John 11: 32 – 44
By the second week of March, India entered into a lockdown on account of the spreading, deadly Coronavirus Pandemic. By then everyone thought that schools, colleges, offices, workplaces, business establishments will reopen on March 31st. Everyone was expecting it to be a two weeks’ holiday. That is what – I and most of us thought. But to our disappointment and desperation, it is almost eight months now. The whole nation is on semi-lockdown, even today. It looks that we have not overcome and also in the near future, there is going to be no end to this health crisis.
Friends, when we read John 11: 32 – 44, there are four themes we can notice.
The first theme is tragedy
The first part of John 11: 32 talks about a tragedy. Lazarus was dead. We find that both of his sisters Mary and Martha were grieving the death of their brother.
Every day, the news channels update us about the number of people infected with coronavirus, the number of people dead and fortunately, they also give the number of people recovered from this deadly infection.
We are not the first ones in history to go through such pandemic, tragedy, and death. People, before us have gone through such problems. Different epidemics have hit humankind, at different points of time.
Today, we have immense knowledge of microbes, different techniques to test the infection, different medicines to treat the infected persons. In spite of all medical advancements, we are caught helpless.
Just imagine how our ancestors in the past, coped up with such situations, epidemics, pandemics, when there was very less knowledge of the cause of the disease, source of infection, mode of transfer, the treatment for the disease etc. Villages perished in the past and turned into ghost villages.
The second theme we can identify is hopelessness. In the biblical passage, the first half – John 11: 32-37 is filled with hopelessness. John 11: 35 is the smallest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept”.
We find Lord Jesus grieving along with Mary, Martha and the other Jews who had come to comfort Mary and Martha, the sisters of the dead man Lazarus. Jesus was late to reach Lazarus’s house and Lazarus was dead four days before.
The third theme we come across is death. Lazarus has died. Here we see a difference, in the way death is perceived. Though Mary and Martha insist that Lazarus had died four days before and his body would have rotten, Jesus declares that Lazarus will rise and come back to life. Jesus is God. God can do everything according to His pleasure and good will. We Christians have a great hope of eternal life
4. Resurrection / Miracle
The next theme we come across is Resurrection. Jesus is God and he raised Lazarus from death. More than a decade ago, my B.D. counselling subject Professor, Rev. Dr. John Raj Kumar was diagnosed with cancer and he was on his deathbed.
One of his friends who narrated his struggles described to me saying, like Jesus who walked out of his tomb, Professor John Rajkumar walked out of his death bed. Professor Rajkumar loves to tell his story this way. That is the reason, I am using his example here. God resurrects people even today.
The word Resurrection has the meaning, to rise from the dead, and also means – to re-energise, to revitalize, to rekindle, to renew and so on.
Friends, the first part of the scripture lesson with the three themes like tragedy, hopelessness, and death can make us weak, fearful, hopeless, paranoid. These can leave us numb. They can leave us stressed with no energy to think and act.
But the second part of John 11, the themes like God’s miracle and resurrection can energise us, can revitalize us, can rekindle a spirit of joy, a spirit of hope in us.
We are living during a pandemic. As Christian ministers, laymen, and laywomen let us have a heart to serve the Lord through all the struggles. God will honor our perseverance, self- sacrifice, our patience and steadfastness in the ministry of the Lord.
Let us be re-energized, revitalized, rekindled, renewed in spirit and body to carry on with our life and the work of the Lord entrusted to each one of us.
God Bless us all.
Dr W S Annie is presently serving as Associate Professor of Theology at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.
Photo by Dennis Ottink on Unsplash