Reflections on the Christian journey based on the lectionary gospel texts
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Lent 5, John 11v1-44, Lazarus come forth!
Johns gospel is built around the "I ams" and "signs and wonders". His teaching along with the miracles in the gospel, show that he is Jesus the bread of life, the water of life, the light of life. In chapter 11, John demonstrates that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Jesus will rise from the dead and never die. In John's gospel it is the raising of Lazarus that precipitates riots and his ultimate arrest and crucifixion..The Pharisees and religious authorities choose death over life!
Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, has fallen ill and Jesus was asked to go to Bethany to help him. Strangely Jesus waits two days until Lazarus has died before setting off for Bethany to heal him. When he arrived at Bethany he was met by a family in mourning, so Jesus met with the two sisters Mary and Martha before he went to Lazarus's tomb.
The name Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew, Eleazar meaning "God helps."John identifies Mary as "this" Mary, the woman who anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper, (Mk.14:3-9), the one who anointed Jesus with ointment or perfumed liniment with her hair. Jesus was convinced that Lazarus sickness was not terminal. This sickness will glorify God-and it did and still does. There is a right time to do things, say things, despite our impatience, a kairos moment and when we work with God we walk in the light, spiritual light because we have been given insight, strength wisdom. Lazarus has fallen asleep, a euphenism we still use for death, but he will get better. He knows that he will be healed and this will increase the disciples' faith.
Then Thomas who was called Didymus because he was a twin, initiates a kind of martyrs death. "Let's go to die with Jesus" because he is pessimistic about going back into a hostile situation, where he thinks they will all die. Lazarus has been buried for four days. The four days emphasises that Lazarus is really dead as the Jews of the time thought that the soul remained with the body for three days after death. Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem, which explais why so many other people were also at the scene,acquaintances, Jewish officials, relatives, neighbours, friends, people had come from the city.The details add to the authenticity for me. When Martha heard Jesus had come, she went out to meet him and Mary stayed at home, mourning. Martha regrets that Jesus had not come before and her brother has died because she believed Jesus could have healed him. Jesus explains to Martha that he is the Resurrection and the Life. The believing one, the one who has been raised to life by Jesus, will never die. Jesus went into the village. where he saw Mary weeping/wailing and it distressed him so much he also started to cry. So he asked where they had buried Lazarus? People standing around said, "He gives sight to the blind. Why couldn't he have kept Lazarus from dying?"
The tomb was a cave, possibly a deep, vertical hole. There was a stone rolled over the entrance to keep animals away from the body. Jesus commanded them to take away the stone. They warned him that there was a smell because the Jews did not mummify the dead, which was lucky for Lazarus, for in if he had been mummified, they would have thrown away some of the organs, like the brain. The usual anointing of the body would not cover the smell of decomposition. Lazarus was certainly dead.
Jesus looked up, praised God and called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man walked out, wrapped in grave cloths. The clothes would normally be round his head. Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what happened immediately believed in him... but some of them went to the Pharisees and Jewish authorities and told them what he had done-namely raised someone from the dead! It is the same today, people divide not just between believers and unbelievers when good is done, but there are those who will simply hate you for what you have done and want to harm you. Such is the depth of human nature. However we follow a man who brought people back to life after they had been dead for four days! That is something that makes me very excited!