Tag Archives: Lazarus

5th Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel — John 11: 1-45

The cast of characters…

Martha and Mary are the voices of all faith-filled people who have suffered loss:

“Where were you? If You had only been here . . .”

Lazarus– “the one whom Jesus loved” is a paradigm of every believer.

Just as Jesus calls to Lazarus to “Come out!” so, too, he calls to each of us to come out from whatever entombs us and allow ourselves to be ‘untied’

by his grace and live to ‘go free’.

The disciples are the ones who pretend to be brave and wise, but are often clueless.

Jesus cries and is perturbed, also. ( the Greek word is a strong one, ebrimaomai, meaning frustrated, angry, sometimes used to describe a horse snorting) Why?  No easy answer.

If Jesus reveals to us the invisible God, what does Jesus show us here about God?  Where do you see yourself in the story?

Jesus waited.  Scripture uses the word remained, which gives the waiting an intentionality.  Lazarus was dead for 4, long days.  All hope was lost.  But everything is possible with God, right?  As we heard in Paul’s letter to the Romans a couple weeks ago, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts…” (5:5).  It was for the glory of God.  God’s time is not our time.  What wonderful things may lie in wait for you if you hope in the glory of the Lord?

Martha is worried about the stench in the cave when Jesus approaches (as, of course, Martha would!). And don’t we sometimes get stuck in the details of life instead of the bigger picture?  Jesus waves her off and focuses on why he is there, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  Jesus is not afraid to come to our stinky, dark places and breathe new life into us!  And actually, Jesus does not go into the cave but calls Lazarus out.  Jesus calls us OUT of ourselvesAnd he calls others in to help Lazarus with the bandages.  We need the support of our community to jump in and be there with us.  Jesus is in the midst of it all.  Do you see yourself in this?  Our church?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2002:

John 11: 1-45 – “This illness is not to end in death . . .”

Jesus said the illness would not end in death, but it did.  Lazarus died.  And so have our friends and loved ones over the years, some of them great believers in the promises of Jesus.  We’ve all known people who’ve prayed and prayed that the cancer would go away, or the doctors would find a cure for their condition in time.  Sometimes it doesn’t, or they don’t.  And it hurts terribly, for the ones who have to let go of the life they know, the ones who have to say goodbye too soon.

Lazarus dies, and his family grieves.  Even Jesus weeps at the loss.  But then, Lazarus is called out of death to life!  And now we hear what Jesus really said: not that Lazarus wouldn’t die, but that death would not be the end of him.  Death wins the battle, but love wins the war.  So we believe.  So we profess.

Human suffering is a mystery we must live with and in – it is a part of everyone’s life eventually. As we head toward Holy Week, it is important to think about how as Christians we view this. What does the cross of Christ tells us about suffering?  The cross does not really tell us the why of suffering, but it offers us instead the where of God’s sharing in it.  When we suffer, God is in the midst of our suffering. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is also Christ on the cross, God-who-suffers-with-us.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are our guarantee that when we reach the limits of our mortality in failure, loss, and pain, we find ourselves on the surprising road to resurrection.    (Today’s Parish, Lent 1996, p.22)

Let us pray…

 “Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of self-sufficiency wherein you do not admit your need for God and for one another.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of preoccupation with yourself and open your eyes to the needs of others.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of excessive busyness; take time to think, to listen, to be quiet and to pray.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of self-imposed obligations; untie yourself from the unimportant, the fleeting and the material so as to be free to experience the essential, the eternal and the spiritual.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb dug deep by apathy and ignorance and be newly awakened and sensitive to the plight of the poor, the oppressed.

 “Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of hopelessness and skepticism and be renewed in the knowledge that you are mine, I am yours and we are God’s.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of needless worry and undue anxiety. Know the love of a devoted God. Find courage and freedom here.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of sin and guilt and grief.  Know the truth of forgiveness — received and given.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of death and share God’s eternal life and forever love. Amen.

