Monday, May 5, 2014

Lazarus is asleep; everyone has potential

I like the episode from John's gospel where Jesus receives the message that Lazarus is sick and about to die. He does not immediately go to visit them, but stays for a while. Then he decides to go out, after he is sure Lazarus has died. The disciples object to his plan to return to Judea, since the Judeans had desired to kill him earlier. But he insists, telling them,

"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe him. but let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (11.11-16).

I don't care who you are, this is a really funny scene right here. To my mind I imagine Jesus uttering this remark, thinking himself quite clever; all that cleverness is wasted on the dunderhead apostles, however, who take him to be speaking literally. So he has to explain the joke, maybe with a bit of the frustration of a failed comedian. Now let me say: if even Jesus underwent abortive comedic experiences such as this one, then at least in this regard I am leading the race in the Imitatio Christi 500, that's for sure.

Then there is the confident Thomas: come on fellas, let's go die with him. Of course, we know that Thomas like the rest of them (minus John) will leave his side when the trouble comes. Thomas, too, is one of the last to believe in his resurrection, however reasonable his stance may have been. Little did they know they were going to confront a resurrection themselves in this, the most magnificent trip a Galilean ever took to Judea.

I am joking about them now, but these same persons became the most significant group of people in the history of the entire world. Their tireless mission to bring the message of Jesus Christ and the salvation he accomplished to all peoples everywhere changed the face of the planet forever. It is only through them and because of them that we have access to this salvation; it is only because the gave up everything they had to follow Jesus of Nazareth that I, a nobody from Arizona, can have fellowship with the Holy Trinity.

This is a repeated lesson of the Bible: God's election trumps and surpasses our prejudices and expectations. Regularly the lowly and unexpected and undesired are chosen and made great, the wisest of us all being a group of twelve nobodies from nowhere. This means in everyone around you -- however insignificant -- there is the potential for greatness, a potential that God can actualize even if we don't see it.