Saturday, April 24, 2021

Jesus Raises Lazarus (John 11:38-44)

 Jesus is still very emotional when he arrives at the cave where Lazarus is buried. He orders that the stone be removed. Martha asks him if he realizes that the smell is going to be bad after four days. Jesus, however, has the glory of God in mind. They take away the stone, and Jesus begins to pray. Jesus thanks the Father for hearing him, but he notes that the Father always hears him. He says that he's praying this prayer for the sake of the people watching, so that they might know that the Father sent him.

"Lazarus, come out." Lazarus comes to life again, and Jesus orders that they unbind the formerly dead man, and let him live his life.

I suppose there are a lot of us who have read this story before, and so we're used to it. But seriously, we don't hear stories of dead people coming to life again very often. And Jesus did it by His own power; it wasn't a mystery, or a quirky medical oversight. This was a bonafide miracle.

Even though this was not the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, I think this miracle points to it. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Jesus Wept (John 11:28-37)

 After Martha confessed Jesus to be the Son of God who has come into the world, she left, going back home to get her sister Mary. Jesus was still outside of town, and Mary met him there, in the same place where Martha came to meet him.

People had seen Mary get up quickly to go somewhere, so they followed her.

When Mary said a similar thing to what Martha had said, that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there earlier, the emotion of it moved Jesus deeply. He asked to see the grave, and where they had laid Lazarus. Jesus has a human soul, just like you and me. We know that it's tough to keep our emotional control, when our loved ones are very sad. Jesus went to the grave of Lazarus, and he wept. This is another of those great mysteries. I think that--given what Jesus is about to do--it is a mystery worth contemplating. Death is so wrong, and the sorrow so deep, that the Son of God couldn't tolerate it for even a moment. We should be mindful of this, when we are tempted to tell people that their grief over the death of a loved one is too much for us, or has gone on "too long."

The whole episode restarts a conversation among the people about the true identity of Jesus. We have seen this often, and I think St. John wants us to see it. He also wants the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to know that they have a choice. It is not a betrayal of their forefathers to believe in Jesus; in fact, to believe is to truly honor those forefathers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Jesus and Martha Speak (John 11:17-27)

 When Jesus got there, Lazarus had been dead four days. They surely had many friends, neighbors, and well-wishers to console them. Martha went out to meet Jesus, while Mary stayed in the house.

Martha believes enough in Jesus to wish that he had gotten there sooner. Maybe Lazarus wouldn't be dead. She still believes Jesus could do something, if he pleaded with God the Father. Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again, and she reasonably assumes that Jesus is talking about the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life," and it is bold. Jesus is trying to tell us that he doesn't just have something to do with what we hope for; He is what we hope for. Martha confesses Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Lazarus Dies (John 11:1-16)

 Lazarus was seriously sick, and his sisters Mary and Martha were obviously worried. Jesus knew them, and they may have been relatives. Jesus was informed by a message from the sisters that Lazarus was sick. The answer Jesus gives is strange, but they may have thought that Jesus knew Lazarus would survive.

Jesus does the strangest thing next, upon finding out that Lazarus is sick: he stays where he is, not going to Bethany, to help Lazarus. Then Jesus tells the disciples that it's time to go back to Judea. They respond like sensible people, reminding him that they left Judea so that the authorities would not stone Jesus to death. Jesus responds with a parable, or what seems like a parable, because he could be saying that the authorities could only try something underhanded under the cover of night. I think the Jesus is saying that if you walk by the Light, it doesn't matter what others try to do against you. Jesus is the Light of the world. If he is with us in and in us, we cannot stumble.

Then Jesus uses a metaphor for death, saying that Lazarus has "fallen asleep." The Church often speaks this way even today, because we believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Therefore, death is not the end that it seems to be, even if it hurts, and even if restoration will be a long time in coming.

The disciples didn't get it, of course, and they figured that Lazarus would wake up and be normal, as nearly all of us do each day. St. John kindly tells us that "fallen asleep" meant that Lazarus had died. Then Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus had died. Jesus says he is glad he wasn't there, so that the disciples might believe what Jesus is about to do, and therefore believe in him. Thomas, one of the disciples, is being a bit dramatic, and perhaps he thinks that whatever got Lazarus will get them, too.

