The gospel reading of John 11:1-45 tells the story of Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.
The passage begins by introducing Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus, and his sisters Martha and Mary. Lazarus falls ill and his sisters send a message to Jesus to come and heal him.
Upon receiving the message, Jesus does not immediately go to see Lazarus.
Instead, he tells his disciples that Lazarus’ illness will not end in death, but that it is for God’s glory.
After waiting two days, Jesus and his disciples finally arrive at Bethany, where Lazarus had died and was already buried for four days.
Upon arrival, Martha and Mary express their disappointment that Jesus had not come sooner.
Jesus is deeply moved by their grief and the grief of the people around them, and he weeps.
He then proceeds to the tomb and commands that the stone be rolled away.
He prays to God and then calls out to Lazarus, commanding him to come out of the tomb. To the amazement of everyone present, Lazarus emerges from the tomb, alive and well.
The story of Lazarus demonstrates Jesus’ power over death and his divine nature as the Son of God.
It also highlights his compassion and love for his friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and his desire to bring glory to God through his miraculous works.
Life is sweet. But Death stinks.
Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and he is fully a human person. We see him weeping, hungry, rejoicing, and even angry.
He experiences the full range of human emotions.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Martha meets Jesus just after the death of Lazarus, her brother. Jesus becomes “perturbed.”
In the original Greek, it says, “he snorted” or groaned.
Lazarus is a close friend of Jesus. Jesus is sad and upset. And then Jesus weeps. Jesus tells them to, “Take away the stone.”
Martha reminds him, “Lord, he has been dead for four days.”
But, Jesus is not afraid of our human condition. He plunges into our lives, into our weakness, even our death. He promises to raise each of us, from death to new life.
Clearly this is one of the most powerful examples of the Savior’s love—the raising of Lazarus from the grave after four days.
The event took place just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem for the last time when a messenger was sent to them with word that Lazarus was sick.
Jesus, however, tarried for several days, instead of rushing to heal Lazarus.
When Jesus and the disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days.
Often the first question that is asked is why Jesus waited to come heal Lazarus.
Why would he prolong his coming when he knew that the hearts of Mary and Martha would both be broken?
First, by raising Lazarus from the dead after four days, Jesus demonstrated his true power over even the worst enemy, death.
Up to this point Jesus had raised several from the dead, however, in each case, they had only been dead for a few hours.
Dissenters could easily claim that those who had been raised, had only been sleeping. Yet in the case of Lazarus, there was no question as to the magnitude of Jesus’ power.
Second, it taught of Jesus’ pure love for others, despite his omniscience.
The shortest verse in scripture simply states “Jesus wept.”
Volumes could be written about these simple, yet powerful two words.
Jesus knew that he could raise Lazarus, he also knew that in only moments the two sisters, Mary and Martha would again be embracing their brother.
Jesus empathized with the pain of those around him, even though he knew what the future held.
Another significant reason why Jesus performed the miracle of resurrecting Lazarus was to prepare his followers for his own tragic death.
Jesus wept, in part, because he foresaw the sorrow that his disciples would experience when he was crucified.
While Jesus knew that he would be resurrected, his followers would need time to process and understand the significance of his death.
By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gave his disciples hope for the impossible and instilled in them an unshakable belief in the power of the Lord.
Even though Jesus could have healed Lazarus immediately, he chose to perform the miracle to demonstrate the limitless power of God and to show his followers the depth of his love for them.
Throughout our lives, even when the Lord knows how things will ultimately turn out, he continues to provide us with comfort and hope, instilling in us faith and reminding us that nothing is impossible with Him.
Those of us afflicted with a serious illness, as I am with stage 4 prostate cancer that has metastasized, are like Lazarus, our families like Martha and Mary.
We seek comfort, embrace hope. And we will not be disappointed.
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