In the movie, Tuesdays with Morrie,
Mitch says, “Death ends a life, not a
relationship.” We see this played out
in the vision of Ezekiel and our story
Margaret Odell reminds us that “from
the time Ezekiel first began to speak
in 592 BCE, the (Hebrew) people’s
long history of rebellion against God
and now also against (King)
Nebuchadnezar has sealed their fate.
Destruction was inevitable, and by
586 BCE Jerusalem lay in ruins.” But
God would not forget God’s people.
Even though there was a Valley laden
with dry bones, God would not
abandon the people forever. Even
after so many died, God would not
allow divine relationship to die. He
would breathe life into those dry
bones, saying, “and then you will
know that I am the Lord.”
Centuries later, Jesus was born. He
is God’s way of breathing life into the
dry bones of our existence.
While Jesus was somewhere near the
Jordan River, he received word that
his dear friend, Lazarus, was gravely
ill. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary,
begged Jesus to hurry to their home
But Jesus tarried at the place where
he was for two more days before
heading to Bethany.
The text reveals that he intentionally
dragged his feet, staying away from
his friends – even though he knew he
was desperately needed and very
much aware of the consequence of
I wonder if Jesus was waiting to see if
his friends’ faith was strong enough to
provide them assurance of God’s
active presence, even while grieving
their loss. Whether this was his
intention or not, it didn’t work out that
When he finally arrived in Bethany,
Martha and Mary let Jesus have it.
They were angry with Jesus and
disappointed in him taking his own
sweet time in responding to their
need. Both sisters voiced, “If you had
been here, Lazarus would not have
died.” Yet, they still believed in their
friend, however overshadowed by
their frustration and grief.
There have been times in my life
when I thought God didn’t respond as
quickly as I needed.
I recall thinking: “What is God waiting
for?” I understand Martha’s and
Mary’s frustration. Maybe you
understand it as well.
Jesus responded to their anger and
disappointment in several ways.
First, he reminds them that he is
God’s Anointed One, the Messiah.
He is resurrection and he is life.
Second, Jesus says that those who
believe in him, even though they die,
will live. He’s priming them to be able
to receive what God so desires to give
Martha and Mary: hope and life
grounded in God’s immense love and
Jesus’ third response to his friends’
anger and disappointment in him is
his own visceral reaction. He is
upset, not only sad at the death of his
friend, but also distressed and
disillusioned by the lack of faith
displayed by his friends.
Don’t they know that he cares?
Don’t Martha and Mary get it, that
being Messiah, he is motivated to act
not on his own, but through God’s
guidance and God’s love?
Can’t the sisters believe just a little bit
more and wait just a little while longer
to see how God is present
somewhere in all of this? Jesus was
So, when he arrived at the burial site,
Jesus couldn’t contain himself any
longer. He wept. Jesus sobbed not
only at the death of Lazarus; not only
from deep compassion for Martha and
Mary. I think Jesus cried for himself,
thinking: “Will people ever get what
I’m offering them? Will they ever be
open to trusting in God’s immense
love? Do they recognize by now that
God’s love always prevails and never
abandons?” I wonder.
Jesus was led by God to act.
Oh, he’d done this before. He raised
a little girl from her death bed and a
young man from his funeral bier. But
this time was different. Lazarus had
been dead 4 days. Jewish tradition
said that after 3 days, a person’s soul
exited the body. Lazarus was truly
Also, Jesus had become very well-
known for his healing and teaching
and criticism of narrow-minded, rule-
based religious leaders.
Most of the Jewish religious hierarchy
wanted Jesus gone.
Would this particular display of God’s
limitless power and compassion bring
the Jewish leaders to transformative
awareness or would it bring about
increased opposition? No matter;
Jesus took the risk.
He called to Lazarus, “Come out.”
The dead man listened and came out,
his body and soul having been
Jesus told the community to free him
from his burial cloths. Then word
began to spread.
Unfortunately, our reading ends
prematurely. We are told in
succeeding verses that because of
this might act of God, many believed
in Jesus as the Messiah.
We are also told that, after this event,
the Jewish religious authorities would
be tolerant of Jesus no more.
They opted to find a way of killing
Jesus, and along with him, eliminate
evidence of his uniqueness. So, the
Jewish authorities resolved to kill
Lazarus as well. This time for good.
Little did they know what God would
do to vindicate Jesus and have the
final word. But we know that will
come a little later in the story.
Let these stories encourage you. Let
them remind you that God loves you.
And out of love, God has given you
and men and all God’s children God’s
life-giving Spirit wrapping around us
and moving in us, assuring us that
God breathes life that never ends – a
quality of life that is freedom from
death and anything that attempts to
hold us back from residing in God’s
All we have to do is believe – that
means, accepting the love God has
for you & me, and inviting God to
come alive in us.
Let this way of living be your daily