Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gospel devotion: A Mystery to Me - John 11:28

John 11:28     And after Martha had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 

I’m always puzzled by this story because of the roles that Martha and Mary play in this event. In another Gospel passage, (Luke 10:38-42), Mary sits at the feet of Jesus while Martha is chided for working in the kitchen. Mary is praised for her spirituality, whereas Martha is lightly criticized for being too pragmatic.

And then pain comes into their lives when their brother Lazarus dies, causing their roles to reverse. It’s Martha who initially goes out to meet with Jesus while Mary stays at home grieving. I would have expected Mary, the spiritual sister, to run to Jesus first. It wouldn’t have surprised if Martha had stayed at home grieving and still reluctant to go to Jesus. Something seems amiss here; something important is happening in this story.

As a pastor for many years, I have seen people undergo painful and very trying experiences. I have sometimes seen church people fall to pieces and get angry with God when something unexpected, unjust, and unfair happens to them. I’ve also seen people, who have had hardly any church connection, come closer to God in the midst of their pain, pressure, and problems. It’s a mystery to me why this happens and today’s Gospel passage seems to show that no matter how spiritual people are, they can still feel let down or hurt by God; and no matter how distant or irreligious people are, they can still be comforted and brought nearer to God in the midst of tragedy.

Questions for personal reflection

Have I ever felt let down or hurt by God’s inaction? In the midst of my troubles, what keeps me connected to Christ?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Resurrection and the Life, but we still experience tragedy and death in our lives. Sometimes tragic circumstances hurt us and separate us from You. Forgive us of those moments when our faith is sorely tried and we become distant from You. Embrace us with Your Understanding and Love. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest winter drawings. It’s called “Heavenly Lights” and is a crayon drawing of the beautiful Northern Lights. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

No comments: