John 11: 1-45 :
The Death of Lazarus
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? 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.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
Jesus the Resurrection and the Life
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. 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 for 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 upwards 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.’
The Plot to Kill Jesus
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Another very long reading from John but there is so much in it is difficult to cut it shorter. Let us firstly look at the situation; Jesus’ very good friends called for him as their brother, Lazarus, was very sick. Jesus delays in going to his aid, and instead takes two days to decide on his action, so what do we think he was doing during this time and why? Perhaps looking at the outcome of this story it was planned, perhaps he was carrying out God’s own instructions? It is far more dramatic to bring a man from the dead, witnessed and entombed to the point of a stench, than to cure someone of an illness who could be exaggerating or faking it. The result of Lazarus’ resurrection is far more convincing that he is the Son of God, than a faith healer, there is no question that this man is the Messiah.
When Jesus meets Martha and then Mary he is moved to tears by his friends being so distraught and devastated by their brothers death, the word love is used quite liberally but in translation could be said that this family were very good friends and were very close. Martha meets Jesus, she shows her faith and knows he could have healed him and avoided this death, but she states that she believes his is the Son of God and could bring him back from the dead, Jesus is quite sharp with her when he asks the tomb to be opened, but he knows her well, he is a lot softer with Mary who is not coping showing that he recognises emotion and has feeling. He is God in human form who knows how we feel and act and this is important for us so that he understands our prayers, our sins and our needs.
This Gospel story has so much in it beside Jesus’ character on earth, it gives us an understanding of how important faith is, how with faith we get hope, and from this we get joy. Jesus is quite firm with the sisters because he knows that they believe in God and in himself, but this is probably the biggest challenge he has faced them with and they were both wavering. You might remember the time when he went to their house and Mary sat at his feet listening to him while Martha did all the work, preparing food cleaning the house and making it fit for the important visitor. Neither of these sisters were wrong but it shows how we are all different and should accept each other for what we are. This was a remarkable event, there were a lot of people witnessing it and the crowd are mesmerised and immediately believe in him. To emphasise that he was doing God’s work he thanked God publicly so they would know that he was from God himself.
It shows how different God has made us, it shows that because of Jesus he knows us and understands our difficulties and our limitations. He is loving and wants the best for us, he knows we do the wrong thing but forgives us. Psalm 139 says “ For you created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. We must keep our faith as with faith comes hope and joy and what a wonderful gift that is.
Jan B. ALM, St Maxentius