“Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” -Jesus (John 11)
The disciples were afraid of being killed, worried that Jesus would be jailed or killed, if they went back close to Jerusalem to visit Lazarus and his family. Jesus told them that the day has 12 hours, and one should walk during those hours, not at night. Once again, Jesus is pointing to another reality. A picture of something else. He speaks of light and not stumbling, and that makes sense to them and to us. A reasonable proverb. If you walk during the day, you do not trip; a very important thing in a time before electric lights and steel toed boots. But Jesus means that that there is a reality like the light. And there is a stumbling that is apart from hitting your toe on a rock.
What is this reality? The disciples are afraid of stumbling. They know there is darkness in Judea. But Jesus, as he has explained repeatedly, is in fact the light of the world. Where he goes there is no darkness. So it matters not whether there is war, or peace, or danger, or risk, or disease, or even death. All of those things are immediately tamed because they are like stumbling in the dark: when there is light, there is no stumbling.
In verse 16, Thomas finally gives in and says “let us go and die with him.” That is the best most of us can do in following Christ: resign ourselves to defeat, to death, to failure. We play the sad martyr and bring ourselves (with some self-righteousness thank you) to a giving up of security and success. But Jesus himself does not ask us to go this way. It is our insistence on holding to this world and closing our ears to Jesus' words that makes us joyless followers. Jesus himself says:
“Lazarus sleeps” - giving hope that he will rise again. A better picture for us of the reality that Jesus can see but we cannot. Jesus sees Lazarus, and all of us, rising again. We, never having seen anyone ever rise again, do not get that picture when the word “death” is mentioned.
“I am glad for your sakes I was not there, that you might believe.” Not that Jesus is a sadist but that Jesus, again, sees the end of things: a risen Lazarus, a woken Lazarus. A joy after the sorrow. A baby born after the pain. Faith birthed. The church begun.