Our current conundrum begins with a couple of assumptions—we assume that (1) the Bible is consistent throughout, that is, that God didn’t change His mind part way though the Bible and go in a different direction, and (2) that God intends us to understand, or at least to embrace, what the Bible teaches. Now, that doesn’t mean that we will perfectly grasp everything the Bible says, it just means that we believe God is not trying to fool us or confuse us. When He speaks to us in the Bible, we’re supposed to “get it”.
Given those two assumptions, we are confronted by places in the Bible where Jesus is portrayed as God Himself, possessing and expressing the divine attributes of God. According to the Bible, Jesus has authority and power over all creation. He is the author of life itself. He is from all eternity. He has all knowledge. Jesus is divine. He is God. But then, at the same time, the Bible often describes Jesus as having very human characteristics—He is tired. He is hungry. He walks, talks, speaks as a man. So… Jesus is a human. Divine and human. Conundrum!
How can the Creator be a creature? How can the eternal God be a finite human? How can the One who sustains and upholds the entire universe be weak and frail… like me?
Take our biblical passage for this week—John 11. A familiar story where Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus, is sick and eventually dies. Jesus’ disciples and friends (and even the crowd) believe that Jesus might have been able to help, either through comfort or even possibly a miraculous healing; but instead, Jesus stays away. When Lazarus dies, however, Jesus decides to go visit the dead man’s sisters and the tomb of His friend. While there, Jesus has such an outpouring of grief that His stomach hurts. The pain, frustration, and sorrow of death physically gnaws at Him, in a very, very human way. In a manner only possible for a human being, Jesus displays anguish and heartache over the loss of His friend. How very human of Him.
But then, the nature of His comfort to Lazarus’ sisters is a bit… well… odd. Instead of words of compassion and sympathy, Jesus talks about Himself, and encourages everyone to focus their faith and belief at this time of mourning on Him—“believe in me” He says, a very God-ish thing to do. And then, at the tomb, Jesus draws a connection between Himself and the Father that is, if nothing else, incredibly unique. And, finally, with the power of the life itself, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead! Definitely, God-like power!
A conundrum, a confusing situation, a difficult puzzle. How can this Jesus be so very human, and yet, so very divine?
The Bible doesn’t tell us how Jesus could be both God and man, it simply says that that is so. A conundrum worth thinking about! And, while it is intellectually stimulating to try to figure out how that might be, while it might be fun to think through the implications of this, what we are to do is put our trust in this God-man, Jesus Christ, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
In preparation for our worship this Sunday, read John 11:1-44.
1. Why do you think Jesus did not initially go to heal Lazarus?
2. Given the pain and sorrow of Lazarus’ family, do you think in the end they would have rather Jesus have come earlier?
3. In verse 4, what is the purpose of this event in Jesus’ estimation? How does that make you feel? What objections might one have?
4. In verse 15, Jesus again discusses His purpose in this event. How does this purpose connect to the previous one in verse 4?
5. In verse 27, Martha expresses her trust in Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. What do you think she understands that to mean?
6. What is the connection between Martha’s objection in verse 39 that Lazarus’ body would have been decaying and Jesus’ response that she would see the glory of God?
7. Again, look at the purpose statement in verse 42. Notice how Jesus has a “one-track mind” about this! What other purposes are often associated (rightly and/or wrongly) with Jesus’ work?