A Cycle – 5th Sunday of Lent 20
Jn. 11:1 – 45
You may not have realized this but the miracle of the raising of Lazarus is the last miracle performed by Jesus in John’s gospel. John calls the miracles of Jesus signs because they point to a greater reality and it is that greater reality, we are directed to reflect upon not the miracle. But if we only reflect on the story as a prelude to the resurrection of Jesus, we are shortchanging ourselves by not looking at another reality. The story has implications for our own daily life and not just a theological reality. We never hear about Lazarus again after he is freed from his burial shroud. The story of Lazarus is not complete; we need the sequel in order to understand another greater reality. God promise to change us and if we allow Jesus to accomplish within us what God promised we will never be the same.
Think about Lazarus, wrapped in the burial cloth, head to toe, tightly bound, unable to sit, stand, swing his legs off the burial tier. How did he come out of the tomb? He could not walk or even get off the stone he was lying on. Lazarus had to burst out of the tomb floating on air, startling the crowd who were already appalled by the fact the stone was removed, waiting to smell the stench and instead they see another miracle; a man floating on air, struggling to be freed from the burial cloth.
We do not know how Lazarus was changed internally but I cannot imagine he held back telling the story of how “he was dead and now he is alive.” We heard last week the blind man saying he “…did not know who the Son of God was” and once Jesus announces “you have seen him, it is the one speaking to you” the blind man believes and worships him. Lazarus believed in Jesus before he was raised from the dead, so we can safely conclude his witness after being raised was more animated, more powerful and more effective and those who listened to him as he gave witness would want to know more.
The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal point in God’s plan to restore us. To give back to us the immortal life God created us to have. The very reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the “tree of knowledge” was because God knew it would cost us the immortality we were created to enjoy in the presence of our Creator. This story about the raising of Lazarus is more than just pointing to the eternal life we will share with God after our death. It is a story of a life we are invited to share with God in the Kingdom of God Jesus established for us on earth.
If you read the writings of the Church Fathers, the teachings of the Church or any number of writings by the Saints you will hear a constant refrain about our being called into an intimate relationship with Jesus. The family of Lazarus, Martha, Mary and Lazarus had that intimate relationship with Jesus prior to this miracle. It is a shame that some individuals want to argue about how God has no special relationships and cannot love one person more than another. Jesus was fully God and Jesus was fully human and the human Jesus experienced love as a human.
We, humans, do love some people more than others and Jesus would not be human if he did not love that way. The truth is we love a very small circle of people we share our lives with and yes, we could possibly die to save another but that would be a heroic act of compassion not necessarily an act of love. Lazarus would have shared human love with Jesus, but after he was raised from the dead, he shared an intimacy with Jesus that reached every fiber of his being. He would now love Jesus with his heart, mind, strength and soul. He would have given witness to that love by his retelling the story of what it means to live without the presence of God. Not just in death but in every aspect of our living. Lazarus would have also been able to describe what it feels like to experience the power of God touching every cell in his body. This is the intended experience God desires for each of us. This is the life God desires each of us to know is the life He will give us if we allow Him to remove the stones that separate us from Him.
God desires to have us shed whatever binds us, those things that restrict us from living as witness. Jesus’s death and resurrection set us free from the penalty of our sins and gives us the Holy Spirit to take us out of the tomb and remove the stench of our past life. We are offered new life in the Spirit in order to give witness to the promise of God to all who believe.
The amazing thing about this miracle and the miracle of the man born blind is the reaction of the religious Pharisees. Instead of these miracles giving them eyes to see the Messiah, they only made them more determined to protect what they knew. Why is it that we prefer to stay in the darkness of the tomb wrapped up in the things that keep us from the life God desires to give us. We seem to prefer the comfort of things we know instead of allowing ourselves to be transported into an experience of the power of God and where God reigns and the love of God is felt and the joy of knowing nothing can separate us from the love of God.