backstory | John 11.7-10
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” John 11:7-10 | ESV
Then, when the two days were past, he says to his followers, “Time to head back to Judea again.” The disciples cringed. “What are you thinking, Rabbi? Last time you showed your face there they wanted to stone you to death, and now you want to line up for more?” (They had no idea.) Jesus’ answer was simple, if a bit obtuse. “Every day presents us with twelve hours of daylight filled with possibilities – and don’t you hear the clock ticking? Sun’s up, it’s time to go – and with the sun up, you won’t be stumbling about like you would at night because you’re bathed in light. Sit on your hands too long and the sun – along with all the promise and opportunity it holds – will be gone, and you’ll be left stumbling and fumbling in the dark without a glimmer of light to grace your path.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
It’s the rest of the story.
It’s what’s happening on the other side of the curtain.
It’s the part we don’t see.
All Mary and Martha had was an enigmatic statement/promise from Jesus that didn’t seem to pan out – and no Jesus. They didn’t have access to this discussion and thought process of Jesus with the twelve – though if they had, they probably would have understood about as well as the twelve disciples did.
And let’s face it, they would still have had to suffer the loss of their brother.
They still would have had to watch him die.
But there was, unseen by them, another whole side to the story that was still unfolding.
It’s like the Old Testament book of Job.
We get to see in the first two chapters the cosmic setting of this earthly tale – but what we must remember is that Job didn’t. There was no divine memo outlining what was going down and why. He was simply met by successive waves of messengers bearing ill tidings. Your property is devoured, your wealth is gone, all your children were just killed in a freak accident – oh, and you’d better take a look in the mirror, because you’re not looking so good – and also, here’s a note from your distraught wife – she says “Curse God and die.”
Job had no explanation as he sat in the ashes of his devastated life.
He had no back-story to comfort him.
But one might even ask how much comfort knowing such a back-story would give him anyway.
He still lost everything.
He still lost his kids and his health.
Job was left with one thing:
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”
Knowing that there is more to the story than first appears to the eye may not remove the sting of pain and loss, but it can feed faith and re-stoke the fire of trust in the midst of it.
At least with time.
Job may not have been aware of the back story we witness, but he still was able to look through the desolation of the moment and announce “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord” even as in nearly the same breath he curses the day of his birth.
Blessing and cursing.
Comfort and loss.
There are those divergent themes at work again.
Yes, there is a larger story whose themes are unfolding all around us, through us, in us, as “creation groans as if in the pains of childbirth until the children of God are revealed.”
Yes, God continues to work out that Story, turning what seems to be only night to us into precious hours of life-giving daylight.
Yes, it is good for us to know this, though, usually, we will find ourselves with the disciples,
trying to figure out what he is saying – and doing.
How does being aware of a “bigger picture” help you in times of grief and loss? What is the “bigger picture” that you look to?
Abba, thank you for knowing that it is not clarity or protection from the cruelties and hardships of life that I most need – it is trust. Please give me that. Give me greater, deeper levels of growing, maturing, thriving, unstoppable trust in you, especially in those tough spots in life that make me wonder if you are even there. Through Christ.