Formations 04.03.2022: Glory Amid Grief

John 11:33-46, 53

I rarely think of John 11 without thinking about George. George was in pretty bad shape as long as I had known him, pretty much stuck in his house and tied to his oxygen tank. When he died, I read the story of Lazarus at his funeral.

This is one of those great Bible stories. It reveals the power of God in a profound way while inspiring hope that through Christ, we too will one day live again. As we laid George to rest, Jesus’ final command to “unbind him, and let him go” (v. 44) seemed especially apt. Sometimes our bodies get in the way of how we would like to live. I can appreciate how being set free from such constraints would sound appealing to some.

The story of Lazarus includes several instances of foreshadowing of the Easter story: women weeping at a tomb with a stone in front, onlookers wondering about Jesus’ seeming inability to change things, themes of resurrection and eternal life, and, of course, a once-dead man rising from his grave.

We read this story today as a wonderful foretaste of Christian hope, but it is also a foretaste of the cross. In John’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus is what finally cements Jesus’ opponents in their resolve to see him dead.

We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey. Holy Week begins next week with Palm Sunday, and our focus will shift from the teachings of Jesus to the death of Jesus. It’s fitting, therefore, that even now, we see glimpses of the darkness that is to come.

Contemplate the swirl of emotions and motivations in this chapter. Our lesson’s Central Question affirms that Jesus displays God’s glory even amid grief—and thank God for that! We have all suffered loss, and it is comforting to know that God is present with us in our time of need. But we also have probably experienced people whose hunger for power and status kept them from weeping when others weep or rejoicing when others rejoice.

Thankfully, Jesus never had this problem. He responds to Mary and Martha in their grief, even weeping himself at his friend’s tomb. It didn’t always have to be about him, even when he was about to perform a miracle.

And he performs that miracle even though it seals his fate.

Discussion

• Why does Jesus weep when he knows he is about to raise Lazarus?
• What is the point of Jesus’ prayer in verses 41-42?
• What might be the significance of the fact that Lazarus comes out still wrapped in his grave cloths?
• What is the relationship between believing, eternal life, and the glory of God?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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