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Scripture Commentary for 5th Sunday of Lent, cycle A

1st Reading – Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Ezekiel prophesized just before and during the Babylonian Exile. Both Jewish kingdoms had been devastated and many Jews had been taken to Babylon as slaves. It seemed to them that they were ‘dead’ as a people and as a country. Ezekiel speaks this message to encourage them in the midst of such desperation to still hope in a God who can bring life out of destruction and death. This reading comes from a longer section of Ezekiel called a “Vision of the Dry Bones.

Many of us can use this reading to be encouraged during difficult times. It can provide potent images for the times when our hearts begin to feel like a mausoleum stacked with failures, broken dreams, and friends we can only think of in the past tense. Besides his words, it is also impressive to consider the behavior of the prophet himself. To be able to say, “You alone are the Lord,” while standing in a field of death, is a marvelous testimony of faith. May we take his words to heart and trust that no matter how much darkness is around us – no matter how many dreams or loved ones have died – that our life and hope are in the God who can bring forth life always. (Today’s Parish, Lent 1996, p.23)

2nd Reading – Romans 8: 8-11

This reading has its problems because of the translation of sarx as flesh and pneuma as spirit.  Think of flesh instead as ‘our sinful nature’ that which leads to death.  Flesh is our ‘small, insecure self’ that does not trust in the goodness and love of God. Spirit is better understood as ‘our life-giving, God-empowered nature’ that leads to full life. This fits better in what Paul is trying to say.

Biblical hope is not a belief in the intrinsic immortality of the human person, as though some part of us, such as the soul or spirit, is in and by itself immortal. The whole person – body, spirit, soul – is subject to decay and death. But the Good News is this: Christ has broken this subjection. He has burst the bonds of decay and death by his resurrection. The crucified/risen Lord is with us to assure us that God’s love – not our own helpless selves – is more powerful than death. God’s love offers us a transformation that can go through death to an eternal life. When we live by and with this indwelling Spirit, we begin to taste in the here and now the beginning of a new life. It will be full and complete when we have passed through death into the marvelous presence of our loving God. The Spirit that we are talking about is the Spirit of Christ.     (R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The Gospel — John 11: 1-45

This is a long ‘short  story,’ allegory, with layers of meaning about how Jesus has the fullness of God’s power to bring life from all that brings death. It is told here to prepare us for Jesus’ death and resurrection – to prepare us to celebrate Easter with new understanding. It is told only in John’s Gospel. Where do you see yourself in the story?

Martha and Mary are the voices of all faith-filled people who have suffered loss:  “Where were you? If You had only been here . . .”  Lazarus– “the one whom Jesus loved” is a paradigm of every believer. Just as Jesus calls to Lazarus to “Come out!” so, too, he calls to each of us to come out from whatever entombs us and allow ourselves to be ‘untied’ by his grace and live to ‘go free’.

The disciples are the ones who pretend to be brave and wise, but are often clueless. Jesus cries and is perturbed, also. Why?  No easy answer.

If Jesus reveals to us the invisible God, what does Jesus show us here about God?

What do you think of Thomas’ statement: “Let us go to die with him.” (verse 16)

It is in John 20: 24-29 we also see Thomas after the Resurrection.

From that story he gets the name, doubting Thomas.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2002:

John 11: 1-45 – “This illness is not to end in death . . .”

Jesus said the illness would not end in death, but it did.  Lazarus died.  And so have our friends and loved ones over the years, some of them great believers in the promises of Jesus.  We’ve all known people who’ve prayed and prayed that the cancer would go away, or the doctors would find a cure for their condition in time.  Sometimes it doesn’t, or they don’t.  And it hurts terribly, for the ones who have to let go of the life they know, the ones who have to say goodbye too soon.

Lazarus dies, and his family grieves.  Even Jesus weeps at the loss.  But then, Lazarus is called out of death to life!  And now we hear what Jesus really said: not that Lazarus wouldn’t die, but that death would not be the end of him.

Death wins the battle, but love wins the war.  So we believe.  So we profess.

Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life” – but this resurrection is not about restoration of a corpse but rather a transformation of life. This eternal life does not abolish death but transcends it.  Our faith in Jesus is not fully developed until we can face physical death with a firm confidence that the present eternal life that we live with hope is not simply a pledge of resurrection on the last day but is rather a present and continuing participation in the life of the ever-living Jesus now, at this moment. Those who believe in Jesus never truly die. That is our hope, and our faith. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

What can we do as Christians?

Pray for the dead, both those ‘still living’ and those who ‘passed on.’ Recall that they are part of the communion of saints, present always in the assembly of the faithful. Give comfort to those who struggle with illness and disability. Live with hope.

There are more mysteries in this story…why did Jesus wait to go back to Judea?  Why did Mary sit at home at first?  What is it about Lazarus that Jesus chose him to raise?  Spend some time imagining with these thoughts.

Human suffering is a mystery we must live with and in – it is a part of everyone’s life eventually. As we head toward Holy Week, it is important to think about how as Christians we view this. What does the cross of Christ tells us about suffering?  The cross does not really tell us the why of suffering, but it offers us instead the where of God’s sharing in it.  When we suffer, God is in the midst of our suffering. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is also Christ on the cross, God-who-suffers-with-us. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are our guarantee that when we reach the limits of our mortality in failure, loss, and pain, we find ourselves on the surprising road to resurrection.    (Today’s Parish, Lent 1996, p.22)

5th Sunday of Lent, cycle A: The Story of Lazarus

The Gospel — John 11: 1-45

The cast of characters…
Martha and Mary are the voices of all faith-filled people who have suffered loss:
“Where were you? If You had only been here . . .”
Lazarus– “the one whom Jesus loved” is a paradigm of every believer.
Just as Jesus calls to Lazarus to “Come out!” so, too, he calls to each of us to come out from whatever entombs us and allow ourselves to be ‘untied’
by his grace and live to ‘go free’.
The disciples are the ones who pretend to be brave and wise, but are often clueless.
Jesus cries and is perturbed, also. Why? No easy answer.
If Jesus reveals to us the invisible God, what does Jesus show us here about God? Where do you see yourself in the story?

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship (A), p.179:
This story is a prelude to the cross. It leads the way; it shows us the meaning of Jesus’ coming passion. Lazarus was raised from the dead for a brief respite; Jesus was raised forever. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we all share in the Lazarus sign. The raising of Lazarus prompts every believer to answer the ultimate question: DO YOU BELIEVE THAT I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE?

What do you think of Thomas’ statement: “Let us go to die with him.” (verse 16) It is in John 20: 24-29 we also see Thomas after the Resurrection. From that story he gets the name, doubting Thomas. Aren’t we like Thomas, at times?!

Jesus waited. Scripture uses the word remained, which gives the waiting an intentionality. Lazarus was dead for 4, long days. All hope was lost. But everything is possible with God, right? As we heard in Paul’s letter to the Romans a couple weeks ago, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts…” (5:5). It was for the glory of God. God’s time is not our time. What wonderful things may lie in wait for you if you hope in the glory of the Lord?

Martha is worried about the stench in the cave when Jesus approaches (as, of course, Martha would!). Jesus waves that off and focuses on why he is there, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” Jesus is not afraid to come to our stinky, dark places and breathe new life into us! And actually, Jesus does not go into the cave but calls Lazarus out. Jesus calls us OUT of ourselves. And he calls others in to help Lazarus with the bandages. We need the support of our community to jump in and be there with us. Jesus is in the midst of it all. Do you see yourself in this? Our church?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2002:
John 11: 1-45 – “This illness is not to end in death . . .”
Jesus said the illness would not end in death, but it did. Lazarus died. And so have our friends and loved ones over the years, some of them great believers in the promises of Jesus. We’ve all known people who’ve prayed and prayed that the cancer would go away, or the doctors would find a cure for their condition in time. Sometimes it doesn’t, or they don’t. And it hurts terribly, for the ones who have to let go of the life they know, the ones who have to say goodbye too soon.
Lazarus dies, and his family grieves. Even Jesus weeps at the loss. But then, Lazarus is called out of death to life! And now we hear what Jesus really said: not that Lazarus wouldn’t die, but that death would not be the end of him. Death wins the battle, but love wins the war. So we believe. So we profess.
Human suffering is a mystery we must live with and in – it is a part of everyone’s life eventually. As we head toward Holy Week, it is important to think about how as Christians we view this. What does the cross of Christ tells us about suffering? The cross does not really tell us the why of suffering, but it offers us instead the where of God’s sharing in it. When we suffer, God is in the midst of our suffering. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is also Christ on the cross, God-who-suffers-with-us.
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are our guarantee that when we reach the limits of our mortality in failure, loss, and pain, we find ourselves on the surprising road to resurrection. (Today’s Parish, Lent 1996, p.22)

Commentary on Upcoming Sunday Readings: 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle C

richmanandLazarus

The 1st Reading — Amos 6:1, 4-7

Amos is continuing to lament and grow weary of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  The rich are basking in the glow of their wealth, even drinking wine out of bowls!  Scholars think the reference to David is trying to be ironic.  Unlike David who used his musical talents for praising God, the wealthy of Israel were dabbling in the art simply for their own entertainment and enjoyment.  The prophecy of the rich going into exile first does occur.  In 722BC Assyria attacks the northern Kingdom (Celebration, Sept. 1998).  Their complacency did not benefit them in the end.  What happens when we become complacent and take for granted what we have?

The 2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

This passage tells us clearly how and what we are to be. It is an exhortation not just for Timothy, but for every baptized person. We all need to take to these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others. It perhaps would have been even better if the lectionary had included the verses just preceding this passage, verses 7-10:

            For we brought nothing into the world,

just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.

If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation

and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires,

which plunge them into ruin and destruction (Celebration, Sept. 2001).

What wisdom do you find in this passage?  What do you make of the writer saying we should, “Compete well for the faith,”?

The Gospel — Luke 16: 19 – 31

This gospel reading is challenging us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to those around us. Let not our possessions and comforts blind us and deaden us. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this parable comes when the rich man, suffering now himself, raised his eyes and saw Lazarus. But even then he only saw him as someone who could meet his needs — not as a person in his own right with needs. The rich man has no name (although he is sometimes called Dives, a Latin word for rich); the poor man is given a name and an identity: Lazarus, which means the one God helps or loves. (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

St. John Chrysostom, “Thoughts from the Early Church,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

Have you thought about why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms? Abraham was not only our ‘father-in-faith,’ but he was also known for his hospitality. Abraham did not begrudgingly help strangers; he would sit in his doorway and catch all who passed by – to offer them friendship and food.

He did not know that these strangers would bring the tangible presence of God and new life to him and to his wife as they did (Genesis 18:1 – 8).

From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 221-222:

The details in this parable are very important. The rich man had great luxury: garments of purple and fine linen.  The word that is used for feasting is one that is used for a glutton who feeds on exotic and costly dishes – everyday. His self-indulgence seemed to give him no time for work while his servants must have slaved to keep him fed. Also, in these days food was eaten with the hands. In very wealthy houses, the hands were cleaned by wiping them on chunks of bread. The bread was then thrown away. These were the ‘crumbs’ that Lazarus longed to be allowed to eat. The rich man was not deliberately cruel; nor was he accused of being the reason for Lazarus’ poverty. His sin is his blindnesshis lack of even noticing another’s need. That lack of human concern for anyone outside of himself was a great chasm that separated him from love, life.

From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 169-170:

Hades is the abode of the dead. It does not necessarily coincide with our term of hell. In this story there is a big chasm separating those who respond to and with God’s love and those who do not. The ‘hell side’ is the state of being where you don’t love – where you find yourself cut off and where non-life is chosen. This parable is not suppose to convince us that God’s justice is served by physically punishing people: God’s justice cannot be served by “burning people’s behinds.” The story is suppose to open us to the true way of life – to listening to God’s Word and letting it guide our life and our choices. We are to choose life – love – sharing – communion. We need to choose the good because it is good – it leads to life. Such choice leads to dignity and goodness. There is as Abraham says in the story a ‘great chasm’ between heaven and hell – between fear and faith, between death and life. This story was meant to help us overcome the chasm – not to deepen it.