Sunday, May 18, 2014

RYBS: Stealing Heaven

Read Your Bible Series - Week Two

Stealing Heaven

In John chapter 11, we start out with a quick bit of history to get the story moving:
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)
Just as a quick aside for those familiar with Saint Mary of Podiatric Perfume and Hair, this is NOT the same person as Mary Magdalene.  So don't ever, ever fall victim to Pope Gregory I and get those two mixed up.

Now back to our story.  We can already see there's some trouble brewing in the realm of the omnipotent.  The author of John dives right in:
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.'
If you didn't already know the end of the story here, I know what you're thinking.  "Look!  Jesus just told Lazarus' sisters that his sickness will not end in death.  Looks to me like Jesus is saying that Lazarus is sick because God needs some celebrity recognition by the locals and Jesus is God's talent agent."  If you thought that, you'd be wrong.  Jesus didn't mean END end, he just meant... oh never mind.  Back to the story:
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'
'But Rabbi,' they said, 'a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?'
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.'
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.'
His disciples replied, 'Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
Darn it, I hate when the writer gives away the ending like that...
So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.'
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him.'
Did you notice how sassy Thomas got with Jesus and the disciples there at the end of that exchange?  Talk about a smart-ass!  I can see Thomas now, "This dude's got a death wish or something... He's going to get us all killed!"

Anyway, Jesus decides to set off to Bethany to pay his respects to his dead friend.  But before we get back to the story, take note that thus far, we've already been told twice that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters.  This means that logically we can conclude that Lazarus is a follower of Jesus, which would qualify him as a true Christian and get him a direct ticket into heaven.  Keep that in mind as we move forward:
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'
Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'
I find that last statement from Martha intriguing.  By that we can conclude that young Martha has been taught that her brother's resurrection on Earth is the ultimate prize for those that believe.  She doesn't speak of walls of jasper or cities of gold; she believes that she and those she loves will someday walk the Earth again.  It's funny how easy it is to miss that after reading Revelation, but that's a topic for another time:
Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'
'Yes, Lord,' she replied, 'I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.'
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. 'The Teacher is here,' she said, 'and is asking for you.' When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked.
'Come and see, Lord,' they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!
But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'
Let's look at a few things in this section.  First, you'll see that Mary called Jesus out a bit by saying that had he been there, Lazarus would not have died.  Second, we're reminded yet again how much Jesus loved Lazarus.  Third, like any good friend of the family, Jesus was obviously upset for everyone involved.

But then Jesus does something a bit odd...  He asks Mary where the family buried Lazarus.  I've always found that interesting that the creator of the Universe didn't have the clairvoyance to psychal-locate the tomb of such a good friend.  Perhaps he had to save his psychogenic batteries for a much larger bit of messianic magic:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said.
'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'
You got that right.  Ewww.
Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?'
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'
And there you have it.  Lazarus raised from the dead!  WOW!  That's never been done before, right?


But I'm still left with a few lingering questions here.  Why does Jesus have to convince God to do him a solid and let him raise Lazarus from the dead?  Furthermore, if Lazarus was an obvious follower of Jesus, and was thrice declared as being loved by Jesus, why in the name of himself would Jesus rip this poor sap away from the gold streets of paradise and subject him to ANOTHER death?  The guy has already died once!  I mean Jesus, isn't one death enough?

Plus, I think it's all too convenient that the story of Lazarus ended there.  In my mind, I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to think that once Lazarus realized he was alive again, he rattled off a litany of profanity that the writer of John didn't deem fit to print.  I mean, wouldn't you?  This poor dupe didn't have the luxury of narcotics or analgesics to help with the pain, which means that I'm quite sure he suffered an extremely drawn-out and painful death.

Can you imagine what poor Lazarus was thinking once the vertigo wore off and he stumbled out of that tomb?
'What am I doing back in this dump?  Does this mean I have to die AGAIN?!?  What kind of sick bastard are you?'
Even when Jesus raised himself from he grave, he knew better than to subject himself to yet another round of the eventual agony of the demise of a human body.  No, he saved that "gift" for a man he truly loved!

Nice work... Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. The first biblical zombie. Which is part of the reason, I believe, we are so intrigued by them. These legends