Reflection on the Gospel of John 11 v 1-45
By Jeanette Griffiths
There is something very appropriate about reading the story of Lazarus in Lent, as it contains joyful news. Lazarus’ resurrection pre-figures that of Christ. Resurrection is the prize of forgiven sin, so, as we repent in Lent, it is good to be reminded of what is in store for us. In this story we encounter immense drama, mixed feelings and mixed events. Christ’s popularity, rejection, humanity and divinity are all on show here. John’s Gospel contains the great “I am” sayings of Jesus and here we have - “I am the resurrection and the life”.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived in Bethany, a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The few times they are mentioned in the Gospels give strong hints that they were very close friends of His. When Lazarus becomes seriously ill the sisters, who had many friends, send for the friend that they know will be able to heal Lazarus. And yet, when Jesus heard of Lazarus’ illness he promptly stayed where he was for two days, before deciding to go to Judea. The disciples were horrified at the thought of going there– it was not long ago that people in Judea were trying to stone Jesus for his so-called blasphemy, and the disciples did not want to go back there any time soon. Jesus insists though, and the disciples, despite their confusion and fear, show their faith in Jesus by following him.
Martha was the first to greet Jesus and the dialogue between them shows her absolute faith, despite her grief and desolation - “even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him” and “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God”. At the sight of Mary weeping, Jesus wept too, despite knowing that he was about to undertake the miracle of resurrection for their brother. Why? Because He, the man who is God, has acted in such a way as to hurt his dear friends. Yet, he has done so in order that all people, including you and I, may see the reality of the resurrection for any who have faith in him. In these few sentences we have a rare insight into Christ’s human and divine status.
Jesus only ever acted according to the will of God, the Father, not his friends, and in those two days of waiting before setting out He was most certainly praying to God about this situation. Jesus waited for the right time – God’s time – to act. Four days was long enough in the heat of Bethany for a body to start to deteriorate, and so no one would have believed that Lazarus could possibly live again. By raising Lazarus, Jesus revealed to those watching, how the power of God within him was greater even than death, foreshadowing his own resurrection and the promise of eternal life to all who believe in him. This was one of the ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel to show his readers that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
As Covid-19 spreads and we see the increasing numbers on television of people falling ill with the virus and many dying because of it, we may feel that all we can do is pray. We know God hears our prayers but there are many who will call on the Lord in adversity and gain no relief, and that is hard. We know through this story that God’s time is not our time, but as Martha herself pointed out, God does offer us a solution. God demonstrates in Christ (who demonstrates in Lazarus) that death is not the end. In Christ is resurrection and life, and this is the answer to death. We do not have, or need, any other alternative.
A prayer kindly offered for use at this time by the Archdiocese of Liverpool follows…………..
God Our Father,
each person is precious to You.
You are the Giver of life.
as the Coronavirus threatens health & life.
Watch over those who are suffering,
And give courage to all in this time of anxiety.