Day 13: John 11
After a quick recap, and the opening credits, Episode 11 begins with a voice-over: ’Now a man named Lazarus was ill’. A quick glance of the title, ‘The Death of Lazarus’, immediately gives us the impression that this is probably not going to end well for the guy. He’s about to be written out.
Jesus, however, is a little more optimistic about it all when he hears the news from Lazarus’ sisters, recurring guest stars; Mary and Martha. (This is the Martha who was fussing about the dinner preparations in ‘The One Where Jesus Comes Round For Tea’, and Mary’s the one who, in tomorrow’s episode, will [SPOILER ALERT] pour expensive oil over the feet of Jesus).
Jesus’ response is interesting and initially quite confusing. He tells them; ‘This illness will not end in death’ (v4).
So off they go to Judea, and Mary and Martha helpfully remind casual viewers of an earlier plot- line; ‘But Rabbi’, they tell him, ‘a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?’ (v8)
Naturally there is concern for Jesus’ safety, and genuine fear that he may be facing death. Thomas (also known as Didymus, or T-Diddy to his close friends) is best remembered these days for the classic scene in a later episode where he doubts that Jesus really has risen, but he’s given some pretty good lines here as he makes a daring declaration of his loyalty and conviction, even in the face of impending danger; ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’. (v16) (It is generally believed that Thomas was eventually martyred for his faith in India about 40 years after this, so he proved true to his word).
After a quick montage, (with stirring music, of our characters walking across hills, deserts, wading through rivers etc, plus a humorous scene where Jesus talks about waking Lazarus, leading to much confusion and some witty one liners), they finally arrive, but it appears they got there too late. Lazarus is already dead. (Sorry if you didn’t see that coming, but the clue was right there in the title). Jesus’ earlier optimism is perhaps now seeming pretty foolish to those gathered around the tomb, where Lazarus has been lying for four days.
‘This illness will not end in death,’ he said! ‘It’s for the glory of God’ he said! Well that didn’t work out so well, did it? Where’s the glory in this? ‘Won’t end in death?!’ He definitely said that. I’ve rewatched that scene 20 times!
But Jesus is quick to allay any fears with the immortal line; ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
Do YOU believe this?
Your situation right now might seem like the one Lazarus’ friends and family find themselves in here. Full of death, when they were promised life.
Like getting to the end of the final episode, and feeling like they didn’t solve all the mysteries. They didn’t answer all the questions. They didn’t give you the happy ending you were hoping for.
Jesus promised them in verse 4 that the story wouldn’t end in death. But by verse 17, Lazarus was dead.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Lazarus’ show wasn’t over. He was just about to get renewed for another season.
In verse 43, Jesus stands at the tomb and shouts, ‘Lazarus, come out!’. Lazarus immediately steps out, still wrapped in his burial garments, but very much alive and well.
His story did not end in death. Your story will not end in death.
Even if you are facing difficulty, uncertainty and confusion right now, that doesn’t mean your story will end there. The rest of your show is still to be written. But you’re not going to be the main star, it’s an ensemble show, you have to share the billing with Him, his Father, and his friend; the Holy Spirit.
Your next season might just be your best one yet.
Ps Paul Swindell