So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father,I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
Reflection from Walt Dibbern:
When I saw this passage, I knew writing this would not be easy. I lost my wife of 53 years just 64 days ago. Martha and Mary’s pain over Lazarus’ death is a song that haunts me, a refrain I know, oh, so well.
But praying about this led me to searching, and a few discussions, and I now see Jesus’ prayer at the tomb of Lazarus as a powerful lesson of nothing less than total, absolute faith. The lesson has been learnt. It is a hard lesson.
Deep, catastrophic trouble is a part of life. It has touched many of those who read this, and for those who haven’t been touched, it probably lies ahead. When that happens, we who are in the faith raise up prayers for courage, for understanding, and most of all, for help. In surgery waiting areas. In hospital chapels. Outside MRI labs. In cancer ward rooms.
“Please, Lord, let the scan be negative!” “Father, make the chemo work!” “Lord, you can make this Stage 1, not Stage 4!” “Please, please, stop the suffering, God!”
Do you see the mistake in this? I didn’t, but now I do. We are reaching out to The Creator Of Everything, the One Who Has Known Us Forever, and asking for help. And then, we tell Him how to do it: “Help me Father, all I need you to do is this, and that, and it will all be okay.”
We don’t actually say this next statement, but something like it is there in our hearts: “We need your help, Lord, but I have a few instructions for you.” Instead of this, we should stop, and think about who’s really in charge? You? Me? Or is it The Father, The Great I Am?
Jesus is standing in the dry afternoon heat, just feet from the mouth of a cave-like tomb. The tomb is open, the sealing stone rolled away. His friend, Lazarus, has been buried inside for several days. The air is still; there is no breeze to sweep away the awful smell. A crowd has gathered, and watches from the coolness of a few shade palm trees.
“I thank you that you have heard me at this moment in time. Because of our intimate relationship, I know that you are always listening to me.”
This is the first line of Jesus’ prayer. Jesus has not said anything yet. So if Jesus is thanking God for having listened, what exactly did God hear?
God heard Jesus’ heart. God knew and planned how this moment would end. There was no need to offer instructions, no specifics. God knew. And Jesus’s perfect, total faith was in God, His Father. One author describes this as “a perfect unity which has never before been witnessed in humankind’s salvation history. It is a relationship that stirs our hearts to seek the same.”
Looking back, I see my prayers should have been expressions of trust that God already knew what was in my heart. I knew that whatever the outcome, it would be God’s will; and I should have told Him that; and found strength, and courage. I should have tried –and kept trying-- for a little of that perfect unity Jesus showed to the crowd.
The lesson has been learnt. Thank you, Lord.
You are my Savior, friend, brother, and always, my teacher. Thank you for this lesson. I want to learn the path to a stronger faith. I don’t need to move mountains, Lord. That mustard seed is still a huge leap away. But my heart tells me that a walk with you is enough.
And so, Amen.