Gogh, Vincent van, 1853-1890. Raising of Lazarus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57322 [retrieved March 25, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_opwekking_van_Lazarus_(naar_Rembrandt)_-_s0169V1962_-_Van_Gogh_Museum.jpg.

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

When Jesus approaches Bethany, he speaks with Martha and says, “‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’”[1] A moment later Martha says that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.[2] That exchange informs us exactly where Martha is in her understanding of Jesus and where we are in the structure of Saint John’s Gospel.

Martha’s understanding is lacking. Jesus is about to take care of that. What she lacks is the belief that her brother Lazarus will rise in a few minutes. He will have the abundant life that Jesus came to give. He will have that life after physical death. He will rise again not on the last day, but in a few minutes. He will hear the Master’s voice, and he will come forth.

You may know that the Gospel of John is to be seen apart from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It has its own themes, structure, and symbols. Its structure is a sequence of signs, the word John uses for Jesus’ wondrous deeds. The first of the signs is the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. This first sign represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings with the entire creative and transforming power of the Son of God.

The seventh and last of these signs is the raising of Lazarus, who becomes an example of the real life, the abundant life, that Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, came to give away to those who put their trust in him. This disclosure of what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, opens Martha’s eyes and the eyes of many “of the Jews…who had come with Mary…and believed in him.”[3]

I believe that there is not a person in the world whose eyes cannot be opened a little wider. I do not mean that we are all blind, like the Pharisees who interrogate the man born blind. I mean that all of us have more to see and more to learn at the hand of Jesus. There is nothing that he cannot do. He is the one through whom “all things were made.”[4] There is always a way for things to work out.

I know a man who, on a winter’s afternoon, doubted whether all the things pressing on him could be worked out. And the thought came to him out of the blue, “Do you think that the Maker of heaven and earth cannot disentangle this mess you have made?” And he laughed, but he believed. And he took care of business. He had put too much on his plate. When he laughed and when he believed, I hope he heard the Lord say, “Unbind him, and let him go.”[5]

[1] Saint John 11:23-24.

[2] Saint John 11:27.

[3] Saint John 11:42.

[4] The BCP, page 358.

[5] Saint John 11:44.