God help him, he’s sick | John 11.1-2
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. John 11:1-2 | ESV
Time passes. It’s now Spring. And someone is lying sick, life and energy slipping away. It was Lazarus (aka Eleazar = “God helps him”) from the village of Bethany (Bethany = “house of dates” if you thought it was a sweet spot; “house of misery” if not so much), home also to Mary (aka Miriam = “Bitter”) and Martha (“Rebel”) his sisters. (Spoiler: this is the same Mary/Miriam who anointed the Lord with that expensive ointment and then proceeded to dry off his feet with her hair – yeah, that Mary. It was her brother, Lazarus, whose life was ebbing away.) MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
“And I left Trophimus sick at Miletus.” 2 Timothy 4:20
This verse won’t make its way into too many of our devotional calendars. It has to be one of the saddest, loneliest verses in the Bible – although Jeremiah 8:20 – “Harvest is past, summer has ended, and we are not saved” – probably beats it for the “Most Depressing Verse” award.
Tell me a story of healings.
Quote me the verses promising deliverance, hope, and life!
But sickness and death are just as much a part of our journey under the sun as are healing and life.
The vows we recite at every wedding proclaim it: “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do us part.” We often quote the line of Isaiah 53 that proclaims “by his stripes we are healed.”
Yes we are.
And yet we still get sick and we still die; every last one of us, whether religious or irreligious, whether believing woman or skeptical man; whether profane old fool or innocent young girl; believer, agnostic, atheist and every shade in between. “He sends his rain on the just and on the unjust, and causes his sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Neither faith nor science hands us a golden ticket by which we avoid the reality of sickness and death.
All of reality is shot through with the threads of sickness and health, life and death.
And into this reality steps the God-Man.
Into this reality steps the very embodiment of the reign and rule and good pleasure of God.
So much healing – and so many more still in need of healing.
In this land of the “now” of dashed desires, unheeded prayers, and rampaging sickness and death and of the “not yet” of hope, resurrection, and life, the “now” sure seems to be the chord struck far too often. Which I suppose is why we call the “not yet” a “miracle.”
How desperately we need to see the not yet in the now that surrounds us.
How crucial is the eye that with Brother Lawrence sees the dead tree in middle of winter and is suddenly seized with an epiphany of anticipation in the spring that is surely coming. We need eyes that can see life in death that can feel rhythms of health in sickness, of hopelessness in despair that can call the things that are not as though they were. John 11 is a story that has both threads firmly woven through it – just as we do in our own lives.
In the first part of this story in John 11 we focus on the thread of sickness and death, the thread of hopes dashed and life lost.
The season has just turned.
and Lazarus is sick, his life ebbing away…
What do you struggle the most with – embracing hope in the midst of sickness and despair, or accepting the reality of sickness and death in the context of your faith? Why?
Abba, there’s so much I don’t understand, so much I don’t get, so much that makes no sense. All I know is life hurts so deeply at times. Meet me in the midst of the pain, and through it, through the tears, bring me into a deeper experience of life and joy. Through Jesus.