Lazarus

Written by Joel on May 18th, 2011

April 10, 2011
Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 11:1-45

Lazarus’ death and resurrection is a preview of Christ’s death and resurrection.

As we approach Christ’s Passion we read of this last miraculous sign performed by our Lord: Christ brings Lazarus back to from the dead.

We learn early on that Jesus had a relationship with this family. It was this Mary, Lazarus’ sister (not Mary Magdalene), who would later anoint Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume. The Gospel tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus. But this is not just another healing story, in fact it may not be about the family to be healed at all, nor that act itself.

Isn’t it interesting that after hearing of Lazarus sickness, Jesus waits two days to even go there? Jesus healed the centurion’s servant just by saying the word, he didn’t even need to go to his house; at yet here with a friend – one he loved. He did nothing for two whole days! But it is in this incident that we see how Jesus has the power to overcome the finality of death. This is not just a simple healing story.

Verse 4 tells us that “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” This story glorifies God’s Son in at least two ways: 1) It is because of this resurrection incident that the chief priest plots to kill him, thus bringing about Christ’s passion. If you continue on through the end of the eleventh chapter you would read about the plot to kill Jesus and with the remainder of John’s gospel telling about Christ’s journey to the cross.

Also 2) The story of Lazarus itself foretells the death and resurrection of Jesus. There are a number of elements that will be mirrored directly in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Did you hear any of them? One of the disciples saying “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (verse 16). Lazarus in the tomb for days. We are right there in Jerusalem. The tomb had a stone laid across the entrance (verse 38). His hands and feet wrapped in grave clothes. The similarities are remarkable. If you missed the beginning that this is a story about Lazarus, you could easily think this was Jesus’ own resurrection story.

So here, Jesus is standing face to face with his own destiny and he knows it. Could you imagine watching something like this unfold right in front of you? It would be kind of like taser day at police academy. You know that police officers have to get taserd as part of their training.

Imagine standing there in the room and watching all your buddies get shocked right there in front of you; and you know it hurts; and you know that your next. Sometimes the anticipation is the worst part because you are left to sit there and contemplate what it will be like in your mind.

Or maybe it would be a bit like knowing you have an upcoming surgery in a few days and then you happen upon that same surgery on one of those surgery tv shows. Now the thoughts race through your mind – they are going to do that to me? Imagine the anxiety, maybe the anger, the uncertainty, the fear. Jesus had all those same emotions too as he approached his death. The death and resurrection of Lazarus really helps us to see Jesus’ humanity.

Jesus met with Martha first and they exchange a few words;

Martha first beginning with blame “If you had been here, he would not have died.” Jesus offered comfort.

Martha heard the words as future hope; much like the polite religious platitudes we offer each other when faced with death “We’ll miss them until we met up again in heaven; He’s gone to a better place; God must have needed another angel.” But to these empty words Jesus offers “I am the resurrection; I am the life.” What we are about to see is the message for us all – the hope of our salvation that though we die, because Christ has died for us we have the hope too of his resurrection.

After Jesus shared these words with Martha, Mary also came out to meet him and again was looking for someone to blame “If you were here – he would not have died.” The crowd too approached him and they took him to Lazarus’ tomb saying “Come and see.”

All through John’s Gospel this phrase would be used to encourage others to come and see the Lord. Now the phrase is reversed and spoken to Christ. Come and see, Jesus – this is what you are about to put yourself through. Verses 34 & 35: “Come and see, Lord”…Jesus wept.

Fukushima 50. We have all heard the news of the nuclear power troubles going on in Japan at this time: the threat of meltdown and the reports of spreading radiation. In the face of this impending doom a small group of workers has elected to stay behind at one of the nuclear power plants in an attempt to resolve the crisis. They have been named the Fukushima 50. One of the 50 is a father, and a company man of 40 years; he had planned on retiring this September. The government more than doubled the legal limit of radiation they could be exposed to - a move that basically said “yes, you are going to be exposed to a lot of radiation.” They know the risks, and they voluntarily chose to stay behind for the good of all.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of our Gospel story is that while Lazarus became sick and died (as did the others Jesus healed); It was something that happened to them. Christ is the one who subjects himself to his own death; Jesus laid down his own life for his crucifixion.

We recall Christ’s passion every year, we know it is coming. In some ways, because it comes every year, we may lack certain appreciation for his ultimate sacrifice. Let us contemplate on the sign of Lazarus, and Passion Sunday next week and remember that Christ approached his cross with all the fear, and anxiety as any human would; and he did so willingly.


 

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