25 June 2019

Welcome to Tuesday’s podcast.

My first experience of driving was in my parents Renault Clio. One day I was on my way to work at the Gym – Yes I was a gym instructor once – I was in a car accident. I was driving down a road – it was early in the morning and I wasn’t paying that much attention when the driver coming in the opposite direction inexplicably decided to turn right straight into the driver’s side of my Mum and Dad’s lovely little Clio. It was a complete shock! And I distinctly remember in the chaos of the collision that there was moment, a split second when myself and the woman who had hit me locked eyes. What I remember was the look of fear in her eyes as we spun across the road. For a moment, time stood still.


We’ve probably all had those moments in life when it just feels like everything is spiralling out of control. We receive some really difficult news. A relationship ends. We don’t get the exam grades we really needed and our plans go out the window. We lose our job. Someone close to us, someone we love, dies. We all experience moments like this in our life. And the question – and I ask this in all humility knowing that there are probably people listening today who have experienced and been through some incredibly difficult situations – is what do we do? Where do we turn in those moments?

Our reading today (and tomorrow) is probably very familiar to us – it’s the death and resurrection of Lazarus. Today, is part one, verse 1-16 and we’re going to focus today on verses 5-7 which I will read for us now:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Interestingly, this is the only Gospel account which describes this incredibly significant event and John has lots to show us about Jesus here. We will get into some of that tomorrow. But what about today? Because what we read in today’s passage looks slightly confusing. Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that another of his close followers – their brother, a man called Lazarus – is extremely ill. We also learn from this account today that Lazarus was someone who Jesus loved deeply.

Logically, what we think should happen next and probably what Martha and Mary thought would happen in sending that message – was that Jesus would drop everything, rush to Bethany and heal his sick friend. And yet he doesn’t. Jesus waits. He stays where he is for two more days. And he stays knowing that in that time, Lazarus will die. And he does. And that seems quite confusing to us. Maybe it’s just me…but surely Jesus could have gone straight away? Surely he could have saved Lazarus before he died? Surely he could have turned the pain and suffering of Mary and Martha around? And we are left asking the question: why?

Again, Helen spoke really honestly about this in last Wednesday’s podcast and I’d really encourage you to listen back to that. This thought isn’t going to be some kind of apologetic on suffering. There isn’t space in a 10 minute podcast to do that and, to be honest, I’m not sure I have a good answer to give you but…the key thing to pull out from today’s focus verses is this word ‘so’. There is a reason Jesus stays when he could go. A reason why he waits when he could act. God is in control.

It doesn’t seem make any sense to us! But what we can see from reading this passage is that Jesus seems to know what he’s doing, even when his friends don’t. In verse 4, Jesus explains to Mary and Martha that the illness Lazarus has will not lead to death…and yet he allows him to die. What’s going on here?

What we see in John Chapter 11 is a foreshadow of what’s to come. That through death – God on the cross – we receive new life. That through what looks like total defeat, God is able to bring about the greatest victory. That even when things look like they are totally spiralling and life doesn’t make sense, God is there with us and he is in control. And it’s in that place seemingly where everything is shifting around us and nothing seems certain any more, that God is calling us to trust him. How can we do that?

We can trust God because he is the one who totally loves us. The one who suffers with us – indeed suffered for us. But, as we will see tomorrow, he is also the one who heals and restores us. The one through whom who all things will be made new.

Today’s passage reminds us that it’s in those moments where we feel powerless, rudderless, maybe helpless, that we realise that we are not alone. That we find Jesus. He’s already there. And he’s reaching out his hand. And it’s in those moment when we can choose to let go or we can choose to cling on knowing that the one who’s hand grips onto ours is also on the steering wheel. And the hand of the one we now hold will ultimately lead us through.


God – we come before you today and say that sometimes we just don’t understand. Sometimes things don’t make sense. Things happen and we feel battered and knocked off course. God, in those moments, would you help us to remember that you sent your son into the mess and into the suffering and into the confusion. And that you are with us, you are for us and you will lead us through. Amen.

READING: John 11:1-16

Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’

When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’

‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?’

Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the day-time will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.’

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’

His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’