These stories [of the Bible] are not modern. They don't even seem truthful, at least in the ways most of us regard truth: as factual, observable, repeatable. But who among us has ever seen such a miracle as this, a dead person raised from the grave days after the funeral?
The stories can raise more questions than the answer, and sometimes the answers offered to us, spiritual bromides and generalities, do not satisfy. We are realists, after all, most of us, in most ways. …
Others, happily, regard the Bible and its stories differently, offer praise for the abiding blessing they have here: solid, if not always unambiguous counsel; a record of shared memory; the promise of God's faithfulness and enough role models - noble, even admirable folk, who lived and died embracing promises – to get almost anyone through the most difficult of days. These folk give happy thanks for the Psalms and commands, the prayers and petitions, the stories and examples that can buoy the spirit of an individual or family or church, up and over the deepest depths of the world’s tides, keep them afloat in the most dangerous life's rapids (Steagald, 107-108).
Scripture: John 11:1-45 (CEB)
A certain man, Lazarus, was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This illness isn’t fatal. It’s for the glory of God so that God’s Son can be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. When he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was. After two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s return to Judea again.” The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish opposition wants to stone you, but you want to go back?” Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? Whoever walks in the day doesn’t stumble because they see the light of the world. But whoever walks in the night does stumble because the light isn’t in them.” 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.” Then Thomas the one called Didymus said to the other disciples, “Let us go too so that we may die with Jesus.” When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.” After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb. When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.” Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” Therefore, many of the Jews who came with Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him.
I am a Christian believer. I am a person of “the Book.” The Bible has always been and continues to be for me an authoritative guide for this life as a Christian. Still, I see myself also as a realist. I don't take the stories at face value, I don't take them literally, and I do struggle as others do sometimes to see their validity in the modern world. I wonder how many of us Christians have the same struggles. Our Lenten writer brings up a good point about the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Quite often the stories are too fantastic for us to except as authoritative or truthful in any sense. But I still believe the truth remains. We may never see another person raised to life, called forth from the grave just days after the body was lowered into the ground. But what we will see is life emerging from death in many different ways. That is the truth of the Bible that keeps me coming back time and again.