You don't have to know a lot about first century Jewish beliefs to capture the anxiety Jesus' followers feel in this moment: Lazarus is dead. It's been four days, he stinks, and the political climate means going into this situation might mean death for Jesus and those close to Him. Add in just a little background knowledge and you quickly learn how much superstition surrounded death in first century Israel. Throw into the mix that Jesus puts His finger on the root issue of unbelief in verse 15, and we have a recipe for running the other way.
Today, I had a hard task ahead of me. It's the latest in a dreaded series of tasks related to the season I'm in - one of those things you never thought you'd find yourself doing. Key to this story is that I didn't realize that the task was going to happen today. I just knew this series of things was hanging over my head.
This morning, I sat down for my quiet time and while I often save my gospel reading for evening, I felt that prompting that said I needed it this morning. Very quickly, these verses jumped off the page.
One of the things I love about the word of God is that it is living and active. While that is a theological truth, it's also a practical reality. What it means is that at any given time, God can take a word from the pages of Scripture and bring it to life in an intensely personal way. It doesn't happen every day, but if you stay in Scripture consistently, with faith, you will experience it sooner or later.
For me, God's word couldn't have been clearer: Follow Jesus into the place of my fear, my anxiety, my unbelief. I saw, probably for the first time ever, that Jesus was already determined to visit Lazarus. He just invited these scared, weak-faithed men to go along for the journey. When they got there, He would quickly get to the root of their fear and superstition - the unbelief that is at the heart of so much of our struggles. But they didn't know that. In fact, Thomas' words make it clear they thought they were going there to die. In a way he was right. Although it wouldn't happen immediately, they would soon die to their unbelief when confronted with an empty tomb.
I didn't want to do today's task. But Jesus was already planning to go, and I wanted to be where He was. In His grace, He sent someone with me to be His arms and heart. I'm still processing what areas of unbelief He wants to tear down. But what I learned today was that if He calls this weak-faithed woman to walk into my fear, anxiety, superstition, or unbelief, I can be assured that He is already planning to be there, waiting on me to join Him.