I don't want to speculate and say that none of the apostles had any faith whatsoever, especially since we are often surprised by how God works beyond what we could ask or imagine. We could probably think of a problem that just seems too big for anyone to solve. In the quietness of our hearts, we might even admit our own unbelief that God could or would do anything about it. In any case, there are very few problems in this world bigger than death itself.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Getting Away, But Still Finding Followers (John 10:40-42)

 We don't really know if Jesus remaining in that place would have been harmful to him, but we know that he got away, so that they wouldn't arrest him. He went back to the place where John the Baptist was baptizing, and if you remember, that was basically the place where Jesus started his ministry, and announced himself to the world.

I think one of the reasons why St. John records the people saying that John the Baptist "did no sign" is to emphasize that John the Baptist was not testifying about himself; his whole purpose was to tell us about Jesus. (See John 3:29-30) Maybe being away from large crowds and the hostile leadership allowed people to judge for themselves about Jesus. And St. John tells us that many believed in Jesus there.

Jesus The Blasphemer? (John 10:31-39)

It's hard to miss that the opponents of Jesus believed him to be a blasphemer. They are supposed to stone anyone who commits blasphemy. Jesus wants the audience to look at the works he does, and by those works, to see the work of the Father, and the sending of the Son by the Father.

By quoting the Psalms here, Jesus is pointing out that the sons and daughters of God are like God, and we might seem like gods ourselves. The stakes are pretty high: if these leaders reject the Messiah, then we have a broken covenant, and God must again forgive. If Jesus is not telling the truth, we have no reason to be Christians. Christians adore Jesus as God, as the only-begotten Son of the Father.

I think a lot of people think being a Christian involves a lot of rules, and effort at good behavior. There is some of that, which is common in all religions. But the reason we pursue holiness is important. If God in Christ has redeemed us from sin and death, and the Father has made us part of his family by adopting us, we pursue goodness and holiness because He is holy, and we are His family, and His children.

In many places here in John and elsewhere, you have to make the case that Jesus claimed to be God. But given Jesus's own words recorded here in verse 36, and the fact that his enemies wanted to stone him for claiming to be God and the Son of God, our doubts about that particular question should be resolved. In verse 38, Jesus seems to be talking about that family relationship that he had with the Father, before he took on flesh to become our Savior. This is a great mystery, and it made things a little dicey for Jesus, but he escaped again.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Arguing on the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-30)

 We know the Feast of Dedication more commonly as Hanukkah. There were several attempts to throw off the foreign domination suffered by Israel even after they came back into the land after the exile. Even in the time of Jesus, they had not fully succeeded.

The opponents of Jesus asked him to tell them plainly if he is the Christ, also known as the Messiah. He says he already told them, but they do not believe. In fairness, we have already seen that it takes a certain kind of spiritual sight to see Jesus as he intends us to see him. But once we know what Jesus and St. John are saying, then we are understanding Jesus in this spiritual way.

Jesus knows who his sheep are, and so he doesn't hesitate to speak bluntly with those who oppose him, knowing that they are not confused or misguided. We who are the sheep of Jesus will never be snatched out of his hand, and we will be given eternal life from him. He also says that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand, either. Jesus repeats the idea that he is God, and that he is one with the Father in a special way that no one else is able to be. Once more, we should understand that what Jesus claims for himself would be blasphemy, if it were not true. Jesus is closer to the Father than anyone else could be, and when we come to the Father through him, we are invited to an intimacy with the Father which is new and deeper than the people would have experienced up to this time.

Jesus understands that it is all too human for people to dislike other people, based upon what they say, or how they say it. But when Jesus tells them to focus on the works he does, he is essentially saying, "You can't argue with results." God the Father is doing something through Jesus, and what we think about Jesus determines what we think about the Father. We might want to separate the two of them, but the eyewitnesses to Jesus are not going to let us off the hook so easily.