This weekend I have not been successful writing my thesis. I wanted to finish my final chapter yesterday so I could spend the next two weeks on revisions but now it looks like I’ll be spending a good part of this week writing the final chapter. I did get a page written yesterday though so that’s cool. I think, what I found was that I need to spend more time thinking about what I actually want to say for this final chapter. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I’m not sure which), that extra time won’t be spent today because it’s Easter so I’m taking the day off to rest and pray and spend some quality time with God.
I’ve been looking forward to today for most of the week. Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays (tied with Christmas) and so I’m excited to really enjoy it today. Plus, I’m taking a Sabbath today, something I haven’t done in a long time, so I’ll really get to experience it with God. Ahhh! There are so many things I want to talk about in this post now! This might be a long one…
People always ask me if I’m going to spend Easter with my family since my parents live so close. I never really got that. I guess I missed the part about Easter when we were spending time with family. Our family did spend time together, of course but I guess I never associated Easter with being a family holiday. It’s weird because I think the rest of my family does think of it as a family thing.
Anyway, all of that was to say that although I haven’t spent my last 3 Easters with family, I have usually spent them with friends, which is almost the same thing in my book. But this year, I get to spend Easter alone. Sometimes, I don’t like doing things corporately because, in a way, it feels like it’s taking away from my time alone with God. There’s a beauty that comes from being a part of the body and seeing others worship and worshiping and praying with them but there’s also a point where you need to experience God for yourself and by yourself. That’s how I feel this Easter, more so than any other Easter I’ve celebrated.
So I’ve got an Easter playlist all queued-up and a Bible sitting, just waiting to be read. I’ve got other plans too, like cleaning my room and the bathroom, maybe calling my parents, y’know, the good stuff. I’ll also be at church, of course. One passage that I’ll probably be going through is John 11, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
It’s such a powerful passage in the Bible but I think it’s also become a little unappreciated by more devout Christians. Everyone knows the story of how Jesus goes and raises his friend from death, how he weeps alongside Mary and Martha, how he waits two days to go to their home. But the best part of that story, in my opinion, is in verse 4 when Jesus says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God that the Son of Man might be glorified through it”.
That verse is such a powerful one to me. It can be seen as a whole to talk about the greater struggle of mankind, or you can just take it in its specific context and still be amazed by it. We know that Jesus would later go on to raise Lazarus from the dead and everything would turn out fine but there are a bunch of verses in the middle before that happens. Still, at the very beginning, Jesus claims that this suffering will be for the glory of God.
That word, glory, is totally undefinable. We know what it means, kind of, but we don’t really know, we can’t really qualify or quantify glory. It’s just this thing God has. And we certainly can’t understand how suffering leads to God’s glory. Or maybe you can. Maybe you’ll say, Lazarus’ death allowed Christ to resurrect him and thus show himself to be the Son of God. That’s good. That’s true. But it isn’t really satisfactory.
Why did Jesus have to let Lazarus die? The refrain we hear from both Mary and Martha is, “Lord, if you had been here he wouldn’t have died.” It’s true. If Jesus had been there he wouldn’t have died. But it’s easy to see how Lazarus’ death could prove Christ’s glory because Jesus was able to raise him. So maybe that works as an explanation. But that still doesn’t explain the time delay.
Jesus hears about Lazarus’ death and decides to wait two days before going to him. And he claims this is for God’s glory. Of course, Jesus was led by the Spirit so waiting was the right option but can we finite humans really say that the time Jesus spent not healing Lazarus, time that isn’t even recorded in John’s gospel, was time well-spent? We can’t. We can’t see that. We can’t see how the seemingly needless suffering of Mary and Martha glorified God.
But we have to. We have to because that’s what Easter is about, that’s what this faith is about. It’s acknowledging that after Jesus suffered the unjust punishment of the cross, he rose again as the Savior of humanity. He had to suffer to be crowned king, he had to die to beat death. Because only through this act could the glory of God be shown to humanity.
The question remains, couldn’t there be another way? It’s a question Jesus himself asks in his prayer in the garden. And the response he gets is the one that we’re celebrating today. It’s his death – and the death we can share in – that leads to his glory.