them. Perhaps Jesus didn’t want them advertising what he would do in advance.
Whatever the reasons, the disciples followed into what Thomas portrayed as certain death.
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
The disciples could not see the next miracle. Perhaps it was beyond what they thought even their Master could do. The man’s dead and they couldn’t leave him out overnight, so he is probably already in the tomb. This would be a good time to send flowers.
But Jesus was going to Bethany and so too were his disciples.
Thomas seems to be forever saddled with the moniker of Doubting Thomas, but here I would like to dub him Loyal Thomas. The only thing that Thomas could see ahead of him was death; yet he followed his Master.
He followed his Master.
How many times do we find ourselves in Thomas’s shoes? How many times do we face situations where we can’t see a good outcome? We can’t see what God will do for us.
We are called to have faith. There was faith in the loyalty of Thomas. He didn’t know what was ahead and it looked like death, but he would follow his Master.
So here is what we should chew on for a time.
When following Jesus appears to be unprofitable, will we follow anyway?
When following him appears to be costly, will we follow anyway?
When following Jesus might cost us everything, will we follow anyway?
Things in this out of control world might get worse. They might get much worse for those called Christian. Will you follow him anyway?
Follow him. Trust him. Live for him. Die for him if that is what faith requires.
Follow him even if it costs you everything for your place with him for eternity has already been prepared.
Now while we still have some breathing room is the time to prepare ourselves to follow him even if it costs us everything.