Lent 5 - Year A
Walking in the light does not exempt one from dangerous places. It gives information about where to place one’s foot. Treachery in treacherous places can still occur, no matter how carefully one tries to maneuver set traps. Note that in some eyes, it is exactly this “triumph over death”, this “revelation of glory”, that initiates a final trap that cannot be avoided, no matter how careful one is. In a sense, carefulness is exactly what the powers that be desire. An overly careful person will take themselves out of danger and keep the status quo safe a while longer.
The outside of the story is about Lazarus. The inside of the story is about Jesus’ commitment to a picture larger than fear - either fear for his own life or an addressing of our universal fear of death’s unknowns.
In taking away a stone from his own grave (being cooped up by fear of being stoned), Jesus is freed to roll other stones away, to unbind folks from other fears. Had Lazarus physically died, or had he begun to stink of fear? To be unbound from either is a miracle. Does Jesus always have to be credited with the largest possible miracle or he ceases to be a miracle-worker. That’s a sure way to burn out. There is nothing like smaller, regular miracles to keep one in for the long haul.
Would it make a difference for you if the translators had used "weak" or "feeble" instead of "ill" or "sick"? In John, the same Greek word (astheneō) is sometimes translated "impotent", and isn't that reminiscent of being frozen in fear.
PS. Yes, I can read the rest of the supporting story as that of sickness and death and see it as a prelude to a next resurrection that closely ties Jesus with G*D. Today I am feeling more impotent and fearful, in the face of a chaotic world filled with blind incivility and ignoring common kindness, than I am sick and fearful. I simply ask how literal even this story needs to be. How does it speak beyond its limitations? and how do I?