April 10, 2011

5th Sunday of Lent - A


Am I Dead?

In the account of the raising of Lazarus, John makes sure his readers know that Lazarus is really dead.

By the time Jesus arrives at Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. The common Jewish belief at the time was that "at death the soul lingered in the vicinity for the body for three days." This detail emphasizes that Lazarus is "as dead as dead could be." [1]

Physically, as Martha put it, "by now there will be a stench." Lazarus is dead.

Then, when Lazarus comes out, his hands and feet "tied with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." He was dead.

Have I ever written myself or somebody else off? Or maybe I consider a fault, a struggle in me or another person as hopeless? There is just no second chance. That is when we allow the power of death to take over.

Sometimes we even write off Jesus' victory over death. The raising of Lazarus affirms us of his power over sin and even death itself.

And he is more than willing to raise us up.

In the case of Lazarus, he did so while risking his own life. He went to Judea knowing what awaited him there. His disciples even tried to stop him, saying, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” (v. 8)

In fact, by raising Lazarus back to life, Jesus brought down even more wrath from those who opposed him. "From that day on [the Sanhedrin] planned to kill him" (11: 53). In the next chapter, "the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him" (12: 10-11). Jesus clearly knew what he was risking in raising the dead Lazarus to life.

Jesus knows what he was doing, and the price he must pay. But that was the way he will fulfill the Father's plan for our eternal life.

Why do we still sometimes allow death to keep us in the tomb?

[1] Diocese of Saginaw, The Little Black Book for Lent 2011; entry for Friday, April 15, 2011.

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