“…but his disciples thought…”
Scripture John 11:7-16
7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
11 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.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Reader: This is the word of the Lord. Response: Thanks be to God.
The little phrase at the top is far too often descriptive of my response to the way of the Lord. “But I thought Lord that . . .” Here we see the single-mindedness of Jesus. A short time prior to this, Jesus had to flee Judea because the people wanted to stone him. (A geographical reminder here may be helpful. Jesus and the disciples spent a great deal of time in the region of Galilee which is roughly sixty miles north of Jerusalem and the region of Judea. The region of Samaria lay between the two areas. The people of Jerusalem viewed Galileans as unsophisticated hicks.) Jesus’ response of “there are twelve hours in the daylight” was a way of telling the disciples God, his Father, had given him a task to do. “You do your work while it is daylight. You accomplish the Father’s will. Someone who walks in the dark stumbles and gets off course.” Here he is affirming that he is committed and in perfect accord with his heavenly Father’s plan and will. Jesus knows now what is going to happen and the effect it will have on the religious Jewish community as he heads back to the place where Jewish leadership had tried to kill him. Certainly going back to Jerusalem has serious risk. Jesus also knows that the Passover is coming, which is celebrated at the Temple in Jerusalem, and that his time on earth is coming to a close. He has repeatedly told the disciples that he will be killed and will rise from the dead on the third day. They don’t really get it yet. It’s “daylight” which means God’s plan is unfolding now according to plan! The raising of Lazarus from the dead was part of his Father’s course of action so Jesus spells it out specifically for the disciples. In Thomas’ final comment, he still doesn’t get the biggest picture. His response was perfectly natural in light of the political and religious situation. The appearance of Jesus and his disciples, in light of their last time there, meant considerable risk to all of them. What is the central point in this pericope as relates to you and me? The next time you and I are tempted to respond “Lord, but I thought…”, let’s listen to Moses’ words to the Israelites before crossing the Red Sea, “be still and watch the mighty hand of God.” What followed in the raising of Lazarus and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea brought great glory to God. Remember, his ways are not our ways.
Music: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” Graham Kendrick
Hymn: God Moves in a Mysterious Way William Cowper, 1774
God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rise upon the storm. His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour, The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower. Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan his work in vain, God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.
Prayer: Lord God in heaven, who knows all things, who understands all things, who has power over all things, who has created all things, who sustains all things, who loves all things, who is over all things, who is everywhere present, who has been revealed in Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Spirit, who has given his written word, who has made provision for the restoration of the whole created order, grant us one more thing: faith to trust you when we cannot understand your ways in this world. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
―Daniel Sharp, 2009