Today’s reading: John 11:1-44
We are in a peculiar state. We are already redeemed, but we are not yet living in a redeemed heaven and earth. This peculiar state is one of tension: we are uncomfortable in this world with its lies, injustice, hate, sickness, and death. Yet we also hope for a redemption that “wipes every tear” (Rev. 21:4). One way Christians have taken our future hope is solely to wait for the future, but that passive approach does not consider that we can also be active in the present while maintaining faith and hope.
Here are few of my musings on being active in the present.
1. Divine intervention
I believe that God intervenes. It is always surprising and unexpected. But it is not always as spectacular. The first miracle in John’s gospel is the water turning into wine, and the miracles gradually become more surprising. Jesus raising Lazarus is the penultimate miracle before the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. I don’t think it is normative; most do not rise from the dead. However, I still believe that God works in the world but the world is replete with mystery.
I am reminded of my bold requests for Jesus to heal my wife from cancer. I am reminded by his silence and my perception of his absence. I hoped until the last day that he would come, and I even prayed, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” and I prayed that he would ask. I did not get to see a resurrection. I’m in the “already, but not yet.” The messiness, confusion, and grieving that death bring keeps me thinking, “If only you were here.”
“Jesus wept.” (11:35).
Suffering is not a part of God’s intended order, and neither is healing a sign of a “proper” faith. In fact, God hates suffering. Jesus wept here for his friend. Sometimes we need to shut up and just sit and weep with those who hurt. There is no better way to understand grief than being present both within yourself and with those in mourning.
3. Request boldly
After Jesus hears about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus stays two days longer before heading towards Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Mary and Martha, while appreciative of Jesus’ eventual coming, were already mourning Lazarus’ death. Their love and faith in Jesus had not diminished: “if you had been here, my brother would not have died….” (11:21). We see in the story that the delay “is for God’s glory so that God’s Son is glorified through it.” (11:4,40). I find this lesson frustrating; we often do not get to witness the glory.
Even still, there is power in requesting boldly. The past few days I counted 17 times I requested something or someone requested something from me. Some were simple such as passing the salt or asking for a ride. Others required more effort, but most of the requests were fulfilled. Consider how you feel when you receive a request, even from a stranger. There is a pull to answer it, and depending on the relationship the pull is stronger. This is not to say that God answers all requests, or that God simply answers, “yes, no, or not yet”; there are too many variables. But we can ask boldly as Martha did, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (11:22). Although she did not understand what would happen (11:24), she was confident in whom she was requesting. Her request became an opportunity to participate with Jesus: to peek behind a stone of the miraculous and witness God’s plan. I have many unanswered requests, but I continue to pray that God will give us bread rather than a stone. (Matt. 7:9)
One thing this season of my life has shown is that the Christian life is full of mystery. Easy answers often miss the full data of what God is like, what life is like, and the limited view of our perspectives. However, what has also happened is that some things have become clearer, like the utter importance of hope. The hope that comes with being active in our compassionate presence, the hope for divine intervention, and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and the mystery it can bring to all.
Created by: Joe Lee
About the author: Born and raised in LA. Teach philosophy at a community college in Madison, WI.
Image by: Hannah Yoon
About the artist: Hannah Yoon is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Ontario. She focuses on issues revolving around race and identity.