Ep.102: Raising the Dead.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

In John 11, Lazarus was very sick, so his sisters sent word to Jesus. He said to his disciples, “This sickness won’t end in death. It is for God’s glory.” Then he ignored the sisters’ request for two days, and finally said to his disciples, “Ok. Time to head south to Judea.”

The disciples said, “Whoa! They tried to kill you last time you went there.” Jesus said, “Not a problem. And by the way, Lazarus has died. But good news! What happens will increase your faith.” 

The disciple Thomas said, “Let’s get on with it then. We can follow Jesus to Lazarus’ death, and his death, and probably ours too.” Not much faith there. 

When Jesus arrived in Judea, Lazarus’ sisters said to him, “If you had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And Jesus wept. Perhaps he wept for the sorrow of death, perhaps out of compassion for the sisters, perhaps he wept for the lack of faith everywhere he looked. 

Then he went to Lazarus’ grave, got them to roll the stone away from the entrance, and he said to the decomposing body, “Lazarus, come out.” And out he came, wrapped in linen grave clothes. 

When the Pharisees heard, they were not impressed and they said, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take our temple and our nation.” Caiaphus, the high priest, said, “You’re right about that. It would be better for this man to die, and the nation will be saved.” 

John, the gospel writer, explains that this was an unintentional prophecy. He says, “Caiaphus was right. Jesus will die to save the Jewish nation, and not only that nation, but also the scattered children of God. He will bring them together and make them one.” 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, along with Lazarus’ sisters, we wonder why you don’t show up sooner in our sickness and pain and sorrow, before death does its final work.

With Thomas we are tempted to despair and cynicism. “We’re going to die anyway. Might as well follow Jesus to Lazarus’ death, and his own death, and probably ours too.”

With the Pharisees we want religion. But not religion out of control. Jesus, your person and teachings push the boundaries of everything that makes life stable and predictable for us. You challenge our view of sickness, of religion, of faith, of death.

We hear you say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus, we believe in the resurrection of the body. But what do you mean, that you are the resurrection and you are the life? We come to you looking for healing not death, for clarity not questions, for a religious system we can believe in, not a person who throws our lives into turmoil and weeps over the grave. 

Jesus, today we receive you as you are, the man of resurrection and life. We receive you into our dying bodies, into our troubled minds, into our wayward spirits. We trust you to bring the scattered children of God together and make them one. Jesus, be our life in this age and in the age to come.  


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Ep.100: Suffering and God’s Glory.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

At the beginning of John 11 when he heard Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, “This sickness is for God’s glory.” 

Do you think Jesus was stating a general rule? That the purpose of human sickness is to give glory to God? In John 5, a paralyzed man suffered 38 years until Jesus healed him. In John 8, a blind man suffered his whole life until Jesus healed him. Now in John 11, Lazarus got sick and died, until Jesus raised him. Can you explain God’s glory in all that suffering, or is Jesus’ lesson too hard? Perhaps God only gets glory when Jesus heals someone. If so, God is missing out on a lot of glory!

Kate Bowler in her book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved (New York: Random House, 2018) describes her journey with Stage IV cancer and the prosperity gospel and faith. She often sounds like the psalms, ranting at God for life’s unfairness, angry with her enemy cancer, unhappy with comforters who spout unhelpful platitudes.

Facing death and grieving that she wouldn’t see her baby son grow up, she tells this story: 

When I was in the hospital, a neighbor told my husband that everything happens for a reason. “I’d love to hear it,” he replied.
  “Pardon?” she said, startled.
  “I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said in his sweet and sour way, effectively ending the conversation. The neighbor stammered something and handed him a casserole. (Bowler, pp. 112-113). 

Bowler continues, commenting on the “reasons” people give why she might be suffering. She says,

There are three life lessons people try to teach me that, frankly, sometimes feel worse than cancer itself. The first is that I shouldn’t be so upset, because the significance of death is relative. A lot of Christians tell me that heaven is my true home and I want to ask them if they would like to go home first. Maybe now? (Bowler, p. 116).

The second lesson comes from the Teachers, who focus on how this experience is supposed to be an education in mind, body, and spirit. (Bowler, p. 117). One man bluntly writes, “I hope you have a ‘Job’ experience.” But I can’t think of anything worse to wish on someone. God allowed Satan to rob Job of everything, including his children’s lives. Do I need to lose something more to learn God’s character? (Bowler, p. 118).

Bowler says the third lesson comes from the Solutions People, who are already a little disappointed that she is not saving herself. “Keep smiling! Your attitude determines your destiny!” says Jane from Idaho, and I am immediately worn out by the tyranny of prescriptive joy. (Bowler, p. 119). A Nigerian woman writes that she sits through weekly meetings that encourage her to “talk faith-talk,” but she wants to acknowledge that, outside her office window, the bodies of abandoned babies are being collected and hauled away in black garbage bags (Bowler, p. 119).

Bowler continues, 

The letters that really speak to me don’t talk about why we die, they talk about who was there when they were dying. A man wrote to me about being taken hostage with his family and watching helplessly as the intruders pressed guns against his children’s noses and threaten to rape his wife and daughter. But God was there and he can’t explain it. He can’t explain who loosened the ropes, letting him escape with his family. He will never understand why he survived when a neighbor was found outside hanging by a rope the next morning. He doesn’t rationalize why some people were rescued and others were executed. He doubts there is a way that God “redeems” situations by extracting good from them. But he knows God was there because he felt peace, indescribable peace, and it changed him forever. He ends his letter to Bowler saying, “I have no idea how this works, but I wish this for you as you move forward.”  (Bowler, p. 120). 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, I can’t begin to John’s theme that you get glory from human suffering–from Kate Bowler with Stage IV cancer, from Job who lost everything, from dead Nigerian babies, from a hostage who escaped and one who didn’t. Jesus, we bring our sufferings to you, not trying to explain them, not trying to understand how they might contribute to your glory. Instead, we ask you to be present with us, to share your life with us, to live your life in us, to walk with us through this endless valley. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.