John 11 juxtaposes Lazarus’s death, and by implication, the
death of anyone, with belief in Jesus as Word, Light, and
Resurrection. Today’s scripture enables those who experienced
Lazarus’s death and we who experience the death of a loved one
to see through Jesus’ eyes how death is transformed by eternal
life in God.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Word become flesh dwelling
among us, the One who declares, “I am the resurrection and
the life.” This perspective governs everything spoken and done.
Hearing of Lazarus’s illness, Jesus declares that it isn’t for death
but for glorification of God and the Son of God. Jesus’ delay in
coming to Lazarus confounds and confuses expectations, but it
emphasizes that death is not to be feared.
Jesus acts in the knowledge that Lazarus, though dead, is
not dead: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going
there to awaken him” (John 11:11), and that is the will of the
Father. So Jesus‘ absence is not a delay or denial of life but a
demonstration of Jesus’ sovereign autonomy whether absent
or present. Jesus knows what Lazarus undergoes just as Jesus
knows what will happen in his arrest and death at the end of
his life. Death is part of a larger plan.
All deaths, while real, are not the end. Death’s power is limited.
John’s Gospel presents the transformation of death as the
glorification of God opening up the possibility of trust in and
unity with God on the part of believers for the world’s salvation.
It is Lazarus’s death that makes real what is possible, even as it
confounds human expectations of love and grief.
Go forth created by God’s love, redeemed by Jesus’ mercy, strengthened by the Holy Spirit. In communion with the faithful, may you dwell in peace. May God’s angels lead you, may mercy enfold you, and may you find eternal life. Amen.
Ezekiel 37 presents a vision of the dry bones that represent the people of Israel after the Babylonian invasion—the people have no life. God calls Ezekiel to see the devastation and to prophesy to the dry bones with the message that they shall live. The psalmist cries out from the very depths expressing both a need and hunger for God and a trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The story of Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ raising him to life calls forth our own stories and experiences of life and death. It draws us in to a conversation that goes deeper than our intellect. It evokes our questions, our fears, our doubts, and our faith. The Romans text offers the good news that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. Each of these texts affirms life after death. Death is not the end; death does not have the nal word.
• Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. How has life come to you through death?
• Read Psalm 130. For what do you cry out to God? Pray the psalm, line by line, knowing that God hears and extends mercy and care.
• Read Romans 8:6-11. How has God changed your mind-set, your attitude, to bring you richer life?
• Read John 11:1-45. What in your world needs to die in order for life to come forth?
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