Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel reading this weekend comes again from St. John’s gospel. It is another long and critical story about the ministry of our Lord. The passage is the story about Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, more specifically the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
There are many phrases and fragments of this long 45 verse narrative such as: “Lord, the one whom you love is ill” v. 3; “I am the resurrection and the life. …Do you believe this?” vv. 25-26; “Jesus wept” v. 35; “Unbind him and let him go free” v. 44. Many scholars connect this story of the raising of Lazarus to John 5:21: “As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to men” neb. We who are followers of Jesus on the Way are convinced of Jesus’ life-giving powers. We trust that the life we have with God through Jesus is never-ending but always changing. We can rest in peace with that faith.
There is another aspect of this story that is a little deeper, a little more provocative to we who follow. When Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” does that mean only after death? I believe the answer to that is no. In fact, I believe that the greatest aspect of this resurrection and life idea is resurrection in this life on earth which leads to real life now and forever. When Lazarus is commanded to come forth, it is to this life, not an ascension to the next. On the surface, Lazarus comes back to the same old painful world he left. Jesus seems to have raised him to a new life here. Jesus is presented in John’s gospel as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom now. New life comes where Jesus is. Where Jesus is, there is resurrection.
As with the stories of Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the man born blind, there is the surface level meaning and then deeper, spiritual insights that are offered. This story of Lazarus can, perhaps, offer us the deeper level of looking at our lives now and to the degree they are bound up in death. To that degree, death—brokenness, fear, self-doubt, sin, anxiety, addiction, anger, to name a few—has dominion over us. Jesus calls us out of that world wrapping binding into a new world of compassion justice, courage in God, i.e. into a daily living relationship with God’s healing, wholeness, and life through Jesus the Christ.
I believe that this is the life-changing power of the resurrection that is demonstrated by Jesus. This is the Good News that starts now, hee at the edge of the tomb. Martha talks of the resurrection being on the last day. Jesus looks at us and says “I AM the resurrection and the life now… Do you believe this? What say you?
Pastor Jeff Blackman