Take a moment just now

To step away from the worries of illness and isolation.

Sit at the feet of a faithful Gospel writer.

Hear the stories of resurrection and life

And let those stories speak to you.

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He continued, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going in order to wake him up.”

The disciples said, “Lord, if he’s sleeping, he will get well.” They thought Jesus meant that Lazarus was in a deep sleep, but Jesus had spoken about Lazarus’ death.

Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him.”

John 11:11-15

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When I got my assignment to write these devotionals, I initially felt dismayed. This story about Lazarus is amazing, but I have always been uncomfortable with the portrayal of Jesus in these passages. “When he [Jesus] heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was,” says the Gospel writer.

Jesus was a healer. After hearing this message from his friends Mary and Martha, why didn’t he go to heal their brother, whom he loved? Why did he stay away, knowing that Lazarus was so sick?

We might even ask that question today: Why is God letting this pandemic happen? Why doesn’t God come and heal us now?

Today’s passage doesn’t directly answer that question; instead it redirects our attention. “For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe,” says Jesus. He says nothing about the illness itself in this passage: who’s to blame for it, what Mary and Martha should do about it, or whether it can be stopped.

Instead, Jesus reminds us that everything he does is done to help us believe him, trust him, love him. Jesus is willing to risk life, reputation, and friendship in order for us to know the glory and power of God’s love for us.

Jane Claspy Nesmith

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Merciful God, forgive me when I doubt your timing. Let me always be open to the ways in which you reveal yourself to me, for you do so in loving hope that I will believe, trust, and love you. Amen.

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Listen to these words: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

Go now, knowing that God calls you by name, and claims you with love.

Go now, knowing that God draws near when you cry out in sadness and anger.

Go now, ready to live a resurrection life.

Jane Claspy Nesmith

Jane Claspy Nesmith, a member of the United Methodist Church, teaches writing and directs the writing center at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She enjoys singing, birding, and hanging out with her husband and two adult sons.

Praying Together

John Morton

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