As we arrive at chapter 11, we've seen John the Baptist and Jesus' first disciples. his early ministry and the first miracle-changing water into wine. Jesus has cleared the temple, talked about destroying the temple and inadequate faith, had a dialogue with Nicodemus and heard John the Baptist's final testimony. Jesus has had a dialogue with the Samaritan woman, healed the official's son, demonstrated signs, works and words in the context of rising opposition, healed the paralytic and described Christ's sonship to the father. We've heard of witness concerning Jesus, seen the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on the water and heard the bread of life discourse along with true discipleship. There's been scepticism amongst family members, a dialogue at the feast of tabernacles, the first organized opposition from Jewish authorities and we met the woman caught in adultery. we then saw signs, works and words in the context of radical confrontation and continued the dialogue at the feast of tabernacles including the healing of the blind man. then we heard of Jesus as the good shepherd, opposition at the feast of dedication and belief in Jesus.
All this brings us to Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
Tom Wright, in "John for Everyone part II" - yes, we are officially half-way through the Gospel, suggests otherwise. He suggests that Jesus waited because he was praying about the course of action to take. Furthermore, he suggests that Jesus was praying that Lazarus' body wouldn't see decay (in order to offset Martha's concern in 11:39), so that he wouldn't be re-animating a decaying body, but bringing back to life a whole person.
Personally, I go with Tom - it fits much better with the way I see the theology of faith and prayer.
Again, it's an incremental thing: one step at a time, not a huge leap. Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" was a giant leap - but for him it was a small step for a man - the culmination of lots of steps that got him to the point where he was able to take that one, final, all-important, step onto the surface of the moon.
The film was OK, but the book (written in 1963) on which it's based is so much better, if only for the beginning. It's a long time since I read it, and I don't have a copy, so I can't quote it exactly, but the idea has stuck with me ever since I read it in the late 1970's. Wilkerson is told by his father that his prayers will never amount to anything until they are public. He then tells a story about how he goes and hides in a coalshed to pray and thinks he's praying in private, but actually, thanks to plumbing, the whole house can hear him. But the point was made -clearly, as I remember it still.
We also see this principle in the raisings that Jesus performs. Jairus' daughter was raised after all had been sent away but for a few chosen ones. These were told not to tell anyone about it. At Lazarus' tomb, everyone's there.
Of course, it takes faith to pray specifically in public. One of the quotes I've assembled for next week's Café Church is from David Jeremiah and says: "How often have we prayed something like, "O Lord, be with cousin Billy now in a special way"? Have we stopped to consider what it is we're requesting? Imagine that you are a parent who is preparing to leave your children with a babysitter. Would you dream of saying, "O Betsy, I ask you now that you would be with my children in a special way?" No way. You would say, "Betsy, the kids need to be in bed by 9 pm. They can have one snack before their baths, and please make sure they finish their homework. You can reach us at this number if there's any problem. Any questions before we go?" We are very specific with our requests and instructions for our babysitters. We want them to know specifics. It should be no different with prayer." If it takes faith to pray in public, it takes more to pray specific things in public, and more still to pray them in front of non-believers, like Jesus did outside Lazarus' tomb. That's why I think Tom Wright is correct in why Jesus waited before going to Bethany - He needed to be sure of what He was to pray when he got there.
It takes faith- but God grows that. The proof that follows faith grows it. Maybe I only have one point after all?
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