The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
March 29, 2020 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - John 11:1-45
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Although I live in a quiet corner of the Unites States, we enjoy regular train service. The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s remaining great passenger trains and each day it visits our town, once in the morning heading east and once each evening traveling west. It’s not always on time. In fact, when it is, locals notice.
In today’s gospel we are reminded of one of the greatest miracles of Jesus, his bringing his close friend Lazarus back to life after he had been entombed four days. Jesus was criticized because it was thought that if he had come earlier, he could have prevented the death of his friend. Maybe he could have, but he chose not to. Jesus was following his own timetable. In his view he was right “on time.”
Of course, the death of Lazarus saddened Jesus. He even wept as he approached the sealed tomb, a clear reminder of his humanness. But now it was time for Jesus to get to work. Later in John’s Gospel he will say that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the Lord of life. He came to us on Earth so that we might have life in abundance. Thus, he would call Lazarus forth from the tomb. And in the presence of many, Lazarus came out. There is no record of the crowd’s response, or that of his sisters, Martha and Mary. Fittingly, the gospel today ends with the note than because of this miracle, many began to believe in Jesus. If we were there, we would likely do the same.
God’s most precious gift to us is that of life. Our existence does not begin with our words, “Make me be!” No, our coming into the world is because God wanted you and me to be. God wanted to share life with each of us. God arranged that the way we come into the world is best through a family’s love, although sadly, we know that this intent of God is not always realized. Still, God’s love for each of us is a constant. Every breath we take can be traced back to God saying, “I love you.”
Having the power of giving life, and supporting it in us, remains God’s doing. We are also informed in John’s gospel that God does not will that our death be the end of us, but only a transition from this life to the next. Deep within us is a hunger for our lives not to end. To go on forever. This hunger for continued life was implanted in us by the One who loved us long ago. When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, he was creating a sign of things to come. That he did this, perhaps his greatest miracle, for a family he deeply loved is also worth thinking about. It is not surprising that the authorities became more intent on getting rid of Jesus. Their claim to power was insignificant when compared to his.
©David M. Thomas, PhD