RCL A Lent 5
Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, Saint John 11:1-45

The signature of this Lent for me has been the sequence of four Gospels from the Gospel of Saint John. As a sequence they build in consequentiality and in the power they have to reveal the kingdom of God.

Three weeks ago we began the sequence with Nicodemus whose limit is physical birth. He cannot see past it to spiritual birth and to the spiritual world, verily the kingdom of God itself.

We moved on to the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well. She draws still water from the well to be told by Jesus that he is the source of “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”[1] She believes him, and brings her neighbors to him.

Then we had the man born blind whose sight Jesus bestows. For the man born blind, seeing Jesus is believing in Jesus, but for the Pharisees, seeing the cure of the man born blind is the opposite: seeing is not believing, and the Pharisees remain in their sin of ignorance of Jesus though he is right there to be seen as he is right here in our lives to be seen.

The sequence, the progression, has been like this. Jesus has presented the spiritual dimension of birth, living water, and sight. In the raising of Lazarus presents the spiritual dimension of life itself.

You recall from the Gospel today that Mary says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”[2] What Mary is about to learn is that death is the doorway to life. It’s counterintuitive, like being born again. It’s improbable, like living water. It’s unlikely, like blindness being the doorway to sight. But despite all these things, it’s true. Death is the doorway to life. By raising Lazarus Jesus demonstrates that death is indeed the doorway to life. And once this truth is demonstrated, Jesus will himself undergo death to be raised, to be resurrected, to demonstrate in his body and his life that death is the doorway to life. The truth that these Gospels illustrate is the essence of the Christian life: “everyone who believes in [Jesus] may not perish but may have eternal life.”[3]

As I say so often, the Christian Year, the progress from Advent through Pentecost, replays itself before our eyes over and over again so that we can catch on. Nicodemus, perhaps, catches on. The Samaritan Woman certainly catches on. The man born blind catches on. And many of the Jews who see Lazarus come from the tomb believe in Jesus and see him as the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

And so it is. The point of these Gospels and the purpose of the Church comes to this: to believe that Jesus is the Son of God whose resurrected life assures us of “the life of the world to come.”[4] When Easter comes once again, we shall remember these things when we hear these words from the First Epistle of Saint Peter, “Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[5]

[1] Saint John 4:14.

[2] Saint John 11:32.

[3] Saint John 3:16.

[4] The Nicene Creed, BCP, page 359.

[5] I Peter 1:8-9.