The text assigned for today is from John 11:32-44, where we hear of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
We are given a glimpse of both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus in this text. The humanity appears when Jesus, as we are told, was deeply moved as he came near the tomb of his friend. The divinity is pointed up as we see the relationship between Jesus and the Father. There is a tension between this humanity and divinity that shapes our understanding of Jesus. Where you might come down on this will have an effect on how you see our role as disciples and our relationship to God. It is a consideration that has challenged historians and scholars for the entire Christian era.
This story is well known but a look at verses 40 through 43 draws our attention to the nature of prayer and a reassurance that God is truly present when we pray.
Martha questions Jesus’ notions about opening the tomb. People in that day had a very close at hand idea in the permanence of death.
Jesus in vs. 40 and challenges Martha’s beliefs, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Some scholars argue that this statement was given by Jesus in anger. They posit that Martha and the gathered crowd were admonished for their lack of faith. A pretty human response given the situation. We are not told of Martha’s response but it addresses us also in the call to belief in the message and work of Jesus. But to treat the disciples fairly here; they were probably never sure what Jesus might uncork on any given day. They too must have been confounded by the differences they saw firsthand in the humanity and divinity of their friend.
In verse 41 Jesus seems to come back to a more divine appearance when he looks up and addresses the Father. He gives thanks to the Father for the knowing that he, Jesus, would be heard. To give thanks first in a prayer is a classic Jewish prayer format. He then goes on to speak directly to the Father in a monologue where he clearly states that it is for the benefit of those around him; vs. 42, “but I say this because of the people standing around here, so that they will believe that you sent me.” I have often wondered if the writer of the John texts does not say such things in a context, to use a modern term, “I’m putting you on speaker phone”.
Now, nearly two thousand years later, we too are included as hearers, part of the gathered crowd. We are called to faith by Jesus’ own words by making certain to us that God is present and hears us when we pray.
We hear of this again today in the Old Testament text from Isaiah, 25: 6-9. “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation”.
The Psalm for today leads us in a similar direction by pronouncing repeatedly that God is the “King of Glory.”
What great words of assurance in the crazy world that we are now a part of. When we are not sure what to pray for, when we are not sure how to pray for anything, we are told that God knows us so well that we hardly need to speak it to be heard.
What a great God we have.
Gracious God, we give you thanks for your presence in our lives. We know that you hear us when we barely have the words for those things that make us anxious and unfaithful. Keep us in your presence and let us live in your will. Amen.
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Thanks again, Bob, for your good and inciteful words.