Welcome to week 5 of our Lenten Bible Study! In case you missed it from the last post, I’ve posted 4 comments (1 for each of the sections of the bible study) that you can respond to with questions or comments from each section as you work through the study at your own pace throughout the week. I encourage you to read what others may have posted and to respond to them in order to be in dialogue with one another.
s Pastor Dan mentioned in the video, we're talking about a leap of faith this week. I think that the connections we have with Thomas even today deserve some time here. We've all doubted just like Thomas, but, in echoing Pastor Dan, I'd like for us to think about a time we may have been like Thomas and followed Jesus regardless of what might or might not happen. Can you think of a time in your life that you followed Jesus with reckless abandon; a time when you said with Thomas, "Let us also go, that we may die with him"? Feel free to share below!
II. Digging into the Text
Read John 11:1-16. The NRSV translation is provided below.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard of it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told 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. 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."
Does anything jump out at you from this passage?
Who do you see as taking a leap of faith? Why?
Context is always important when we look at scripture, so it's probably useful for us to take a look at who's who and what's going on in this passage. The sisters, Martha and Mary, are the same women who served Jesus and sat listening to him, respectively. These were by no means acquaintances of Jesus, these were his friends. Lazarus is the man that Jesus ends up raising from the dead, and the same individual about whom the shortest passage in our bible is written: "Jesus wept." These people were incredibly important to Jesus.
Immediately prior to this story, Jesus and the disciples had been in Jerusalem, and the Jews became enraged against Jesus and tried to stone him, so he escaped across the Jordan River. It was while Jesus was there that he received word about his friend Lazarus. The Bethany that was hometown to Mary and Martha was just east of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.
After the setup of the story, Jesus announces his intentions to go to Bethany, to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The disciples are immediately concerned and afraid for themselves and for Jesus. This is just outside of Jerusalem where the Jews had only just prior tried to stone Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus is focused on what needs to be done, and he and the disciples travel to Bethany. Thomas makes the faith-filled statement, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." This is clearly a leap of faith. It's not necessarily that Thomas doesn't know what's going to happen, rather in his mind it's likely to end in certain death for him and his friend, but he decides to go anyways. He had enough faith in Jesus that he was willing to follow him, even to death. Clearly Thomas was not alone in his resolve; the other disciples accompanied Jesus and Thomas to Bethany.
I'd like to offer another take on this story as well. I'd argue that Jesus takes a leap of faith in this moment. It's with this decision to go to Bethany that Jesus sets in motion the events that lead to his crucifixion. He didn't have to go to Bethany; he could have stayed where it was safe, but that's not what he did. He showed us that we should have the utmost trust in God. It may not always end well for us, but God is with us. Jesus, though God incarnate, demonstrated that we can take leaps of faith for the building of the Kingdom.
Could you take a leap of faith like Jesus and his disciples did?
Are there any ways, big or small, that you might be able to start trusting God enough to take a leap of faith that God might be calling you to?
IV. So What?
Is Jesus the ultimate Judo master? In Judo, the idea is less to go on the offensive and more to defend yourself by turning an opponent's attack into something else. Jesus takes the evils of the world and turns them into our salvation. Jesus redeems things. Thomas had no expectations of Jesus redeeming anything, and yet he follows Jesus to Bethany. Thomas doesn't know anything other than the fact that they'd be going to certain death. How much more willing should we be given what we know of and about Jesus? The idea of taking a leap of faith is directly linked to last week's topic of fear of the unknown. We don't take leaps of faith precisely because there's some unknown thing that is keeping us from doing whatever it is that we're called to do. As we strive to move past our fear of the unknown, we can begin to take leaps of faith, knowing that God will be with us, whether it ends badly or well. What leap of faith is Jesus calling you to this Easter? My hope is that you can respond affirmatively to Jesus' call and take that first step on faith that you can trust God and his promises.