“After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:10-15
The disciples can be a pretty slow bunch at times – they thought Lazarus was merely asleep. Jesus had to spell it out for them. And often, He has to spell things out for us too.
The disciples don’t quite get a lot of what Jesus says at first. He preaches that His kingdom will not come through the sword, and what does Peter do when they come to arrest Jesus? He chops a guy’s ear off. He talks in parables and the disciples constantly have to pull him aside and ask him to explain what He meant. He asks them to stay up and pray for Him in the garden of Gethsemane and they fall asleep. They aren’t the smartest bunch. Peter in particular is often putting his foot in it – trying to walk on water and sinking. Trying to talk Jesus out of giving up his life. Denying Jesus hours before the crucifixion. But we can have hope, for Jesus didn’t give up on his disciples. He didn’t abandon them. He didn’t look for a more clued in group. And we can take hope from that, for often we are just like the disciples. Slow to get it. Clueless. Putting our foot in it. Declaring commitment on a Sunday night and denying Jesus by how we live on Monday morning. But Jesus is patiently loving with us. He is slow to anger and quick to love. He waits for us. He takes time to make things more clear when at first we don’t understand. Jesus uses sleep as a metaphor for death, because through Him death has lost its awful power – it has lost the victory and sin has lost the sting it once had. We know that for all who believe death will not be the end. We shall rise as though from sleep, transformed in the twinkling of an eye.
We follow a patient God who is loving and doesn’t give up on us, no matter how slow we can be to get it. We can take hope that He will never deny us no matter how many times we put our foot in it. If you are in a place of failure today you can take courage from the fact that that is a situation the disciples found themselves in many times, and yet Jesus used them to change the course of history forever.