Note: Around blogosphere, different bloggers are asking questions about the recent tragedy unfolding in Asia. Messy Christian has a few posts in this regard, notably, God's fault/judgement/anger, so does Feeble Knees. Wesley Blog encourages positive compassionate action and then there is the question posed by Jason Clark, "Where is God?"
As I agonized over the events surrounding the tsunami caused by the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, and reading, hearing and seeing the tragic loss of life and the devastation unfolding throughout Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia and the entire region, some of my personal thoughts and reflections went to an intimate story of loss, grief and suffering in the gospel of John...
The story of Lazarus often puzzles me. Here is a man who is, reportedly, one of His closest friends. Whether he was a disciple, I am not sure, but His sisters definitely were close friends and disciples. He most obviously was close to Jesus and was probably a disciple later on, but before the events of John 11, I don't think that it was that conclusive that he was one.
What we do know is that some of those who were assisting the sisters in their time of trouble went to Jesus with the word that "the one You love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.But wait, Lazarus actually did die! However, as far as Jesus was concerned Lazarus had merely fallen asleep (verse 11): “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
I wonder why there was such a fuss about Lazarus' death. I wonder if it was because Lazarus had died before he had put his personal faith in the Lord. Perhaps that was why it was written that he was the one that Jesus loved, as He also loved the rich young ruler. So, his sisters were distraught. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but it certainly helps to explain a few of the more enigmatic aspects of this story. But, as usual, I digress...
What is instructive about this story - a story of personal and communal grief, suffering and pain - is the way different people responded to the event.
The disciples appeared to be more interested in "the ministry" than in the lives of people around them. They most probably understood the personal relationship that Jesus had with the family of the stricken, and they should know about the news, yet when Jesus decided to go down to Judea, their concern were more with the danger to their cause than to the real focus of their ministry - the revelation of the God's Personhood in the lives of His people and the deepening of the relationship between them (verses 7 - 16).
The community were quick to respond. They gathered around the afflicted family in sympathetic compassion. Some rushed to the Lord in intercessory pleas for help. The sisters' responses were both direct and personal.
Martha, the more outspoken, and perhaps more impetuous, of the sisters, was blunt and accusatory: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!" Her subsequent declaration of faith seemed inconspicuous in light of her apparent censorious tone.
Mary's words to the Lord were no different, apparently curt and resigned: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Mary's words were apparently indicative of her wavering faith. While Martha were shaking her fists, albeit tentatively, at the Lord, Mary apparently was shaken in her faith.
The text tells us that when Jesus saw her weeping, and the people around also weeping, He was greatly moved and troubled in the spirit.
In light of the tragic event still unfolding in Asia, with reverberations throughout the entire region and indeed, around the world, similar responses are repeated. Many are acting in compassionate care and relief - the right thing to do in times such as these. Many are going to the Lord in prayer. Some are taking care of "the ministry" and unfortunately, some might be more concerned about "ministry" than about care and relationship. Worse, some might try to score political points in the midst of the current chaos, grief and shock. Then there are those who shake their fists at God, and others whose faith are shaken instead. Whatever our response, we need to see God's own response.
Jesus wept. Jesus is crying now. He cries with us. He cries with the child who is left stranded. He cries with the parents who have lost their children. He cries with those in pain and those who agonize. What is more important to realize is that He doesn't just cry because of such disasters.
He cries daily. He cries as He sees that we are typically more concerned for personal comfort, safety and convenience than compassion, peace and love. When things are going "smoothly," we fail to reach out to our neighbors and love them as ourselves. Most of all, when we seemingly do not need Him, we fail to relate to God and worship. We take no notice of Him and forget that we are created by Him.
When things go wrong, we either blame Him or we ask Him, "Why?" We cry but we fail to see with His eyes. We shed tears, but we fail to weep with Him. We need to see beyond the mundane. We need to see with His eyes.
When we get on our knees, let's pray not just for miracles to change things around us, but let's pray for changes in our hearts so that we can see Him for Who He is, and so that we can be restored in our relationship with Him.
As we wrestle with what is happening around the world, and as we empathize with those who suffer, as we feel their loss, their anguish, their agony, let us not forget that God agonizes everyday that we live our lives in utter disregard for our Creator, His creation and the reason He created us in the first place.
May God open our eyes, and may we not wait for another such tragedy to be awaken out of our stupor. May we return to Him and learn to enjoy solitude and connection with our Creator in the midst of the noise and veneer of what we call "real life" so that we might see Reality, touch Him and be touched by the One who is Real.
AFTERTHOUGHT: I pray that we will all respond in kind as we are able. Let's ask the God of all compassion move us to act. Please go to this site (scroll down to the bottom) or this site, and try to help, if you can. If you would like to keep abreast of the situation, my previous post has a link to a site that has links to differnt sites.