Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, April 10, 2011

John 11:38-45

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb (of his friend Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary). It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


  1. Seeing is believing. Still the question remains, believing in what. In last week’s text when Jesus restored the sight of the man born blind the transformed man believed Jesus was a prophet, a man from God. But the religious officials who were present believed Jesus was not a man from God, after all he violated religious rules and orders, and they sought his demise. It seems in this story about the raising of Lazarus from the dead the gospel writer wanted to definitively answer the question – believing in what. And so Jesus prayed aloud to God the Father so that “the (the people) may believe that you (God) sent me.”

    Why was it so important for the people to believe that God sent Jesus? Indeed, why does the writer of John’s gospel pay so much attention to Jesus being sent by God, Jesus being a man of God?

    If Jesus was not a man of God how was the separation between humanity and divinity to be reconciled? If Jesus was not a man of God how was Martha, the sister of dead Lazarus, to see “the glory of God?” If Jesus was not a man of God what possible meaning and value does this, or any other gospel story for that matter, have for us today?

    I don’t know about you but if I was present at the tomb when Jesus called Lazarus and the man who was dead for four days walked out of the tomb – after I gasped and perhaps even fainted, I would believe that Jesus was a man of God, I would be convinced that I had experienced “the glory of God.” And so we are offered this unbelievable story that we may believe, believe that God so loves us that God sent Jesus to be with and for us so that we would believe that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.

  2. I relate to Martha. I know the despair that says, “Lord, if you had been here, if you had intervened, she would not have died.” I know the agony of hoping that this will not end the way it is going, and waiting in vain for God to act. I have also looked at the dead body and wondered, “Do I dare believe that he will rise now? Do I dare ask God to do a miracle here?” I know the struggle with doubt that says, “It has been too many days. It is over now.” And I have felt the anguish that, “If I only believed, I would see the glory of God.” Yet.
    This story consoles me because the actors are so human, so real, so like me. The disciples who don't get it because Jesus is talking in riddles. Thomas, whose level of faith takes the martyr position. And Martha, who proclaims belief and acts from ordinary expectations. Yet, Jesus was doing something deeply significant by not acting (even though I can't see fully what this is). He was explaining something in the riddles (even though I am not sure I grasp it). And he was drawing Martha, Mary and Lazarus closer to himself through his irregular behavior (this I can understand, can feel with the siblings).
    But the strong consolation for me is in Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” The consolation is in living, living in the now, with its pain and life-riddles, living in the anguish of doubt and God's inaction, living in the hope that dieing is not an end (and it is through the death of ones I love that this hope became real). It is living in the presence of Jesus – Jesus on time; Jesus too late; Jesus clear; Jesus oblique; Jesus doing what Jesus does regardless of my faith or my understanding. Do I see the Glory? Not often, and never in the drama of a resurrection. But sometimes, in precious little things that come during crises; in the security that holds me when all seems chaos; in the wonder of the great mystery of life.
    I have been at the death bed and not heard, “Come forth,” and have been able to believe that she does not die. I have lived in the pain of grief and its doubt and am able to keep looking for glory. Yes, I have seen it.