5th Sunday in Lent.
John 11:1-45, Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130
Jesus Raises Lazarus
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”John 11:38-44
God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.Ezekiel 37:1-2 MSG
Grief is like dry bones laying out in the desert while sadness bakes into the cracks. In today’s readings, we see a God who hears, sees, and is sent into the world to unbind our grave clothes, and breathe life into places where loss has dried up hope.
The story of the death of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, begins with an introduction of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary as people that Jesus loved…family. He often spent time at “home” with them in their village of Bethany just outside Jerusalem. The only message needed to get Jesus to return home was sent: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” It is human to drop everything and run when we get this kind of message and rush to your loved one.
Yet there is a mysterious delay, and Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus’ death. He faces the outpouring of the sisters’ emotional response, who are in mourning, crying and declaring: “Lord, if you had been here our brother would not have died!” Grief explodes in questions of “why” and “where where you” that erupt from the core of deep disappointment with God over life and death. Jesus himself is deeply moved by their grief; he has experienced his own loss and pain, as John succinctly says, “Jesus wept.”
Did Jesus wait four days to leave no doubt that Lazarus was truly dead or to show his divine power over death? As he sharply reminded Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He knew the miracle of life over death and unbound freedom he would bring about for Lazarus, yet he walked through the pain and allowed questions from his friends who needed their Lord to be present.
All would now see the glory of God and the Oneness with the Father who always heard the prayers of Jesus for his people: “I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them!“(John 17:8-9)
So Jesus commands, “Take away the stone,” knowing full well the stone in front of his own grave will soon be rolled away. He raises his voice to shout: “Come Out,” and Lazarus leaves behind the sting of death, showing the world the glory of a God who in just a week would raise Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior, the Suffering Servant from the dead.
REFLECT. In the Old Testament reading for today, Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Lord God takes the prophet to a valley of dry bones and asks, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel wisely answered: “O Lord God, you know.” You may be walking through a dry valley of grief, or sadness, or simply not feeling, hearing or seeing anything from God. Read these sacred stories and take some time to reflect: Do you feel dried up, without hope, wanting more? Hear God’s Word:
PRAY. As Jesus proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord God was on him to comfort all who mourn, ask Jesus now to walk through grief and loss with you, to weep over injustice and brokenness, and to bring freedom and beauty and gladness into the dry valley.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice!Psalm 130
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord.