A Cycle – 5th Sunday of Lent 23
Jn. 11: 1-45
If someone you loved was seriously ill, the normal response would be to quickly go to them and offer them whatever you could to make them feel better. In the case of Jesus when Martha tells him Lazarus is ill his response was to delay his going to Bethany. Why did he delay? This story about Lazarus is a story of contrasts. Life and death, belief and unbelief, humanity and divinity, divine love and human love. We could spend a week discussing these forty five verses of scripture but we do not have that much time.
One aspect of this story raises a question someone once asked me and that is “does God love some people more than others.” The simple answer is no He does not, and the love Jesus had for this family only shows us his humanity. The scripture is specific in that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. He spent time with them, and you get a picture of Him finding in them a place where he could be very human. His disciples must have been shocked when He immediately did not rush to Bethany and cure Lazarus. But Jesus reassures them when He said, “this illness will not result in death.” Only to shock them on the way when Jesus tells them Lazarus is dead. Is this the way love acts?
For us the answer is yes for Jesus is teaching us something about the Fathers love for us in that He allowed His Son to die. Jesus plainly tells us, the delay was so that “we” might believe. Not the fact that Lazarus would be raised but that Jesus would be raised and we too would be raised. God’s plan for us, made in His likeness and image, was for us to share intimacy with Him in paradise. We were created to be immortal and never experience the loss of anything. Sin entered the world and not only did we lose immortality we lost intimacy with God. In the raising of Lazarus, the synagogue officials son and the son of the widow of Nain, Jesus shows us God’s approach to death was to overcome it.
Losing someone you love is painful and it leaves a place inside you that can never be filled. Jesus knows the pain of Marth and Mary is real and a piece of them will mourn forever. Yet Jesus lingers long enough for all hope to be gone, Lazarus is dead for three days and there will be a stench. Jesus’s miracles in the gospels are called signs by John because every miracle points to something greater which reveals God’s desire for us. When Jesus is telling the disciples this is so that they might believe is more than a belief in Jesus’s power over the death of Lazarus but His own death. Keep in mind they struggled with belief at the resurrection and even when He appears to them after the resurrection.
In raising the story of the raising of Lazarus it is easy for us to get caught up in the sight of Lazarus flying out of the tomb wrapped in burial bounds. Did you ever try to sit up when you were wrapped tightly. Your legs pressed together, arms tightly bound to your side to the side, wrapped from head to toe? You cannot sit up much less come walking or hopping out of the tomb. This sight would have caused a huge commotion and shouts of joy and awe. Wow!
How could anyone not believe after witnessing Lazarus flying out of the tomb. Yet the Pharisees even knowing of these spectacular miracles refused to believe. Jesus shows us the heart of God in every miracle He performed. We have a vivid picture of a compassionate, caring, merciful God who goes out of His way to show us a glimpse of what awaits us. But we are missing the point if we focus on the story and all its details. Because Jesus is showing us exactly why He came, why He lived and why He died. Dead on the cross, taken down and in three days, just like Lazarus He rose.
It is all about us rising also. Returning to the garden and living in immortality with God.
Did you know this is the last recorded miracle in John’s gospel? It is here for a reason for Pharisees just could not take endure another miracle but Jesus had one final one in store for those unbelieving Pharisees. But God had more since the Spirit would come upon all who believe and they would do the same works as Jesus and those signs continued to point to that same loving, merciful, compassionate God.