Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 11:1-45 (NRSV)
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
I love this portion of scripture because I think it so clearly captures Jesus’ love relationship with humanity. Isn’t it incredible that Jesus wept with the grieving?
Why would he weep? It makes no sense! He knew that he was the Son of God. He knew exactly what he had come to do. He, himself, had declared that Lazarus’ condition would not end in a permanent death, and yet, when he came into the little town of Bethany and encountered the “weepers and wailers,” scripture says that Jesus was moved to tears.
This profoundly touches my heart because it is a powerful reminder of the fact that God is with us in all of the conditions of our hearts. Whether we are happy, sad, grief-stricken, angry, lonely, embarrassed, exhausted, confused, hysterical, guilty, overwhelmed, or frightened, our God enters into our joyful and painful moments and shares them with us.
Both of Lazarus’ sisters ran to Jesus in the midst of their strong emotion. Both of the sisters talked to him bluntly about their circumstances, both of the sisters entrusted the care of their emotions to the one they called Teacher and Lord.
This is the essence of prayer. It is the crux of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are invited into intimacy with our Lord and Savior. I once heard intimacy described, “In-to-me-see.”
And truly Jesus is able to achieve true in-to-me-see with us. He knows all of our thoughts, feelings, fears, and failures and he loves us anyway.
And when we are willing to enter into an intimate relationship with him, sharing our joys and sorrorws, he is more than willing to share our pain and then when we are most ready, to redeem the time through the power of the resurrection moment.
Lent is all about letting Jesus in. It’s all about inviting him into the dustiest and ashiest moments of our lives. It is about allowing him to walk into our shame, humiliation, sinfulness, anxiety, and fear. It’s about uncovering our secrets before God, and allowing for Jesus to achieve true in-to-me-see with us.
See, if we’re afraid of in-to-me-see then we will seek our joy in all of the wrong places. Some will look for it as workaholics. Others will look for it at the mall or car lot. Others will look for it from drugs, alcohol, or sex, or food addictions. I could go on and on. Only you know how you choose to deal with those things you don’t want to bring before God.
But in the end, it is only Jesus who can banish sorrow and restore JOY. It is only the Joy-giver who is able to take our dead, ashy, and dusty circumstances and call them to new life. It is only Jesus who can stand the stench of our sinful ways and still stand with bold authority at the mouth of our cavernous humiliations and sorrows and proclaim, “Get up and Come out!”
It is my prayer that each of us will stop hiding ourselves from our God. It is my prayer that each of us will invite the in-to-me-see of the Holy Spirit to uncover our sinful ways. And it is my prayer that each of us will encounter the Joy-Giver who is able to redeem and resurrect all of our sorrows and restore us to new life.
Tomorrow/Today, some will take communion for the first time. Others of us will take it with new eyes. In all cases, in the ordinariness of bread and wine something extraordinary happens! We receive the Love, Joy, and Forgiveness of the one who lived, died, and rose again to forgive all of our sin and gift us with eternal life.
Now, that’s good news!
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta